Playing in the Back Woods

This morning Brenda, my wife, and I headed into Elizabeth City to workout at the YMCA. It’s a bit of a hike in from the country to the big city. Brenda had a couple of hours of gym time planned. My Y plan was less ambitious– I’d swim and lift weights. Then, while she continued her workout, I headed over to PGF Archery to shoot on their indoor range.

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Pool at the Y in Elizabeth City

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Swimming and lifting weights does take a toll on arms. Archery afterwards isn’t as smooth as on days where those two prior exercises aren’t on the menu.

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Nice to have a range so close

Fortunately, PGF Archery is essentially across the street from the Y. From the time I leave the range to walking through the front door of the Y about a minute has lapsed. The way we work our Tuesday and Thursday schedules is Brenda works out that extra hour while I shoot, then I pick her up, and we head out for lunch and home. Home, back into the sticks of rural coastal North Carolina. Here, we are sandwiched on one side by woods and the other by water.

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The water side of home. (Yes, the Carolina Skiff is not on the lift. We’re getting a new trolling motor. It’ll be home next week.)

Once home, today, my neighbor, Jimmy, a retired police officer, was sighting one of his rifles. Like many police officers, Jimmy is an excellent shot with a rifle and pistol. His practice range, like mine, is in his yard. He and Amy, his wife, are the other two permanent locals along our secluded one lane resident maintained gravel road.

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It was extremely windy here during the afternoon so I shot from the protection of my shed.
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The woods side of home

Coming home to shots being fired is not uncommon or bothersome.   Rather, it is a matter of course. Jimmy was once a competitive shooter. These days he shoots for fun. But, over time he has shared a number of shooting observations that have been applicable to archery. Whenever he talks about firearm shooting I listen and learn. Later, in the afternoon, while I was shooting arrows, Jimmy came down to talk about shooting.

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Jimmy, going me in my shed, showing tighter groups than I was shooting today.
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Running a mile or so from home.

It’s pretty cool living way back in the sticks. Just image young kids with nature at they’re doorstep. Being able to run and play outside in the woods. Pinging, safely, around with BB Guns or 22s. Or shooting a bow and arrow. Being on a river and able to fish, crab, ride around in boats, kayaks or on paddle boards, and go swimming. Able to hop on a bicycle and go for a ride with little to no risk of being hit by a car. Having their dogs to play with on their land without fence or leash. Or to grow a garden and harvest their own vegetables.

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River with her favorite toy playing in the yard.
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Close up of Jimmy’s shooting

Rather, image a couple of 60 plus year old guys doing the same things. Live the dream.

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Yep, a pretty nice place to hang outside and play.

All Day Training

It was cold enough this morning, 36° F, and windy enough to run me into my shed to practice 18-meters. The space heater inside the shed makes a significant difference and being blocked from wind is a bonus. But, this practice was just part of a long day.

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This space heater on the wall is excellent on cold days.

I shot for about an hour before heading into Elizabeth City for my fitness training. At the Y the first order of business was swimming. For whatever reason the Y here keeps their locker room at meat storage temperature. It’s bad preparing to get into pool; it is awful during the return trip. Being wet walking into that locker room is painful. Not as bad as sitting in a tub of ice, but bad enough.

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I moved the Tower of Targets to face the shed. Typically it sits closer to that leaning pine tree.
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The view from inside my shed toward the target (prior to moving it forward)

There is no break here in the locker room. A quick shower and change for weights. Weight lifting is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday activity. Afternoon archer practice following those mornings can be a challenge. Before getting to that challenge and after weights there was time spent on a treadmill.

Some folks can run on treadmills all day. I have a friend that routinely spends two hours exercising like a human version of a hamster. Six miles is the maximum I every gone on treadmill. If I plan to run far, I prefer doing it outdoors.

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Preparing to ride inside

With the treadmill behind me, it was home for lunch and more archery. Yes, as I thought, my arms let me know I’d been to the gym. While I didn’t shoot any worse or better than par for me, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday archery practice is less of a muscular marathon.

Writing now, I am on a break. Next on the plan is time on a bike. Why all the exercise, well it is good for me and good for archery.

It’s a Matter of Fitness

At nearly all archery competitions people are talking about their health. Some talk about injuries, others mention medical aliments, still more complain about their excess weight. At one outdoor competition, a 50-meter event, the archer on the line next to me said, “I’ve never shot more than 30 arrows in one day.” We had 72 arrows to shoot and we’d had 24 shots for warm-up. Plus, the guy’s weight was a tad on the excessive side. I knew this guy was in for a rough day. I wasn’t mistaken.

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Days on the range can be long, hot, and require a lot of standing around

Once I heard a bit of braggadocio that went like this, “In practice, if I shoot 10 good shots I quit.” That may be fine if the bulk of the tournaments were 10 arrows or less. Ten shots will not prepare anyone for a 100 shot day.

Another time, a self-proclaimed expert said, “I shoot 30 arrows 3 to 4 times a week.” On the range during 3D tournaments I’ve heard this several time, “I haven’t practiced all week.” Before too long that same individual is whining because he’s making poor shots.

I make a lot of bad shots. Prior to this season, there’s not been a year when I didn’t miss a 3D target entirely. Heck, during my first year of shooting, on an indoor range no less, I put arrows into the ceiling on more than one occasion. This past weekend, I shot all 12’s and 10’s with two exceptions, an 8 and (hanging my head) a 5. (Amazingly, I still won – I just knew that 5 if not the 8 were going to blow it for me.)

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Archery is a sport and it takes a great deal of physical effort. That effort isn’t a major cardio workout. At the last 3D tournament we walked 1.36 miles over the course in about 2 hours. Not a grueling pace. Yet, there were people who seemed totally wasted from the effort. (I ran further than that before the tournament.)

You do not need to be a marathoner to shoot archery. But, you should be in shape to perform to your highest level. The better fitness you process the more time you can spend training. In that regard, I consider fitness training part of my archery training. Aside from archery specific training, I spend nearly 1000 additional hours a year on general fitness training.

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I can’t shoot well more than about 4 hours per day broken into two practice sessions, morning and afternoon. Nearly every morning, before archery practice I run. Not far, never more than 6 miles, and not too fast. Between archery practices is when I do more fitness training.

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I understand most of you work during the day. As such, you probably do most of your archery practice in the evenings and on weekends. That still leaves early mornings for addition fitness training.

When I worked at my medical career I trained (not archery) before work, after work and at times (when I was not traveling) during my lunch break. That pattern began when I was 17 and would train for cycling before school and after school. The pattern still rules today – 44 years later.

Being fit doesn’t mean I need to be able to run a marathon or do an Ironman. It also doesn’t mean I won’t do another of each. What it does mean is that I am in better condition for the rigors of archery.

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Getting our on my bike or running offers some great views

I don’t focus on the number of arrows I shoot per day. Some days it’s a few as 30 (tapering or active recover) or as many as 240. To help prevent should injury I only pull 52 pounds and lift weights year round. My mid-day workouts are critical to my ongoing development as an archer. Mid-day I swim, ride a bike and/or weight lift.

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Not everyone shares this view of archery. That’s obvious by the phenotypes I see in the sport. Regardless of opinion, being healthy and fit are beneficial. Find a plan, create a plan, do what you can for your health. You’ll appreciate when you’re in your 60s.

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