Lifting Weights

A friend of mine recently asked if I lift weight.  I do. When the Covid pretty much shut down the gyms I didn’t.  Now, I do, again.  Only, now I don’t go to the gym.

I bought a weight bench and some weights and workout in my garage.  Turned out that my home gym is less expensive than an annual gym membership.  For sure I don’t have all the fancy gear but I do have enough.

I’ve also changed when I lift.  Rather than in the afternoon I lift in the mornings four days per week.  You can believe during those days at some point while practicing archery my arms are going to feel like they’ve done a lot.

Today was no exception. I lifted weights this morning. The morning practice, 100 arrows at 60 yards, was fine.  The afternoon session, 50 arrows at 40 yards was misery.  Usually the afternoon is a minimum of 60 arrows with a maximum of 120 arrows.  I quit at 50 arrows.

The last end of 10 arrows wasn’t too awful.  Five 10s, one 9 and four 8s.  The four 8s at 40 yards is, of course, a sign.  The more obvious sign was pulling through the shot. One in ten draws were where I had to let down and start over.

To be fair it was a particularly arduous weight lifting workout on this morning.  On the prior day of weights and shooting at forty yards I didn’t land any 8s.  Today it was different.

I felt I could have worked though the stiffness in my muscles.  I decided against it.  Over the past 3 days, the time since my last recovery break, I’ve flung 526 arrows.  On the last end, at 50 arrows, a Kenny Rogers song popped into my head.  The lyrics were, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Moving on Back

Practicing archery, for me, is more fun than tournaments.  Tournaments are slow.  Practice moves at a livelier pace.  Still, there are times when flinging arrows for hours can become monotonous. That can be improved by adding training games to your practice.

If you practice solo there are ways to make your planned sessions exciting.  There are a number of games I use.  These are: the yellow game, the tournament game and the Move Back game – among others.  Of these I find the Move Back game the most challenging.

The yellow game is simple; shoot as many arrows in the yellow rings at any given distance.  Record the shots at aim for 100% of your arrows in the yellow. The tournament is where you work to duplicate the conditions of an actual tournament.

The Move Back game is where you select a starting yardage and don’t increase the distance until a set number of arrows hit the center ring.  For example, 30 out of 30.

Thirty out of thirty can be tough as distances increase.  To reduce frustrations make changes.  You can personalize any way your want based on your ability. A change I use is 10 center shots in a row starting at 30 yards.  I also move back using increments of 10 yards; some folks might rather use 5-yard increments.

For me, 30 yards is usually just 10 arrows.  Forty yards takes a few tries, fifty yards gets more difficult to get 10 center shots in a row, 70 yards – well that remains a frustration for me.

Generally, I stop shooting after 100 to 120 arrows.  At that point I take a break.  When I resume shooting I pick up where I left off.  That is I start at 60 yards if that is where I left off during the earlier practice.  (This is on the same day.)

The day after shooting a Move Back game I’ll not continue the game.  The Move Back game is tough so the next day I’ll plan something else.  Once I’ve taken a break from the Move Back game the next time I practice it I start short and work my way back.  Even if I am close to 70 yards when I shoot a Move Back practice session I’ll start at 30 yards after any break extending into another day.

That doesn’t mean I won’t practice at 70 between Move Back practices.  If I shoot a couple of 100 arrows at 70 the next Move Back might be easier.

The Move Back game is also a good way to verify your sight calibrations.

Building a Training Plan

USA archery coaches have access to general training plans for archers.  These plans are generally good.  If you work with a coach that coach might make changes on such a plan to meet the specific needs of an archer.  It is good to have a plan.

Among an archer’s training plan a coach might include activities for fitness.  Those activities may include cardio workouts and weight training.  Both are excellent for archery. Another element of a training plan may include stretching.  The focus is, of course, on archery.

Plans should include periodization.  That means a cycle based on workloads prior to specific tournaments, base training, and recovery.  The cycle might include exercises that cover volume and intensity.  They can also focus on unique points for technique improvement.

One simple measure of training is going to be arrow count.  It takes a lot of arrows to ‘get good’ even more to become ‘great.’

Starting new to recurve it is important not to overdo it from the beginning. Throughout the training there are periods of several days in a row where there is no shooting.  Becoming an excellent archer takes time.  No one gets there overnight.  A plan can reduce wasted time and provide a foundation for growth in the sport.

