The benefits of exercise

There are lots of articles at this site about the benefits of exercise.  Some people exercise their entire lives. Others are professional athletes where various forms of exercise are their work. For some of us exercise is an activity done at best a few times a week.  For too many people exercise is an activity they avoid.

When we see young fit glorified professional athletes we are amazed at their being ability.  You may think, “I could never do that.” Perhaps, it is outside your ability.  If you are 5 feet 4 inches tall, age 50 and overweight, you will not ever play in the NBA.

You do not need to be a professional athlete to be fit.  You don’t need to be 6 six 8 inches tall to enjoy playing basketball.  Being fit has nothing to do with professional athletes. There are a lot of ex-professional athletes, now in the 50s and 60s who are massively out of shape. There are also plenty that remain fit. There, too, are amazingly fit individuals that have never earned a dime in sport.

Being unfit can reduce how long you get to live.  I had a friend, tremendously unfit, who once said to me, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”  He said this to me when we ran into one another after years of not seeing each other. I nearly didn’t recognize him. A few months later he fulfilled his statement.

A lack of fitness will increase your risk for: coronary heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, hip fracture, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, obesity, and being over weight.  On the other hand exercise can lead a disability free extra 18.4 years of life.

Aging well is supported by fitness.  If you are young begin now developing a life style that will lead to an enjoyable existence in your later years.  If you have reached a point in your life that you feel too old to begin exercise you are mistaken.

In 2013 a group of investigators looked at physical activity and quality of life. They concluded that physical activity does improve quality of life. (1) It seems like a simple concept. Yet, the CDC has reported that 39.9% of the adult population of the US is obese. (2)

I do run nearly everyday. I also do a lot of walking during archery practice

Of course, you do not need to become a marathoner, Ironman, or open water distance swimmer to be fit. Walking, too often over looked for the lack of glamour given it by sports apparel corporations, is an ideal method to gain fitness. (3)

If you are reading this and you are an unfit archer you are on a path that can improve your fitness. Already you walk, back and forth to retrieve arrows, when you practice.  You may not be able to practice archery everyday, but you can walk everyday. Adding more walking to your archery-training plan will improve over health and fitness.

References:

1.Diane L. Gill, Cara C. Hammond, Erin J. Reifsteck, Christine M. Jehu, Rennae A. Williams, Melanie M. Adams, Elizabeth H. Lange, Katie Becofsky, Enid Rodriguez, and Ya-Ting ShangPhysical Activity and Quality of Life. J Prev Med Public Health. 2013 Jan; 46(Suppl 1): S28–S34. Published online 2013 Jan 30. doi: 10.3961/jpmph.2013.46.S.S28PMCID: PMC3567315 PMID: 23412703

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  2. 3.https://www.emedicinehealth.com/walking_for_fitness/article_em.htm#walking_for_fitness_getting_started

It is like work

In the early 1990s we were putting together a cycling team.  The team would have our sponsorship.  For the first year, there was a total of $35,000 in the budget. Not much for 10 cyclists.

If the team did well the second year’s budget would increase.  The first year, with only $35,000 to spend, all the cyclists would need to be high-level amateurs.  Those amateurs needed to be of a quality that would allow some of them to turn professional in year two.  At the onset of the program we had several such cyclists.

One in particular was an athlete we predicted would be a top level pro, a cyclist we’d be lucky to keep for a couple of years.  Then, he just quit.  When asked why he answered, “This is too much like work.” In any sport to become an elite performer there will be a lot of work involved.

At every tournament, during most practices, there’s always someone advising others to “Just have fun,” or “Remember to have fun, “ and “Did you have fun?”

When I asked elite athletes what it took to become a champion being able to have fun was not among their responses.  In fact, the number one response was determination and number response two was work.

Certainly, work can be enjoyable.  You can also enjoy doing something that might not be fun.  Or, at least, you will do the activity, that isn’t so much ‘fun’, because you’re determined to succeed in a sport and are willing to put forth the work. If you hated it you’d probably not do it.

