Running & Raining & Training

There was a light rain falling.  Not bad enough to prevent running.  Bad enough for a rain jacket.  Jacket donned River, my Labrador running partner, and I headed to the trails behind my house just after daybreak.

Ten minutes later it was no longer raining lightly.  It was pouring.  The trails had turned into streams and River, she generally likes water, was bumping my leg to suggest we retreat.  I took her recommendation.

Reaching home I was glad to have worn the rain jacket.

Years ago I ran to race.  Not anymore.  I may enter a 5K for fun but not necessarily to race it.  It is hard not to race.  I remind myself I run for fitness to support archery.  In addition I ride a bike nearly everyday as well.

If you look over the USA Archery training plans for archery you’ll discover sections for fitness training.  A weekly training plan template is available for USA Archery Coaches.  The template does include ‘Cardio/Strength/Conditioning.’

A Level 4 coach and I were recently talking about Olympic archers.  We were on the topic of age and archery.  Archery isn’t as age dependent as other Olympic events such as anything in track and field.  I’d mentioned, now that I am shooting a recurve, that I’d like to make a run at the 2024 Olympic Team.

He didn’t laugh and wasn’t put off by my age.  All he said was, “If you do that, you’ll really have to be in shape.”  I will be 69 when the 2024 Olympics are held in Paris.  So, yes I will really have to be in good shape to make a run for the 2024 Team. The coach knew nothing about my training or past athletic endeavors.

When I look at other archers it is clear the younger archers appear leaner than the more mature archers.  Still, it is rare to notice an archer that one might mistake for a triathlete.  Rare but not absent.

Look at Olympic archers and you’ll find a larger group of fitter athletes.  Archery, however, isn’t a sport limited to the 20 – 30 year of age group. You can find that age isn’t nearly the detrimental factor for fit archers. (1) You can also see that archery has decent odds, 1:162, to make the team. (2)

The oldest archer to compete in the Olympic games was Thomas Scott. (3) He represented the USA in the 1904 games.  He was 71 years old at the time.  Archery has come a long way since 1904, but I’d say it is all relative.

So, who’s to say that staying fit and shooting a lot of arrows is a false hope for someone 65 years old?

The rain did finally pause and I was able to get in some morning archery practice.  At least until it started raining, again.  I do often practice in the rain – just not during the morning archery practice.  It didn’t rain during the afternoon’s practice.

References:

(1) https://www.verywellfit.com/olympic-sports-youre-not-too-old-for-4075439

(2) https://infographicjournal.com/chances-becoming-summer-olympic-athlete/

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Scott_(archer)

All athletes run. 

You may be an archer and as such don’t necessarily find value in running.  If this is your position on running you are probably in the majority of archers.  To my knowledge there’s no official poll that provides information related to archers that use running as part of their training.  From purely informal observation of archers it seems many have allergies to running.

I’m a runner.  I run nearly every day.  Part of my running includes a day off per week – a part of a more formal program associated with archery.  Even before I ever picked up a bow I ran.

As children we run for the pleasure of running.  Today, I run with my grand children.  Racing Granddaddy is great sport.  Believe me these races are serious wind sprints.  One of them is an amazing runner. Her speed is shocking.  At 7 years old she asked to be timed and she was timed.  That’s how we discovered she really is fast.

Getting older many of us ran as part of some sport we played.  Others of us ran because we raced as runners or multi-sport athletes.  Archers on the other hand don’t run.

It wasn’t also so. Bows and arrows were originally tools for hunting and warfare.  Hunters often had to run to catch prey or get away from angry arrow poked prey.  In combat archers would empty their quivers on a field.  Once that happened pissed off cavalry would begin to chase the arrowless archers.  Those archers could run or at least those who fought in future battles were good runners. Archers on horseback, such as the Mongols, had an advantage in that they carried swords to apply to their trade once the arrows were gone.

Runner’s World, a magazine, comes to me without charge.  You may get hunting magazines for free – I get those as well.  That isn’t because you and I are great hunters.  No we get these free magazines thanks to the vendors that offset magazine’s cost with advertising. The vendors are hoping you’ll read their ads and buy their stuff.

I read Runner’s World, RW, and occasionally an article in one of the hunting rags.  RW often has ‘experts’ write for them whose work cracks me up.  This current issue did have a 5K training plan that I thought was excellent if you wanted to run 5K in less that 30 minutes.  That isn’t fast.  But, it is a good point for runners new to the sport that are seeking fitness and speed.  What cracked me up about this issue was the cover.

