Athletes Run

John Kruk was a great first baseman and outfielder. His lifetime batting average is .300. He was an All Star multiple times and played in a World Series. During an interview he was asked about being an athlete. He responded, “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player.” Kidding aside, he was an athlete. Archers, too, are athletes though some may have a more Krukarian opinion of themselves.

Coaching tip

Should you look at a training plan provided by USA Archery you’d note a section for weekly cardio/strength/conditioning sessions. While cardio is not exclusively running it remains exercise intended to develop cardio-fitness. Running is likely the first form of cardio that comes to mind.

Running is cheap. A pair of running shoes, which you probably already own, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re equipped for cardio.

Why do cardio? First off for your health. Look around at your next archery competition. You will notice a lot of overweight archers. Being overweight you know is not healthy. Secondly, as your fitness improves your heart becomes stronger. Your resting heart rate may lower. In archery a calm easy heart is better for shooting than a heart that is pounding away. Finally, if you are fit you may increase the years you have to live and thereby increasing the time you have to enjoy archery.

US Olympic Archers, London. A fit looking group

If you can’t run, due to poor fitness, you can walk. Start walking and see if it leads to running. If running simply isn’t your thing, there’s cycling. You might think about swimming. If you shoot a lot you’ll find swimming won’t give your deltoids and shoulders much of a break.

Archers are indeed athletes. As an athlete you need to consider the total picture of your health and fitness. Running or other cardio workouts might improve that picture.

Steps of Shooting

There’s a lot of movement that goes into shooting an arrow. Watching archers you’d see them lift a bow and let go an arrow. In fact, there are over 100 steps involved when an archer shoots an arrow using a recurve bow. If the archer is using a compound bow there are 78 steps involved in shooting just one arrow.

That is a lot to learn, put in exact order, and shoot a good shot. The motions for shooting an arrow are listed in 11 major steps. Each of those steps involves subsets of movement to reach perfect form for that perfect shot.

Practicing these steps, rehearsing them in your head during the release of every arrow seems overwhelming. It isn’t that difficult. Before long you move effortlessly through each shot. But, you still plunk out less that perfect scores.

If you are a serious archer you may have found ways to move through a shot sequence, touching on the steps needed to assume good form, that work for you.

Good form comes with practice. For the purpose of this writing we’ll assume each of you has developed good form. But, you still find that you are not landing arrows consistently where you want them.

After years of practice you might have gotten a bit sloppy or lazy and no longer think though the shot process. Why should you, you’ve done it thousands of times. Here’s why: You need to move your thought process from a conscious one focused on making a good shot to a sub-conscious one that shoots the good shot. If you are thinking too hard about the shot, you’re working at it too hard and not letting it happen.

Now, I am taking for granted you are a well seasoned, practiced, and coached archer.

Coaching tip

Here’s a little something to try that might help you get through those 11 steps of shooting that you know well (and have abandoned):

As you take the line you think about your stance. Get it right. Easy enough.

You nock an arrow. You hook and grip your bow. You set up, go to set, draw to load, anchor, transfer to hold….

Wait this reads a lot like the first eight steps of the process of shooting. That’s because these are the first eight steps. Next you think expand and aim, release and follow though and feedback. But, you want your mind blank. You want the subconscious dealing with the shot.

Here you might find words or phrases that help you switch over to your subconscious brain and let it make the shot. Here’s an example:

Think, ‘Put the dot in the middle, relax, shoot the dot.’

Of course, before you can reach this point, you need to understand the 11 steps of shooting. Once you have master those steps look for your process to give the shot over to you subconscious.

Having a Training Plan

Each week I look over training plans. These cover the daily, weekly and monthly practice sessions. The plans are arranged around tournaments. Those tournaments are graded as A, B, or C events.

Coaching tip

‘A’ events are the major tournaments such as a State, National or World Championship. ‘B’ are typically local tournaments where I want to do well but leave some room to try new things and make adjustments. The ‘C’ events are mostly league shoots where I want to do well but may not have exactly what I need to provide the best score.

River surveying range before practice

During a ‘C’ event, such as indoor league, I might compete with outdoor arrows rather than the wider indoor arrows. In these events I focus on applying skills yet to be mastered that I worked on during the day at home.

The archery training plans I follow have blocked time everyday for fitness. Each morning there is a stretching routine followed by running before I pick up a bow. In the afternoon, before shooting I ride a bicycle. On one to two days a week, depending on the training cycle there is time allocated for lifting weights.

