Home in the nick of time

If you do a sport that’s an outdoor activity you have probably be caught in the rain. If you’ve been there, then you will understand:

Run looks pretty good. There are some clouds coming in, but seems okay
It appears to be getting darker rather than brighter as this morning runs progresses. Maybe its going to rain earlier than predicted
“River, here” – feels like a good point to start heading home
Barely a drop on me

Sure, some folks might have continued on their morning run.  I admit, I turned around shortening the run.

Trying to Get Ready for Field Archery

In preparation for the Georgia State Field Archery and NFAA sections, coming in a few more weeks, I’ve been studying how to shoot a Field Archery Tournament.  I’ve read the rules, watched a tutorial on how to shoot them and the scoring, and purchased the targets used for the event.  It is a lot to remember.

Practicing on Hunter style targets for field archery

I’ve already booked a campsite and signed up for the tournament.  Too bad there aren’t any closer similar archery contests near me.  I’d feel better having a more solid foundation with the venue.

In the meantime, all that can be done is to prepare as best as possible. Part of that preparation means having a bow on which everything works properly.

80 yards if a long shot

My target bow is still AWOL.  It’s been gone, sent back to Elite, for months. I’m shooting an older back up bow. That bow needs a new rest.  The QAD rest clicks and rubs and feels like it could enter a complete meltdown at any moment.  I’ll give QAD a call for help tomorrow. They’ve been helpful with the problem in the past.  It happened to me before.

Had to pause during practice to trim some long hanging tree limbs to reach the target at 80 yards.

The back up bow is a 2014 Elite 35.  It has a lot of mileage and the limbs have been replaced once.  I upgraded to the Elite 37X in 2018.  That bow never did seem to shoot right.  After a while I noticed cable guard pitting which clearly isn’t right.  The bow was returned in March. Over two months later and Elite has the bow and the money.

Shooting 4 arrows at the same 35 cm target can be costly

I’ve also gotten my hands on an old Mathews Conquest Apex 7.  It was my first bow and it was sold to get the Elite 35.  The second owner returned to me that Mathews bow.  I shot it for 3D last week and won competing in the Hunter class (ASA) at a local competition. I’m considering making that the bow for the Field Championship.

Before I retired, I’d have just gone and bought a new bow. Since retirement, seven years ago, I’ve become a bit tighter with my cash.  But, the best bow out there is always the one in your hand.

Going into the next State Championship, everything is not ideal.  There are still a few weeks to go and in the meantime, I’ll do all I can to get ready. And hope I’ll get in a group of friendly archers that won’t be put out having me tag along.

Designing Practice and Training

In our USA Archery Level 3 NTS Coaches course we were given a ‘Weekly Training Plan’ template.  It’s a basic template that provides coaches with a simple tool to plan an athlete’s weekly training activities.  It is important to have a plan for training. Otherwise, you’re just shooting arrows.

You’ll improve by just shooting arrows.  However, you’ll reach a point where you either decide to go to the next step or enjoy shooting arrows. The latter approach can make to a better archer,  a formal plan might make you excel.

Beginning a new practice plan

I use six weeks cycles for training. It is a method I’ve used for decades in other sports.  The volume of work and type of training floats with the plan. The plan itself is a rotation of six-week intervals that incorporates a year or years.

The plans revolve around specific tournament goals.  Those goals and tournament are further categorized into ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ events. Those events can change based on performance and other factors.

Performance changes might be based on how an archer is shooting.  An event may be removed from the schedule and another added in its place. One ‘other’ factor, for me, can be shown in the example of the Gator Cup in Florida.  That event was dropped due to the cost as well as my most recent performance at 50-meters. I won the tournament, but felt my score wasn’t competitive enough to spend the money on the Gator Cup.

Based on 2018 results, my recent 50-meter tournament’s score would have landed me in 5thfor the Gator Cup Qualification round and my elimination score would have earned me a 4thplace in the Masters 50 year old group. Spending over $1000.00 for not earning a top 3 finish isn’t worth the expense.  So, the Gator Cup moved out of the 2019 rotation.  Because there doesn’t seem to be a 60+, 70+ or higher age group, in order to keep the Gator Cup in the rotation for 2020, knowing if I go I’ll need to compete against archers potentially 15 years younger, I need to stay fit. My plan incorporates significant time for fitness.

