Peaks and Valleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Goat is Home

My TRU Ball Goat release busted.  I called TRU Ball.  They gave me instructions for it to be returned so that they could repair it.  I shipped the Goat back regular (the less expensive method) mail.  Seven days later that Goat was back in my hand. That is hard to beat when it comes to customer service.

During the Goat’s absence I tried shooting an old True Fire thumb release.  The trigger on that release has no sensitivity adjustment.  This meant having to move my thumb to active the release.  That didn’t pan out.

Next I tried an old Scott Black Hole 3. It was just too cold. Sure, you might be a wizard at adjusting this type of release to make it more sensitive – not me. I’ve tried and given up. Every attempt at finding that perfect spot where the hinge releases, when I make the adjustment, is either too hot or too cold.   Next I used an old Scott Long Horn Pro Advantage release.  That was just right. The release setting set by a tech at Scott.

Even though I ‘mostly’ use back tension to active my Goat in the thumb trigger mode I am less comfortable with a pure back tension hinge.  When I make a mistake with a hinge style release it is a whopper. With a thumb activation I can be a little less careful.

Still, I enjoy shooting exclusively a hinge style release.  For years it was all I shot.  Then, a bow tech, who seemed knowledgeable, claimed thumb releases were the better approach.  It wasn’t as if he was trying to sell me a thumb release, the shop where he worked didn’t have any thumb releases in stock at the time.

I’d been using a Scott Black Hole 3 my wife had purchased me as a Christmas gift in 2014, a few weeks after I’d started playing around with archery.  A buddy of mine used a Black Hole 3 and it the total extent of my knowledge of hinge releases.

Because this buddy was a ex-pro (he made certain you became aware of his past and present glory) I thought he must be doing something better than me. So, when Brenda asked what I wanted for Christmas I told her a Scott Black Hole 3 release. With that request I exhausted my complete knowledge base of hinge releases.

Until that point I’d been using a finger trigger release.  I think it was a Scott Little Goose.  The Little Goose was a nice release.  I lost it when I sold a bow and the case it was in.  I’d forgotten to remove the Little Goose  from the case and it was gone forever.

On Christmas morning of 2014 I unwrapped my new hinge release then watched a YouTube on how to use it. Despite a bit of nervousness having heard all sorts of tooth breaking, lip busting, and nose bleeding horror stories of hinge style shooting I set out to master pure back tension.  The mastering remains unattained.

Thus far, I endure injury free using a back tension.  Nevertheless, I let the bow tech at the thumbless release shop convince me to use a thumb release over a hinge.  I found one at a different nearby archery shop.  It was the True Fire release.  They were too happy to accept my money.

Over time, it became clear that that choice, the True Fire, was excellent for hunting, less so for target shooting.  The sensitivity on the model I owned was simply too dull in that it required to great of a movement for me to activate.

Months into working with the True Fire, I was mentally stuck with a thumb.  Each time I worked to switch back to a hinge every poor form habit, which you can get away with using a thumb release, was so much a part of my shooting that the practice with pure hinge release was frustrating.

Luckily, another bow tech at another shop suggested I try the TRU Ball Goat.  I could set it to trigger the way I wanted.  It fit so that I could use, to some degree, back tension to activate the release.

Actually, a good archer can use the Goat with back tension with or without the thumb approach.  In my hands, well a hybrid approach is a fair description.  Sometimes I get the back tension, sometimes I thumb it, and sometimes is fire an arrow seemingly by magic. (The arrows is flying toward the target and I’m not yet ready)

Then, my Goat broke.  I pulled out the old True Fire. I gave up on the True Fire, after shooting a 533 out of 600, and eventually migrated to the Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage.

A few hundred arrows with the Scott release helped reestablish a better shooting form.  I really had to focus.  It was focus or miss.  After 500 arrows using the hinge or so I was shooting pretty good with it.  (No arrows were lost during the transition)

Just as I was getting comfortable with the Longhorn Pro my Goat came home.  The day it arrived I used it in a local league competition.

The league competition here is tough.  It came down to 2 ex-pros (both have only ever had jobs in archery), a kid that is ranked number 1 in the Nation for his age group (he never misses the 10 ring when it is the outer 10) some fellow I don’t know that seemed like a big shot.

I say he seemed like a big shot because he talked a lot about the shoot offs he competed in at Vegas and Lancaster. He was using some thumb style release.

I’m not  sure he could have shot a hinge release.  His chest was so puffed up he scapulas were practically fusing between ends.  He, too, didn’t miss any ten rings. And then me shooting the just returned Goat.

The Goat did just fine even if I was a bit off the mark.  I ended up with 2 nines for the evening but that was good enough to put me in the shoot off.  Oh, there’s money on the line at these local events and I wanted the money. During the evening I’d gotten the feel back for the Goat and felt there’d be no more nines.

Using the Goat I’d need to shoot against, Steve, an ex-pro cover boy.  By that, he I mean he was once a celebrity archer who his many sponsors used in their marketing material.

The final bit for the evening was the shoot off.  After 6 arrows, the amount used for this shoot off, Steve and I were tied.  It would come down to one final arrow, closest to the center wins.  My arrow was 50% in the center X and 50% out.  His was 75% in the center X and 25% out.  Steve won.