Nearly everyday includes a morning and afternoon archery practice. On days when there is an evening league shoot I might shorten the afternoon practice allowing for the additional time spent on the range at night.

The chase is on

The training plans are associated with specific goals. Improving, as an archer is best accomplished with exact plans in play for each practice. Incorporating general fitness is an important adjunct to being a complete athlete – even for archers. By following written training plan archers can increase the likelihood of accomplishing their goals.

Wait Before You Buy

A few years ago I was shooing in a tournament next to Roger Willet, Jr. Willet is a seriously good archer and has been ranked number one in the world. (1) We talked a little, mostly about fishing.

I did overhear him giving a piece of advice. Someone had asked him a question, which I didn’t hear. His answer to the unheard question was, “One of the biggest mistakes I see amateur archers making is buy new equipment too often.” That seemed to me a solid bit of advice.

If you shot professionally you may get a new bow every year. Chances are the bow comes as part of your contract with a sponsoring bow manufacturer. As a professional archer many amateur archers watch you. You shoot well and that new bow in your hand becomes the envy of many.

Hundreds of amateurs that have witnessed that professional’s skill at hitting the mark and many of them will rush out to purchase that amazing new bow the pro is shooting. Here’s the thing, the amateur would be better off investing in more range time than a new bow.

Last week, a student archer, one that is pretty good, had performed poorly on a few shots. Her immediate reaction was to suggest she needed new equipment. Her equipment was fine.

I asked, “How long have you been shooting?” She answered she’d only been shooting competitively for a year but had been doing some recreational archery for the past few years.

Coaching tip

Remembering Willet’s advice I echoed it and offered that she not invest into more gear until her groups were tighter. See, it wasn’t her bow, it was her.

There are a lot of excellent bows on the market. Put any of them in the hands of an elite archer and that archer will shoot it like an elite archer. Elite performance, simply put, comes from practice.

If you are considering a new bow in an effort to improve, stop and question that decision. Are you practicing 900 to 1200 shots per week? Are you groups tight? Are you looking for marginal gains? Are you shooting an entry-level bow with a lower level sight and inexpensive stabilizers?

There is a point where equipment can provide marginal gains. But, for most archers, more practice will provide the greatest gain.

Reference:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodger_Willett_Jr.

The Bugs and Me

If an insect has a stinger I seem to be, to them, the fun thing on which to use it. I’ve been stung so many times I rarely even worry about it. At our old home, in North Carolina, there was a campaign between yellow jackets, wasps, and me. At times I wondered whether the wasps and yellow jackets were keeping score. Here in Georgia, I remain the target for a sting.

Getting close

During practice two days ago some stinging bug landed on my bow hand just as I was aiming. I didn’t let down – I shot a nine. I also, did not get stung just then. Rather than sting me on the hand, the bug came back for a dive bomb and attacked from the back piercing me on the shoulder. I never saw it coming. I heard it buzzing.

Getting closer

Buzzing no longer bothers me. No longer do I dance about searching for the source of the buzz. I know, sooner or later, when the buzz stops that will be the moment to react.

Contact (These are snake boots I am wearing – not for concern about yellow jackets)

The sting of a yellow jacket doesn’t hurt as badly or as long as that of a wasp. Wasp stings burn then itch. Yellow jacket stings simply burn and after a few minutes the burn stops.

It seems everyday, while I am outside practicing, there is a squadron of insects searching. They find me. Most days, they just buzz about. Some days I get stung.

And this is why I wear snake boots. My neighbor holding this timber rattler shot as it approached my lawn. This makes wasp and yellow jacket venom mild by comparison.

Again, thanks for reading

In July 22,187 visitors read 40,185 pages at Puttingitontheline.com. Over the past 11 months 200,221 visitors read 505,486 pages here.

Looking over how long folks stay on this site most people are here for 3 minutes and 18 seconds, which is about how long it takes to read a post or two. There are (which surprised me a bit) 2.4% of readers that are on this site for 30 minute to one hour. Hopefully, these are folks that have found the site through some search and are catching up. Maybe you’ve read here and uncovered a pearl or two.

Something I really appreciate are your comments. Thanks for reading.

David

Georgia – The Polite State

If I weren’t a Georgian, I’d be a Texan. I sure enjoyed the time I lived there. But, I’ve got too much red clay in my blood to be a Texan. Although, I could transplant fairly easily to the Lone Star State.