Coaching tip

Flinging hundreds of arrows a day for years is work.  It is also practice.  Designing your practice session to be interesting and challenging does reduce the monotony of the activity.  There are no short cuts and it isn’t always fun.  Sometimes it feels like work. If your determined and do the work there will be a reward.

How Many Hours Per Week Do You Train?

On the internet I stumbled across an interesting article about archery.(1) It was based on a survey.  Years ago I ran a studies that collected survey data. In that research we needed to be certain the data submitted was correct.  In order to do so we contracted with a major university that audited cancer surveys. They’d developed a program that would sort suspicious entries. Those entries could then be questioned and verified.  The archery article I read had in the results data that I found questionable. (1)

Not certain those numbers add up

What caught my attention among the data on this survey were the hours that 2% of the respondents stated they practiced per week. (1) Those archers submitted they practiced more than 50 hours per week.  That seemed like a lot of practice.

I asked some professional athlete friends how much they trained per week. They train closer to 30 hours per week (triathlon/cycling).  More training than that and the return on training begins to diminish. I searched and found that as a group professional athletes practice about 5-6 hours per day 6 days per week. (2) That’s,  around 30 hours per week.

50+ hours a week of cycling would be too much for me.

There a limit of what the body can absorb from training.  If someone is pushing 50 hours per week, allowing for a 6 day week (assuming, perhaps erroneously the 50+ hours per week archers give themselves a rest day) that is 8.33 hours of archery practice per day.  It seems like a lot of archery in a day.

He’s my schedule:

Running is a great adjunct to archery. Races are fun.

I shoot and train about 30.5 hours per week.  I do not have another job so my days are clear for athletic work.  Not all of that 30.5 is shooting arrows.  I shoot arrows on an average two and a half hours per day broken, mostly, into two sessions.  I spend an hour per week at the gym, 2.5 hours stretching, 6 hours running, and 7 hours cycling.  This time does not include video review or study. I have one day off a week.  There are training cycles where this varies, this is an annual analysis.

Training as an archer should include more than shooting arrows

Now, you my think that shooting arrows about 14 hours per week will take a long time to reach 10,000 hours, the number of hours often associated with elite performance.(3) If that 10,000 rule was an absolute, you would be correct.  The 10,000 rule is not an absolute.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, often is misquoted in regard to the 10,000 rule

You may further think that 14 hours per week shooting is the extent of training.  Here you would be somewhat incorrect.  Indeed, it is archery practice. However, the other elements of training, the stretching, running, going to the gym, and cycling are all components to becoming a better archer.

Shooting a bow for more than 90 minutes at a time is a long time.  So, I typically break up archery practice into morning and afternoon practice sessions.  Aside from not becoming too physically fatigued, and increasing the risk of an injury, it means I have what I consider the best time frame for mental focus.  Too long at practice and it is easy to become mentally tired which can be followed by sloppy form.

Coaching tip

The brain needs a break as well as the body.  Anyone practicing archery for 50+ hours per week is likely headed toward injury or burnout. Personally, I question archers who claim to be practicing 50+ hours per week. Their math may be wrong or they may be including other activities. Either way, 50+ hours is a lot.

How many hours per week do you train? (The answer is for you, this is not a survey)

Reference:

  • hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full
  • https://www.quora.com/How-many-hours-do-athletes-practice-a-week
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/anders-ericsson-how-to-become-an-expert-at-anything-2016-6

A Form Practice Method

One of the issues with archery is perfecting form.  Good form reliably produces a good shot. The thing is archers as a group are inconsistent with form.1 However, better archers are more consistent in their form.1

Practicing form is not simple a matter of hitting the center of the target at a known distance.  At times, poor form can result in a center shot. That isn’t a good approach that is having poor form and hoping for the best.

Coaching tips

Designing a practice that is specifically tailored to form seems a simple matter – it isn’t. Having a coach watch the archer in practice and providing coaching tips can help.  The problem is that coaches often teach methods which are not incorporated by elite archers. 2 Apparently, coaches may be reciting what they’ve been taught to coach and that advice goes into one of the athlete’s ears and out the other. I’m not suggesting the athletes are wrong. On the contrary, I’m saying those coaching methods are wrong.

