“I can’t sleep at night – any idea why?”

Sleep study data

There have been a number of “studies” published stating individuals that have poor sleep who don’t exercise may get better sleep if they exercised. Seriously, that has been studied. Another way to look this is that if you complete a day of hard labor or exercise you are likely to sleep more soundly than if you lounged about all day. Scientists study a lot of topics that are pretty much common sense.

An early run is a nice way to start your day

People are frequently talking with me about their sleep problems. Not because I’m a good listener (I am) but because I have a background in sleep medicine. The most common complaint I hear relates to a poor night’s sleep. Some of the folks have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, which needs a medical intervention. Some folks’ sleep issues are related to poor sleep hygiene and a lack of exercise.

Archery isn’t the same calorie burn as a run, but shoot enough and you’ll get some decent exercise

Without getting too in-depth an example of poor sleep hygiene refers to lounging in bed while watching television hoping to become sleepy. A some piece of advice – If you have a television in your bedroom take it out.

Having a gym membership can provide weights to support muscle mass as well as treadmills or other cardio machines. Nice to be able to go inside when it is raining.

A lack of exercise is, as a rule generally, understood. Running for example is considered exercise. If you run you exercise. A video game played seated would not be considered exercise.

Some folks are runners and prefer cycling. Mountain bike riding can get you out of traffic and into the woods

When you exercise you’ll need to rest for recovery. Sleep is a method of recovery. You do enough exercise, moving around versus playing video games; you’ll find that you can sleep well.

Fitness won’t hurt your skill as an archer

Stretching and Flexibility

Slow and easy, that’s how I go when it comes to stretching. I stretch as part of my morning routine. That is, as soon as I roll out of bed. To some, they’ll say, “Whoa, that’s not good, you could hurt yourself stretching when you’re cold.”

Well, I go slowly. It feels great. I look forward to it.

There was a time when I was extremely flexible. I studied karate for years and I stretched a lot. Cycling took place of karate and it wasn’t long before I lost most of that flexibility. I still ride a bike. I am no longer as limber as I was during my karate phase. But, I realized that flexibility was an importance adjunct to overall fitness.

Coaching Tip

“Flexibility exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with strengthbalance and endurance. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine and AHA provides easy-to-follow guidelines for endurance and strength-training in its Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.”1

As we age it is easy to neglect flexibly. Well, so are strength, balance, and endurance fitness programs. It is easiest to do zero exercise. You know this is true of most folks as suggested by the current state of obesity in America. For you, an archer, all four types of exercise are more important that you may think – especially if archery is your primary (only) form of fitness training.

As an archer it is a good idea to have a plan that includes flexibility along with your balance, strength and endurance adjuncts to shooting.

A stretching routine need not take a long time. I get all main muscle groups in about 30 minutes. Since I do this first thing in the morning I move slowly and feel tightness slipping away.

There are a number of sights online where you can find more about flexibility and stretching. As this site develops I’ll add my routine if you’d like to follow it.

Reference:

1.) http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/staying-motivated/stretches-for-exercise-and-flexibility

 

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Daylight Saving Time and Archery Practice

Try this once you’ve gotten your body accustom to daylight saving time: Go to bed one hour later than usual. Wake up at your usual time. Go to bed at your usual time. Wake up an hour earlier. (Yes, of course not on the same night.)

Which one makes your feel more sluggish? If you’re like most folk the latter of the two sleep pattern disruptions makes you more sluggish. That’s why we often feel out of sorts when we switch to daylight saving time. It is also way falling back often seems harder than springing forward. (Aside from the bonus hour in the spring)

Last night we made the switch and fell back. I was optimistic that it might not be as awful this year as all of those in the past. Nope, I felt like crap.

Getting through morning archery practice was pretty miserable. I considered ditching the workout. I didn’t, I trudged through it.