When it was over (for me), Big John, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, commented that I’d shot well.  I hadn’t.  The league is only 30 arrows, not 60.  I should have been able to hit the larger 10 ring 30 times, I managed it only 28 times.

Maybe if I’d used the Scott Longhorn Pro I might have performed better and maybe not.  It seems I end up with about the same scores regardless of what release I’m holding. Sure the True Fire didn’t work out, but in the past, using that insensitive release I’ve scored well. Either way, I remain more comfortable with the Goat.

Comfort is good, laziness with form isn’t. It is easy to get lazy using a thumb.

If Your Butt Is Big Enough

The evening indoor league begins either this week or next.  I called to check, because I don’t know.  I’ll need to call back.  When I called the fellow that organizes the shoots wasn’t yet at work.

I also don’t know what targets will be selected on any given league night. I do know the distance, it will be 18-meters.  At 18-meters there are a number of target options.

I’ll just practice on all of them. Sooner or later I’ll need to shoot well against whichever piece of paper is hanging down range.

If the butt fits…

Expensive Targets

If it’s not simple, it simply won’t get done.

Someone wrote an article I read wherein he advised to cover all targets and target butts. I don’t cover all of my target butts.  None of my 3D targets are ever covered.   As little 3D as I shot last year maybe that should change.  I doubt there will be a change. Two targets butts are always covered.  Those seem to be the most impacted by rain so I put a large outdoor grill cover over them for protection. Aside from those two every other target butt and 3D animal on my ranges are waiting for an arrow.

We’ve not had any rain to speak of in this part of Georgia so the damage from water has been a non-issue. Sure, that will change.  In the spring I’ll be conducting amateurish repairs to everything that ends up with an arrow in it.  Those repairs last about a year.

A big expense and watching money burn is when it comes to paper targets.  I buy them in bulk looking for the best deal, typically found at Amazon. Last week I paid a premium for vinyl 18-meter targets.  I thought the extra money might equate to longer lasting targets.

The vinyl targets are certainly high quality.  The center, however, shoots out just a little more slowly than inexpensive paper.

I ordered 10 of the pricey vinyl targets, which are great for outdoor shooting.  If it rained on them they would hold up.  They’re really nice.  But, after 90 arrows the center is pretty much gone – just like paper. Ninety arrows is one morning practice.

The vinyl targets stayed up between morning and afternoon practice.  They’ll need to be replaced for tomorrow. I use two pinned to a butt trying to make the most of my time.  Walking back and forth every 3 arrows eats a lot of time.

I’ll definitely have days where I’ll just shoot ends of 3 rather than 6 – just not all the time. Sometimes I even shoot three targets pinned to a butt having ends of 9 arrows.

Nine shoot before pulling is one way to go

 

Five years ago the vinyl would have been perfect.  Five years ago I got my money’s worth out of paper.  That is, I shot all the colors.

I’m still not going to cover my target butts.  It takes too much time to cover them.  When I’m ready to shoot, I’m shooting.  Anything that eats time away from practice or makes practice less simple to achieve I try to remove.  Removing extra covers is not difficult but less simple.

The vinyl targets were a good idea for outdoor practice.  When I shoot up these I’ll be going back to inexpensive paper.  No matter which target I flinging arrows into, it is nice to have them ready and waiting for practice.  Simple.

Time for a Break

I’d planned a short break between the final outdoor tournament in indoor training.  The day after the last outdoor event I set my practice range up for 18-meters.  Once it was arranged, resistance was futile.

All week I’ve shot and shot. I’ve shot morning and afternoon.  Through record breaking temperatures I sweated and shot.  In addition, I stretched every morning, ran everyday, went cycling (during the hottest part of the day), mowed, cut, and trimmed property, planted 8 trees, and completed daily chores.

On Saturday (a week after the two-day outdoor tournament began), after stretching and running, I headed out to the range. Twenty-seven arrows later I was heading off the range. There was no doubt it is break time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Start Indoor Practice

The last of the  Georgia outdoor contests is a part of 2019 archery history.  Perhaps, those events where I competed won’t make their presence known on Wikipedia. Locally, there’re a lot of folks looking forward to practicing in a climate-controlled environment.

Shooting indoors is a nice break from shooting outside if you can afford the range fees and have time to travel back and forth. Many of us are content to practice 18 meters in backyard nature-controlled conditions.

It is still hot here in Georgia with the high today expected to reach 98°F (37°C for most of the world).* So, 18-meter practice for me begins hot and moves indoor during December though February.  Along with that move goes $180.00 for the three months ($60.00 per month for anyone without a calculator or cell phone).  It is pay the price or freeze; north Georgia feels cold to me during the winter so I’ll fork out the bucks.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the indoor season. I know by the time we’re done with it I’ll be hankering to shoot outside.

  • Note:  The temperature reached 99 degrees breaking the old record high temperature of 95 degree!

Give a Dog a Bone

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

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

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

This truly sucks – but alternate paths remain available

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

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

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

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

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

Overall fitness is a bonus for archers

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

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

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

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

Building Your Training Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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