I’ve had the good luck to have lived in a number of states. These include: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and Texas. California was more like a long visit. I did receive mail there and shared whatever space I could crowd into while racing bicycles and training there in the early 1970’s.

I’ve also traveled to all US States except Alaska. I’ve flown over Alaska. It looks wild and empty when staring down from a commercial flight. In fact, other than the coasts the US, despite the census count, seems pretty empty. There’s a good bit of room in the middle part of the country.

I left Georgia decades ago. I figured I’d end up in Georgia after I retired but nearly didn’t. For a while it appeared North Carolina would see me to my grave. Nevertheless, red clay, Southern Live Oaks and deep roots brought me home.

Being away for some time what I’ve noticed since returning is the politeness of Georgians. Georgia is not ranked number one or even on the podium of surveys that hint at the most polite states.

I think the surveys are skewed by incorrect methods and sampling in the wrong places. For example, if a sample was taken in Atlanta you might not even be sampling Georgians. Savannah is pretty much in the same boat. Although both cities have plenty of native Georgians, there are also plenty of other folks that have migrated to both areas.

The true Georgian is brought up to mind his or her manners. This has been abundantly apparent wherever I’ve been since returning home. What has truly impressed me is the Georgian youth competing and practicing archery.   It doesn’t end with the youth. Adults on the range, whether competing or volunteering have remained true to their upbringing.

It’s not only manners there’s respectfulness. That respect isn’t limited to interpersonal skills.

Last week, I competed in a 3D tournament in Social Circle, Georgia. Not far away from the range is a high school where a baseball game was going to be played. When the National Anthem sounded through the stadiums loudspeaker system it could be heard on the range.

The music was loud and the range was close by. What happened was that every archer, volunteer, and spectator stopped, stood, faced the music, placed their right hand over their hearts and paused while the Star Spangled Banner played. Even the younger people and children respectfully gave their attention. Aside from yes sir, no sir, please and thank you that were commonplace, the respectfulness of our anthem and country was impressive.

Georgia is known as the Peach State. It is because of the quality of our peaches not the production – we’re number three in production behind California and South Carolina. Still, we homegrown Georgians are officially living in the Peach State. We may not be ranked number one in politeness, but in my experience this is the Polite State. (We are number one in peanut production)

Having lived in or visited every state except Alaska I’ll tell you there are degrees or good manners and respectfulness. I enjoyed every state where I’ve lived. I find that people everywhere are generally good folk and bless their hearts. But, Georgians are by practice and custom extremely polite.

Breaking Up Practice

Seventy meters is a pretty long shot. The next “A” tournament for me will have 36 of the 144 arrows fired from 70 meters. I could shoot senior rather than masters and get to shoot from 90 meters. I don’t have a lane cut through my property to accommodate 90-meter practice. I also don’t think 90-meters is a distance I’d want to shoot at a target that I’d not practiced often. So, I’ll practice at 70 meters and compete as a master.

In designing a training plan for developing comfort at 70 meters I used a 40 cm indoor target. The center ten ring is dime sized on that paper. It’s a small target. In fact, my scope’s dot covers the yellow rings when aiming at it from 70 meters.

After shooting about 1500 arrows at that small target I rolled out the big boy, 122 cm and practiced against it. The yellow ring seems large on that monster.

70 meters is a haul

Shooting 70 meters takes longer than practicing at 20 meters. It takes longer for the arrows to reach the target and longer to retrieve them before the next end. After a few days of this I decided to break up the routine.

What I did was move to 20 meters. I didn’t change from outdoor arrows to indoor. The diameter difference would mean I’d need to adjust my arrow rest to use indoor arrows. I didn’t want to fool with all of those mechanics. I did want to know how I’d score using skinny arrows at 20 meters and compare it to last year’s indoor scores using wide body arrows.

I’d done this last week at an evening indoor league shoot. For the same reasons mentioned above I didn’t switch arrows – laziness. I didn’t shoot all that well. The excuse I’m offering is that I was fatigued from the two previous practices of the day. I also wanted to see if that excuse held water. If it did, perhaps I’ll use it again.

The excuse didn’t hold a lot of water. I did shoot better during the practice at the 20-meter distance using the skinny arrows at home. The score was 12 points in favor of the less fatigued effort. Hey, 12 points is a lot at indoor distances, so maybe a little water is retained. The watered down excuse has been cataloged for future application.