On the cover they’ve pictured a runner.  He’s running over rocks situated in the Barton Creek on the Greenbelt Trail in Austin, Texas.  When I pulled this RW from the mailbox and looked at the cover I laughed out loud.  The runner, PJ, photographed by Faith (her first name) is in mid flight gliding from wet boulder to wet boulder.

Immediately, I though “PJ you should be wearing a helmet.”  There is no way to consistently perform this acrobatic feat without falling.  If you slip on wet boulders, and you will, it is going to hurt.

I supposed Faith wanted a cool picture and talked PJ into taking the leap.  I hope PJ didn’t get hurt.

Athletes do run or should run.  If you do consider running trails are fun.  Running will make you more fit which can be an advantage in archery.  Trail running and trying to run across wet rocks in a creek isn’t smart. You will slip and fall. (Nope it has never happened to me.  I can fall on trails without the addition of wet boulders sitting in a creek to navigate.)

Safe Distance Run

If you live in a city and need to keep a safe distance from other potential Covid-19 carriers, or keeping your Covid to yourself, it might be more difficult than usual to run.  When we lived in Easton, Maryland I knew a few people that trained exclusively for 5K runs indoors on treadmills.  The only time they ran outside was during a race.

One good friend and triathlon teammate preferred to run on a treadmill.  At the gym he used treadmills that would time out after an hour of running.  He’s run for an hour then reset the treadmill for another hour.  He is a great runner and friend. This treadmill monster, Jimmy, looks fast standing still.  Jimmy looks even faster running for the few minutes I can keep up with him running.

Treadmill-loving folks may currently be facing Covid run withdrawal or they’ve invested those “on the way” $1200.00 economic booster checks the government has promised on treadmill purchases delivered via Amazon.  Treadmills are a last resort for me.

I’ve used treadmills.  They are ideal to help set and the feel of a pace.  When there was too much ice and snow on the ground I saddled up a treadmill and hit giddy-up on the keypad.  I’d ramp up the speed as I warmed up to the mile per hour pace I needed to hold for some predetermine distance or time.  Aside from that I’ve avoided them the way I am currently avoiding people.

Outside is where I am happiest while running.  I run nearly every morning and have for decades.  There was a time I ran very little, that was a time when I was exclusively a competitive cyclist.  I still ran some in the off season.  Serious running, beyond high school sports requirements didn’t take hold until a couple of decades back when I moved to duathlons and next to triathlons.

Before then I ran when I traveled.   Not necessarily to train but to sightsee. Running in the morning before work on the road gave me an opportunity to see the State or country I was in at the time.  Over the course of 40 years I’ve run in 49 US States, 21 countries and 1 territory.

Where I run now is just behind my house.  I’ve got miles of trails to run.  Those trails need to be maintained and it is a fair amount of hard work but worth it.  The poison ivy needs to be knocked back as does high snake hiding grass. It is easy to maintain social distance on these trails since I am the only person that runs them.

If you read this and are a runner stuck indoors I do feel bad for you.  Running through cities is fun as well.  You get to see so much of the city and get a flavor for the place.

I have gotten lost a few times running in cities I didn’t know.  I got lost in Toronto Canada when I left my hotel for a 10 mile out and back.  Canadians are very helpful and I was pointed in the right direction a number of time adding just a couple of miles to the planned 20-mile run.  Once I got lost running in Versailles, France.  Despite the language barrier the French eventually had me heading in the right direction.

Running around Jerusalem was special.  There too I was once or twice misplaced.  In those events there was no help and back tracking became the solution.  After years of running in Jerusalem I got to know the city.  Tel Aviv was easy, I just ran along the coast.

On one run I decided to run from my hotel in Jerusalem to Bethlehem, not far only about 6 miles each way.  There is a sidewalk most of the way and good cushion all the way.  As I approached Bethlehem I needed a bio-break so I ran a way into the desert to avoid being seen by traffic.  The further I ran over sand the more I began to worry about yet discovered land mines.  There weren’t any land mines still I didn’t know that at the time. Another time I took a long run in the Golan Heights. I’d found what seemed to be an old trail and took off on it.  I turned around when I saw soldiers in the distance.  I didn’t know whether they were Israeli or Syrian and felt no need to learn more.

