Most of my days begin with a run. There is one loyal companion that joins me each morning to traverse trails and roads, River, my dog. Running is not her only form of exercise; she is an avid swimmer and is devoted to archery.
Today, we headed out from our home in North Carolina to run trails, cut down a quiet road, then circle back to the trails before returning home. The woods behind my house have a number of paths or trails, which are clear enough to run uninhibited. These eventually open onto a road that experiences extremely limited traffic.
Corn, cotton and soybean fields bank either side of the road. Ditches parallel the road. After a rain these ditches are great fun for River to splash through at her fastest pace. They are also her source of hydration.
On long runs I carry water or Tri-Fuel. For River ditch water serves her need. Gels and sports bars are my source of calories while running. For extra calories River relies on hope and a carcass.
We didn’t run far today, however, she apparently found something dead to munch and roll on. Her post run stench meant a bath under the hose. Thankfully, she’s easy to wash – she loves water any time and anyway she can get into it.
After running I shoot and she monitors my progress. In the yard, she sits or lies in the grass never moving her critical gaze from me. On 3D ranges, which are her favorite, she sniffs the foam animals, gets aggressive with faux wolves or coyote, and is ever present in stands.
Training alone, whether running or shooting, can be relaxing. There are times when I need no interruptions. Except when River feels the need to play she is understanding and respects my effort and concentration. When we’re done there is always a treat waiting her back at the house.
The past three days on the Eastern Shore of Maryland were devoted to 3D. Two days of practice and a tournament. The tournament was held on Sunday, in Delaware, a short drive from Easton, MD. Practice was at the Schrader’s 3D range on Saturday and Monday.
Practicing at my home in North Carolina on paper isn’t the same as 3D. 3D target sizes vary and distances aren’t known. Schrader’s Outdoors is a quick drive from my home in Easton, MD and where I go to practice on foam.
Saturday’s practice was unusual; there were lots of other archers on the range. Typically, the 3D range is empty. With hunting season opening people had dusted off their bows, brought out their shiny new bows, filled quivers with newly fletched arrows and were out to take aim on foam. It was clear many of these would be bow hunters had not practiced in some time.
This turkey is fairly easy at 20 yards, a straight shot. Someone left an arrow in the tree behind it.
The range at Schrader’s is certainly large enough for safety, but privacy isn’t guaranteed. Walking past clusters of bowmen it was obvious their dreamed of prey would be safe from these seasonal archers testing their skill.
Two young men I noticed seemed more appropriately dressed for golf or tennis than practice on a muddy, tick and chigger infested 3D range. Those boys were going to be a feast for the little parasites infesting the bushes behind the targets. Both of them seemed to be spending a lot time searching for arrows in the underbrush.
Following Sunday’s tournament in Delaware I headed back to Schrader’s. I’d be in North Carolina on Tuesday and as yet have no 3D targets of my own. The closest range is over an hour’s drive away. In Maryland the drive to a 3D range is about 25 minutes. Also, Monday meant people would be working and I’d have the range to myself.
On the range I found broken arrows, arrows dropped on paths then overlooked, and arrows sticking in the trees behind targets. While the target placement at Schrader’s isn’t a pushover, the course has stakes placed so that most people can hit foam. Apparently, many peoples’ ego overrode their skill and they shot further out than their expertise could support.
When I was in my late teens I worked at hunting club, “Hall Brothers Hunting Club” near Savannah, GA. Frequently, guests would arrive with expensive equipment and no clue how to hunt or shoot. We ensured they left with a trophy if that was their goal even if someone else took the gun from their hands, shot the animal, handed the gun back and exclaimed to the client, “Nice shot!” Watching people on Saturday reminded me of those days. Seeing the remains of their arrows on Monday confirmed my suspicion.
This elk sits at stake 29. The next target is a boar 18 yards from the stake.
3D is very different from shooting at flat paper, clearly defined targets and known distances. I enjoy both types of shooting. Each has its own set of challenges. It was good to get back to Maryland to practice 3D and to compete in Delaware.
