An Eye on Exercise

Archery is not a sport where the athletes involved are going to gain a lot of fitness. ESPN created a method to determine the level whereby sports could be evaluated related to: endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, nerve, durability and analytic aptitude. Of the sixty sports measured boxing topped the list of 60. 1 Archery ranked 55th followed by curling, bowling, shooting (non-archery), billiards, and fishing.1 Depending on how you search sports there is some variance in ranking. Archery is never among the most difficult when measuring athletic fitness.

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If you have read the site you may be aware that fitness is a frequent topic. Archers to some degree are not really fit. That is not to suggest that a skilled archer is not a great athlete. It is my opinion that being physically fit is an important adjunct to an archer.

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As a former internationally competitive cyclist and later triathlete I continue to complement archery with the training needed for those sports. In other words, I still run, swim, cycle and lift weights. Occasionally, I log the distances I walk while practicing archery.

Swim Start of the F1 Triathlon in San Diego

On one of those recent occasions I continued to log distances, after running, using my Garmin Forerunner 310XT while I trained against an 18 meter 3-spot. In that session of shooting I walked an additional 1.66 miles.

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Walking less than two miles is not a huge accomplishment. Still not everyone can walk that far. It seems easy, but there a many people who consider 1.66 miles quite a hike. The calories burned per hour, for me, during that session of archery was 238. Obviously, there is more involved with archery than walking, but not much related to physical activity. Without adding archery for the 1.66 miles (walking only) the caloric burn is 203. On average I shoot 4 hours per day and burn 952 calories through archery.

Considering the other exercise I do, I think of it as an adjunct to archery. Being more fit means I can practice longer. It may also help me live longer. Fitness isn’t the sole avenue to longevity but it does help. Fitness and strength training, at least for me, are part of my archery-training program.

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Adding a fitness program to your archery training can be beneficial. If you aren’t already involved in other training systems, it is a good idea to have a physician give you a green light to begin.

Reference: http://www.espn.com/espn/page2/sportSkills

A Little Help From a Friend

It is too easy to waste money on sports equipment. Everyday there’s a new and better product to make athletes run faster, jump higher or go further. Archery, a sport where we don’t need to move a lot, isn’t immune to the gizmos and marketing hype that surrounds gear promising to deliver an almost practice free perfect shot.

Decades to competitive sports taught me a number of lessons. Among those lessons is that it is easy to waste money on the latest new toy. After I began competing in a sport that wasn’t supported by a public school program I began a long career of financing my athletics habit. The most costly was and remains cycling.

Fortunately, when I began racing bicycles I was still in high school meaning I didn’t have much money to waste on new fancy and often pointless innovations. Nevertheless, over decades I’ve ended up wasting a lot of many to replace gear that came on bikes that was simply wrong from the start. Where I am with archery is more bothersome.

When it comes to archery I am a novice, in that I’ve been involved with archery for 37 months. Today I’m a bit more conservative with my cash than I was just 3 years ago before I retired. So, for a large part I do my best to investigate before I purchase. That doesn’t mean that more than once I’ve put trust in a shop’s expert and walked away with pure archery crap. An example would be arrows.

I was on the road and had been for weeks when it became necessary to purchase more arrows. I bought the shop experts recommended product – a recognizable name brand. The arrows sucked.

They had the correct – per the labeling – spine. But, they popped and cracked so badly that I emailed the company to complain. I’d already tossed three of the arrows when the fourth broke. Their return policy was so encumbered that it would have ended up costing nearly the price of a new arrow to complete the transaction.

They offered to send me a new arrow after I completed forms, packaged and shipped the broken arrow. Once they received it and investigated the break my would consider sending me a replacement arrow.  Because I need to improve the specifications on arrows for indoor competition I was concerned that I’d screw up an order and relive the prior experience.

Of course, I went online and searched the top guns to see which arrows they shot. That was a little helpful. But, the real help came from Big John Chandler in Social Circle, GA.

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Big John

John is an expert archer, a Level 4 USA Archery coach, and runs a bow shop. From our brief times together he knew some particulars about my equipment and needs. He sent me an exact detailed list of what I needed to order. We also talked by phone and he provided even more information.

John was a big help and probably saved me some cash and earned me some points on the range. This was an unexpected treat and I really appreciated the help.

Bow Woes

The Apex 7 was my first bow purchase in September 2013. I knew absolutely nothing about compound bows or archery for that matter. I don’t know a whole lot more today.