In order to create a method that might help create a specific training process for form the archer should be at a degree of accomplishment where the athlete is working on skills of improvement.

The practice isn’t a measure of points.  It is a measure of form, which is the area specific to the skill improvement.

The archer selects a distance that is outside a comfort zone.  For example, if 18-meters is the comfort zone move outside, for instance to 25-meters.  If the goal is better from for 50-meters move to 60 meters.  The idea is to reproduce groups.

If at 50-meters the archer is shooting scores that reveal few poor shots, like an rare eight, then at 60-meters the goal is to create a group of arrows where 100% are within the group.  The score does not matter.  The cluster of arrows is the primary goal.

Say that the archer shoots an end of 10 arrows at 50-meters.  The objective is to create a cluster of arrows, a group, with 100% of them in the yellow.  Should an arrow fall outside the yellow the percentage of success is decreased by 10%. If the main body of the arrows lands in the 10 right with two landing in the nine right that is either a 100% or 80% depending on the skill of the archer.

This practice is done to the point of fatigue – not exhaustion.  The point of fatigue becomes apparent as the percentage drops. Once fatigue occurs stop, rest, and repeat the practice after a period of recovery, say in several hours.

Whether the arrows fail within the group or outside the group each arrow is evaluated.  If an arrows lands high, a 12 O’clock nine, determine if the error was caused by the bow rocking so that the upper limb drifted back or the release hand pulled downward during the activation process. If an arrow lands smack in the middle of the X, pause to consider what occurred to create a good shot.

After each end record the percentage of arrows that are outside the group.  Keep a record of this as a tool to aid in the improvement of form.

The above graph represents this sort of practice.  The red column is the percentage of good form score. In this case, 10 arrows at 60-meters, outside the yellow meant a decrease of 10% per arrow in most cases.

Reference:

1.) Soylu AR1Ertan HKorkusuz F.Archery performance level and repeatability of event-related EMG. Hum Mov Sci. 2006 Dec;25(6):767-74. Epub 2006 Jul 21.

2.) Martin PE1Siler WLHoffman D. Electromyographic analysis of bow string release in highly skilled archers. J Sports Sci. 1990 Winter;8(3):215-21.

Video Records

A valuable tool for your training is a video camera.  In fact, several video cameras are even better.

Coaching Tip

Professional athletes are video recorded during practice and performance.  Nick Woodman, a surfer who wanted better pictures of himself while surfing, invented the ‘GoPro’.  The ‘GoPro’ is a great tool for athletes as are small HD video cameras.  I’ve used my ‘GoPro’ in cycling and recently had a “duh” moment and began using it for archery. I also use a small Canon HD video camera.  Both are set-up on tripods during practice.

The video recordings can be played over and over to analyze form and look for mistakes.  I admit mine aren’t pretty.  However, they are revealing.

Among the textbook of how not to shoot errors I make I’ve broken the problems down to categories. Each category is a problem and that problem becomes the focus of practice until it has been resolved.  I am still on problem number one.

The first major problem that jumped out at me is that I seemed to shoot too fast.  The timing from anchor to release is the section of the shooting process that concerned me.  It seemed fast, so I timed it on the video.

Of course, how fast is too fast?

To figure this out I timed Reo Wilde and Jimmy Butts shooting.  YouTube made them available. (Wilde eventually became my ‘control’)

I timed shots for each archer.  The results were quite telling.

From the point where I anchor to when I release an arrow it takes 4.99 seconds.   Jimmy Butts from anchor to release held for 9.8 seconds while Reo Wilde held for 11.89 seconds.

Note: I shot from 50 meters and Wilde and Butts were shooting at 18 meters for the first measurements.  The distance wasn’t the variable I wanted until I finished looking at the shooters. Then, I wondered whether Reo Wilde shot differently at 50 meters. He’s easy to find on YouTube so he became the control.

At 50 meters (outdoor) Wilde’s hold time was 9.07 seconds, 2.83 seconds faster than 18 meters (indoor).  The variance of the hold time between Wilde’s and mine is 5.49 seconds, using Wilde’s indoor and outdoor average hold time.

