Peaks and Valleys

In every sport with every athlete there are peaks and valleys in performance.  In archery there are times when it seems easy to find the X.  There are times with arrows seem to circle the X just missing.  It can be frustrating.

Maintaining a log of data you can review your peaks and valleys.  Over time, with consistent practice, those gaps between highs and lows diminish.  The gap remains, only the intervals between them narrow.

When you begin entering a slump pause to evaluate what has changed?  Is it fatigue or over training?  Is your form slipping?  Is your mind elsewhere?  Did anything drift with your equipment?

The answer to a dip in performance may make itself obvious.  Sometimes having your coach watch you practice and that extra set of eyes may notice something amiss in your process you’ve overlooked.

If you don’t have a coach at hand try something different.  An easy approach to helping discover what is wrong is simply changing your release.  If you have two different releases they’ll activate slightly different. The change may help you keep or regain your edge.

If you’re over training take a break.  You should have recovery days planned within your training plan.

If all else fails check your gear.  Things can shift with a bow.  Cumulative incremental shifts can add up.

Expect that all days aren’t the same. But, you can work through anything.

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

That’s about the size of it.  Dr. Suess couldn’t have said it any better had he been a spectator at an archery tournament.

Archers are not the most fit of athletes.  Oh sure, archers can stand real still.  That alone is a skill.  But, as a long tournament wears on that standing still part becomes less still. Being fit can help you sustain the still focus you need for archery.

USA Archery sent out the first edition of the Athletes Development Model.  In it the authors break down age groups.  When the model reaches the 15 – 17 year old age group the instructions includes: Training will include mental, strength, cardiovascular and coordination training.  They further suggest strength training along with nutrition training.

That remains a theme for athletes until the age of 60 where they drop the strength, cardiovascular and change it to – May include light strength and coordination training.

Here me now and believe me later, if you are over 50 and are not doing any resistance training like lifting weights you are going to lose muscle mass.  If you’re over 60 and have neglected cardiovascular training you’ll be in for a surprise should you start.

You don’t need to be a lean cardio machine to be good at archery. However, being fit at a young age and hanging onto that fitness can pay dividends as you age. 
Even if you’ve never held onto any general fitness working to improve your health through fitness training is a good thing.

Give a Dog a Bone

River has a serious problem leaving me alone while I’m trying to practice archery. She’d much rather I played stick, chase, or run with her.  So, self-centered. If she is given a bone, I am entirely forgotten. Until the bone is gone.

Oh, River is gong to run
You can see the yellow signs now posted on either side of this trail

It isn’t like she’s been ignored all day.  After breakfast we run for a few miles.  We avoid busy roads running mostly over trails in the woods we own and along the easement of nearby property.  Until recently we cut through undeveloped land filled with trails. Those paths are now unavailable because a couple of guys think they’ll shoot deer on that land.

This truly sucks – but alternate paths remain available

During archery practice, River needs to stay calm.  She’s not too bad so long as I toss a stick between ends.  If I fail to comply all barking will break loose. Sticks do the trick for a bit.  A bone is better.

During practice I play music using my phone to help simulate the noise at a tournament

Running is part of my archery training.  Being in as good of condition as I can I believe helps during long tournaments.  If you compete you know you’ll be on your feet for hours. There’s a lot of walking involved.

At 50 meters and 30 meters I practice on two targets to save arrows. The orange flags are distances measured using a tape measure rather than a range finder. These are set at 5 yard increments from 20 to 100 yards.

The tournament this weekend is one where my age group will shoot: 70 meters, 60, meters, 50 meters and 30 meters.  At each distance there are 36 arrows shot in 6 arrow ends. This works out to a total of 1.75 miles of walking back and forth.  Here’s how I got that it:

Overall fitness is a bonus for archers

70 meters is @ 77 yards.  Round trip to the target is 154 yards.  There are 6 ends and 2 “Official” warm up ends.  That means 8 round trips of 154 yards or 1232 yards.  At 60 meters, or 66 yards, the total is 792 (6 ends only – no practice, same for the other two distances), 50 meters, 55 yards or 660 yards, and finally 30 meters, 33 yards, for 396 a total of 3080.  The sum of the distances in miles is 1.75.