I shot that Mathews bow for hours everyday. It wasn’t too long before it became a less that common occurrence when I missed the entire target. But, as nice as the Conquest Apex 7 is I felt that something was off.

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Shooting my Mathews Conquest Apex 7 in 2014

In 2015 I bought an Elite Energy 35. The Elite bow is a couple of inches shorter axil to axil. Both bows weight 4.5 pounds. Going from a 65% with the Mathews let off to an 80% with the Elite let off took some adjustments.

Both bows have the same-marketed draw length and both shoot at the same draw weight. When I shoot them I use the same stabilizers, sight and scope. Those items were purchased at Lancaster Archery. I drove up and had them help me with the Mathews bow in 2014. I use the same Scott Pro Advantage release when I shoot either bow. Without fail, I score higher with the Elite.

I like Mathews, a lot. Not because I have any particular knowledge about their bows. I don’t have the technical background to make a judgment about bows. When I bought the Apex 7 I simply requested from the shop where I ordered it, “I want to buy the best bow available for target shooting.” They ordered me the Conquest Apex 7. I like Mathews primary because they were so receptive to helping me when I began shooting.   What I do know is data. I keep data on all my archery shoots whether competitive or practice.

The 2015 Elite Energy 35 has been shot a lot in the past year. When I say a lot, I mean approximately 23,725 times. Last week the top limb began to delaminate. Or what seems to be splitting about at the seams. So far a sliver about 1/8 inch wide and 6 inches long has separated and popped off the limb. It still shoots, so I am shooting it.

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I put the Elite away for a while and shot the Apex 7 as my primary bow. Actually, I’d been going back and forth trying to make a decision which bow to shoot in 2017 until the Elite’s upper limb separated off a part of itself. But, without doubt my shooting suffered with the Apex 7.

I called Elite to describe the problem and, of course, left a message. Elite returned my call during the time we’d left town rather than stay to greet Hurricane Matthew. In my call I explained I’d return the bow to the shop where it was purchased for help.

At that shop the owner took a photograph of the bad limb and emailed it to Elite. That was last week and I am waiting for resolution. In the meantime, I am shooting the Elite and even with a missing piece of the upper limb I shoot better with it than the Apex 7.

I look at sports equipment as tools. In the case of archery the job is to hit the center of the target. I could go a purchase another bow/tool to replace both bows. (I considered the Hoyt Podium for a minute, the price through me off) But, unlike a workman’s drill or saw, any bow takes time for the archer to become acclimated to the tool. For whatever reason, most likely my fault, I can’t shoot the Mathews as well as I can shoot the Elite. So, the Elite is my tool of choice even with the current state of the upper limb.

I Need Stabilizers – Are You Looking to Sale?

The price of new stabilizers is, well – a lot! My stabilizers, Bee Stinger Competition are fine with a minor exception. The front stabilizer is the 27-inch length. Two USA Archery Level 4 coaches have pointed out that I’m using “kid” sized extensions. Both suggested e a 33-inch front and a 14-inch side.

When I bought my Bee Stingers, less than two years ago I didn’t have a clue. Today, I am only marginally more educated when it comes to archery equipment. Last week I tried “Big Boy” stabilizers with a fair amount of weight. There was a difference. The float or drift of my dot noticeably diminished.

Those stabilizers were Donkier. Not that I have any specific appreciation for the brand, I think Bee Stinger are fine. I checked prices on both products and decided to look for used stabilizers.

There are less expensive models. But, from what I’ve gathered you get what you pay for. I’m hoping someone out there has a nice set of top level stabilizers they might need to sale.

If you happen to have some on the market, please let me know.

Learning About Stabilizers

When I purchased stabilizers for my bow I went to the experts in Pennsylvania. Along with the stabilizers I added a sight and scope. I’d been shooting for several months and knew that my Mathews Apex 7, a target bow, needed a bit more than the stubby hunting stabilizer the prior sales expert had sold me. After a few weeks of shooting the stubby stabilizer I learned there were these really long ones for the front of the bow and even a side arm. And with that I was alerted to a need for something else to stabilize my bow.

The heightened awareness warranted a trip to Pennsylvania. As a novice archer I really did not have a clue what I needed. When I arrived in Pennsylvania and walked into the giant archery store it was like a trip to Archery Mecca. I had never seen so much archery gear. It was overwhelming.