These don’t come about without a plan. (Ironman Lake Placid, Louisville and World Championships on Kona, HI)

A weekly training plan should include fitness training, strength training, and a general idea about nutrition.  Nutrition is important in that learning to eat like an athlete supports athletic endeavors. (more on nutrition in the future)

Some of the archery hardware collected over the past 5 years using a specific plan

My personal training plans are long range.  There’s an ‘A’ tournament on the horizon, 6 weeks out.  That plan includes others for 2019 and one tournament already in the queue for 2020 with specific goals.

Having a plan, not just in your head (that’s a dream), which is formal, on paper and reviewed daily will help you improve as an archer and athlete.

It is like work

In the early 1990s we were putting together a cycling team.  The team would have our sponsorship.  For the first year, there was a total of $35,000 in the budget. Not much for 10 cyclists.

If the team did well the second year’s budget would increase.  The first year, with only $35,000 to spend, all the cyclists would need to be high-level amateurs.  Those amateurs needed to be of a quality that would allow some of them to turn professional in year two.  At the onset of the program we had several such cyclists.

One in particular was an athlete we predicted would be a top level pro, a cyclist we’d be lucky to keep for a couple of years.  Then, he just quit.  When asked why he answered, “This is too much like work.” In any sport to become an elite performer there will be a lot of work involved.

At every tournament, during most practices, there’s always someone advising others to “Just have fun,” or “Remember to have fun, “ and “Did you have fun?”

When I asked elite athletes what it took to become a champion being able to have fun was not among their responses.  In fact, the number one response was determination and number response two was work.

Certainly, work can be enjoyable.  You can also enjoy doing something that might not be fun.  Or, at least, you will do the activity, that isn’t so much ‘fun’, because you’re determined to succeed in a sport and are willing to put forth the work. If you hated it you’d probably not do it.

Coaching tip

Flinging hundreds of arrows a day for years is work.  It is also practice.  Designing your practice session to be interesting and challenging does reduce the monotony of the activity.  There are no short cuts and it isn’t always fun.  Sometimes it feels like work. If your determined and do the work there will be a reward.

How Many Hours Per Week Do You Train?

On the internet I stumbled across an interesting article about archery.(1) It was based on a survey.  Years ago I ran a studies that collected survey data. In that research we needed to be certain the data submitted was correct.  In order to do so we contracted with a major university that audited cancer surveys. They’d developed a program that would sort suspicious entries. Those entries could then be questioned and verified.  The archery article I read had in the results data that I found questionable. (1)

Not certain those numbers add up

What caught my attention among the data on this survey were the hours that 2% of the respondents stated they practiced per week. (1) Those archers submitted they practiced more than 50 hours per week.  That seemed like a lot of practice.

I asked some professional athlete friends how much they trained per week. They train closer to 30 hours per week (triathlon/cycling).  More training than that and the return on training begins to diminish. I searched and found that as a group professional athletes practice about 5-6 hours per day 6 days per week. (2) That’s,  around 30 hours per week.

50+ hours a week of cycling would be too much for me.

There a limit of what the body can absorb from training.  If someone is pushing 50 hours per week, allowing for a 6 day week (assuming, perhaps erroneously the 50+ hours per week archers give themselves a rest day) that is 8.33 hours of archery practice per day.  It seems like a lot of archery in a day.

He’s my schedule:

Running is a great adjunct to archery. Races are fun.

I shoot and train about 30.5 hours per week.  I do not have another job so my days are clear for athletic work.  Not all of that 30.5 is shooting arrows.  I shoot arrows on an average two and a half hours per day broken, mostly, into two sessions.  I spend an hour per week at the gym, 2.5 hours stretching, 6 hours running, and 7 hours cycling.  This time does not include video review or study. I have one day off a week.  There are training cycles where this varies, this is an annual analysis.

Training as an archer should include more than shooting arrows

Now, you my think that shooting arrows about 14 hours per week will take a long time to reach 10,000 hours, the number of hours often associated with elite performance.(3) If that 10,000 rule was an absolute, you would be correct.  The 10,000 rule is not an absolute.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, often is misquoted in regard to the 10,000 rule

You may further think that 14 hours per week shooting is the extent of training.  Here you would be somewhat incorrect.  Indeed, it is archery practice. However, the other elements of training, the stretching, running, going to the gym, and cycling are all components to becoming a better archer.

Shooting a bow for more than 90 minutes at a time is a long time.  So, I typically break up archery practice into morning and afternoon practice sessions.  Aside from not becoming too physically fatigued, and increasing the risk of an injury, it means I have what I consider the best time frame for mental focus.  Too long at practice and it is easy to become mentally tired which can be followed by sloppy form.