It is important to augment archery with other forms of exercise. Some people advocate weight lifting, swimming and running. All are good. In addition to these, cycling is a great way to improve fitness and see the countryside.
Typically, I do cardiovascular workouts early in the day. I’ll practice archery afterwards, in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Cycling is my favorite of the major disciplines in which I participate. While I enjoy running and swimming, aside from archery, I am a cyclist at heart.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, so weight lifting can help slow or reduce that loss. Going to a gym can be social and is more fun when your friends are involved.
Regardless of what you chose to augment your fitness, additional exercise can help improve your health and performance as an archer.
Cameron Hanes is a bowhunter that runs a lot. I’d not heard of him until recently. It was by chance that I caught his name. I’d overheard a DVD of him talking about fitness and archery. Seriously, though, he runs a lot.
Mr. Hanes runs 100-mile races. That is a haul. Preparation for running in a 100-mile ultramarathon is about the same as training for a marathon.1 Running marathons has been plenty for me. A ½ marathon or 10K is even better. They take less time so I can still enjoy other activities after the run.
Events that take all day or longer are taxing. For example, a full Ironman distance triathlon, 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run, takes the fastest triathletes between 8 and 10 hours to complete. It is a workday; indeed it is their work. I finish them in more modest times, 12 – 15 hours.
For most people, running 100 miles or finishing a 140.3-mile triathlon sounds like a lot. That is because it is a lot. Training takes hours everyday (exceptions being recovery days – which is a part of training, even in archery). Neither type of ultra race is necessary to be fit or to become fit. Both types of endurance sports are activities that can become a major focal point for anyone. However, other fitness goals are as meaningful and enjoyable.
Archery isn’t the most physically demanding sport. It is not without benefit. Upper shoulder strength is improved, walking back and forth to collect arrows is good, and the mental focus is paramount. But, as a sole physical activity, archery is unlikely to create the lean body of runners and triathletes.
It does not come as a surprise that the better physically fit someone is the more fit they are mentally.2 Mental fitness is critical for archery. As such, archers may be able to improve their shooting experience by adding a fitness program to their training.
Fitness programs aren’t necessarily those requiring an archer training to run 100 miles or to complete an Ironman. Setting goals like walking 30 minutes to an hour per day(or about 10,000 steps), running a 5K, losing weight and improving diets, cycling 20 miles or swimming a kilometer are activities that can enhance archery. The key is consistency.
Once a fitness bug has bitten the results are hard to avoid. If you are new to aerobic or cardiovascular exercise see your health care provider before you start a program. Exercise does have an impact but will level off with consistent training.3
Archers are athletes. Athletes run. Athletes also add other elements of fitness training to their primary sport. You don’t need to be an ultramarthoner or Ironman to be extremely fit. The more fit you become the better for your brain’s fitness – really important for archers. Improved fitness can further assist you in controlling your form. 4 Consider what you might enjoy as an ancillary sport and give it a shot.
1) Fred HL. The 100-mile run: preparation, performance, and recovery. A case report. Am J Sports Med. 1981 Jul-Aug; 9(4): 258-61
2) Douw L, Nieboer D, van Dijk BW, Stam CJ, Twisk JW. A healthy brain in a healthy body: brain network correlates of physical and mental fitness. PLo One 2014 Feb 3;9(2):e88202. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0088202 eCollection 2014
3) Awobajo FO, Olawale OA, Bassey S/ Changes in blood glucose, lipid profile and antioxidant activities in trained and untrained adult male subjects during programmed exercise on the treadmill. Niq Q Hosp Med 2013 Apr-Jun; 23(2):117-24
4) Fitness for Archery. Topendsports The Sport + Science Resource. www.topendsports.com/sport/archery/fitness
The fellas at Cypress Creek Archery figured out how to make their DVD player operate. It was on while I was practicing at their indoor range. The video was of an archer testifying about his athletic abilities, the frequency of his workouts, and how fitness improves his performance as an archer. That caught my ear, I think fitness is important and complements archery. I’ve also noticed a lot of archers are a bit out of shape. They are not alone.
