Today was the first day in a week where I wasn’t trying to shoot in wind blowing at 25 mph. This morning – no white caps on the Little River. The sky was clear and the temperature rose to 78°F. Pretty darn nice.
Per my current training plan I shot paper in the morning. Without the wind it was a pretty decent practice. Then, it was off the swim and lift weights.
Swimming kicked my butt. The pool was crowded and along with other swimmers I was sharing a lane. Every lap became a silent unannounced contest – at least that’s how I perceived it.
By the time I was back home I was dead. I’d been looking forward to 3D practice, but I was so beat I wondered how I’d make it through the session.
Around 3:00 PM, after a few hours of work on my dock, I rallied and got in the 3D practice. Still no wind and shooting was pretty good. I finished up around 6:00 PM in time to grill chicken for our dinner fajitas.
Over decades of competing in cycling, running, and triathlon, I’ve put together a training schedule that works for me. It needed to be time sensitive because I was working – a lot. It also needed to be more sophisticated than go outside and run around until I’d had enough. The preparation time I spent on triathlons, cycling and running ranged between 8 hours and 20 hours per week.
Since retiring I have replaced “work” with archery on my calendar. Obviously, I can’t shoot all day, but I shoot about 4 hours per day. That leaves me time to train for cycling, running, and triathlons.
Because I’ve been asked, often enough to make me think there is interest, here’s an example of a week’s worth of my training plans. These are prepared in advance and based on tournaments and upcoming race. This is, in fact, for the week of April 17th – April 23rd. Not on this list are the specifics about the time spent in each activity. For example, swimming is only swim, where in reality the swim session is divided into sets of activities [i.e., 5-8 x 100 (:10RI) at T1 pace, 1:00RI – which you can see is irreverent to this post.]
Sunday: AM archery, dots at 35 – 50 yards. 40 – 60 arrows
Tuesday: AM archery, dots at 35 – 50 yards. 40 – 60 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Run 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Wednesday: AM archery, 3D, known yardage, 60 – 80 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Cycling – 1 hour and 30 minutes
Thursday: AM archery, Indoor, 18 Meter, 60 – 80 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Swim 1 hour, mid-morning
Run 30 minutes
Friday: AM archery, 3D, 20 – 45 yards. 20 arrows
PM archery, 3D, 20 – 45 yards. 20 arrows
Run 30 minutes
Cycling 1 hour
Saturday: Archery – 3D tournament
The total training time, this week, breaks down like this: archery @ 24 hours, multi-sport @12 hours, essentially a workweek. This doesn’t include the time on the range at Saturday’s tournament. You can see Saturday is somewhat like a rest day. The training varies, of course, with travel, race plans, and archery tournaments. Because I have “serious” racing on my calendar, the morning easy runs with River have been dropped. When I do run, she runs with me. There are times, early in the morning, she refuses to reason with me and I will join her for a short (1-2 mile) wake-up play run even though it might not be part of the plan. It’s all flexible. (And now I’m heading out for a ride.)
It was another less than satisfying day of shooting 3D. It was a tough range, tight tunnels, long shots and tiny targets at the end of the lane. I’d shot on this course about a month ago and my score improved by 10 points. Judging yardage, well I’m not there, yet.
Things felt good during the warm up – known distances aren’t difficult to judge. To make thing even better, Cricket and Chas, friends I’d met at other shoots, were warming up and invited me to join them on the range. We were the second group out and completed the 20 targets in two hours.
It is a bit of a drive for me to get to most of the Down East Archery 3D shoots and this one was no exception. Getting through the targets in 2 hours means I get home before 3 PM. That’s great.
On the drive to the tournament I made a quick ‘pit-stop’ near a small church. The little church couldn’t hold more than a couple of dozen worshipers on any Sunday. It’s surrounded by thick forest and an ideal place for a nature break.
When I stopped and got out of my Ford F-150 I was greeted by a puppy. She was certainly a surprise. Two more happy puppies quickly followed her greeting; all three seemed very pleased to see me.
Looking around, and forgetting my primary reason for the pause, it was obvious, these three pups were alone. I suspected they’d been dropped off at the church, orphans, in hopes that someone would take them home on Sunday. It was awful, but I left them putting my hope into the plan of ad lib adaption.
During the 3D shoot I thought about the puppies. They had been left to their innate survival skills, not so good for domestic puppies, or their charm to find a home. On the drive home, I again passed the little church and there they were. The three were at the edge of the road and began to run after me when I passed. There was no leaving them. I pulled over, they ran to me, and in the truck they went.
They were very happy for the ride. One climbed all over my bow, another hopped into the front seat, while the third investigated the floor in the back. Within minutes all three were asleep. All had good manners and none pooped, peed, or vomited in the truck. (I keep the back seat, which is leather, covered to protect it from River’s claws. I was willing to take the puppy mess gamble.)
