Some days it is hard to stop shooting.

Some days it is hard to stop shooting. Mornings are particularly tough. There is little wind off the river. The light is just right. It is a good time to be outside and practicing. Training, however, has to be done smart.

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A run starts the day. River enjoys the workout as much as I do

Each week I set a plan for practice sessions. These sessions include archery and endurance sports. All my training has a plan with specific short-term and long-term goals. I also know that over training can lead to problems.

images Shooting a heavy target bow can fatigue shoulders, arms, and hands. Next week I’ll be hunting so current practice is mostly using significantly lighter equipment. My hunting bow, a Mathews ZXT,  weights  4.2 pounds, is shorter axle to axle, and has 80% let off versus 65% let of the target bow. During this morning’s practice, using my hunting bow, it felt like I could have shot for another hour.

Repetitive motion under stain can lead to injuries. What I’ve experienced training and competing in endurance sports is that minor aches and pains if not monitored closely can lead to problems.

A case in point is the Jones fracture of my right foot (fifth metatarsal). Sir Robert Jones an orthopedic surgeon first described the injury in 1902. A friend that is an orthopedic surgeon confirmed my injury. Mine was a Zone II injury that often resolves with limited restriction of activity. I took it easy for a while, but not long enough and the injury has taken years to resolve. Surgery and an internal screw fixation would have helped but I elected to run through it.

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Shooting a heavy bow for hours a day can lead to a number of shoulder injuries. I’ve described these under Archery Research section of this website. Some archers advocate use of analgesia prior to practice. I disagree  since the analgesia could mask pain. If it is going to hurt, I want to know about the pain before it becomes serious.

A more prudent system, in my opinion, is to work up to a certain level of archery endurance and not over do it. A year ago I was shooting 30 – 60 arrows a day. Today, I’ll shoot up to 200 (+/- a few) arrows over two practice sessions. On rest days, I don’t shoot a single arrow and on easy days I’ll fire around 30 shots. Each session has a mental plan, a form plan, and the actual arrow count is secondary.

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Today is a long day. That means I’ll shoot somewhere between 120 and 200 arrows. It will take several hours. But, the hunting bow is so light, easy to draw, and the let off so amazing it was tough to end the session even though my training goals may be accomplished.

The number of arrows is never an exact count. I work it like this on long days: yardage, marked by tape measured stakes,  is 20 to 60 in 5-yard increments, 5 to 6 arrows per end. If I feel I am having a problem at some distance I’ll take extra time on that position or come back to it. Because I am practicing for hunting, I’ll shoot unknown yardage from various levels on my deck and poach. I’ll add these unknown distances by moving the target and walking to random spots on my property then shoot.

Today shooting felt good.  Sunday had been a light day, morning practice only. (Sunday is a football day, after all.) My arms, shoulders, and hands were rested. There was little fatigue following a couple of hours of practice this morning. Regardless, I put down my bow and counted the holes I’d placed into a new target. There were 75. That was enough for the moment.

Racing a Stinky Dog, Shooting and Kayaking with Brenda

This has been a great day. Nice sunrise and perfect temperature. Plus, we, Brenda and I, did not need to drive anywhere so we would enjoy the entire day.

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Sunrise and off for a run

We’ve been organizing to remodel our home in Hertford. That has meant spending a lot of time looking at stuff for the house. There is not a room that will be untouched by the work. We are spending a bundle to renovate; it will be worth it in the end.

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Something to roll on!

When we do get a day free of renovation work and travel it is used to the maximum. Like always the day starts with a run. River, my lab, and I head out early, sometimes – especially during the winter – it is still dark when we run. There are essentially no cars on the roads where we run. If a car does approach it can be heard long before it nears. I make certain neither of us is close to the road when it passes. Today, there were no cars. There were, as always, ditches with water to splash and carcasses to taste.

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Racing against River it is impossible to take a clear picture

I don’t run in the ditches but River can’t avoid them. Yes, she gets stinky. She often enhances her aroma by rolling in a tasty carcass. If she finds something wonderfully rotted I sprint toward her saying, “No, No!, NO!” to prevent the taste and roll. It was a mad race.

Today, I succeeded in preventing a taste and roll, to her remorse. I will add that River jumps into the Little River after every run. Not a soap bath, however, a vigorous post-swim rub with a ‘dog’ towel followed by a brushing  helps abate the stench.

After running it was time to shoot. Morning archery practice takes 1 to 3 hours. Mornings typically have less wind so it is a great time to sight and shoot from long distance (up to 60 yards). Today, practice was an hour and a half. It was dedicated to release work. It was also working from 20 meters as I prepare for the indoor season. Long shots would come in the afternoon despite the potential of wind. It was a very good session.

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Still in my running apparel, I look like a nerd.

I take a break mid-day for lunch then do some other activity like ride a bike. The weather was so nice and the water so calm bike riding was going to be replaced with either a long swim, paddle boarding or kayaking. I asked Brenda if she wanted to go kayaking. She agreed and was ready in minutes. We were both eager to enjoy the water.