I’d brought my Apex 7. I was quickly greeted and provided with a dedicated sale representative. Explaining my need and lack of knowledge the young man assigned to assist me took control.

He took my bow from me then headed into the back room. When he returned the bow was equipped with a front and side stabilizer. “It’s perfectly balanced,” he confidently stated. With no more data available I accepted his proclamations as fact.

Most archers reading this are already laughing. A few of you may be shaking your heads.  But, I honestly didn’t know any better. Today, I don’t know much more than I did twenty-four months ago. Heck, I wasn’t even alerted to any foul until I’d forgotten my bow on a range in Georgia and a Level 4 archery coach discovered my misplaced equipment. He’d said when he returned it to me, “When I saw the stabilizers, I thought this was some kid’s bow.”

Someone that knows archery, Charlie Sneed a Level 4 USA Archery Coach is currently teaching me. I’d guess he’s been polite trying not to embarrassing me regarding my gear. Essentially, I’ve been shooting an Elite hunting bow rigged with a beginner’s, as in a child’s, short lightweight (a total of 4 ounces added) stabilizers. He’s tactfully suggested I consider a ‘tournament’ bow. That would mean more money out of pocket. Being a little conservative on spending I decided to show him my old Mathews Apex 7.

I’d sold the Mathews bow about a year ago but got it back. One thing I knew was that I could not shoot that bow well. Another thing I’d read is the general statement by former Apex 7 owners, “I wish I’d never sold that bow.”

Since I had the Mathews sitting in my shed I decided to bring it to practice along with my Elite. When I showed the Mathews bow to Charlie he said, “I used to have one of those. I wish I’d never sold it.”

Last week, Charlie had diplomatically suggested he would bring to our next practice another set of stabilizers for me to try. He had them with him. Before I could say much he said, “Let’s go ahead and set up the Mathews.” Nice way of saying, “Let’s not bother with the other bow.”

(I have no complaint with the Elite bow. It has served me well.  In fact, I’ll be hunting with it in a few days! But, the rig while ideal for hunting is not my best option for all situations – like 18-meters for example.)

We pulled the sight and scope off the Elite and put them on the Apex 7. Next, we added Charlie’s stabilizers. When I held the bow I was impressed with the addition weight.

Under Charlie’s instruction we adjusted the side stabilizer, removed and added weights, and sighted the bow. Within a few minutes it became apparent my elementary stabilizers had been little beyond decoration.

These days I try to research anything I add that might help with archery performance. Archery equipment isn’t inexpensive. The stabilizers I purchased in Pennsylvania weren’t cheap. They, also, were far from correct.

All I can add is: Caveat emptor

Trying To Find a Zone

img_5523I’ve read about being in a “Zone.” I’m not certain I’ve reached a skill level were I can fully appreciate an archery “Zone.” This morning I shot inside at 18 meters. It was an aggravating “Zoneless” practice. This afternoon I shot outside at 18 meters. The session started about the way the morning practice ended – “Zone-Free.”

One expert coach has written about staying positive, confident and thinking happy thoughts during sports training and competition. He advocates not carry any negative feelings. Another world champion pistol shooter rants and raves when he has a poor shot.

I’ve tried to the keep a song in my heart and think happy thoughts even when I am shooting arrows into the ceiling or bouncing them off the floor. Honestly, I have often failed, gotten angry and let the Dark Side take control.

It’s not that I get angry and stay foul. On occasion and as quietly as a church mouse a rare profanity might be slightly audible from under my breath. But, by the next shot I’ve totally forgotten the prior shot. Then, I am in my 60s and I forget a lot of stuff.

In frustration, today I moved my release deeper into my hand. Probably the wrong way to hold a release. But, immediately the drift reduced and I shot better. In fact, on the next 120 arrows where I scored the points I tied my highest score on the first 60 arrows then exceeded it by 6 points in the second 60 arrows. I finished with a total of 1142 and 62 Xs (out of 120 shots).

While I didn’t find a “Zone” I did shoot better with the slight change in way I held the release. I don’t know what goes through the minds of other expert archers while they shoot. For me it was a near “Zone” Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

Overuse

Swimming in the lane next to me at the YMCA was a triathlete. This was evident because of his swim cap, it read Ironman Maryland.

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The green swim cap was laying on the deck at the pool.

