Your Brain and Fitness

During my working career I did lots of interesting things.   All of my work was cognitive. I used to say, “I think, therefore I get paid.” I did of lot of thinking, figuring things out.  So, my brain has been and remains an important tool for me.

Aging is an area where I have an interest and I’ve done a little research. As a result I have a fair grasp of what to expect as I age and how I’ll perform in sports.

I stay is pretty good overall fitness as much for my physical abilities as for my brain. I like my brain – it entertains me. It turns out that fitness does a lot to help my brain. It can help your brain, too.

images-1

When you consider archery, there is a lot of brainwork going on to make a good shot. Primarily, you need to have an active brain that converts to a meditative brain (alpha waves –described here in an earlier post) to get that great shot time after time. In order to accomplish the brain process, a healthy brain is a significant advantage over an unhealthy one. And it turn out that exercise, not archery exercise, helps make the brain healthy.

images

In a systematic review a group of scientists concluded that a sedentary lifestyle led to impaired cognitive function. In their conclusion they wrote, “Our systematic review provides evidence that limiting sedentary time and concomitantly engaging in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may best promote healthy cognitive aging.”

I would not rank archery as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In fact, the less vigorous we are when we shoot the better. But, to be really calm, it may be beneficial to be fit and healthy. Being unfit and in poor health would make it hard to for the brain to relax – an important component to making a good shot.

Archery is one of the two sports where an athlete over 50 can be or become an elite. Making it to over 50 in good health takes a bit, not much – you don’t need to be an Ironman or marathoner – of exercise. I highly recommend a routine and somewhat structure plan for exercise. If you’ve never done any exercise, it is not going to be easy at first. Heck, there are times when it is never “easy”. Easy is a sedentary life style. Over the decades an easy lifestyle will catch up with you. So, do a bit of exercise, in the long haul you’ll benefit from the effort.

Unknown

A bonus is, you get to keep your brain operating at a high capacity. Which in turn will help you with your archery.

Reference:

1.) Falck RS, Davis JC, Liu-Ambrose T. What is the association between sedentary behavior and cognitive function? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2016 May 6. pii: bjsports-2015-095551. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095551. [Epub ahead of print]

Archery and Aging

As athletes age performace has been noted to decline. Archery and shooting provide greater longevity in sports competitions than all other sports. That is to say an archer over 50 years of age has a higher probablitiy of remaining in elite competition. To test this three age groups of male archers were compared using the top 15 scores from the 2017 USA Archery 18-meter indoor competition. The selected groups were the men’s seniors, men’s masters and men’s masters 60 – 69 year old groups.

The author at age 62 and member of the 60-69 year old test group (not a recent photo)

In the men’s seniors the top score was 1189 points. (1200 is a perfect score) In the men’s master the top score was 1184 points and in the 60-69 year old group the top score was 1155. By comparion the men’s masters winner would have placed third in the men’s senior category. The winner of the 60-69 year group would have finished 7th in the men’s masters but would not have been in the top 15 of the men’s senior group.

The top three scores were 1189, 1184 and 1155 for the senior, masters and 60-60 groups, respectively. The average for the groups, in like order, were: 1179, 1152 and 1126. The data was collected from the USA Archery’s website and data does not include how long each archer had been in competition. That information may have weighted the groups differently upon examination of the averages but is unlikely to have impacted the top 3 scores of each group. For example, the number one pastime for retired men is to become involved in sports. The 60-69 year group likely contains more retired men than the other groups. As such, there may be archers in the 60-69 year group that have, by elite sport competition, been shooting less than 5 years. (There is one known example in the class, shooting less than 48 months at the time the scores were recorded.)

The difference between the senior and master’s winner was only 4 points whereas the difference between seniors and the 60-69 year old archers was 34 points. The latter difference is a meaningful outcome while the 4-point difference is rather insignificant. Each group had similar subsets, equal scores, where rank was determined by X count. The greatest variance in subset clusters was between the seniors and 60-69 year old group. In other words, the widest variance in skill, based on scores, was among the archers occurred in the 60-69 year old group.

The process of aging may have played a role in this wider shift of scores. As humans age there is a loss of muscle mass that can contribute to fatigue during a 120-arrow contest. There is another factor, recovery time, where muscles don’t perform at peak levels without the longer recovery interval needed for the older athlete. There may also be a decreased ability to maintain a mental focus in the older athlete. Or it could be as simple as the older athletes do not invest comparable times training as do the younger athletes. There is also the impact of aging on eyesight and light absorption making targets more difficult to see. Finally, there might be generalized decrease in overall health of the older population that contributes to lower accuracy.