Training for an International Round

Twenty yards to sixty-five yards at five-yard increments doesn’t sound to tough.  Go shoot these distances and you’d discover it is pretty tough.

What might become clear is:  You can drop points at 20 – 30 and gain points at 55 – 65 yards. Or you can drop points at every distance.  Or you can hit the center at every distance.  In other words – it is tougher than one might think.

Shooting set distances even 70 meters isn’t as complex as shooting multiple distances.  Seventy meters is a long shot (@ 77 yards) but you’re set and can make corrections should you be off a tad.

Shooting an international round you get three shots per distance and move to the next target.  So your sight must be spot on.

Say you shooting 55 yards and the arrow on your elevation scale looks like it is in the correct position.  The needle on the elevation block has a diameter and can cover your calibration mark and still be a few clicks high or low.  If either is askew despite a flawless shot execution the arrow will be off the mark.

Walking through a forest, on and off of fields, and through mixed shade will have an impact on lighting and center placement of a shot. Chances are it won’t be horrible but light can still impact aiming.

Then, there are, at times, the potential for a shift in target elevation.  When the angle becomes significant aiming at your usual center will float your arrow high whether shooting toward a downward set target or an uphill target.  Shooting a set distance, such as 50 meters (compound) or 70 meters (recurve) this isn’t an issue.

When preparing many archers focus on improving their long shots to the neglect of the shorter distances.  The result can be slight improvement at the long shot, over confidence at shorter distances and overall less than optimal scores.

To prepare build a training plan.  For example, practice twice a day once in the morning and one in the afternoon.  There are ten distances.  In the morning pick a short or long distance and shoot 100 arrows.  For the afternoon shoot another 100 arrows at the reciprocal distance.  Over 5 days you’ve shot 1000 arrows at 100 arrows per increment.  Then on one of the two remaining days do practice International Rounds – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. With warm-up shots this is going to put you in the range of 1200 arrows per week. (Your shot count can vary depending on your time available for practice)  The last day is reserved for recovery. Start your international practice as far in advance of an International Competition as feasible in consideration of your event schedule.  (If you’ve been shooting less than 100 arrows per day adjust your load to prevent an injury)

Building a training plan and self-coaching

Shooting arrows is fun. It is easy to grab your bow, head to the range, and fling arrows.  You will improve by flinging arrows.  However, it isn’t really a training plan.

Having a plan with specific goals will help you improve and probably get better end results than ad libitum shooting.

If you’ve never followed a training plan it can seem somewhat over the top to create a plan and follow your plan.  There are plenty of archers whose plan is to shoot their bow 3 to 5 times a week.  One archer explained his training plan consisted of shooting 30 arrows 5 times a week. Perhaps, for him, that was perfect.

If you go online you can quickly find training plans for running, cycling, and triathlon. Along with those plans you’ll be invited to sign up for online coaching.  A top online coaching program is offered by Carmichael Training Systems.  These programs are great if you have the discipline to follow the program.

Online training systems are available for archery.  Archery is more difficult since form is so critical for high-level performance.  All sport coaching can be optimized when a skilled coach is available to watch the athlete.

Many athletes are self-coached. Finding a coach, making schedules and forking out coaching fees are all factors in athletes self-coaching.  It isn’t just amateur athletes that self-coach.  Chrissie Wellington, multiple winner of the Ironman World Championship, and undefeated at the Ironman distance dropped her coaches and continued to win – self-coached.

Self-coaching can work but not without a plan.  Certainly, shooting arrow after arrow will help you improve to a point.  Beyond that, if you are going to self-coach you need to make a plan as if you are the coach and the athlete, in your case, is you.

If You Don’t Monitor You Can’t Manage: A Useful Journal

When I retired I’d planned to put all my athletic efforts into the endurance sports I’d enjoyed my entire life.  Those competitions are hard on the body and pocket book.  By chance I was given a bow that new priced at $78.00.  After a week of playing with that toy bow I wanted a better bow and I wanted to get better as an archer.

One of the focal points for me is in sport is data.  Naturally I began collecting data on my practice and performance shooting a bow.  I still collect and review my data.

The data I collect helps me monitor progress, find areas that need work, and suggests how to set goals.  It has further allowed me to create scholastic works based on talent transfer.

All top athletes monitor their work.  The data for professional athletes and the systems used to gather input have become extremely sophisticated. From chips in football shoulder pads to invisible grids on a basketball court we know more about today’s athletes than ever before.