Coaching tip

The brain needs a break as well as the body.  Anyone practicing archery for 50+ hours per week is likely headed toward injury or burnout. Personally, I question archers who claim to be practicing 50+ hours per week. Their math may be wrong or they may be including other activities. Either way, 50+ hours is a lot.

How many hours per week do you train? (The answer is for you, this is not a survey)

Reference:

  • hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full
  • https://www.quora.com/How-many-hours-do-athletes-practice-a-week
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/anders-ericsson-how-to-become-an-expert-at-anything-2016-6

Saving Turtles

Part of my overall training for archery includes cardio fitness exercise. In that essential area are running and cycling.  I’ve done a lot of running and cycling. Often, while cycling or running along side of a rural road I see a turtle trying to make it to the other side of the road.

Turtles aren’t known for speed but they do have endurance.  In that matter I can relate.  Whenever I see one on the road I pause to help it across.

Today I crossed paths while riding my bike with a large turtle and gave it a tow handed lift to the other side of the road.  This turtle never completely ducked back into its shell.  Perhaps it knew I was hoping to help.

On the round trip I checked to be sure I’d headed it in the correct direction.  I was pleased to find it making progress.

I searched for the turtle on the ride back. It took some looking but there’s it is heading away from the road.

Getting ready for the next tournament

With the Georgia Cup behind me it is time to concentrate on the Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association’s (NFAA) State Field Championship being held in Savannah, Georgia. The event is about 6 weeks out as I write.

Having only once before competed in a NFAA style field tournament I’ve spent some time reading over the rules, scoring, targets and such.  It is also the time to switch to a six-week cycle of training.

Right back at it after a day off

At a week before a tournament I don’t go to the gym to lift weights.  Aside from that there are other modifications of time spent shooting and fitness training. At six weeks out I am in the gym.

The gym where I train never ceases to amaze me in that the vacuum cleaning is always underway when I arrive.  Of the noises in the world the sound of a vacuum cleaner is one of the foulest in my opinion.  It doesn’t matter if I am at the gym morning or afternoon, I’ve tried both, there’s some attendant pushing a vacuum.  Worse is they always migrate to whatever weight station I’m using.

Time to head to the gym

Sure as Southern Summers are hot, in the gym today, there was the attendant with his vacuum cleaner sucking up unseen particles within inches of me.  Perhaps, unknown to me, I’m like Pigpen from the cartoon ‘Peanuts’, and when then gym’s employees see me coming they start up the vacuum preparing to follow me around.

 

Video Records

A valuable tool for your training is a video camera.  In fact, several video cameras are even better.

Coaching Tip

Professional athletes are video recorded during practice and performance.  Nick Woodman, a surfer who wanted better pictures of himself while surfing, invented the ‘GoPro’.  The ‘GoPro’ is a great tool for athletes as are small HD video cameras.  I’ve used my ‘GoPro’ in cycling and recently had a “duh” moment and began using it for archery. I also use a small Canon HD video camera.  Both are set-up on tripods during practice.

The video recordings can be played over and over to analyze form and look for mistakes.  I admit mine aren’t pretty.  However, they are revealing.

Among the textbook of how not to shoot errors I make I’ve broken the problems down to categories. Each category is a problem and that problem becomes the focus of practice until it has been resolved.  I am still on problem number one.

The first major problem that jumped out at me is that I seemed to shoot too fast.  The timing from anchor to release is the section of the shooting process that concerned me.  It seemed fast, so I timed it on the video.

Of course, how fast is too fast?

To figure this out I timed Reo Wilde and Jimmy Butts shooting.  YouTube made them available. (Wilde eventually became my ‘control’)

I timed shots for each archer.  The results were quite telling.

From the point where I anchor to when I release an arrow it takes 4.99 seconds.   Jimmy Butts from anchor to release held for 9.8 seconds while Reo Wilde held for 11.89 seconds.

Note: I shot from 50 meters and Wilde and Butts were shooting at 18 meters for the first measurements.  The distance wasn’t the variable I wanted until I finished looking at the shooters. Then, I wondered whether Reo Wilde shot differently at 50 meters. He’s easy to find on YouTube so he became the control.

At 50 meters (outdoor) Wilde’s hold time was 9.07 seconds, 2.83 seconds faster than 18 meters (indoor).  The variance of the hold time between Wilde’s and mine is 5.49 seconds, using Wilde’s indoor and outdoor average hold time.