A survey of more than 4,200 participants in the National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for men and women 50 and older, showed that the senior athletes had cardiovascular fitness that effectively makes them younger than their chronological age. The survey also found that the senior athletes had an average actual age of 68, but the exercise they were doing translated into a “fitness age” of only 43. (1)

In archery, athletes that are in their 50’s can perform in similar fashion to those from the ages of 21 to 49. Beyond 60, while the variance of scores are larger, there may be contributing factors that led to the lower scores during the 2017 USA Archery Indoor competitions. Mitigation of those factors where possible could correspond to elevating the scores of the 60-69 year old group. These factors include taking steps to maintain overall health at an earlier age, adding weight lifting to training to decrease the loss of muscle mass, adding cardiovascular fitness plans to improve endurance, and taking measures to prolong good eyesight. Where eyesight diminution is unavoidable corrective optothamic approaches may be helpful. A technical solution might be to decrease the draw weight of the bow and where possible lower the stabilizer weights. Thus, making it easier to draw the bow and support it during aiming.

In archery, aging need not be a limitation to elite performance.

(1) Richard Chin, Contributing Writer, July 10, 2015. “What Keeps Older Athletes Going. http:// www.nextavenue.org/what-keeps-older-athletes-going/

Watching my caloric requirements

As we age our BMR, Basal Metabolic rate, decreases.  Basal Metabolic Rate is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. I do a lot of exercise and need to check caloric intake versus caloric burn to ensure I have the right balance of intake and output.

I check this every few months and adjust based on training demands, body weight, percentage of body fat, and the food I am eating.  Getting this as correct as possible improves recovery times along with optimizing sleep as well as fat, carbohydrate and protein intake.

Staying aware of my BMR changes helps to monitor intake, which differs in quantity compared to when I was in my 20s. You can use the internet to find all sorts of calculators to find your numbers.

When I was competing in cycling, running and swimming I never seemed to get enough to eat.  As an archer the caloric load is significantly reduced.  For example, while training for the Ironman World Championship I was burning about 6720 calories a day on top of my BMR.  Archery, alone, burns 777 calories a day.  (Based on my weight, height and hours of training) Add daily supplemental training and I burn 2572 per day on top of a BMR of 1472 for a total of 4044.  That is significantly less than what is required for Ironman type conditioning. Heck, add my BMR needs to triathlon caloric needs and you’ll be looking at 8372 calories per day.

When I raced my percentage of body fat ranged from 3% to 7%.  Now that I’ve switched to archery that percentage has increased to 10% – 12%.  If I didn’t do any cardio work and ate the same amount per day as I did before archery I’d expect a much higher percentage of body fat.

Because I am 65 and plan to compete in the Men’s Senior (rather than Masters) Division of Olympic recurve it is paramount I maintain a focus on fitness.  Part of that focus is optimizing caloric intake and output.  Part of the benefit is not having hypertension (high blood pressure) and I don’t require medication to control it. Beta-blockers, a drug of choice for treating hypertension is a banned substance in competitive archery.  I doubt a therapeutic exemption would be allowed for a beta-blocker in archery. Nevertheless, I rather be fit and not need it to begin with.

My mother, an 87 year old, walks two miles a day with a Labrador retriever on a leash, mows nearly an acre of land using a push mower, and works on her property everyday except Sunday.  She takes no prescription medication.  She gets a physical exam every 6 months and is in superb condition.  As she describes it, “It is better to exercise than to take drugs to maintain health.”

Her physician follow her last exam told her, “Mrs. Lain, you have the blood chemistry of a 35 year old.  I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep it up.”

Finding the right balance of intake and output is critical for athletes.  Archery is no exception. For that matter, life is no exception. Eat right and exercise and you’ll be healthier than if you didn’t.

Time for New Running Shoes

When Hurricane Sally’s remnants passed over us there was a lot of rain.  There was a pause in the rain around the usual time I go running every morning.  Taking a chance, River and I, headed out to the trails.

The rain was only a slight drizzle as we left our yard, passing through a fence gate to start pacing through the woods.  Our first path led to ponds of water that aren’t usually on the path.  Back tracking we found a clear path and headed deeper into the woods.