A recent survey found that 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight. The US has 78 million obese adults, the highest of number of any country in the world. Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60 percent of women are obese or overweight. American is not alone; there are six countries with 20% or more of their population being obese. These countries are: Mexico, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Greece, Australia, and New Zealand. The World Health Organization states that by 2015 there will be 2.3 billion overweight people in the world, 700 million being obese. Look around the range next time you’re there – you’ll see a lot of big people shooting bows.
If you need to lose weight, think, you did not gain it overnight. Give yourself time to lose it. Set reasonable goals for yourself. Find a diet that works and you can follow. When you start a diet and a fitness program, you may find the weight initially falls off faster than occurs as you near your goal. Be patient and go slowly, that will help you reduce the risk of rebounding.
If you want more aerobic fitness, find sports that you enjoy and do them. If you’re having fun you more apt to stick with it. Get your archery friends involved. There is a lot of truth to “the more the merrier.” Check around your club, you may find others that would be interested in running, cycling, or some other aerobic activity. Heck, y’all could get some t-shirts made and collectively support a charity.
Being fit is important for more than becoming a better archer. Daily aerobic exercise is a life style than enhances overall well being. Running a 5K or a marathon is exciting and earns you bragging rights. If you are not already up and running or participating in another sport, give it some consideration. You may find that it becomes a life style and improves your fitness as an archer.
The Soggy Bottom boys got stormed on two week ago. They’d only shot as far as target 12 when a thunderstorm hit, causing them to sprint for their trucks. This week, there was a 60% chance of rain. The rain held and the entire course was played. During the competition conversation floated over the group as it moved through the maze of targets and ticks.
I’d missed the week of the rainout. I was putting my sailboat in the water. It didn’t storm where the boat was being launched. Back at Soggy Bottom, having taken refuge from the storm, the boys speculated that I would rather launch a sailboat during a lightening storm than return to the swamp to practice 3D archery. They were unaware of the nearly perfect weather 60 miles away.
For the boat, we had a crew ready to compliment the weather. Once launched the sailors set about their tasks. When underway there time to talk. The topics that afternoon were human breathing function, respiratory acidosis and two cases of medical interest.
The following Tuesday, despite the Weather Channel’s prediction of Armageddon, it didn’t rain at Soggy Bottom. There was a quorum of archers ready to shoot and the assembly headed into the swamp.
Once everyone was focused and the competition underway, conversation aired as people progressed into their flow of shooting, moving and talking. The primary dialogue among this group, like the sailors of last week, revolved around human body function. However, the system of concentration was south of the diaphragm.
The deliberated topic related to digestion of a sugar-free snack. Apparently, the product wreaks havoc on the gastrointestinal system. In a prior experience, one of the shooters had consumed an entire pack of the foodstuff. Within minutes his gaseous build up and its subsequent voluminous release caused him a degree of embarrassment since it was happening during work.
Following his olfactory offensive episodes of gas discharge rapid peristalsis ensued. Fortunately, for the impacted shooter, his work now completed, he was able to station himself within feet of a toilet for the remainder of the evening. The cause and effect of the offending foodstuff was compared to the experiences associated with a variety of nutritional products and the outcome for each shooter’s GI system. In turn, the archers proudly relayed their physiologically explosive experiences, the magnitude of their audible releases of gas followed by the amount of solid matter excreted, along with the circumstances when sharting* is most problematic.
We had another great shoot at Soggy Bottom. Each target was a challenge and the weather did not hamper the day. It is curious that both sailors and archers enjoy Socratic inquiry of human physiology. It must be pointed out, however, that when debating bodily functions, it is tough to beat a good fart story told among friends.
* Shart – a small, unintended defecation that occurs when one relaxes the anal sphincter to far.