During one misadventure I got lost hours before I was suppose to give a lecture at a Medical School.  On the run there was a bit of roadwork being done.  There were orange cones around the parameter of the worksite.  Those cones were to be my marker to ‘turn here’ on my leg to the hotel where I was booked. Amazingly, the roadwork was competed before I returned.  Talk about a panic.  I had no idea where I was having missed my turn.  I had my cell phone and needed to call for directions.  I made the lecture with minutes to spare.

Simple uncomplicated trail running is the routine these days.  If you are someone stuck indoors know you’d be welcome to run my trails if you could get here and keep your distance.  If you are an archer that doesn’t run or walk for your health and fitness you might consider giving it a try.

Gait and Competitive Archery in the Elderly

In the elderly population there is an easy observation that, to me, is suggestive of ageing and fitness.  You might think by looking, and you would be correct, you can guess whether or not a person is old.  Certainly a 65 year old doesn’t have the same youthful appearance, as does a 25 year old.

What if you put a mask over the face of a 65 year old and a 25 year old – could you identify which was the older of the two if they were walking past?  Maybe and probably because you might be observant enough to note other changes of skin tone, posture or by using some other evocative surveillance techniques.

What if you covered the 25 year old and the 65 year old from head to ankle (leaving some space between the ankle and the floor to avoid a fall in this experiment) with a burlap bag and had them walk across a room. Both wearing the same brand and model shoes and socks so that all you see is a burlap bag held upright by two feet per bag with all four feet looking the same.  Might you still be able to pick out the younger stealth walker?

Maybe – maybe not.

Generally, watching their gait one can select the 65 year old if you know for what you are looking to find.  As people age gait changes.  Older people will have both feet planted before the lagging foot lifts into the next step.  Younger people lead into the forward step with trailing leg the moment the front foot strikes ground.  Next time you are at a grocery store or the Wal-Mart parking lot watch folks walking into the store.  After a few minutes you’ll recognize the difference between a youthful walk and that of many senior citizens.

You may further find that there is no absolute.  You will see old geezers prancing along eager to grab the best shopping deals and you’ll see worn out youngsters huffing a puffing to get the electric cart in order to cruise toward their purchases. Still as a rule older folks do have an identifiable foot plant while walking.

Gait is something I watch during archery tournaments or during a group practice.  Your initial thought is this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read.  (Over 40 years of health care work experience does take a toll.) Here’s where I let you know there’s more to the observation.

The individuals with an older gait lean toward lower relative archery perfromance score.  The statistical analysis comes a bit further along in this writing.

Can you increase your score by improving your gait if you are older?  Well,  that is a stretch – but in all likelihood, yes.

Ageing is characterized by a number of physical changes that contribute to a decline in the ability to perform daily tasks. (1) Archery is not a vigorous activity, however, archers do a lot of walking and a lot of standing for long periods of time.

If an archer’s ability to perform a solid walk diminishes then might the activity associated with that walking decline? I can’t say that is true, but it seems so. What I can further say is that generally there is an associated score difference with the groups exhibiting variance in gait.

Here are the numbers:  Over the past two years I’ve observed 12 archers placed into two groups of six. Group 1 is the group with a relatively youthful gait.  Group 2 are the archers with an older gait. The mean age for Group 1 is 63.2 years and Group 2 is 63.3 years. The difference is 0.14 years and is not statistically significant (p = 0.92, paired t-test).

Before I go further both groups practice archery roughly the same amount and have been performing archery for similar lengths of time.

Now the very interesting results: Group 1 out scored Group 2 by an average of 20 points.  The data includes indoor and outdoor tournaments over one and two days of scoring. Even so a Group 2 archer has beaten Group 1 archers but not as a rule (Once out of 8 matches).  So, I can somewhat rule out that Group 1 had better archers.  The single Group 2 win came during 1-day event.  Which suggests the Group 2 archers, as a set, with noticeably older gaits performed less well than more youthfully gait Group 1.  The results are statistically significance (p= 0.035, paired t-test).

From this I conclude that the Group 2 demonstrating an elderly gait was not as proficient at archery compared to Group 1 with the more youthful gait.

The elderly gaited group could improve their walking with exercise.  In a study of people, mean age 65.9, stretching was shown to reduce hip flexion contracture and increase hip and pelvis range of motion, thus improving gait performance. (1)

Over a twelve week program the test subjects were given supervised stretching designed to improve their range of motion. After 12 weeks they displayed gait parameters that were similar to those reported in young healthy adults. (1)

I believe that the gait observation, identifying an elderly walk, identified archers with a generally lower state of general fitness.  A simple exercise program may improve general fitness and this may reflect in higher archery scores. (2, 3) This might be more relevant in the older archer.