When I got them home they were fed, given water, and a dog biscuit. For a few minutes afterwards it was “game on.” Of course, by this point I was ready to keep all three. We already have two dogs, five would be three too many.
Brenda and I loaded the pups back into the truck and took them to local SPCA. On the drive there all three were again asleep. Once we arrived, I signed them in, gave what little information I could provide, offered a small cash donation and said good-bye.
All three were great. Each one seemed well mannered, and fairly well behaved for puppies. I hope they find good homes. Even better would be if they could all find the same home.
At then end of last year’s 3D season I was averaging 9.61 points per arrow. There were times when I shot just fine other times not so hot. Thus far, 2016 sucks. My average 3D score is 8.35 points per arrow. That’s a loss of over 25 points per 20 targets. Something has run afoul.
I practiced a lot over the winter. It was cold and I shot a lot of dots. The main two reasons, it was cold so I shot indoors and the USA Indoor Nationals were in the spring. Still, I got outside several times per week to shoot 3D.
A week ago I shot a tournament, outdoor at paper, in which the sequence of arrows was: 20 at 60 yards, 20 at 50 yards, and 20 at 40 yards. I shot well and ended up second. I was pleased with my final score. Granted I’d been out scored but I’d shot well losing by 2 points. A few days prior to that competition I’d shot a 3D contest, I ended up second, but shot like crap.
My assumption was that I’d spent so much time shooting paper that I was failing in my yardage estimates. That’s easy to test, I when to the range, guessed at 20 targets, shot them, and then took a yardage measurement with a range finder.
My final scored yielded, you guessed it 8.35 points per arrow. The kicker is, my estimate of the yardage was only 0.80 yards difference. The mean distance for all targets was 37.15 yards with a range of 23 yards minimum ( a mosquito) and 54 yards maximum ( a mountain lion). These results did not yield a clear indication of the problem.
Looking at the individual variance in yardage error was more revealing. When I misjudged I was off by 2.3 yards. On one, which probably skewed the values, I missed judged by 13 yards. If I removed that error the misjudged value becomes 1.65 yards. Seeing that I’d missed judged by 13 yards was a shock.
There were a lot of distances that were correct. But the errors when I made them were large enough to land me 5s and 8s. It only takes a few of those to lower a total score. Where I judged soundly, I shot 10s and 12s. This little exercise was telling. It shows that when I guess yardage well I shot pretty good. When I am off, I am off and at times I am way off.
Judging yardage is one of the challenges of 3D. Having access to a range within a few feet of my front door helps. But, there is still a lot of work ahead to bring my per target average back to 2015’s level and surpass it.
River has a thing about medals. Each one I bring home, without explanation, she approaches in the same manner she does her collar. That is, she walks toward me and lowers her head a little in order to have the collar/medal placed on her neck. The difference, with the collar she dances away preparing for a run, walk, play a game or take a ride. With any medal there is no dance. Instead, she sits, poses, and waits until I take her picture. After I take the picture, well it’s game on.
This one, in the photo below, was in my equipment bag, left there after a tournament last week. River watched me as I removed it from my gear to put it away. Before that could be done she had to have a picture. Following this picture, I had to chase her down to retrieve the medal which is now safely stored away.
At the 2016 USA Indoor National Championship, in Snellville, GA., an archer asked me a question. She wanted to know if I’d done research that evaluated the fitness of archers. I have looked at calories burned during archery practice and a 3D competition. I’ve also measured the distances covered during 3D tournaments while walking. I haven’t, however, undertaken a serious study that measures archers’ fitness. Others have spent time looking at the fitness of archers. I’ve spent decades studying sports, fitness and general health. So, I gave the lady’s question some thought and came up with:
Decades ago I wrote a textbook (there is no money in textbooks) “A Systematic Guide to Physical Assessment.” Throughout that process I evaluated hundreds of people. During my career in medicine I took care of thousands of people. In sports science I’ve done research on elite and no so elite athletes. There are certainly times when I can look at a person and judge, to some degree, their level of health and notice obvious problems.
When the archer in Snellville asked me if, as a population, are archers healthier than other people. My answer was. “No.” She seemed surprised. I responded to her saying, “Look at the line, that is the general population.” (There may be a slight advantage to archers, but I’d guess not statistically.)
On the line was an obviously wide variance in fitness. The older the archers became the less fit they appeared. However, the lack of fitness was not specifically dependent on age. Overall, the archers’ phenotypes didn’t match with triathletes, runners, cyclists, or folks in track and field. It made sense, the people shooting were all archers and they looked like archers. That is, they held bows and shot arrows.
There’s a major cardio difference between most sports and archery, in archery we need to be very still. It is more skill and technique based than say running. It takes a lot of practice time to develop consistency and accuracy. Archers spend hours every day shooting. That leads to great archery, but not necessarily great fitness.1
There is a lot written describing core strength training for archers. There are recommendations for spending time in the gym lifting weights. And aerobic fitness is often linked as a key component for archers.1
The premise is that a very fit archer is going to be better at shooting than a not so fit archer. For an archer with decades of practice, i.e., Reo Wilde, maybe this isn’t exactly on point. He hasn’t been a model of fitness, but is a model for skilled archery.