That isn’t all  –  you’ll end up adding another 800+ yards per day walking to and from the car, to registration, visiting friends and firing off “unofficial” practice arrows.  The total walked is going to be closer to 2.66 miles.  Not far to walk unless you never walk a lot. This can be especially taxing when the temperature is expected to reach the upper 90’s while you’re walking back and forth and trying to hit a target with an arrow in between the hiking. Running can help reduce the impact of being unconditioned in such a situation. So, River and I run.

Putting 6 arrows in the center of an 80 cm target will ruin them. It has to be done in competition, at practice using multiple targets can save vanes, nocks, and arrows that are occasionally Robin Hooded
Give that dog a bone

River is a great running partner.  Afterwards, during archery practice she’s often times less than an idea spectator. Give that dog a bone.

“You have received a green light from the third party background screening vendor”

USA Archery coaches must have a background screening completed every couple of years.  The coaches, of course, must pay for the check.  Mine came due a few weeks ago.  I paid my fee, someone checked me out and from USA Archery sent this email:  “We are pleased to inform you that your background screening has been successfully processed. You have received a green light from the third party background screening vendor, SSCI.”

I suppose the other coaches involved with sports under the USOC guidelines must do the same, but I don’t know.

Coaches also have to take and complete all sorts of courses aimed at keeping athletes safe.  Those too, for me, came due.  I spent an afternoon completing the courses and taking the exams.  It is part of the “Safe Sport” program.  There is no fee associated with those courses.

The background screening and “Safe Sport” programs are necessary to stay active as a coach.  I’m a level 3 NTS coach.  There’s a level 4 being taught in Statesboro, Georgia.  For that I’m on the wait list.  Another Level 4 is open, but it is in California.

When I started this archery experiment it was based in part on talent transfer.  One of the goals was to achieve a specific level of skill comparable to cycling or triathlon.  I have reached that point. There are four other goals: One to win a National Championship, two win a World Championship and three to earn a pre-set amount of money through the sport.

There are three areas where I’d like to achieve a pre-set financial target through archery are: Shooting, coaching, and this website.  If I wasn’t retired from my prior career this would definitely have been put in a holding pattern or more likely have never gotten off the ground. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can continue the experiment. Along the way I’ll have to move forward with the coaching potential, keep writing, and continue to practice.

Building Your Training Program

Each of you has a level of training, or a workload, that will maximize your performance.  Finding it is a trick.

There’s an excellent archer, multi-time World Champion, who practices archery for an hour per day.  Another famous archer, a great 3D shooter, says he shoots 30 arrows per day. He claims he shoots 30 perfect shots a day and puts his bow down.  I suppose that can work in 3D were 30 arrows per day might be physically enough.  However, that might not be enough if you need to shoot over 100 arrows a day.  There’s another top dog archer that says you can’t practice enough.  For each of them, their training seems to work.  They’ve won a lot of tournaments.

For the remainder of us we might need a more formal approach.  An hour a day, 30 arrows a day or shoot all day isn’t, in general, a set of rules to train by.

Most archers are not making a living as a professional athlete.  A few are and only a few.  This is true for most sports and most athletes.  The bulk of athletes have a day job – including most “Professional” archers. As such, your time is limited and valuable.  So, your training needs to be planned.

Showing up at a range whenever you get a chance is fun.  It is unlikely to land you on many podiums.  If your goal is a good time you can achieve that goal.  If your goal is to be a State, National or World Champion your training will require more than having a break in your schedule to go shoot.  The question will ultimately be how bad do you want it and what are you willing to give up to get it.

You may be able to create your own training plan.  Many if not most amateur athletes are self-coached.  Even if you are a ‘pro’ you may be self-coached. Should you find yourself struggling let me help.  No – my help is not Pro Bono and not for everyone. There’s also a limit to how many I can coach.

If you are in need of help forming a personalized and physiologically founded training program for archery send me an email at: Dlain117@yahoo.com.