(Note: this is a small sample size.  A larger sample might change the results. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest this is accurate.)

References:

(1) Cristopoliski F1Barela JALeite NFowler NERodacki AL Stretching exercise program improves gait in the elderly. Gerontology. 2009;55(6):614-20. doi: 10.1159/000235863. Epub 2009 Aug 27

(2) https://www.topendsports.com/sport/archery/testing.htm

(3) https://www.bow-international.com/features/fitness-fix-for-archers/

Olympic Sport for Me (Or You)

On the Internet I found a sight that suggests an Olympic sport for people who enter certain requested data. (1) It wasn’t what I was looking to find on the electronic quest. Nevertheless, it got my attention the way a squirrel grabs a dog’s attention.  I had to chase it down.

I’ve often felt that everyone has an ideal sport they’d enjoy and perform better than other sports. Someone might enjoy basketball but not be successful because they are short.  On the other hand someone six feet seven inches tall might be physically suited for basketball but hate the game.  Then, there’s the six feet and seven inches individual that loves basketball and works at it for years.  There’s an increased likelihood that person has found a sport for which they are suited.

The ‘Olympize Me’ sight I visited is based in the United Kingdom.  The data it called for included metric system measurements.  If you’ll not literate in the metric system you’ll need to make some conversions to get your ideal sport recommendation if you decide to chase it down.

The data entry takes only a few minutes and doesn’t ask you questions that might reveal your identity, passwords, and locations to send you fake news.

Granted, this was a game for me.  Not like the video games people play, more like a brain game to see what the results yielded.  The suggestions that came from the sight were interesting.  Their results suggested the sports for me are: archery, cycling, kayaking, taekwondo, and fencing.

This wasn’t my first time trying an analysis similar to this one.  However, this one did ask a few more specific questions than the others. What is interesting is how it matched other similar questionnaires and exactly what it is I’ve done or still do in sports.

Growing up in Savannah from the mid-1950s until early 1970s many of the sports the sight suggested weren’t popular.  Cycling for example was not popular as a competitive sport in Georgia in the early 70s. Yet, I found a way, without the help of the Internet to become a cyclist.  In cycling I was a particularly good sprinter and the UK site recommended sprint style cycling 46 years after I’d won a major cycling sprint championship.

The British also thought I might like kayaking.  In fact, I kayak often and own six boats.  Additionally, decades ago I practiced and competed in taekwondo .  Although I’ve never done fencing a fellow that understood that sport once told me I was built for it.  On that call I believe at five foot eight inches tall my reach might be a limiting factor. Then, I know nothing about fencing.

What is somewhat reassuring is that archery continues to rank top or near the top on every survey.

When I think about an Olympic team I wonder about the missed opportunity to have gone as a cyclist. When I had a serious chance no one from the US went to the summer games because of a boycott.  Whether or not I’d have actually made it – the odds say no – I’ll never know.

What crawls in the back of my head is missing again any chance in archery because I shoot a compound bow.  Wait a minute, you’re 64, there’s no way. Perhaps.  I also took on of the surveys that suggested my real age is 36. (2)

Reference:

1.) http://www2.open.ac.uk/openlearn/olympisize_html/?state=0

2.) https://www.age-test.com/gfsy3k

Getting a Little Rest

Ever get that really tired feeling?  You know, you feel like you need a good long rest?

Well, sir, that is exactly where I am today.  Monday is typically an easy day for training.  Sunday, if I’m not in a tournament, is my official rest day. This week I am taking off Sunday and Monday. That is except for the morning run. Aside from that run no other exercise.  I didn’t touch a bow.

If you shoot over 36,000 arrows a year, run over 1000 miles, ride a bike over 5000 miles and head to the gym 78 times in a year, occasionally it catches up with you.  While this may sound like a lot, the running and cycling are small potatoes compared to what I was doing before I picked up a bow.

Coaching Tip

Here’s what I know, as I’ve aged it take me longer to recover and rest is good. There’s a time to listen to your body and amend a training plan.  Don’t abandon the plan, but a small adjustment may be dividends later.

Christmas Morning Run

I try to run every morning. It is rare I miss it.  Christmas was no exception – I ran.

Running the backroads

We, Brenda and I, were in Tignall, Georgia for a Christmas celebration with Ray, my father-in-law and Wade, my brother-in-law. All the kids and grandkids where out to town either at Disney World or visiting in-laws in Pittsburgh. (Girls, should you read this and if given the option include Brenda and I next year in Pittsburgh. Just kidding – Disney World will be fine.)