Less than a mile in the drizzle was getting louder in the trees.  Gambling we ran on.  The gamble was a loss.  Within minutes the rain was a torrent.  We turned around and ran for home.

There was no point in sprinting we were going to get soaked no matter what we did.  River did pick of the pace.  She’d gallop ahead, pause to look back to make certain I was still behind her. Once we made eye contact she was off again.

You can take the nerd out of the lab, but not the lab out of the nerd. What a goober.

As soon as we reached home the rain slacked up a bit.  Nevertheless, both dog and man were drenched.  Worse for wear were my tired old Nike shoes.

Those shoes had finally given up the ghost.  They were 15 months old!  The soles had been re-glued three times.  The black rubber bottom heels were worn to the white foundation of the bottom rubber.  But, man did they feel nice running trails – they were seriously broken in.

Slogging through puddles had been the last gasp of the amateur shoe repairs. Still, 15 months for Nike’s least expensive (or near about) shoes, at $50.00 a pair via Amazon, is a deal.  Those shoes didn’t owe me a thing.

Rather than pull out the Elmer’s and try to bleed another few weeks from the shoes I guessed it was time to reorder.  Coincidentally, my most recent issue of Runner’s World (RW) had arrived in the mail a few days prior to Sally’s arrival.  On page 63 RW has an article meant to help me, “22 Best Shoes You Can Buy Right Now”.

Pictures of sleek sneakers are runners’ porn.  There was a time I invested in really extravagant shoes thinking I’d shave a few minutes over a marathon or salvage a toenail.  I don’t race beyond an occasional 5K so my elaborate spending isn’t necessary.  In fact, it probably never was needed.

The average price of the 22 best shoes, as advertised in RW, is $140.68.  Shamelessly, I have spent that and more on a single pair of running shoes.  In fact, I have two pair of big money shoes still in their boxes.  I don’t wear them; they are too expensive to waste for everyday training.  I’ll save them for that day I might enter a race, again. (Even though I expect they won’t help me run any faster at this point.  At least I can still look serious)

I’ve even got a pair of old track shoes.  I raced wearing those in just one race years ago at the US Track & Field Masters Indoor National Championship. Now, they are just a relic from days gone by.

There’s no way I’m forking out $140.68 for shoes when my old $50.00 pair lasted 15 months.  I went back to Amazon to reorder those same shoes.

It took a second to change that plan.  Those $50.00 shoes are now $80.00.  As a running shoe goes the $50.00 spent was okay.  Certainly, the $50.00 shoes were not worth $80.00. The toe box was just a bit off, the rubber sole hard, and heel was sloppy.  Fair for $50.00 but a rip off at $80.00.

Instead, I searched and found a pair of ASICS for $45.00.  ASICS is a trainer that in the past I’ve used for 1000s of miles of running.  I invested the $45.00; the new shoes should be here in a few days.

Years ago, well more than a decade, I was running in ASICS.  A fellow I was working with on a project was one of their athletes.  He’d won a Gold Medal in the Olympics and his ASICS shoes looked comfortable to me so I tried a pair. (Not his, I bought my own)

They were just fine.  I ran wearing them for many years. (ASICS never did contact me with a contract.Do they sponsor archers?)

2008 Beijing Olympic, Gold Medal, Decathlon: Bryan Clay.

When I was running in high-level events I did pay a premium for shoes.  Now a-days, I run a few miles each morning because I enjoy it.  The old Nikes had about 1600 mile in them. That is a heck of lot more miles than I once got out of a pair of shoes running roads.  Running roads I’d have been lucky to get 600 miles out of a decent pair of running shoes.  Trails, at least mine that are mostly pine straw covered hard pack, have been generous to the life of my shoes.

I’ll date the $45.00 ASICS when they arrive and see whether they hold up as well as the $50.00 Nikes did.

The old Nikes will go to the trash, soon.  I always takes me a few days to say goodbye to old friends that have supported me.

Typical Morning With Some Rain

Training and practice started early today – at 0520.  Training starts with 30 minutes of stretching and balance exercises.  (Nothing can start until my dogs are let out then fed) This is followed by breakfast, a run and then archery.  On non-recovery days, they all start in this manner.

Stretching and balance regime is done before breakfast.  This includes 25 exercises that are specifically pit together to be an ad to archery.  It takes 26 to 30 minutes to move through all the positions and stretches.