Finding a Positive Practice Environment

.Chrissie Wellington is a champion of the Ironman. In fact, she’s never lost a race at the Ironman distance, 2.4-mile swim, 112 bike, and 26.2 mile run. She has lost at the shorter distances, but never at the longest distance. She won the Ironman World Championship the very first she tried it – a rare occurrence. And, she always seemed to be smiling. Everytime she raced the 140.6 mile triathlon she won it.

Wellington needed coaching and a place to train during her development as a triathlete. She was already really good but needed some help. She found a coach and within that coach’s pool were other athletes.

Unlike the other athletes, Wellington, before deciding to become a professional athlete had a career with the British State Department and was a rising star for the English. When she arrived at the coach’s camp she was clearly a grown-up who had taken a gamble. That gamble led her to this coach who turned out to be a bit toxic.

Being mature and experienced with that sort of individual and environment she recognized it wasn’t for her. She left to become one of the greatest athletes in the history of triathlon.

So, here are some points: As an athlete it isn’t your job to “please” the coach. It isn’t your place to accept any sarcastic or demeaning comments by anyone on the coaching staff- even if they aren’t officially associated with you. If you are a coach, whether you are coaching a particular athlete or not, it is not your place to project toxic language to anyone. The coach’s place is to see toxic language and behavior is not included in any aspect. If you are an athlete and you find yourself in such an environment move on. And if necessary report the behavior.

The Four “Cs” by Coach Mackenzie.

Coaching tip

Brian Mackenzie is a performance coach for the United Kingdom Track and Field Team. In 1997 he published a sports science paper in Psychologythat remains widely referenced and applied today. (1,)Mackenzie has illuminated some of the common denominators found among elite athletes. These common elements, associated with mental fitness, are what Mackenzie calls the “4C’s.”

The 4Cs are:

  • Concentration:your ability to maintain focus.
  • Confidence:believing in your ability.
  • Control:your ability to maintain emotional control regardless of the distraction.
  • Commitment:your ability to continue working toward your goal. (1)

It seems Mackenzie’s work is ideally suited for archery. Whether training, hunting or in competition the 4 C’s are relevant.

References:

  1. Mackenzie, B. (1997) Psychology [WWW] available from: http//www.brianmac.co.uk/psych.htm

 

As We Age We Need Longer Recovery Times

When I was in my twenties I could go on an eighty training one day and hammer it out again the next day. In fact, 120 miles rides day after day weren’t uncommon.  When I turned 40 I began to notice my legs felt sluggish for a day or two following a hard training ride or race.  Since I turned 50 I can’t recall a day where I haven’t been sore.

In this photo I’m 4th from the front, aged 48

“Masters athletes completing two training sessions per day should maximize the duration of the recovery period (i.e., early morning and late afternoon). Alternatively, following exercise that results in muscle damage such as weights or hard training, it should be expected that exercise performance will be reduced for up to 24 hours.” (1)

Right now my legs are sore. I’ve been running a lot over the past few weeks.  Nearly every morning I head out for 30 to 90 minutes.  During the afternoons I’ve been on a bike for 30 to 90 minutes.  There isn’t a duathlon on the horizon.  There is a 5K I’ll be running but it isn’t serious. Nope, there isn’t a bike race looming in the near future.  I’ve been putting in those miles thinking about 2020. Even so, I might not compete in any of those sports.  Archery is the primary sport for 2020.  All the other exercise is part of a fitness plan I have in place for archery.

At 60 I’m still being chased

Archery practice includes 3 to 5 hours of shooting per day.  That is broken into two practice sessions, morning and afternoon.  All of this exercise is supplemented by 30 minutes every morning of stretching and balance.  It is a lot of training.  I’m sore.

It isn’t a painful soreness. It is the kind of physical effort that lends itself to a good night’s sleep.  It isn’t delayed onset muscle soreness, that awful pain that sometimes follows a particularly heavy effort that one might not be accustom.  No, it is a general soreness and eases once I start a run, ride or shooting session. This isn’t how I felt at twenty-one. I barely remember being sore during those youthful days.