I race. I compete in running races, cycling races and swimming events. Going fast and far is fun, so I am never still for long. During my training and during races, I ingest masses of caffeine and drink a large amount of Red Bull. My caloric intake of caffeine and my archery maintain a tenuous collaboration.
Case in point: I had an intense training schedule and a serious archery competition on the same day. The archery event was last on my agenda. First on the calendar was a 10K-morning run, then, in the afternoon, a 40-mile bike ride. The final activity of the day would be an archery tournament.
After breakfast I knocked out the run in under an hour and between the run and ride, I completed some work. Within all that activity, I had lunch and took a short nap. I think it is inhumane to ‘get busy’ while digesting.
The 40-mile ride was a few hours before the shoot, and I needed calories and a caffeine boost. A windy day on the Eastern Shore, it was going to be a gut buster to complete the ride in the time before heading to the shoot. Plus, I was hungry, again. It is not good to start a ride with no fuel to burn. Bonking is not pleasant. A pre-ride double espresso along with a PB&J on an English muffin did the caloric trick. Knowing my calorie count for the day remained low; I grabbed a 2X Caffeine GU and stuffed it in my jersey. Now prepped for riding, I headed out on my Cannondale Slice.
At mile 28 I’d burned about 800 calories so I sucked down the 2X Caffeine GU. These GU gel food supplements taste awful, their consistency is gag worthy, but they provide fast energy. The 2X caffeine gives a real kick particularly when washed down with Red Bull. (Sometimes, that day in particular, I carry Red Bull in one of my water bottles) I’d finished the 40 miles in a tad more than 2 hours. Back home I grabbed another Red Bull, drank it, doffed my riding kit, showered, dressed, hopped into my Mercedes SLK Super Sport and headed to archery competition.
During the 35-mile drive to the range, my iPhone linked to the car stereo for music, I cranked up my “running” play list. That list of music is hardly sedate. Cruising in the SLK is always exhilarating, and I was really feeling pumped. I was headed to an archery shoot, Red Bull, coffee and 2X Caffeine GU coursing through my veins, driving in a sports car – living the dream.
I’d planned to arrive at the range a bit early for a good warm-up. If I’d been arriving for the start of a sprint triathlon I could not have been more warmed up. Hitting the parking lot, stereo booming, with 30 minutes to spare I was race ready. But, I needed to change gears and become archery ready. Heading in, feeling charged, I put the sight and stabilizers on my bow, grabbed arrows and stepped up to practice. Firing off a few practice arrows it was apparent I was race ready.
Caffeine increases your mental alertness. Only a few hours before shooting my bow I’d caffeine loaded. My brain was alert. The pre-shoot Red Bull was certainly working as a solid maintenance dose of caffeine. Actually, I typically drink a Red Bull within 30 minutes of every archery competition. In practice, I often drink one beforehand. My scores and practice seem unaffected by Red Bull. It is unclear what this implies about those scores.
Archery isn’t like running a 40 K trail race in the freezing rain in February over ice slick red clay in Georgia. And it certainly doesn’t compare to a parachute jump from space. But, archery has its own thrill. The feel, the calm, the focus, and intensity under control, which apply in archery, also apply to more vigorously dynamic sports. Archery does provide me calm and focus that I carry into other sports. Once I hit that zone, my shooting becomes relaxing or my racing controlled.
My score for that Red Bull invigorated night was 294 with 11 X. Not my best score, not my worst score. Whether or not it is advantageous having a heart rate of a hummingbird in archery is debatable. Prior to the shoot I’d run, biked, and mega-dosed on caffeine and energy drinks. How that impacted my shooting I honestly don’t know. I suppose it is relative or relates to what one is accustomed to having in their bodies and how that body is used. Frankly, the only times I am still are when I am asleep or putting it on the line, caffeine, Red Bull and all.
Picked up my bow from XFire Strings in Denton, MD. Bart Shortall, champion archer, outdoor writer and master string builder spent several hours with me putting the final touches to my new bow string. A “Paper Test” revealed a perfect cut.