There will be archery tournaments that may require you to shoot without having a perfect night’s sleep. It is good practice to continue your training when you’ve simply had a poor night’s rest. You’ll gather information on how you’ll perform and be able to consider techniques that will aid you making corrections.

Coaching tip

For example, when your shooting is off because of poor sleep, you may make shots where your form is sloppy. Understanding that you’re not physically worn out, rather you are shooting while a bit sleep deprived can help you pause and figure out what to do. In this case, slow down, work through the shot process and trust your training. You’ll need to dig deep to focus on the shot process and not get lazy.

It’s easy to make sloppy shots when you’ve missed some sleep before a practice. You don’t have the tournament adrenaline rush to boost you up. Still, lack of sleep not withstanding, do your practice, concentrate on each arrow and mentally override that momentary disruption in sleep pattern.

Professional athletes who travel  learn to make this mental adjustment needed to deal with disrupted sleep. Think of yourself as a professional who is continually competing in different time zones. When that day comes and you need to have this skill you’ll be glad you practiced it.

Tips for running in the dark

Lately, most of my running has been done in the dark. I am usually cruising through the woods before sunrise.  That may change when we switch to daylight saving time.

I like running trails in the dark. I like running trails in the light. Either way, trail running is more appealing to me than pounding pavement.

There are a few things to do when running in the dark that are less significant issues when running over trails in the daylight. You need to be aware of how you plant your feet. You need to lift and plant a bit more slowly. Otherwise, you could snag a foot and trip. If the trail is tight don’t run into a tree. You aren’t big enough or fast enough to run through a tree. You are not The Flash. Trees will stop you.

Wear glasses with clear lenses so you don’t poke an eye out on a low limb. You should have a good outdoor bearing for direction. Trails coming and going don’t always look the same in the dark. Have a good headlamp and fresh batteries. Bring a spare flashlight just in case.

During hunting season light yourself up. More than one light isn’t a bad idea. If you are running with a dog, put a red light on her collar. Try to run where you know no one is hunting. You don’t want to get shot because some idiot thought your dog’s red light was Rudolph’s red nose.

Coaching tip

If you are a hunter or 3D archer running though the woods is another way to enjoy the outdoors without a bow in your hand.  It is also a good method for getting you archery fitness on track.

Five Years of 3-Spots Data Review and Projections.

During the past 5 years I have improved. Five years ago I was hammering a 3-spot racking up scores below 500. Five years, well four years, eleven months and 29 days, later I’m seeking that elusive 600.

My first record of a 3-spot score earned me a mammoth 447 points. That  was at a time when the big ten was still a ten. Today, the inner ten is the only mark that earns an archer 10 points under the USA Archery 3-spot scoring system. Archery has gotten more difficult. Scoring  applying the old-fashioned, ego stroking, outer 10 ring method, today I’d have shot a 598.

There’s a coaching tip in here

Even having shot a 598 against the outer ten ring, I missed the center inner ten enough times to earn a 580. That’s a lot of near misses. It can be frustrating.

Target number two for this morning’s practice.

Scores on the inner ten in my database show that there is improvement. From scoring around 550 (on average when the little ring became the only 10 ring) to 574 for a recent average. My best thus far is 584 which I managed a time or two. That’s not a bad score and if I kept this up over a two-day indoor competition that would land me at 1168.

An 1168 could put me in first place at the USA Indoor Nationals in my age group based on the 2017 scores. That year 1155 won the gold in the Master’s 60-year-old division. But, I can’t depend on my best scores to win. I look to my average for the last month or after I’ve incorporated a major change, like a new bow, new release or new arrows as a baseline score to get an understanding of how I’m shooting. Considering an average, which allows for good days and better days, at the moment I fall in with an 1148, good enough for fourth at the 2017 indoor Nationals. I actually finished 13th place in 2017, taking 1st at the regional.

Very first archery competition

My current goal for training is to average 590. That score would place me tied with Reo Wilde in sixth place among the Men’s’ Senior Division in 2017. To have a 590 average there will be scores above 590 and below. It will need to be relatively tight groups to achieve that level of performance.

