Interview with Tactical Games Athlete: Ivan Loomis
by David Bruce
This first appeared in David Bruce’s Blog on April 27, 2019. It is re-published here in The Havok Journal with the author’s permission.
(Photo courtesy of http://reconphoto.com and https://thetacticalgames.com)
Ivan Loomis, the Kit Badger, has worn many hats: veteran, law enforcement officer, and security contractor, to name a few. These days though, he is a Dad, an entrepreneur and more recently, a competitor, with several top five finishes in the Tactical Games. The Tactical Games can be described as CrossFit meets combat, and is the creation of Tim Burke, a former career Special Operations Soldier. The Tactical Games slogan is ‘No Off Season”, because these athletes are on point 24/7. Ivan, in his laid back, matter of fact way fills us in on the Games:
Whoever you are, whatever shape you are you in, you could probably go and compete in the Tactical Games. Are you going to be competitive? Maybe not. But it is totally attainable for pretty much anyone. If you’re at an event and you can’t complete the obstacle, you end up doing burpees. Which, whatever, they suck, yeah; you just grind them out. There are guys that show up to the Games that are absolute monsters and there are also guys that are just all show, no go, they get humbled. ~Ivan Loomis
Tell us about the Tactical Games. I feel like it is in its infancy, but about to absolutely blow up just like the UFC did.
That’s it man. [Laughter] I think it is, what it is. It’s the Wild West days of whatever it will become. It’s like watching that Sumo dude come in and just slap down some like Kung Fu Artist. People just roll with whatever they got. It’s evolving.
How did you end up competing in the Tactical Games?
So, I ended up meeting Rob, one of the editors of Recoil Magazine at a media event at the Sig Sauer Academy, for the release of the M17 Pistol, and the Tread Rifle, and there was a little competition, and I ended up winning the rifle event. Then myself and another shooter, ended up setting a course record at their ‘Jungle Run’, which is kind of funny because there we are, with essentially borrowed rifles, that we got a hasty zero with that morning. But yeah, we rolled out there and set a course record with these like borrowed rifles.
So then, Rob was like, “do you want to compete at the Tactical Games as a sponsored athlete for Recoil”, and I’m like sure, okay, but what is the Tactical Games? Like alright I’m in – now tell me about it. And I mean honestly, that’s the way a lot of stuff goes in my life, I’m like, yeah, that sounds good, now tell me more now that I’ve committed to it.
It’s funny that you were able to do so well with borrowed equipment. To do so well at Sig Sauer Academy speaks volumes. This leads me to another question; is there any advantage to running expensive equipment in these competitions?
Way more important than just like “hey, what is the best gear? It’s what are you most competent with. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. If a guy has used a $500.00 rifle for the last four years, and dude’s really good at it… even if it has a seven-pound trigger that feels like there’s a sandbox inside, but he can crack off rounds with it, like cool man, use that thing. It’s really just a matter of competency with whatever gear you have.
I’m in this weird spot where people are like, why don’t you stick with your rifle and pistol and shoot this thing? Yeah that’s cool, but I’m in the business of making content and this is an opportunity for me to run different gear and create content about it. It’s basically a shake down of rifles, pistols, plate carriers, pants, shoes, whatever. It’s an opportunity to run different gear. I’m in the business of content creation and that’s why I pretty much switch everything up, every time.
What are your thoughts on dry firing?
I should probably dry fire more and I don’t. I just don’t get to the range very much, whether it’s time or money. Like, I can’t afford ammo, and yes dry firing is the solution there.
How do you slow your heartrate down to take distance shots after a physically demanding event like pulling the weighted sled across a field?
Strategic sandbagging. The firing line doesn’t sneak up on anyone. You’re going from here to there, and doing xyz. It’s a matter of pushing yourself as hard as you can while knowing this event is coming, and now you have to perform a delicate task. I push as hard as I can and as I start approaching the line I take some deep breaths and just kind of be physically relaxed and mentally focused.
What does a typical day of training look like for you?
Man, I hope I don’t disappoint you here…So for the physical aspect, I go to CrossFit Coeur d’Alene. It’s a local gym back home in Coeur d’Alene. One of the owners, I actually met on contract, he was working a parallel contract over in Afghanistan. I honestly go in and whatever they program, I do.
So basically, just doing the Workout of the Day (WOD)?
Yeah, like that’s it. Sometimes they’ll program rope climbs and it’s like cool, these are important. Before I competed in my first Tactical Games, in Fayetteville, NC, I spoke to one on my buddy’s, Ashley, who competed in the first Tactical Games. Ashley told me, “The rope climbs, they got me.” And, I’m like huh, okay, and so I ended up going down one day to the gym and there’s a fifteen-pound weight vest there. I put it on and climbed the rope a couple of times, and was like alright cool, got it. It’s one of those things, it’s totally not an analogue to completing that in the Games, because you’re wearing all your other clothes and like, you got a rifle strapped to you, a gun belt on, and you’re already gassed out from whatever came before the rope climb. The rope-climb eats people’s lunch every time.
There’s definitely technique involved though, right?
There is. But my training is just basically whatever my gym programs. I don’t train for the Games. The last Tactical Games I went to had a five-mile run; I hadn’t run that far in years, like plural. It was basically a five-mile run in kit. Yeah, it was terrible, I had to dig deep for that. My runs are whatever is programmed in a workout. So, between the Fayetteville, NC Games, in September 2018 and the Meridian, MS Games, in February, I didn’t run, like period, I didn’t run. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s cold, and snowy and everything else, so you’re not running. You’re on the rower or maybe an Airdyne bike, which is miserable. I try to avoid that thing.
