Every day I try to get some rest. Part of it comes at night. By 10:00 PM I want to be asleep because I’m awake at 05:30 AM. I don’t use an alarm, I just wake up. I’m even awake before my dogs. If I’ve gotten a full day of training and practice in I’m not waking up during the night. Some days that’s not possible and I’m still more likely than not to sleep straight through the night.
Sleep is amazingly important. In my opinion so are naps. As an athlete you may find that you need a lot of sleep. More sleep can mean a better performance. Sleep is part of my training program.
Recently, a top archer was asking for advice to help with muscle soreness and joint pain. He’d been ramping up his training and was paying a price – that price being delayed onset muscle soreness. Aside from many of the initial remedies that came to mind as he explained his ailments, rest was the first thing that came to mind. Other than cutting back practice a bit, ensuring proper recovery time, the right amount of sleep is paramount for a successful training plan.
I take a nap nearly everyday after lunch. Not long, only about 30 minutes and most of that I just lay still with my eyes closed. I never go into REM sleep.
Over time, my dogs have joined in the naptime. They nap a lot, but napping with me seems to make them happy. It’s like the pack laying down together.
I lay on the floor when I nap. I don’t want to get on the bed, I’m too dirty and it is too comfortable. Thirty minutes on the floor is perfect. Afterwards, I’m up, reloaded for the afternoon workouts and have had a nice pause while my lunch digests.
In a recent paper sport champions and athletes were asked what they thought it took to become a champion. The group had a large sub-set of Olympians (medal winners and participants), world Champions, State and Regional Champions as well as a sub-set of “chronic” athletes that had, at the time of the survey, not earned a Championship. The group had spent a significant portion of the lives competing and training. This of course makes sense because achieving a sport level of performance to reach a major championship takes years of preparation.1
The group seemed in general especially bright mentally as noted by their responses to the survey. This wasn’t too surprising because the mean of the group is 53.8 years with a range of 26 to 78 years of age.1Nevertheless; there was an air of vitality among these athletes.
The survey was not done face-to-face with the athletes. However, a large percentage of the athletes were seen face-to-face as part of typical social interactions. In addition, after the survey a number of the athletes felt compelled to discuss the work by phone. At times one or more of them were present at different gatherings. Among those surveyed there remained a competitive presence as well as a high degree of verbal and body language mild posturing that could be considered friendly yet slightly aggressive regardless of age. The overall impression a bystander might of noted is that these people appeared extremely healthy and engaged. Certainly, the group is physically fit regardless of age.
An important observation is the general health of the group. At a mean age of nearly 54 they are generally not overweight. A few are overweight. An archer is obese (but currently on a strict diet to drop the weight), there’s an overweight ex-football lineman (thought not obese) and in that category there is a PGA golf pro, and one ex-major league pitcher who are heavier than during their playing days. In general, the group was not overweight. This may be attributed to; overall the group continues to exercise to a large degree.
Exercise is a relatively easy why to remain in good health both mentally and physically. 2,3As we age we can hope to die young at a very old age. In that vein exercise can be an adjunct to prolonged health and mental compacity.4Aside from clearly obvious physical attributes associated with aging and exercise, exercise decreases the degradation of our brains.5
Being physically active isn’t the sole method to engage our brains as we age. One study showed that individuals who played chess were cognitively engaged and had better health than a control group.6The same study, which compared the chess players to master level track and field athletes, revealed the athletes had more injuries than the chess players.6For those injuries the athletes gained a lower prevalence of chronic disease.6However, the chess players and athletes had a lower incidence of chronic disease compared to a control group.6
As we age, exercise can be modified to account for slower recovery times.7, 8Even with modification exercise among the senior population can improve quality of life and independent living.9As a measure of successful aging, exercising among the older population may be a model to support concepts of best health over longer durations as exercise works to protect the body including the brain.10, 11
Through active engagement in sport and exercise we can prolong better physical health and mental health. This becomes clear to an observer in the presence of chronic athletes.11By adding a regime of exercise to activities of daily living we can improve our quality of life.9
Lain,D C; What it takes to be a Champion.In review, NFAA Publication, Archery, Nov. 2018
Patelia S, Stone RC,El-Bakri R, Adli M,Baker J.: Masters or pawns? Examining injury and chronic disease in male Master Athletes and chess players compared to population norms from the Canadian Community Health Survery. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2018 Nov 30;15:15. doi: 10.1186/s11556-018-0204-z. eCollection 2018.