When that’s complete I have breakfast.  I wait a few minutes, using that time to make up the bed, gather River’s collar (My Labrador running partner), and don my running apparel, before we head out to trails.

The run lasts 30 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the trails we take.  Post run I do a brief workout on with my speed rope.  If you’ve never skipped rope using a speed rope give it a try.  It is a great addition to conditioning. By now I’m about 2 hours or so into my morning and it is time to move to archery.

Each archery practice begins with a plan.  The plan is based on a weekly schedule.  As improvements or goals are reached the plan evolves.  For example, replacing my string meant re-calibrating my sight tape.  That chore is incorporated into yardage practice, which was the plan for yesterday.

Yesterday, I did go beyond the planned arrow count.  My new Fairweather Tab arrived from Lancaster Archery so I added 60 more arrows as part of condition the tab.

The new tab will require a breaking in period.  The Kangaroo leather is still stiff.  So, this morning, the plan archery training plan was amended a bit.  I moved back to 18-meters and spent the morning working with the Fairweather.

As I head out to the range, I pause and let the chickens out of their coop.  They are allowed free range while I’m shooting.  They are rounded up when I return from the range.  The range is about 20 yards away from their coop and I’m hoping my shooting will discourage hawks from swooping down on my chickens. So far, so good.

Practice went well and I landed 98% of my arrows in red or better with 67% in yellow.

Rain had been forecast and the weatherman was correct.  It rained.  There was a light rain falling off and on during practice.  Minutes after I’d finished this morning’s practice it switched to a downpour.

Between morning and afternoon practice I put notes in my logbook and write these posts. I’ll also have lunch and take a short nap.  Then, it is onto the afternoon training schedule.

Tomorrow is scheduled recovery day.  I am considered adjusting my plan and moving this to an active recovery day.  That means I shoot but will use a reduced poundage bow.

This describes my morning training schedule in general. The afternoon has a similar repeat except running is replaced with cycling and there is no jumping rope.

Streaking – As Associated with Running

Streaking, the first time I heard of it was associated with a form of running fad that occurred in the 1970s.  In this instance, it was a fad where runners would strip then run naked. Freely, I admit this was a form of running where I did not participate.

Several of my less modest friends did partake in the fad on one occasion. The group stripped, held their clothes in their arms and ran across Abercorn Street in Savannah, Georgia near the intersection with DeRenne Ave. It was  1972 and traffic in Savannah wasn’t comparable to the mess they have there today.

There is a median on Abercorn with two lines of traffic running in opposing directions.  The free form runners weren’t all that immodest and had selected a time for their streak near 11 PM when traffic, in those days, would be light. It seemed a fairly inoffensive plan.

The plan was to wait until there was no traffic, make the dash across Abercorn, and hop into a get-away car and escape. That would have been fine except for the mishap.

One of the runners, in his birthday suit, dropped his clothes as he crossed the median.  He had to stop turn back and retrieve them all while butt naked.  This is the point where traffic returned to the intersection.  There he was stranded until the traffic paused and he could return to running.

Streaking today, in running, means running daily for long stretches without a missed day.  Runner’s World’s covered highlights on page 30 in an article, Run Every Day – Streaking is more important than ever. (Issue 3, 2020)

Runner’s World also has a section in this issue on injuries.  Is that coincidence or consideration?

If you run every day without a recovery plan you’ll end up with an injury.  Obviously, you are probably an archer and you’re thinking you’ll not get a run injury.  You are probably correct – we know most of you are not runners. Simple observation during any archery tournament is all the verification one needs to confirm the bulk of archers are at best intermittent     walkers.  The walking primarily an activity associated with pulling arrows.

Surely, some of you do run.  Some of you probably get Runner’s World magazine.  Take my advice – schedule recovery days from your running.  If you’re an archer you should do the same with your archery training.

It is fun to set goals.  A goal of non-stop daily running (or shooting) could land you in rehab.  Rather than setting a run a day goal set other goals.  Once, I set a goal to do at least one race per month until something happened outside of my control to prevent a monthly race.  I went 84 months (7 years) before an accident happened that prevented me from racing.

I’d jumped off my boat to align the boat with the boatlift.  I’d done it many times before.  That time, however, I found a metal spike in the water – something new.  I found it in my leg.   That streak was done. It was a good long streak and I enjoyed it.  Aside from the metal spike in my leg I remained injury free throughout the plan. I did have weekly recovery days in my training plan.