The shorter hold times for Wilde during outdoor shooting is important as it is for all of us. Why shorter outdoors?  What I’ve come up with is wind.  Outside there is wind, inside there isn’t wind.  When you find the shot during a calm window you take it.  The calm moment my be your best opportunity.

It is the hold time that appears to be a potential flaw on my part. Wilde and Butts hold their aim before release at more than double or nearly double the amount of time I take from anchor to release.  The video was key to seeing this for myself.

Awareness of this problem with timing (assuming it is a problem) I slowed down.  Today’s hold time increased to 7.49 seconds.  It is too early to know if there will be an improvement in my score.  Actually, my score improved a tad, 0.08 points per arrow.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but those incremental points add up.  Over 72 arrows those small gains amount to 5.76 points  which is great for 50-meters or any distance.

I’m not saying that Reo Wilde’s extended hold time makes him better. It might, I don’t know for certain.  What I can say is that Reo Wilde hold time is much longer than mine.

Overtime, I’ll continue to record and measure.  There will be a point where I find the best feeling hold time for me.  My guess it is going to be longer that 4.99 seconds.

What Does it Take to Be a Champion?

There’s another article based on this research. It is written in a format for a journal.  Boring to most people. On the other hand, here’s the data shared in a friendlier format.

The data comes from real athletes and coaches.  Within the population is a cluster of World Champions, National Champions and Olympians.  To even out the group there are good athletes, top level weekend warriors who are truly dedicated to their sport.  These weekend warriors are excellent in their sport, but are not elite athletes.

There is also a group of coaches that work in high school, college and at the professional levels.

No, this isn’t free.  I tried to set the price at one dollar; Amazon wouldn’t allow that price. It is $2.99, which is less than a nickel per word.

The essay was edited by a bonafide editor and friend, Diane L.  No matter what I’ve written when she gets a hold it the writing  becomes a fun readable document.  Here she has turned what I sent her into an essay that is well beyond my ability.

This is for you to enjoy.  Sorry I couldn’t get the price lower.  The version for scientific publication, when it comes out will be at no charge other than the subscription or membership price.

Practice is harder than tournaments.

Coaching Tip

By the time you reach tournament play you should be ready. You should understand how you’ll perform and not expect miracles. You should be confident in your ability to execute at the level of your practice.

Before you enter a tournament you’ve practiced a lot.  In addition you’ve added fitness training and stuck to your plan.  It takes a lot of effort, time, and determination.

In archery it means lots of arrows, lots of targets, weight lifting and cardio work.  Aside from being able to put an arrow in the center of a target you need to be fit enough and strong enough to maintain a center shot for dozens if not hundreds of arrows.  Not everyone has mastered this skill set.  In fact, perfect scores are rare events.

If your practice is basically heading to the range three or four times a week and shooting 30 to 60 arrows you can become accomplished, but you won’t reach the peak level of elite archers.  You’ll have fun and be good at the sport of archery.  But, you’ll not be on the podium at the major tournaments.

Practice is hard. Shooting arrows isn’t hard.  Sure, your arms will fatigue and you’ll feel good about having shot a few dozen arrows.  Practice on the other hand should have purpose.

For example, before a practice considers what it is you need to work on for that session.  Say, your timing at the point of release isn’t perfect. Design a practice, or have your coach do so, that focuses on your release.  Then, do the concentrated effort until you no longer get it wrong.

As you prepare keep a record of your performance.  Prior to a tournament, plan to practice the tournament.  Have a timer set to the allotted time allowed to shoot an end. Slow down between ends.  This is going to keep you on the range longer but it will allow to create a mental image of the delay between ends at an actual event. Have music playing, such as they do at many events and record your scores.

You don’t need to do this everyday but add it to your practice.  Overtime you’ll learn what to expect from your ability.  In other words, if you average 570 points out of 600 it isn’t likely you’ll show up on the ‘big’ day and fire off a 600.  If your statistical range of tournament practice is 560 – 580 during a tournament you’ll probably score around 558 – 588 or so depending on your standard deviations.