Performance in a sport like archery requires a lot of practice. During practice I set out with a specific goal in mind. Developing a process that incorporates goals is an optimal method for carrying out training. Today, for example, the goal was to shoot all arrows in the outer ten ring. I failed by 2. The failures were still both nines but a failure nonetheless. The mid-range goal, average 590.

By keeping detail records of performance I am able to review my work. I know what arrows I used, the bow, the poundage, the release, the weather conditions if practice was outside, and the indoor lighting and range distractions if I’m on a fancy  “you-gotta-pay-for-it” range. Those details and graphs let me know how my improvement is proceeding and whether I need to make a change and if I’ve changed something I can’t see.

Becoming an elite in any sport takes time. Having data can help you see progress. It can alert you to problems. It can also be a stroke to your ego as you monitor your advancement. You can further predict your rate of change in order to set realistic goals.

Running, Archery, Cycling – With Archery in Mind

On multiple occasions I’ve written about health and fitness. Part of that is to provide examples of how to increase your quality of life and maybe add some years to your life. There could be some unfortunate accident that ends mine too some but there isn’t much anyone can do to avoid unforeseeable events. I go into methods of staying alive as long as possible in my book, Simple Ways to Add to Your Life, which is available in Amazon. On this site I basically share some of my activities. Included among them are running, archery and cycling.

Buy my book. Inexpensive, few typos, not too many words

Everyday, I try to run and ride a bike. Everyday I follow a training plan for archery. These other physical fitness workouts are in support of living longer and become a better archer. An example of this is:

Coaching tips
Starting to get light

Wake up, and after stretching and having breakfast I trail run. Right now it is dark in the morning when I start running so I wear a headlamp. I am also wearing bright orange. On my run course I pass 5 deer stands. So far, no hunters, but that is probably going to change soon. On the weekends I stay strictly on my land. During the week I hit other trails not on my land. Those trails are locally known as renegade trails. Meaning the trails have been cut through private land without permission.

I just run them. These trails are all over the place
I pass tree stands everyday in the woods

I understand there are hundreds of miles of renegade trails around Athens. Most were cut by mountain bikers. I can’t say who cut the trails leading off my property but I am using them. There are zero no trespassing signs.

I also run pass these and mostly run smack into them

After running I move directly into archery practice. At the moment it is 18-meter practice. Today, rather than shoot another three-spot I took aim on a five-spot. The primary objective of today’s practice was follow through so I didn’t matter a lot whether I shot up a three-spot or a five-spot.

Time to change practice

Archery practice in the morning lasts an hour and a half to two and a half hours. From there it is usually lunchtime. I have a light lunch and almost always take a short nap. By short I mean 30 to 40 minutes. I always take that break lying on the floor. The trick is to be comfortable enough to doze but not so comfortable that I fall into a complete REM cycle.

This is one smoking fast bike

Once I get going again it is time to head out for a bike ride. Cycling in and around Athens is just about as perfect as it gets. I don’t take real long rides, only an hour or so. When that’s done it is back to the archery range for another hour to two hours.

A couple of days a week I go to the gym and lift weights. I’m not trying to build body mass, just support the muscles I do have.

It can be a grind. But, by setting goals, measuring the results and finding ways to keep things fresh makes this is a good system to become better at archery.

Hump Day

It’s Wednesday. Sunday was a recovery day. Since then I have an hour and a half of running, an hour of stretching, three hours of cycling, a trip to the gym, and nine and a half hours of archery practice under my belt.

Big Sky over a bicycle ride near Athens, GA

This morning we, River my lab, and I were practicing. Well, I was practicing and entertaining my canine companion between ends, which is mostly tossing sticks as I walk the 18-meters back and forth to pull arrows. River seemed to have more spring in her step than me.