Coaching Tip

As we age, I’ll be 65 soon, it take us longer to recover.  As part of recovery I plan one day a week or every 10 days were I don’t do more that the morning stretch and balance as far as training is concerned. Furthermore, I take a nap, 30 to 40 minutes, everyday after lunch.  That nap is part of my training plan.  During my bicycle racing days we had a set of rules that included:  Don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lay down. I know that short nap helps with the afternoon training.

Nearly half of all competitive archers are over the age of 50

If you’re among the Masters athletes in any sport you might be envious of those kids in their 20s and 30s. In archery we can perform longer at a higher level than most other sports.  You will still need to plan recovery times.  Use your head, plan your practices and training, and you shoot as well as the kids.

At 64 using archery to fulfill my need to compete.
ITU World Championship, Long Course Duathlon, Team USA (age 53)

If you plan your recovery and taper before major events make sure you’ve practice that schedule before the event.  I find if I am too rested I tend to shoot a bit high.  I also know, that lifting weights on Monday screws up archery for Tuesday. (1)

Be aware, all you Masters archers and athletes, it will take you longer to recover. (Trying to ‘Will’ a faster recovery doesn’t seem to work.  I’m trying it right now.  No dice.)

Reference:

1.)  https://www.mastersathlete.com.au/2017/03/weve-proved-it-older-athletes-do-take-longer-to-recover/

VO2 Max and Your Health

“VO2 max (also maximal oxygen consumptionmaximal oxygen uptakepeak oxygen uptake or maximal aerobic capacity) is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise; that is, exercise of increasing intensity.[1][2] The name is derived from three abbreviations: “V” for volume, “O2” for oxygen, and “max” for maximum. Maximal oxygen consumption reflects cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance capacity in exercise performance.” (1)

We bought an indirect calorimeter for our Department of Cardiopulmonary and Neurological Science where I once worked as the Associate Director.  I’d been racing bikes and had hoped to be on the 1980 Olympic Team.  That didn’t work out.  I still continued to train.  For fun, and to learn how to use the gizmo, my science buddies decided I’d be the perfect test subject.  The measured result was 86. That’s high.  I didn’t now it at the time.  I’d paid very little attention to sports physiology being more interested in clinical physiology and disease management.

Testing a cyclist using indirect calorimeter (2)

No, I have no idea what my current VO2 max is exactly.  There is a calculation that estimates the VO2 max.  Using that equation my VO2 max is 68.85. By the time a man reaches 65 there is an estimate drop in VO2 max by 30% compared to when he was in his 20s. That would give me a VO2 max of 58.

Calculated for me to be 68.85 compared to the general population calculated score of 58 for my age isn’t really out of the ballpark. The two scores are both high, which is what I’d expect.  I still train a lot and do a lot of cardio work.  Admittedly, I’m not doing the same quantity I did when I was training for triathlons.  I feel it, the degraded  level of fitness and it shows in my content of body weight.

Aside from weight I check my body fat content.  When I competed in cycling and triathlons my percentage of body fat ran from 3.4% to 6.2%. These days it hovers around 9%.  This percentage is in the range of athletes.  My archery training program includes: stretching, running, archery, cycling, and weight lifting and is rather stringent.  It also takes between 38 and 42 hours a week to complete (28 hours a week shooting).  It is a pretty tight schedule and without a day off is would wear me down. But, all that work does help to keep me fit.

Today, aside from testing athletes, VO2 max is an indicator of health.  Archers typically aren’t the subjects of indirect calorimetry to determine VO2 max. Most people, including archers, probably don’t care.  It isn’t as if archers are running anywhere.

When I searched for VO2 max testing in archers on Pubmed I found 0 articles.  Heck, you can look around at any archery tournament and recognize those athletes aren’t likely to be endurance running machines. (3)

However, VO2 max is an indicator of your health.  A low VO2 max has been associated with poor fitness and health. Here’s a simple equation to estimate VO2 Max:

VO22 max = 15 x [HRmax(max)/HR(resting)]

Where, VO2 max is the maximal oxygen consumption

HR(max) is maximum heart rate (during exercise)

HR(rest) is your resting heart rate.