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From where we live, across the Little River, there is a small creek we’d not yet explored and we chose it for our destination. We launched two of our Necky boats onto water that was totally flat and without breeze. At least those were the conditions when we departed from our bulkhead. Wind can come up fast off the Albemarle Sound.

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We were only paddling 1.5 miles to the other side of the river.  Less than midway conditions changed as if someone had thrown a switch. Flat water changed to whitecaps on top of two-foot to three-foot fast rolling swells. There aren’t any rocks or obstructions in the water but we were rocking and rolling. ( Sorry, no pictures, it was too rough and I was afraid I’d drop my camera in the water. I wished my GoPro was onboard)

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Brenda – Calm after the storm

Two to three-foot waves don’t seem like much and aren’t unless only a few feet separate them. In a boat where you are sitting at water level and the cockpit is only a few inches above the surface – two feet is plenty. We’d slide down the side of one swell and get splashed by the next as we rode up. Both of us got soaked. It was wonderful.

Neither of us was in great danger of flipping. We frequently head out into similar chop. However, we are usually paddling into the wave so we can turn and surf them. Today we were paddling parallel with the swells.

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Heading into that creek on the left which ended up a dead end

Once on the far side of the river the trees blocked the wind. We tested the creek that ended in a swamp after a short distance. There are some massive homes on that side of the river so we paddled past and admired them before heading back into the wind.

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On the way back the chop wasn’t as severe but seemed to come from all directions. Brenda hooped and hollered as she bounced her boat on the water. Getting out of the boats was a small challenge but we managed it without getting anything other than our feet wet. Not that it mattered, we were already soaked.

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The water was still churning a bit following the heavy wind

Soon after we cleared the boats, the wind returned so I canceled my afternoon archery practice. The range felt like a wind tunnel. Instead, I finished the day following baseball, writing, and waiting for Thursday night football – Vikings vs. Packers. The perfect end to a great day.

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Running, shooting, and picking up poop.

When we drive back to Easton I look forward to seeing friends living there. It is also fun to shoot on familiar ranges and train on well-worn running courses. So far, this trip has played out pretty much as expected.

Shooting at Cypress Creek is always warm and friendly. So many harsh winter days were spent firing away on their range. Throughout the winter, Charlie and Harry gave me frequent tips and pointers. Both are experienced bow hunters and accomplished competitors.

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The range all to myself at Cypress Creek.

Shore Sportsmen was my second indoor range to visit. Much closer to my home in Maryland, about 2 miles, it is my choice to practice where “shooting short” is not going to matter. Their attic range distance is only about 16 yards.

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Kenny, Archery Manager at Shore Sportsmen in Easton, MD
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Fun times (expensive way to loose arrows) in the attic at Shore Sportsmen

Running our neighborhood offers it’s own adventure. Not so much for the run course, but for the interactions with people along the run. However, the backside of the 3 mile loop is adjacent to protected  land that has several miles of trails. Running the trails increases the distance from 5 to 10 miles depending on how I run it and where I exist.

The real entertainment comes from greeting the people that live here. We live in a “retirement” community in Maryland. Most, rather all but perhaps three, of the people that live in our community either don’t or can’t run. I can and do run. That causes suspicion among the people that live here.

Rarely do the neighborhood folk venture too far out and their travel is almost exclusive to where they can go while sitting – in their cars to someplace else where they can sit. Runners, those that live outside of our community, occasionally pass through the subdivision. The entrances are marked with “Private Property”, “No Trespassing”, “No Soliciting”, “You aren’t wanted here”, and other non-welcoming signs.

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River and I running the trails near our house in Maryland

When I run, I wave, smile, greet people and often run with my dog, River. This infuriates other residents. They are certain; I don’t belong anywhere within their boundaries.

I’ve been approached, as I near lawns of others here with questions like:

“Did you see the signs? Can you read?” a-hole neighbor.

“Yes, I did see them. I can read. Do you need me to help you read them?” me.

“Hey! Are you lost!” a grumpy old man yelled and hacked in my direction.

I couldn’t think of anything catchy to rebuke and only said, “Nope” and kept running. Looking as I turned the corner, “Nope” was perfect. The old man was clearly outraged I had not stopped for further redress.

Once, someone sic’d the community manager on me. She chased my down by golf cart to warn me off the property. As a resident, I assure you, I was no way pleasant or polite to her false claim against me. If she had asked whether I was a resident my attitude and manner would have been calm and polite. However, she accused and threatened – that has never worked against me.

Running with River pisses off the neighborhood. Especially when she poops. I clean it up, of course, I always carry poop bags. Poop happens, just pick it up and keep on going, is a dog owner’s mantra.

Once, River pooped on a strip of public land between the community and a road. A neighbor, unfamiliar with clandestine techniques, pulled her car over to observe whether or not I’d clean up the mess. Of course, I could see her.