Archery hasn’t yet been overwhelmed with gizmos promising immediate improvement.  Still, you can find plenty of ‘tech’ on which you can spend your cash hoping to gain an edge shooting arrows.

Archery has been around for a much longer time than any hot new gizmos promising improved shooting performance.  People have been shooting bows since around 20,000 BC.  Early bows weren’t used for sport, they were tools for hunting and warfare. (1) Successful archery was an easy measurement – you ate and you lived.

Archery as a sport had its first recreational competition of modern time in 1583 England. (1) It is also known that Mongols held archery competitions during gatherings before the English: 1194 – 1195. (2) Amazing, data from the Mongolian tournament exists today. The Mongolian archers were warriors, whereas in Britain in the 1500s over 3000 archers competed for pleasure.

Keeping your archery data is important should you want to be a competitive archer.  My friend Robbie Surface, also an archery coach, has designed two journals for archers to record their data.  One journal is designed for 3D the other for target archery. He gave me one, a target style, to try.

First, the journal is narrow enough to slip into my quiver.  If it didn’t fit I’d probably have it lost before too long. The journal contains 100 pages for data entry.  There are entry fields to record practice or tournament specifics.

Aside from points per arrow fields there is an area for Mental Game and Shot Execution.  For me, I use a simple numeric recording for both entries.  While my short hand means something to me it will be meaningless to others.  You can create any notation or system that works for you in these two fields. (3)

I’ve been using my journal, thanks to Robbie, since he gave me one to try.  It is a useful tool and easy to understand – surpassing expensive gizmos that remain on a shelf after the novelty dies.

You can view his journals, target and 3D, online where they are available for purchase at:

https://www.archeryjournals.com

If you don’t monitor you can’t manage.

Reference:

(1) https://worldarchery.org/History-Archery

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_bow

(3) https://www.archeryjournals.com

Just Because I Know Doesn’t Mean I’ll Get it Right

Weeks ago my arrows began landing all over the target.  During the State 18-meter indoor championship I shot my lowest score ‘ever’ when scoring the inner 10 ring.  In the USA Archery Indoor National Championship I earned my lowest score ever at that level of competition.

It all began at the State 25-meter championship.  Throughout the tournament my groups expanded.  From there it has been all downhill.  Sort of reminds me of the recent drop in a coronavirus stock market retreat.  Like the money that is sliding away from my retirement reserves – easy come easy go.

Unlike financial matters where all my eggs aren’t in one basket, in an archery tournament there aren’t any cushions.  With a missed shot in archery there’s no coming back – those points are gone forever.

In an archery tournament, for example a 3-spot with a maximum score of 600 for a day, everyone starts out with 600 points.  Each miss and points are lost.  If an investor has 600 bucks in the stock market and it drops 3% that 600 bucks becomes 582 bucks.  That investor might be able to wait a while and that 3% drop could become a 5% gain or up to 611 bucks.  No such luck in archery.

Or you could consider everyone begins an archery tournament with zero points (which is how it is done) and the better capitalists on the line end up with more points.  Those points are earned with a cool head and wise shot placement investments.   In any of the scenarios my maximal yields have been hurting.

On the second day of the USA Indoor Nationals my score plummeted into the abyss and a crappy performance reigned supreme.  Then, I felt a little something and thought “Oh?”  It wasn’t quite  clear what I felt hence the “Oh?’.  Not pain, good Lord at 65 I don’t want an old geezer orthopedic collapse.  The “Oh” was a general familiarization of malformed form.  I couldn’t see it or identify the problem.  But it was there.

I’d like to report that there was divine intervention and from the ‘Oh’ moment forward I landed all tens.  Alas, that is a report I can’t honestly deliver.

The other day at practice “Big John” one of the coaches at Ace declared as I dropped another shot that it was, “A lazy old man shot.”  Then Steve, another coach at ACE, a day or so later, pointed out the same error.  Being a slow learner it has taken weeks to discover what that ‘Oh’ meant.  Big John and Steve both recognized the error immediately. Now I know.  I knew before.  I did it anyway. Heck, if I’d been coaching me and not being me shooting I’d have seen it as well. What was happening in my head was not translating to my body.

I didn’t make the error as often while practicing today at Ace in Social Circle. Today the arrows landed mostly in the center of the target.  I made a effort to listen and do what both coaches had offered. The practice ended up producing my 4th highest X count on a 5-spot.  It felt good.  Now, I just need to remember to do what the coaches have coached.  Much easier said than done.