Whether at home, on the road, in Pittsburgh or Orlando I’d run.  Many times I run and ride a bike.  And, if you’re a frequent reader and an archer – I do have a bow with me and Ray has a range here in Tignall.

Coaching tip – athletes run (even archers)

Running is the simplest way for me to exercise aside from stretching.  It is inexpensive, you can move along at your own pace, and running is fun.

This morning as the sun was rising I able to run near to and on the shore of Lake Strom Thurmond – Clark Hill for Georgians.  No cars, no dogs (other than River, my lab and constant running partner) and had a wonderful run.

End point of this Christmas morning run

Taking a Look At Archery Phenotypes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching tip

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

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

Taking a Break From Archery to Race

There were two choices, a bow hunter 3D tournament or a 5K race in Watkinsville. I selected the race.

I’d not raced a 5K in a while and felt I needed to run one. I’d just shot in a league shoot two nights ago that was pretty intense. Besides, I enjoy 5K races and this one was only 11 minutes from home.

The race was the 11th Butterfly Dream 5K. The race collects donations for a special needs adults and children. My wife, Brenda, had pointed out a sign near our local grocery store that aimed at getting more runners involved. The night before the race I chose to run rather than shoot. It would be a nice competitive break.

It didn’t bother setting an alarm to ensure I got up in time for the 8:00 AM race start. Eleven minutes away from home and two dogs with stomach breakfast timers would be enough to get me to registration with time to spare. I did have plenty of time the morning of the race. I found a good parking spot and was amazed at the numbers of cars and people that had showed up to huff, puff and pound pavement for 3.1 miles.

Runners crowding the start line

During registration I learned all the awards were custom with each one being uniquely hand painted by one of the children that are supported at Butterfly Dream Farms. I wanted one. Seeing the crowd of runners I recognized I was not alone in this desire.

Starting my race at the back of the pack

There are so many 5Ks around Athens that you expect packs of runner to be on the smaller side. Of the two 5Ks I’ve done this year that has not been the case. Today’s run had about 200 adult runners. What was another surprise was the herd’s age split. There seemed to be as many or more runners over 50 as under.

The course was very scenic for a short race

As runners were called to the line I headed to where I am most comfortable starting – in the back. The really fast runners crowd the line. I’ve been there. No longer do I feel the need to grab a few extra seconds or get in with a small fast group for pacing. Nope, get in the back, run my race and pass people. I am perfectly fine with reeling in other runners and keeping a pace that feels good.

There were two horses at the turn around. That was a first. I tried to get better pictures but I was running.

With a mile to go I felt I needed to push a bit and ran my fastest mile. It was in that mile that I passed the most other runners. My pace was just right to earn me a 3rd place finish.

A good new t-shirt and cool award for the morning’s work

When the race was over and times were posted it was evident that the winner of my age group was a serious runner having taken 3rd place overall. Athletes over 60 cranking out sub-20 minute 5Ks are in great shape. I’m okay with a more leisurely pace at this stage of my life.

Each award is different. Each was painted by a child. They were random in the order presented. I was happy with mine depicting the University of Georgia colors, two paw prints and Uga in the center.

While running I did think about the 3D tournament. I thought about driving over and shooting in it after the run. I’ve done that in the past. In that instance it was a 10K followed by a 3D competition both in Maryland. That, too, was a lot of fun.

When I flipped my award over it became more special because it was painted by a child named David.

Today, however, I decided to skip the 3D shoot altogether. I’ll practice a bit this afternoon on my range. That is after a nap and before the Georgia football game.

Overall Fitness – Bicycling

Being fit and healthy is a good way to extend your career as an archer. To be sure, archery is not a sport that is heavy on fitness requirements. However, if you find yourself carrying excess weight then long tournaments can become a physical strain.

There are a number of ways to improve your general health such as walking, running, and bicycling. The list of supplemental programs to improve your general health and fitness is tremendous.

Bicycling is one way to improve leg strength, shoulder and arm strength, and add cardio conditioning. It is also a fun way to enjoy the outdoors.

Riding a bike will burn around 800 calories per hour. An hour riding a bike passes quickly. When you were a kid you probably had a bicycle that was your ticket to freedom. Hop on a bike, take a spin, you may find that youthful feeling of freedom returns.

(Photographs were taken during yesterday’s bike ride near Good Hope, Georgia)