Goals are nice to set.  But, there’s no reason to set goals that might lead to an overuse injury. Make time in your training plan for recovery.

The New Plan Has More Gym Time

“At your age you need to be careful to focus on that shoulder,” was the comment from Big John a Level 4 USA NTS Archery coach.  He was right and I knew it. I’d been somewhat aware of the error I’d been making.

The mistake was laziness.  It was easier to shoot having a weaker form.  Doing it right, well I admit, hurt.

I’d slipped into the poor form not from a lack of practice but from an overuse injuries.  I’d strained both my shoulders.  I compensated and shot weakly.

It was clear both shoulders needed rehab.  The joints needed to be strengthened.  I’d been there in the past having more than once injured shoulders in other sports.  This was a first in archery, but an old problem with a familiar ache.

The first step was rest.  Then, slowly followed by more time in the gym.  Eventually the gym time with specific exercises to improve both shoulders was doubled.

As we age we all run the risk of diminished muscle mass.  That can lead to an increase chance of joint problems.  In my 2020 plan there is double the amount of gym time compared to 2019.  Gym training is my least favorite routine but a practice that has on more than one occasion paid dividends.

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.

Recovery Time: What Everyone Knows That I Don’t Understand

Chris McCormick is a world champion triathlete.  He wrote a book about his experiences as an athlete.  In that book he described a younger triathlete who McCormick felt could become great.  A problem McCormick noticed with the younger athlete was that the fellow was working too hard.

McCormick talked to him suggesting he might add some recovery time to his training.  McCormick at the time of their meeting and training together was mature for a professional triathlete being in his 30s. The younger man was in his early 20s.  McCormick warned him to ease up on occasion to allow for adequate recover without which could lead to burn out or injury.  The twenty year old ignored the advice and not too long after was injured and a bit burnt.

In a post here not too long ago I wrote about recovery.  In that post I described my training. I pointed out that I don’t maintain a level of cardio training today as an archer that I did in my youth.  Still, I do train at what I consider an age appropriate level.

Cardio training is a method to help prolong health and give me a longer runway for archery.  Archery satisfies my need to remain competitive.  Certainly, achieving competitive goals remains possible as an age grouper in other sports.

I have a friend that is 69 and runs ultra marathons.  He’s an amazing athlete.  I know a woman in her mid-80s that still does high-level triathlons.  Again, amazing.  Neither started at a early age both picking up endurance sports in their 50s.

I started endurance sports at 17 and stopped at 57.  Forty years seemed to have been a limit for me.  When I tried stopping I was very unsatisfied.  I needed to compete.  Archery is an outlet for that desire.  Of course I still run and ride but the primary goal is to maintain fitness and prolong my experience in archery.

Along with that sport experience comes decades of understanding recovery. I understand it but do not always follow my own advice or knowledge.  I am prone to over training.

In the prior article about recovery I pointed out that as we age recovery times are often required to be more often and longer.  A reader somehow got another message.

He sent me a note pointing out that everyone understands recovery.  That was news to me.  I am still trying to find the right balance.  He somehow believed I am still in my 50s.  He further suggested my training along with the aches and pains associated were typical for a 50 year old, with the luxury of time, however not realistic for someone approaching 70 as he is approaching 70.

I took that comment as a compliment. The older critic, approaching 70, is pretty close to my age as I approach 70.  He is older by a few years but within my age group. He seems to be fairly fit results of his foundation of years of hard work.  He suggested my life of luxury has afforded me at 50 to be able to train the way I train.

That’s not true.  I’ve been able to train the way I train because I have had great coaches that ensured I had adequate recover whether I wanted it or not.  The result was minimal injury and little burn out.  Sure it is unlikely I’ll do too much racing in the future but not entirely out of the picture.  It isn’t that I burnt out on it after four decades, it became too expensive.

Archery is a lot less expensive than triathletes, easier to find events compared to cycling, and a sport that is much less age dependent.  So long as I maintain the best level of activity and recovery I should last a pretty long time shooting arrows.

Here’s the thing, finding the best point where recovery is needed and just plain soreness needing to be worked through is a tough balancing act.  As the 60+ critic pointed out everyone understands recovery and aging.  So, everyone, of you have sound advice I’m listening.