Still, there remains a focus on core strength training for archers, with suggestions to spend at least two sessions per week spent in the gym. Aerobic fitness is also encouraged to ensure athletes are able to perform at their best both physically and mentally.1
In sports, clearly, being fit is better. In archery being fit means you’ll likely be able to lengthen your career as an archer. While shooting, fitness may enable you to practice longer.
What we do as archers is Specific Physical Training, (SPT). SPT “is an exercise, when performed correctly, which will increase the shooting strength, conditioning and endurance of the archer. An archer can perform weight training but this is more for injury prevention and also so the archer does not become “lopsided” in muscle development because, by its nature, archery will develop one side of the upper body more so than the other.” 2
Seriously, who wants to be “lopsided?” So, heading to the gym may not simply help add strength needed to steady a bow and drawing an arrow, it might help prevent asymmetric muscle development.
Then, there’s aerobic fitness. My guess is, if you are reading this, you are not a runner, cyclist, or triathlete. Most archers aren’t involved with aerobic fitness. Some are and I’ve written about a few I know. But, aside from the obvious health benefits of aerobic training, it can help with archery in other ways.
“Aerobic fitness and a corresponding ability to control the heart rate of the athlete in the stress of competition is of critical importance to the competitive archer. Aerobic fitness assists an archer in offsetting the fatigue that results from standing for several hours through a competition, where during the delivery of the arrows the athlete must be strong and physically prepared to compete. The high level of mental focus required to concentrate during every attempt at a target (the archer may deliver over 60 arrows in a single session) is best supported by a body that is fit.”3
“Archers employ a variety of mental conditioning techniques to prepare themselves for an event. Many of these devices include both visualization of the physical movements that the archer will complete to shoot a perfect arrow; other techniques encourage the athlete to use imagery to relax prior to the event”.3 (Quotes from reference number 3) That is not to suggest that the same isn’t applicable in other sports. When I competed in other sports I frequently took time to examine a course (by car if the entire course wasn’t one I could ride or run beforehand) and visualized where I’d be on the course and how I would handle it. Archery, however, is a deceptive sport in terms of the approach to physical training and fitness required of the competitive archer. 3
“As a general proposition, the lower an archer’s heart rate, the steadier the aim. The rate at which the heart beats is a function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls other involuntary systems such as respiration. Most competitive archers employ one of a variety of deep breathing techniques prior to the actual delivery of an arrow to take the pulse to its lowest possible rate to create the greatest degree of stability and control over the delivery of the arrow.” 3
I enjoy archery. I also enjoy running, cycling, swimming, and competing in triathlons. I am always on the lookout for a race to enter that isn’t too expensive and too far from home. With all the travel I do to compete in archery, and because archery eats up a lot of weekends, it’s not easy to get in a race during the archery season. Nevertheless, I find the time to train as if there was a race on the horizon. It is my belief the training will pay dividends in archery.
Someone recently asked me how many Ironman events have I done and if I am planning another. When it comes to Ironman ‘brand’ specific events I’ve done 3 of the full distance (140.6 miles) races, including the World Championship in Hawaii. But, I’ve also done 12 of the 70.3 Ironman races and 15 non-Ironman brand triathlons. I train everyday as if I were signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon (1500 meter swim, 40K bike, and 10k run.) I do it to stay in shape.
A full distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26 mile run) is ranked the 10th most difficult sports event, boxing is ranked number 1.4 Archery on the other hand is ranked 55th, above curling, bowling, shooting, billiards, and fishing. 5,6
Archery, as you can see, isn’t going to get anyone into top physical condition. It’s better than sitting all day, you will be working your shoulders and walking to retrieve arrows. But, it’s not going to give you a “work out.” Yes, you can fatigue shooting and yes you can get sore. But, if you want to really improve your health, you should add more exercise to your training. In the long run it is beneficial.
Granted, you might be offended to learn that archery isn’t one of the top sports for fitness. You also might be extremely fit. My guess if you are really fit, you didn’t get that way by shooting.
When the Soul Hunters in the Elizabeth City formed an official archery club they were accepted into the Down East Archery Coalition. The newly formed club would be adding more competitions to the Coalition’s schedule. It meant there’d be more archery near my home. The Soul Hunters did not disappoint.
In their inaugural 3D tournament with the Coalition, the group put together some of the toughest shots imaginable. There were no freebees. It made for an interesting competition. To make it more challenging it rained.
The weather report indicated there would be rain and it was correct. The archers that had monitored the weather came prepared with umbrellas and foul weather gear.
Despite the conditions the folks competing were having a blast. Even adults, at times, like to play in the rain.