This is the equation I used to calculate my estimated VO2 max. (4) However, I exercised and used my actual heart rate rather than estimate the HR max.  Then, the next morning before I got out of bed I recorded my resting heart rate.  I think this is a better way to get the numbers. Those numbers were applied to the equation.  There is an equation to get an estimated max heart rate.  That equation never worked for me.

Take a look at your overall health.  You may be an excellent archer and not be the most fit athlete.  Being fit can help you in archery. You might be surprised to learn how many calories you burn during a tournament. (5) Staying fit can only help your shooting.

Reference:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VO2_max

(2) https://www.maastrichtinstruments.nl/2015/02/10/teic-high-performance-center-features-mis-indirect-calorimeter/

(3) https://curiosity.com/topics/why-you-need-a-healthy-vo2max-and-how-you-can-get-it-curiosity/

(4) https://m.wikihow.com/Measure-VO2-Max

(5)https://worldarchery.org/news/147916/8-health-benefits-archery

Everybody Misses, Everybody Gets It

There are two archers. Between the two of them they have 16 individual world championships.  (Seriously, I checked)  You can imagine they are great archers.  One shoots dots the other shoots foam animals.  Both are extremely pleasant and polite. Neither is a perfect archer.  They’ve missed before and they’ll miss, again.

This year the 10X world champion at 3D made a mistake adjusting the yardage on his sight.  It cost him a win.  Two years ago the 6X world champion against paper targets lost it on his draw and missed a target.  These are two of the very best archers in the world.  They’ve made mistakes.

At their level a mistake will cost.  In the case of 3D champion it dropped him from 1stto 3rd. In the World Cup Archery style the miss took the other world champion totally out of the money.  In both cases, they simply moved on to the next practice and next event.  Neither got overly out of sorts or concerned.  Both have won subsequent tournaments.   At their level any opening given to the competition is costly.

Some folks will have good days, some folks will have less good days

When you sign up for an archery tournament your registration pays for you to have the maximum points allowed.  If it’s an ASA 3D event you’ve paid for, at 20 targets, you have bought 240 points. If you’ve entered an indoor USA Archery style event with 60 arrows you’ve bought 600 points. They are all yours. The question becomes how many are you prepared to give back? Every shot where you miss the X or 12 you’ve returned points.

You’re not alone. Unless you’re one of the top the world you’ll be returning points throughout events.  A problem can develop when you make a mistake and dump a pile of points in a hurry.

In a field tournament this year I was losing by a few points going into the second day.  The competition was extremely tight.  In fact, the top three finishers in my class all broke the previous State field record.  It was truly an exciting tournament with anyone of the top three within a point or two from taking it all.

All your arrows won’t land like this – but a lot will

Then, the fellow that was leading made a mistake.  It was a big error and I moved ahead by four points.  Did he lose his composure after error he’d made? No. In fact, he seemed to loosen up and finished the remainder of the targets nearly perfectly. He slowly pulled ahead and took 7 points to win by 3 points.  It was truly an amazing comeback.

He’d had a bad break. Aside from a momentary shocked look on his face all he could do was laugh about it and move forward.  He didn’t let that single error get him so upset that his shooting spiraled downward.  Although I wanted the win it was honestly fun to watch this athlete shoot the remainder of the day and honestly I was happy for him.

He’d reached a point where he’d given up all the points he could have afforded on that day.  He laughed at the error and continued to trust his training.  His efforts and composure led him to the victory and a new State record.

You’ll miss.  I miss. We all miss.  We get more than we miss. The questions become how badly do you want to keep the points you paid for and how do you deal with adversity? Staying in the frame of mind that every arrow counts and each arrow is a single shot helps. Be positive and be able to laugh off a mistake.  You might not win after an error.  But, next time the error might not be as great.  Keeping the right attitude can make the next small mistake count less those in the past.

Perfect scores are rare, great scores aren’t as rare. Creating a mindset to reach greatness and perfection is part of archery.

When I was talking with the multi-time world champion 3D archer he laughed and told me he’d made more mistakes than he could remember.  The multi-time world champion at World Cup and USA Archery style shooting said everyone he competes against is great.  All you need to do is put the dot in the middle and shoot the dot. Both agreed you have to love the sport and be willing to understand you’ll make mistakes.