The “little” target (pinned to the bag) is what I’ve been shooting for 70 meter practice. The 3-spot verticals where left-over targets I had in my garage and used for 20 meters. The big boy is the 70 meter sized target.

The bonus is that by breaking up the long distance practice I created a fun game for myself. Practicing archery alone two times a day, for 1 to 4 hours per session takes perseverance. Breaking up those sessions, while remaining focused on the next major event, can help keep the mind fresh.

Morning 3D Practice

Mornings are typically used for target practice. The afternoons are set aside for 3D practice. The reason is I am more tired in the afternoon and my 3D bow, an Elite 35, is lighter than my target bow, an Elite Victory 37.

My Elite 35 set up for bow hunter shooting class

Usually, in the morning I practice for a few hours and shoot 100 to 150 arrows depending on the distance. I try to be on the range by 8:00 AM, after morning exercise. I’ll stop shooting between 10:30 and 11:00 AM. By then, I am ready for a break and lunch.

After a break and lunch (and a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes), I try to do whatever chores need to be done, ride a bike, and prepare for afternoon archery practice. Two days a week I head to the gym rather than do chores. Sometimes it is good to change things up a bit.

Deer, down this lane bordered by trees at 27 yards

Today, I planned a 3D simulation of a tournament, ASA style. My goal was to not miss a 10-ring and get 12’s when I could. Shooting a bow hunter rig, I planned to make the distances as realistic to what I’ve been seeing in local tournaments. My relocation to Georgia and kept me away from the major 3D tournaments for 2018. (Moving is a lot of work)

A mosquito is a tough shot at 20 yards, I count the center X as a 12 on this target

Locally, I’ve faced a lot of long shots. On my range I have a lot of smaller targets. On those, I didn’t go crazy and try to shoot a rabbit at 40 yards for this practice session. I shot it at 20, a realistic distance should a smaller target happen to be placed on a range at a local event. The exception was a javelina that I shot from 36 yards, a distance that isn’t unexpected for this smaller target.

Javelina at 36 yards

Out of curiosity, I wore a Garmin and recorded the distance I walked, it was 1.02 miles. That included walking while I warmed up. Warm-up was shooting six arrows at a bag from 20, 25, 30, and 35 yards. At 40 yards I shot 12 arrows for a total warm-up of 36 shots.

This “off-brand” less expensive bear shot from 38 yards

It took I hour and 45 minutes to finish the practice, less time than usual for the morning routine. But, it helped me see where I am weak.

I didn’t shoot par. I shot a three 8s and one 12 to finish with a 196 (twenty targets). The average distance for all targets was 29.5 yards. The eights were no surprise.

Another bear, this one at 35 yards

The first was a hen. She’s a tough target at 27 yards. The dark hole where she sits makes finding the small rings difficult. The second was a small pig at 32 yards and the third was the javelina at 36 yards. Both the small pig and javelina are positioned at angles to the stake. The up and down was fine, but in each case I shot a little wider than I should have. From this practice I know these targets need extra attention.

There’s a mountain lion at the end of this 40 yard long lane

It’s good to simulate a tournament to get an idea where you might need some extra work. Shooting ego-easy distances and targets won’t be much help when you’re faced with tough shots on an unknown range.

All Practices Are Not Equal

Coaching tip

When I raced bicycles there was a group I trained with. Among that group of cyclists were Olympians, World Champions, and State Champions. There were hard rides and harder rides. Yes, each rider had his or her recovery time based on his or her race calendar. But, when the group gathered for a training ride it was going to be a tough one.

Thi s wasn’t training, it was a race. It, too, hurt.

Being around and training with such a group of elite cyclists you either got better or got dropped. There were days when it hurt so badly it took every bit of effort not to get dropped. There were other days when you felt no pain.

Archery doesn’t cause the same physical pain. Still there are practice sessions where it seems all you can see is red; no arrow finding it’s way to yellow. There is also some pain. Mentally you are exhausted by your arrows circling the ten ring creating an outline on the red. Your arm, after about 60 arrows is beginning to feel the weight of the bow. By arrow 100 that arm is screaming. That is until you become comfortable handling 120 arrows during a single practice session.

Over and over and over, again

Still, you have to shoot through the missed marks. You become comfortable holding a bow and aiming at 200 arrows. Those wayward arrows that landed in the red are becoming less stubborn and finding yellow.

Then, you find that group of archers that as a rule have better shooters than you. Practicing with them you find that you have to improve or you get dropped.