Doing your practices with a purpose, following a complete plan for archery fitness, and understanding where you are in your ability will help prepare you for a tournament.  Doing the hard work before you show up will make competition feel easy and fun.

Everyday Is Not Equal

It doesn’t matter the sport, whether running, cycling, triathlon or archery, some days are better than others.

Coaching tip

Jack Nicklaus, during an ESPN interview, pointed out that during golf competition every player is subject to making a mistake.  He added, “I know I’ll make a mistake, what matters is how I recover from that mistake.”

When you performance below what you expect it might be easy to stop and try again later.  In archery, during a tournament, that is not an option. Neither should it be during practice.

What matters is how you can bring your practice up to your standard.  Before practice you’ve reviewed your goal for that session.  However, within a few arrows it seems clear you’ve gone off the rails.  That is not a reason to put down your equipment and call it quits.  Neither is it a time to become angry or frustrated.

Off to a good start that didn’t last long.

Instead, go through your process, clear your mind of your specific goal while continuing to reset your practice toward that specific practice goal.  While you may not achieve the goal with success you wanted you might come closer to reaching it than you’d have thought.

Working though a difficult practice can be beneficial.  If you compete enough you will have times where you’ve gone off the rails.  Having experienced this in practice you’ll be better handling such an occurrence should it happen in a tournament.

Ageless Guidance for Athletes

Of all the athletics I’d done in my life, the training part has always been the hardest and the most fun. Training and practicing with a team was wonderful.  From high school football to cycling being part of a group was an experience that helped mold me.  Sharing the experience and the path teaches athletes selflessness.

Coaching tips shared a long time ago (1,2)

As life begins to creep in sport can become a more solitary activity.  There isn’t always time to meet the schedule mandated for team activities. Running, cycling, duathlon, triathlons and archery can all be practiced alone.

Training or practicing solo helps clear your mind.  There is a peacefulness that comes from training discipline that has been recognized for centuries. (1) As we improve in our chosen sport we seek a peacefulness that can assist our advancement and in cases of competition help find that zone which leads to our best efforts.

As an athlete you may learn that training is a time where you too reach a certain quiet or mental silence.  During those moments you’ll get a feel of what you want to carry into competition.

In competition there will be times when you’ll be the victor. Victory is not as important as the process or how you reveal yourself as a winner.  To win someone must lose.

The true winner is that champion who is able to remain humble.  Know that when you are a champion others will look toward you as an example.  It is nice to win, but winning isn’t as much the goal as the disciplined process that brings you to the podium.

As a champion, remember to care about those that finished out of the top place.  Your ambition isn’t to win out of selfishness, but to win because you followed a path that can be shared by others. (2)

Reference:

  • Hebrews 12:11
  • Philippians 2:3
  • (Yes, these references are correct, hence this post’s title)

Doubling Up On Coaches

You know when you’ve taken your skill as an athlete as far as you can alone.  You are probably self-coached, like most athletes.  The top pros in most sports have coaches even though they are at the highest levels.

Last year, I was entirely self-coached.  Prior to that I’d retained a level 4 USA coach for help.  In hindsight he wasn’t much help. Personally, I think coaching physically challenged him.  He wasn’t in good health and I think he’s expired.

When we moved to Georgia, there has been no coach until now.  Now, I have two coaches. One coach is for archery the other is a mental coach.

I’ve got this friend that won the Ironman World Championship a number of times without a coach.  I know another Ironman World Champion that relied heavily on coaches.  I don’t really know any World Champion archers on the same level.  I’ve met some fellows that have won archery World Championships and have trained with one.  But, the acquaintances are all superficial.  As such, I don’t know if they use coaches although I’ve heard one of them had his coach move in with his family early in his career.

In fact, I am a coach. There’s a wide gap between being the athlete and being the coach.  In my head I understand what to do to hit an X.  In coaching practice I can watch an archer for a few minutes and have an idea of how they’ll perform.  But, I can’t see me.

As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good with a bow.  Still, I think I can be better, hence doubling up on coaches.  I’ll give this a year and see how it goes.