River runs with me in the morning. She’s almost 9 and still has plenty of spring in her step.

Working toward an athletic goal is demanding. At times it can be grueling. The long-term effort needs to have breaks. Those breaks are periods for recovery. On Thursday we go on vacation. On this break I am not bringing a bow. I will, however, bring a mountain bike and running shoes.

The sun is coming up later as winter approaches and the air is cooler at 8:00 am in the morning.

The cycling will be easy active recovery rides. Running may turn out to be walking. For sure, after archery practice this afternoon I won’t pick up a bow for a week. If I carried one on the trip I would no doubt be tempted. But, I also know that rest is too important to take for granted. So, the bow will be left behind.

There’s a coaching tip in this post.

 

Your Stance

I watch archers shoot. It’s part of what a coach does. The vast majority of the archers I watch are not and are unlikely to become my students. Nevertheless, I watch and I learn. I also keep my mouth shut. That’s because I see the bulk of archers during competition. At that point, unless someone is about to get hurt or hurt someone, I doubt they’d want my input. Besides, most competitive archers have a coach. Of the many things I see a poor stance is often the first indicator of poor form.

The first coach I had was obsessed with his stance. He droned on and on about his stance – and about everything else about him. He is pretty good and typically does well in his pond. If you are within ear shot of him he’ll let you know.

His dissertation on stance, though, is something I will long remember. He talked about balance, his toe placement, using a mirror to see his feet, putting tape on the spot from where he practiced, and he got it mostly wrong. Of course, I didn’t know that then. My first suspicion that he’d misinformed me came from my next and well every other coach I’ve had since.

Coaching tip

Your stance is essentially the initial development of the foundation for a shot. There are other steps, a bunch of them, but if you start off wrong you will just be wrong. This is what I notice a lot among too many archers. There feet are at odds for establishing good form.

During an ASA 3D State Championship I was hiking around with a father/daughter – coach/student pair. The father was typically proud of his daughter and her skills. While she was skilled, she could have improved her footing on too many easy level shots. Her feet, on every shot, were perpendicular to her shoulders. On every shot she ended up struggling and occasionally placed arrows in a less than ideal location. True, in 3D footing can be a challenge, but the basic adjustments to create a solid foundation begins with knowing how to establish your feet.

A poor stance is not limited to 3D where finding good footing can be like finding the center shot on a javelina at 45 yards while it sits in a dark hole. Funny feet show up during indoor tournaments on perfectly flat floors. What I usually attribute this to an archer that enjoys the sport but has yet to invest into or listened to a bona fide coach.

Proper placement – Source: USA Archery

If you’re new to the sport or have never had a professional coach spend time with you give it some consideration. Archery is a sport requiring perfect form to reproduce a perfect shot over and over. If you are starting out wrong that process is going to be more difficult.

Taking a Look At Archery Phenotypes

Nearly anyone can pick up a bow practice and get to be pretty good.

At your next tournament look around at the competitors. They’ll look a lot like the spectators. You see folks that look; by look I mean phenotype, sort of like everyone else.

Everybody else means this for the US: Males weight on average 196 pounds and are 5 feet 9 inches tall. Females weight 168.5 pounds and are 5 feet 4 inches tall. That pretty close to how archers look in general.

Certainly, this isn’t everyone that picks up a bow. These are averages. My friend, Mike, is 6 feet 8 inches tall and weights 180 pounds. Mike is an outlier.

Consider the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the average US male and female using the numbers from above. You’d see both coming in as overweight.

Being overweight is, well, not good. But, archery is a sport where overall conditioning is often neglected. In fact, during a recent tournament when archers needed to move large outdoor targets a number of athletes couldn’t help because of their fitness level. One person said, “I can’t help, my doctor has told me not to lift more that 10 pounds.” Yet, there he was shooting and doing a pretty decent job of arrow placement. (Good not great)

Coaching tip

Archery is a sport where fitness isn’t a key factor for the average shooter. Just about anyone that wants to enjoy a sport that isn’t a major cardio activity can have fun with a bow and arrow. That’s fine. That’s not my philosophy when it comes to athletics.