Slow Down

Over the past month the exercises in my training plan have all been those associated with starting from the beginning.  Weeks were spent shooting at targets 11 yards away.  Then, those targets moved to 15 yards, 17 yards and finally 20 yards.  Each move occurring after scores had reached an acceptable level.  Each arrow was judged not on the score rather whether or not the shot had occurred properly.

Admittedly 100% proper form was not achieved.  At 11 yards the arrow might land in an X but the form may still have been off.  The further back the more pronounced a poorly formed shot scored. With an indoor State Championship less than three weeks away 18 meters is the distance of focus.

Rushing shots or depending on luck are not methods for consistent scoring.  Both of those bad methods to shoot remain in my quiver.  They are hard habits to break.

Two things hamper shooting: rushing the shot and slamming off an arrow hoping for a bit of luck.  We’ve all been lucky a time or two.  On the other hand that luck isn’t always good.

A friend and early coach once told me, “Get one arrow, shoot it, retrieve it and shoot it again – one arrow at a time.” Boring!  Shooting arrows is fun, if it weren’t archers would probably become runners. (I know you are unlikely to run unless you’re being chased – that was a joke.)

I took the advice after years of avoiding the one at a time practice.  I held in the game for 15 arrows from 18 meters before I broke.  It was a boring as I’d imagined.  (I considered going for a run at arrow 10)

Off to a goot start
Okay, one 9 and one 10 the rest Xs

The practice did make me slow down and focus on just one arrow at a time.  The results were painfully good.  It taught me that if I slow down I shoot pretty good. Hopefully, once was enough although I doubt it.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

I’ve watched an archer blow a shot early in a tournament and mentally quit.  He’s an excellent archer who rarely misses.  But, for a while, when he did blow a shot he mentally shut down.

His coach was aware of the problem and worked with the archer until he learned to move past those moments of internal anger that were causing him to give up.  Oh, for clarification the miss that might have caused his mental collapse was a 9.

There’s another fellow that I’ve frequently shot against that will nearly always make a bad shot.  His error would make a 9 (a missed 10) seem minor (which it is).  He will make the error; laugh about it, then won’t make another mistake.

Shooting arrows leads to misses.  Shooting a perfect score against a vertical 3-spot (compound bow inner 10) at 18-meters remains uncommon, although it has occurred.  Imagine you are competing at 18-meters, you’ve shot 32 tens then you land a nine. *

Coaching tip

You can let that 9 ruin your day or you can blow it off and shoot 27 more tens.  Know that  everybody will make a mistake.  What will matter to you is how you recover from your mistake.   That archer next to you may be having a better day or not.  You don’t know and you can’t do anything about that athlete.  You can do something about you and remember it’s not over until it’s over.

*My guess is that if you’ve shot 32 tens in a row you already are at a point in your practice and competition where you knew all of what I just wrote.  For those of you who still throw out 8s or less, don’t worry about them.  Regroup and fire off some more 10s.

Run Around and Run Around

Athletes run.

I’m a pretty good archer.  I’m a better cyclist and better runner.  Since beginning archery cycling and running have been adjuncts to archery training. Since beginning archery I’ve better at archery and less good running and cycling.

Certainly, I do not log the miles running and cycling I did before shooting arrows. Nevertheless, I run almost every day and ride up to 6 times a week.  But, I do both to stay fit for archery.

Now, you may be 25 years old and don’t yet see the reason to do either in order to shoot a bow well.  Hear me now and believe me later, your youthful fitness will not last unless  you work to keep it. If you don’t use it you lose it.

If I am going to miss one of the two, running or cycling, during a day it will be cycling.  Running is a demand by River, my lab.  She will herd me out the door.

Nice way to begin a morning – trail running
On a trail with River whose spotted something to chase

River is 9 years old and runs as well as she did at 2.  We run trails, which avoid traffic.  We both enjoy it.

Running can pay back in archery tournaments.  Those long hours standing on a range are rough.  There are times I’d rather have been running rather than standing and slowly walking for three and a half to four hours.

If you head out early enough you can catch some nice views

Archery over long periods of time takes a mental toll.  As you fatigue from a lack of fitness mental mistakes are more prone to appear.  Running can improve your fitness and may reduce the possibly of an error that is associated with being physically drained.