That’s surprising to hear, because there seems to be some long runs in each event.
There tends to always be a long run and when I say a long run, probably between two –and hopefully never again– five miles.
My training consists of whatever is programed, but I tend to travel, with filming and stuff. If I’m home, I work out, if I’m traveling, I don’t necessarily workout. On the other hand, I may go backpacking, with my boys. Personally, I don’t train for the Tactical Games. I also don’t train for the CrossFit Games, you know, to be good at exercise. That’s not my thing. It’s my desire, to just be able to do whatever the hell I want.
You’re more of a generalist then?
Oh, absolutely…I want to be able to do what I want, when I want; including being able to keep up with my boys and not hurt myself. I never want to be in a place and think, that would be cool, but I’m not able to do that; that isn’t a thing for me. I’m not saying that like this pretentious asshole. It’s a conscious willingness to maintain a lifestyle that allows me to do whatever I want to do: intentionally. I want to obviously be healthy and stuff, to pretty much be able to like, go on a week-long kayak trip. I’ll probably be sore the first couple days, but I can do it.
I can see how CrossFit could definitely increase your ability to compete and live this type of lifestyle. I see a lot of guys at the gym doing body building exercises that aren’t bodybuilders and I don’t get it.
First of all, anyone that wants to do their thing, I say do your thing, I am all about it, but I will also say, I don’t see the benefit of that stuff. I’ve done that. I have gone down that road before. I was like, I want to see how big I can get. I followed conventional body building and went from one hundred seventy pounds to two hundred pounds and I was worthless, couldn’t do anything. Looked kind of cool in a mirror, but that was about it.
So, yeah, you could say that I do CrossFit and I don’t do CrossFit. The thing with CrossFit is, it will wreck you if you bring ego into it. And it’s really hard not to bring ego into it, but you will get wrecked. For me though, I pretty much sandbag everything at the gym…I do. I don’t go full out. I don’t do one rep maxes. I honestly, don’t go heavy. They’re like, “hey let’s find your three-rep max” and I’m like, umm, maybe not. When it comes to the workouts, I don’t put up competitive times in anything. One thing I do go out of my way to do is, maintain form through everything. If you go too fast, form usually goes out the window and no one wins when you get hurt. It’s stuff like that. You have to temper your ego. I’m gonna go as fast as I can, while maintaining form and I don’t care what that clock says.
(Photo courtesy of http://reconphoto.com and https://thetacticalgames.com)
If you were allowed to train on only three exercises for the Games, what would those exercises be?
First would be the rope climbs. It’s a technical skill. You have to be able to do that to be competitive. Second exercise would probably be deadlifts or if you wanted to make it even more applicable farmers carries. You will have farmers carries at the Games. I see people doing the water can carries and their shoulders are rolled forward and they’re just getting their souls crushed. If you just lock your shoulders back and J-hook your hands, it’s easier for your body to carry that weight.
My third exercise that I’ll suggest –and to be honest I haven’t done it in years is– every minute on the minute, for fifteen minutes do fifty yard sprints. Like, all out sprint. It’ll break you off. You will get wrecked. First time you do it you will feel weird muscles all through your back that will hurt and you’ll be like, why is this happening. Something like that, that really pushes your heart rate.
Do you think competing in the Tactical Games makes someone a better, warrior, soldier, or police officer?
Yes, and the reason is, they will become better. To compete in the Tactical Games, means you at least on some level are ready to shelve your ego. It’s really easy to rationalize away shooting competitions by calling them games. They’re games, straight up games, which is fine. But with military and law enforcement there is ego involved – and not that there shouldn’t be. They need to have the confidence that they are going to get into this fight and come out on top. You have to have that, but it’s easy to have an over-inflated ego too, when you never put it to the test. People will say it’s a game, and there’s all these rules – I don’t want to muddy the waters of my training by like dropping the hammer on an empty chamber at the completion of an event. To that end, you either have or haven’t matured to the point that you can recognize where you are at, and what you are doing, where you can do that at an event and realize, it’s not a real engagement and, if you can not, then go ahead and skip that competitive shooting event.
What is the one thing about the Tactical Games that would surprise someone if they never competed before?
Umm…Their performance. They’re probably going to get humbled. It is very easy to live in your head as this really talented shooter and thinking yeah, it’s a game, but in real life this would happen, so that’s what I am preparing for. But hey, here’s the thing – where is it not beneficial to shoot fast and accurately under time?
It’s basically a bunch of guys that go out there and a lot of them are out there having fun, but you do see a lot of egos out there getting stomped into the dirt too. For me the Tactical Games are about validation. Validating skill, time, and energy put in either at the gym or at the range. It’s more about validating the skills that you do have.
That’s probably a good thing, right?
It is. You realize the waters are deep and there are a lot of talented people out there. I could probably go to some shooting competition and have a teenage girl crush me at everything. It doesn’t matter…It’s something totally different. The competition lends its own unique stress that a lot of people aren’t used to. You need to be honest with yourself, about who you are, and why you are there. I mean, I’d like to place first, but I need to recognize – that is outside my control. It comes down to who is on the field. Once you put that out of your mind, I’m like, I’m gonna go get what I get. When you come out the other side you’ll see deficiencies. Like maybe this rope climb got me, or I had to stop and walk three or four times on this run, and maybe I need to work on that. You’ll find your deficiencies and then it’s up to you for the sake of personal growth and development to go work on those things.
David is a freelance writer from the North Shore of Massachusetts and a former 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper/medic. David has served a career in law enforcement with a focus on counterterrorism and training. Recently, David graduated from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently in a mentorship program with Military Veterans in Journalism Network.