The shorter hold times for Wilde during outdoor shooting is important as it is for all of us. Why shorter outdoors?  What I’ve come up with is wind.  Outside there is wind, inside there isn’t wind.  When you find the shot during a calm window you take it.  The calm moment my be your best opportunity.

It is the hold time that appears to be a potential flaw on my part. Wilde and Butts hold their aim before release at more than double or nearly double the amount of time I take from anchor to release.  The video was key to seeing this for myself.

Awareness of this problem with timing (assuming it is a problem) I slowed down.  Today’s hold time increased to 7.49 seconds.  It is too early to know if there will be an improvement in my score.  Actually, my score improved a tad, 0.08 points per arrow.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but those incremental points add up.  Over 72 arrows those small gains amount to 5.76 points  which is great for 50-meters or any distance.

I’m not saying that Reo Wilde’s extended hold time makes him better. It might, I don’t know for certain.  What I can say is that Reo Wilde hold time is much longer than mine.

Overtime, I’ll continue to record and measure.  There will be a point where I find the best feeling hold time for me.  My guess it is going to be longer that 4.99 seconds.

Practice is harder than tournaments.

Coaching Tip

By the time you reach tournament play you should be ready. You should understand how you’ll perform and not expect miracles. You should be confident in your ability to execute at the level of your practice.

Before you enter a tournament you’ve practiced a lot.  In addition you’ve added fitness training and stuck to your plan.  It takes a lot of effort, time, and determination.

In archery it means lots of arrows, lots of targets, weight lifting and cardio work.  Aside from being able to put an arrow in the center of a target you need to be fit enough and strong enough to maintain a center shot for dozens if not hundreds of arrows.  Not everyone has mastered this skill set.  In fact, perfect scores are rare events.

If your practice is basically heading to the range three or four times a week and shooting 30 to 60 arrows you can become accomplished, but you won’t reach the peak level of elite archers.  You’ll have fun and be good at the sport of archery.  But, you’ll not be on the podium at the major tournaments.

Practice is hard. Shooting arrows isn’t hard.  Sure, your arms will fatigue and you’ll feel good about having shot a few dozen arrows.  Practice on the other hand should have purpose.

For example, before a practice considers what it is you need to work on for that session.  Say, your timing at the point of release isn’t perfect. Design a practice, or have your coach do so, that focuses on your release.  Then, do the concentrated effort until you no longer get it wrong.

As you prepare keep a record of your performance.  Prior to a tournament, plan to practice the tournament.  Have a timer set to the allotted time allowed to shoot an end. Slow down between ends.  This is going to keep you on the range longer but it will allow to create a mental image of the delay between ends at an actual event. Have music playing, such as they do at many events and record your scores.

You don’t need to do this everyday but add it to your practice.  Overtime you’ll learn what to expect from your ability.  In other words, if you average 570 points out of 600 it isn’t likely you’ll show up on the ‘big’ day and fire off a 600.  If your statistical range of tournament practice is 560 – 580 during a tournament you’ll probably score around 558 – 588 or so depending on your standard deviations.

Doing your practices with a purpose, following a complete plan for archery fitness, and understanding where you are in your ability will help prepare you for a tournament.  Doing the hard work before you show up will make competition feel easy and fun.

Everyday Is Not Equal

It doesn’t matter the sport, whether running, cycling, triathlon or archery, some days are better than others.

Coaching tip

Jack Nicklaus, during an ESPN interview, pointed out that during golf competition every player is subject to making a mistake.  He added, “I know I’ll make a mistake, what matters is how I recover from that mistake.”

When you performance below what you expect it might be easy to stop and try again later.  In archery, during a tournament, that is not an option. Neither should it be during practice.

What matters is how you can bring your practice up to your standard.  Before practice you’ve reviewed your goal for that session.  However, within a few arrows it seems clear you’ve gone off the rails.  That is not a reason to put down your equipment and call it quits.  Neither is it a time to become angry or frustrated.

Off to a good start that didn’t last long.

Instead, go through your process, clear your mind of your specific goal while continuing to reset your practice toward that specific practice goal.  While you may not achieve the goal with success you wanted you might come closer to reaching it than you’d have thought.

Working though a difficult practice can be beneficial.  If you compete enough you will have times where you’ve gone off the rails.  Having experienced this in practice you’ll be better handling such an occurrence should it happen in a tournament.