Ironman Maryland was once named Chesapeake Man and is held in Cambridge, Maryland. Cambridge is one of the few cities (perhaps the only city) that hosts a 140.6 mile Ironman and a 70.3 mile Ironman race. When the Ironman group purchased the Chesapeake Man event they renamed it Ironman Maryland. The price for the “Chesapeake Man” also increased. Checking the prices to do another Ironman the entry fees ranged from $675.00 to $760.00. At those prices, well archery is a lot less expensive.

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The triathlete in the swim lane next to me was preparing for Ironman North Carolina. Should I decide to do another Ironman this would be a race to consider. It’s the old Beach to Battleship course and the swim portion of the event is nearly as good as the swim segment of the Ironman 70.3 in August where you swim with the current.

Augusta 70.3 Ironman in Augusta, Georgia. Swim scenic image from the 5th street bridge over the Savannah River
Augusta 70.3 Ironman in Augusta, Georgia.
Swim scenic image from the 5th street bridge over the Savannah River

Despite the price, the inconveniences, and early morning swim start time not a day passes where I don’t have the urge to enter another Ironman. Hardly day passes where I don’t run, ride, swim and many days a combination of the three. Granted, I don’t train with the intensity or duration I did preparing for an Ironman but I train hard enough to be successful at shorter distances triathlons, runs, or bike races. In addition, I train and practice primarily as an archer.

Training for archery and competing is essentially a full time endeavor. The triathlon-like exercise is part of my general fitiness plan. That plan includes weight liftng which is beneficial to protect muscle mass and help prevent injuries. Rarely, does a day end that I am not ready for a good night’s sleep even though I try to get a 20 – 30 minute nap after lunch everyday. What I am saying is I do a lot of exercise. However, I’ve never considered myself one of physically gifted people built for sports.

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Unlike me this guy at the Y was built for triathlon. He was tall, lean, and muscular. He looked like a triathlete. See, I’m not tall and somewhat stocky (not fat – only 9% of my weight is body fat).

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Do you know your Body Fat %

As is the case, it’s nearly impossible to cross paths with another triathlete and not exchange war stories. This phenomenon is true with archers as well as all other athletes. Naturally, the swimmer next to me and I momentarily exchanged a few past glories.

What I learned is that the youngster next to me was in the 40 – 44 year old age group. I recall that period most fondly – I recall it as a time when I was in the best shape of my life (at least for long distances.) I am not alone believing that the 40 – 44 years were good, it seems that is one of the toughest age group in which to race. I think after 60 it is more a matter of attrition.

He further explained he was tired and his body was worn out from overuse. That was surprising. That is also why properly planned, scheduled and followed recovery days are critical.

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To be able to compete in several sports for a lifetime requires time off from hard physical activity to allow the body to restore itself.  That doesn’t mean no physical activity, active recover is okay.  Still, there must be times when lounging and sleep are the best forms of training. Part of my strategy is to outlive my competition. One of the tactics is to train hard and another is to get plenty of rest.  Overuse is not good.

Not Again!

Finding the perfect anchor point after changing my release and stance has been a bear. It’s not that I am shooting badly; I’m not hitting as good as I should.

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Shooting a 5-spot in practice I was all over the place. Some shots smack on others felt forced. After 30 minutes of warming up and fidgeting around with my equipment I shot a scoring session. The score ended up 297. Certainly better than 36 mounts ago, but not what I am aiming for and not as good as I feel I can shoot.

One of those days

Shooting a 5-spot seems too easy when compared to a 3-spot. The X is a whole lot bigger. So, I figured I’d take a break from shooting a 3-spot, give my ego a boost and hit a couple of easy 300 scores. That didn’t happen.images-1

I have not looked at a 5-spot since January of this year. My last score was, not to brag, a 300. Then, I stepped away from 5-spots in order to prepared for the USA Indoor Nationals. Today, when I tacked up the blue and white target I was feeling good and looking forward to a decent score for a change.

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You know, when I lined up for few warm-up shots those blue and white rings, well they looked funny. It was weird to see them after a nearly eight-month absence. The warm-up shots were okay and I felt ready to shoot like a pro.

Man, that did not happen. The first 60 arrows I dropped 3 ending up with a 297, the next 60 shoots ended up scoring 296. After each less that great arrow I stopped to think about where I’d screwed-up. Then, I reset and got on with business.

Mostly, my off shots were associated with my anchor placement. It really wasn’t a total disaster. The practice is helping me find just the right place for my right hand.