When it comes to archery training I think athletes in this sport should incorporate fitness training. No, it is not a requirement to be a good shooter. However, taking your training to a higher level will provide strength and stamina to archery performance.

Practice Should Be a Challenge

“Are you practicing to practice or are you practicing to win?”

I do not know who originally asked that question. It is one that I think about a lot. I consider it before nearly every practice. I consider it when I am working on training plans. It makes a difference to ask the question before training.

Training and practice should not be easy. Whether you are preparing for a bicycle race or an archery tournament the question applies.

Archers often practice by shooting arrow after arrow. That can work. But, does shooting a bunch of arrows in practice prepare an archer to win?

Coaching Tip

There’s an excellent archer. In practice he typically out shoots everyone on the range. The practice is calm, controlled and comfortable. He stands in his favorite lane at 18 meters. He’s surrounded by his friends all of them not yet at his level. His confidence is high. He’s been here countless times and like the many times before he does better in practice than his peers in the room.

He practices a lot. He claims to shoot two hundred arrows a day. That’s a lot of practice. Yet, his performance during a tournament, while good, is only good. He’s not alone.

Watching archers I see mistakes that I’ve seen in other sports particularly in cycling. When I raced bicycles I expected to win every race I entered. I didn’t; no one ever does win every race they enter. If I didn’t win it was not because I wasn’t prepared to win.

My coach, Nester Gernay, trained members of our team to win races. We used to joke we were looking forward to a race to have an easy day. See, our training schedules were grueling. We rarely raced where the event was more difficult that our tough days of training.

Those years of training were not day in and day out ride as hard and fast as possible. Coach Gernay broke up practice. He created cycles of training that were decades ahead of what is now common cycling knowledge. (This was the early 70’s)

In archery, there are also excellent training plans to us in practice. I image there are coaches that have it figured out how to create practice to teach an archer to win. That sort of practice is not simply shooting arrow after arrow. It is hard.

The archer that piqued my interest in writing this practices to practice. I don’t see him practicing to win. Practice is where you learn to improve. To do this you must find ways to make flinging arrows a period outside of your comfort zone. Here are a few examples:

In a tournament you are going to be crowded (unless it is a 3D or other event where the archer is alone at the stake). In practice there aren’t always people to your right and left. What I’ve done on a range when possible and on my range is to place stools closer to me than people stand. It is awkward. During a tournament, the archers next to me aren’t even noticed.

This is a situation where you don’t want to be outside the box

On my range I’ll often practice with a timer – the timer sitting on one of the stools. I record the time left over after I’ve finished an end. If I find I have too much time left over I practice slowing down. This can really help if for some reason you get out of rhythm. I’ve also practiced after the timer has started and run for 30 seconds to create an end where for some unknown reason I am late to the line or can’t shoot immediately. This has been helpful outdoors when during a 4-minute end I have to wait for wind gusts to slow or stop.

Looking for another stool

At USA Archery tournaments there is going to be music playing non-stop. At first that really bothered me so I now practice with music in the background on my range.

I also do things that make me uncomfortable, like changing my release from a thumb to a hinge. I am more comfortable with a thumb but the hinge really makes me focus on form.

Look for different places to practice. Go to various league competitions where you know no one. I promise, at first you will feel uncomfortable. There will be little groups of buddies that eyeball you. There’s the “hot dog” fellow that usually wins the league. You’ll probably spot him as he struts around. After a while you will become comfortable walking in and taking their money.

Another thing is to have a coach. Listen to what she says; be coachable. Know that you cannot see yourself shooting. Believe me, if you already ‘know’ everything you can’t be coached.

These are only a few steps that can be beneficial. Finding ways to create challenging practice can make tournaments feel easy.