It was a local fundraiser. The drive to the indoor 3-spot tournament was less than 30 minutes from our home in Good Hope, Georgia. It was held in one of my favorite towns, Madison, Georgia. The ‘turn out’ was excellent and the range was filled with archers. My bow seemed to be back in order after a new string, re-tuning and checked for every possible malady. My last practice had been a good one. It seemed the planets were aligned for a good score.
Madison, Georgia is a beautiful historic Southern town. It is one of the major historic attractions in the Peach State with around 100 antebellum homes that have been restored. When we moved back to Georgia it is one of the towns we searched for a home. In fact we found one, however it was in the city limits and there is a law against shooting a bow within city limits. Had that not been the case, we’d have likely ended up living in a restored home. We didn’t and archers will understand the decision not to settle there. Madison is close enough to where we ended up building that we can visit on the spur of the moment.
The tournament was held in the new Morgan County High School gymnasium. Arriving an hour early I was lucky to have gotten a parking place that wasn’t a half of a mile away. At first I thought I’d gotten my information wrong – there seemed to be too many cars. But, no the morning line was packed full, as were the bleachers.
The Morgan County high school gym in no way compared to my high school’s gym. This modern gym was more like what I’d experienced in college. Not all the bleachers were open. The upper bleachers behind the line were packed with friends and family that had come to watch the tournament.
The target of the day was a 3-spot. I’ve been practicing against a 3-spot for over a month. While my scores have been mimicking the Stock Market, my more recent practices had diverged and begun to rise. I knew I’d be shooting against some good archers in the 21-49 year old age group. I felt ready, and I was for a while.
My first twelve arrows had all been smack in the center. Number 13 followed suit, as did arrow 14. At full draw on the third arrow of the end, with 40 seconds on the clock the whistle sounded. Three blows of the whistle. It wasn’t time to pull arrows. Did something happen and the next two blasts got halted due to some injury? No one knew. We all stopped shooting.
Looking down the line at the judge he made no comment of gesture. Everyone waited. Then, we waited some more. The clock was down to 26 seconds, 25, 24, 23 – people began shooting.
Not me. I was worried. Whatever had happened something was wrong or had gone wrong. Ten seconds. I looked toward a friend on the line and he shrugged and said, “Just shoot.” Eight seconds. I shot with 1 second remaining. Eight.
I knew I was now out of it. An eight against these archers meant I was now on the range for practice. For a flash I considered packing my gear and heading home I was so disappointed. I didn’t, I stayed and worked though the 8.
I don’t know if the whistle hadn’t have incorrectly sounded whether or not the day would have gone better. I expect it would have been better. What it did do was provide a teaching moment, albeit a rare one. Still, having a major distraction and getting through it was good practice.
In any competition things outside of your control can happen. An athlete needs to be prepared to deal with the distraction, block it and move forward. I doubt I’ll have this sort of mistake happen a second time. If it does, I’ll be better prepared.
Often you’ll read at this website that I post articles about fitness. Many of those posts include stories about running. While cardiopulmonary fitness isn’t essential to pick up a bow and shoot it, it does improve one’s health and ability to maintain an athletic posture during long archery tournaments.
Among the exercises I do as part of my training regime, running is a major element. One manufacturer of running shoes once had an advertisement that read, “Athletes Run.” Whether or not archery is part of my life, I believe running will always be a part of it.
One of the running pleasures I find most appealing is trail running in the dark. In the winter months running in the dark is easy – it’s dark when I get up to run. In the warmer months this isn’t the case.
For some, the thought of running through the woods in the dark might bring to mind some scene from a horror movie. Not the case for me. I do run with a light – getting smacked by a tree or limb isn’t on my bucket list.
Running in the dark is peaceful in my mind. The woods are quiet and calm. Occasionally, I run in the direction of some critter and that can be startling, but never horrifying. I do run with my dog, River, who’s a big girl who provides a sense of ease when I cross paths with an unexpected animal.
There’s a 1.3-mile loop behind my house that cuts a perfect trail to travel whether running or hiking. Sometimes I’ll run it in the morning and hike it in the afternoon. I try to cover a few laps each time, more laps when running.
I understand not everyone that reads this site runs beyond being chased. If you do run and have access to trails try running in the dark it is an entirely new experience compared to running during the day light. Oh, carry a light, bring your dog, and watch how you plant your feet. Also, let someone know where you’ll be running and when to expect you home. Plus, carry your cell phone just in case. Before you run a trail in the dark run it several times during the lighted part of the day to learn the trail. If you happen to get off the trail it isn’t difficult to get turned around. If you happen to get lost, wait where you are until the sun comes up to regain your bearings. Clear lens running eye glasses are ideal for not getting an eye poked out by a low hanging pointy limb. Now that I think about, maybe you shouldn’t run in the dark – you’d probably get hurt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.