I walked over to the pile of poop. Took the empty poop bag, bent over the poop, reached down next to the poop, and grabbed nothing into the bag. The old woman in her car was too far away to confirm or deny my retrieval of the feces.

As see watched, I straighten, reached my free hand into the empty poop bag, pulled my hand free of the bag, and acted as if I was consuming what might have been in the bag. Even from 40 yards, I could see her mouth fall into her lap and her eyes bug out. It was a performance I have laughed over many times.

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Heading home in Easton

Not everyone living in our Maryland subdivision is a jerk or acts self-entitled, but too many fit that bill. In NC, where it is extremely rural, on those rare times when I pass someone  while running they always smile and wave.

Running through the Easton neighborhood is always a treat one way or another. Shooting at Cypress Creek and Shore Sportsmen will forever be enjoyable and leave me with great memories if not some improvement in my shooting.

Good friends and good things to come

Thank you Chief Norman Mitchell for picking up my trophy from last weekend’s tournament. I’d hung around for awhile waiting for the final results.  Being the among the first group out to shoot and the first ones to return it was going to be a long wait.  Brenda would be waiting on me at home, so I headed back to Hertford before the awards were announced.  Norman called around 1:30 PM on Saturday to let me know I’d gotten third and he had my trophy. It is nice to have friends like Norman.IMG_2069

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Chief Mitchell

Collecting the award,  I was introduced to  Cliff and Woody, working hard updating the indoor range at Fountain of Life Sportsmen Ministry in Elizabeth City.

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Woody

When they have finished I’ll post the before and after pictures. There was another person painting on the back wall, but we didn’t meet. These guys are doing a fantastic job. Man it is going to be nice!

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Cliff

Wildlife on Little River

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This varmint seems to enjoy irritating my dogs
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This snake preferred enjoying the sun to getting out of the way

The front of my home in North Carolina faces woods. The opposite side faces water. The two views are completely different. My targets are set to that when I practice I shoot toward the woods. The range on my yard is marked, using a tape measure, out to 60 yards. Over the course of a week’s practice I’ll encounter all sorts of creatures in and around my yard. Occasionally, there are less common observations.

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This turtle, near a ditch, did not seem to approve of my shooting

The riverside of the house holds the markers from 40 to 60 yards. The 35 yards to 20 yards stakes approach the woods side of the house. There are also porches and decks from which to shoot. Certainly, many archers have similar arrangements on their property.

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Acted like they owned the place
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This mare loves to visit

Often I shoot several times a day. Typically, I’ll practice archery in the morning following a run and again in the afternoon following a bike ride. As such, I am outside for hours each day. I am not alone outside.

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Deer across the road (photo by Jimmy C)
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Floating just beyond my 60 yard stake, giving me a critical eye

Our isolation encourages animals, wild and domestic, to roam on and around our property. It is not uncommon to see deer, turkey, and raccoons on the woods side of our home. On the riverside, geese, duck, osprey and eagles are common sights.

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An Osprey doing some serious hunting

Navy and Coast Guard helicopters frequently fly above the river. There is a blimp plant nearby and occasionally a dirigible passes overhead. For sure, practice here on Little River is always interesting.

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Clearly more majestic than the airships

Running and Shooting with a dog

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.

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Heading into the woods here in NC

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.

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Waiting for me to catch up

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.

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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.IMG_0582

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.

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3D tournaments are the best, Archers share their food with dogs

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.

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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.

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Returning from the run

Three Days of 3D

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.

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This deer at about 32 yards. Look closely and a stake is about center of this photo at 22 yards. Two distances for variance in skill levels
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Having shot this deer on a number of occasions, I have its number.

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.

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This bear is sitting smack on 30 yards and is a straight shot at the end of an open lane

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.

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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.

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A more challenging target from this stand. The deer is at the end of the lane and can just be seen

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.

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Chiggers are the larval (juvenile) form of a common mite from the family known as Trombiculidae

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.

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Schrader’s Outdoors in Henderson, MD

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.

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Someone’s broken Carbon Express left where there was once an antler

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.

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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.

Augment your shooting with other forms of exercise

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.

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Tough guy on the side of the road

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.

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This old girl always greets me when I ride past her. She never chases and is always eager for an ear scratch.

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.

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5 Mile turn around point of a 10 mile run course

Regardless of what you chose to augment your fitness, additional exercise can help improve your health and performance as an archer.

 

More about fitness

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.

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Cam Hanes on a run

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.

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Me trying to catch up on a 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.

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1/2 Marathons are a blast

 

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Recovery is an important part of training

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.

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A very lean Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander speaking with a fan in Hawaii

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.

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Inexpensive method of working the upper body

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.

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Swimming is a great workout

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

 

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Working to put form and focus together

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.

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Runner and former cyclist Norman Gustafson shooting an X

References:

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

General 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.

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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.

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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.

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3D in North Carolina

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.

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Swimming is great for archery. Shoulders get a nice workout

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.

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Determined run following the bike segment of a triathlon