Arrows, Arrows and More Arrows

In a video a former Olympic archery shared how many arrows he shot per year.  He had an average of 226 arrows per day.  That doesn’t seem too bad.

I shoot a lot.  I don’t average 226 arrows per day.  My average is 130 arrows per day.  Some days there are less other days more.  I’m taking my time.

Over doing it from the start can lead to injuries.  Since I’m 67 years old I am perhaps more careful.  Well, I know I’m more careful today than I might have been if I’d started shooting an Olympic recurve at 17 years old.

60 meters

It hasn’t been 24 months since I picked up an Olympic recurve.  At 60 meters and 18 meters I’ve improved 0.5% per month since I began.  In few weeks I’ll do a lot more practice at 70 meters.  There’s minimal difference in my practice average points per arrow between 60 and 70 meters.

70 meters

I’ll also be gradually increasing my arrow count.

Throughout this process I have maintained 25% recovery time compared to training time.  After longer days I ice my hands, forearms and shoulders.  The goal being to prevent a long-term injury.

Georgia Cup

Arrow count isn’t a goal it is part of a process.

Am I The Only One Tired

Last night with had dinner with friends.  Everyone attending is a natural athlete with the possible exception of me. Honestly, these people are amazingly fit.

The group was mixed regarding sports.  The group contained a rock climber, a cyclist, two runners, a yoga instructor and me. All of these athletes are older that 62 years of age. Everyone had trained before dinner.  I think I was the only person there who was tired.

I do train hard.  At least it is hard for me.  Unless I’d taking a day specifically allocated as a recover day I shoot my Olympic recurve ((43.6# draw weight) two to six hours a day.  The six-hour days are rare as are the two-hour days. When I’m shooting I burn about 320 calories per hour.  Less than half of what I’d burn riding a bicycle or running.

I run and ride nearly everyday.  I break that up into two sessions.  I run in the morning after a 30-minute stretch and ride for 30 – 60 minutes in the mid-afternoon before my second practice shooting a bow.  It is rare to miss the 30-minute stretch and rare not to run. Some days I do miss cycling despite it being part of my training play. That typically occurs when some ‘can’t be put off any longer’ chore infringes on the time. I also lift weights two to three days per week.  To wear me out even more I train with a speed rope four time per week doing so after running.

With all that effort you’d think I might be tired from time to time. You would be correct.  But, the people at this dinner party didn’t seem phased by their athletic efforts.

The 63-year-old rock climber looked as if he could start climbing a wall without breaking a sweat.  The yoga instructor and cyclist seemed full of energy.  The runner looked as if she could head out for a marathon after dessert.  The other runner gave me frequent looks of understanding and pity. I felt like a nap would be nice.

To make is worse I wasn’t even the oldest in the crowd.  Two of these athletes are older than me.  One fellow in the mid 70’s probably has a 4% fat content and could run circles around me.  I have a 12% body fat content. When I raced I was down to 6%.  Thanks, archery.

I shouldn’t blame archery.  I blame the reduction in the level of cardio training I now do.  But, 12% body fat is considered athletic.  I don’t feel athletic, I feel tried.

In order to get the correct amount of the right caloric intake per day I record everything I eat and drink as input and all exercise is recorded as output.  Nothing every changes.

The athletes eating dinner I expect eat what they want and as much as they want.  Heck, the rock climber consumed more than double my portions.

Over the last 9.5 days of training I averaged 190 arrows per day.  This morning the schedule was for 90 arrows.  I stopped at 52.  I was too tired and my average score per arrow was awful.  I consider working through the fatigue then threw in the towel. I has been four days since my last full recover day.

During dinner I didn’t have much to say.  I was too tired to talk.  There was plenty of conversation around me so I politely smiled and provided approving monosyllable grunts. All the while being envious of the energy I didn’t have to share.

I writing this now because I cut the morning practice short. Once I’m done I’ll have lunch and that nap.

 

Move That Sight

At the 2016 NC ASA State Championship, in Mt. Airy, shooting a compound bow my arrows were all shooting to the left.  In my group was the eventual winner of the division.  He’s won a lot of tournaments, been a National Champion, Shooter of the Year, and has a stack of other championships.  In fact, I competed with and against him numerous times.  He offered me some simple advice, “Move your sight.”  I didn’t listen.

I figured the off-shots were me and that I’d gain control then begin hitting 10s and 12s rather than 10s and 8s and any moment.  I never did and walked away 5th. If I’d only listened.

During that NC ASA State Championship I was still very new to archery. I’d been shooting for 32 months.  I wasn’t at all comfortable fidgeting with my sight during a tournament. Today, that is different.

Time to twist a knob

I’ve also put down my compound bow for an Olympic recurve bow. Using that bow I’ll twist the sight knobs without a qualm.

That’s better

Adjusting your sight isn’t something that needs to be done on every shot.  If you fling a bad arrow it really might be you not the sight.  But, shoot enough and you’ll feel when it is you versus the need to make an adjustment.

Measure and Manage

On a weekly basis I use one day to replicate an archery tournament. For example, the next event on my calendar is the Georgia Cup.  I’ll shoot that tournament in the 50-year-old division at a distance of 60 meters.  That’s the practice tournament done this week – 60 meters.

During the week I’ll shoot hundreds of arrows ranging on a daily basis from 60 arrows to 200 arrows.  The maximum will eventually work up to 300 arrows per day.  The most I’ve shot in a day is 400 and I may go for a 500-arrow day this year.  For now, however 200 is my daily maximum.

Flinging arrows is good for stamina and control.  It aids in working on specific matters of form.  The practice tournament is a way to measure progress. The outcome further helps in determining adjustments for the subsequent week’s training plan.

Aside from recording the score I record the time remaining on the shot clock.  Reviewing those times versus the end’s score is important to ensure relaxed shooting during an event.  It eliminates needing to watch the clock.  It is much like an NFL quarterback who knows there is 25 seconds to receive the hike. It is a method of comparing time versus score.

If I add calories, such as a sport drink or some solid calories I record that as well.

Having a solid understand of performance during a mock-tournament will help during the real thing.

Your Brain and Fitness

During my working career I did lots of interesting things.   All of my work was cognitive. I used to say, “I think, therefore I get paid.” I did of lot of thinking, figuring things out.  So, my brain has been and remains an important tool for me.

Aging is an area where I have an interest and I’ve done a little research. As a result I have a fair grasp of what to expect as I age and how I’ll perform in sports.

I stay is pretty good overall fitness as much for my physical abilities as for my brain. I like my brain – it entertains me. It turns out that fitness does a lot to help my brain. It can help your brain, too.

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When you consider archery, there is a lot of brainwork going on to make a good shot. Primarily, you need to have an active brain that converts to a meditative brain (alpha waves –described here in an earlier post) to get that great shot time after time. In order to accomplish the brain process, a healthy brain is a significant advantage over an unhealthy one. And it turn out that exercise, not archery exercise, helps make the brain healthy.

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In a systematic review a group of scientists concluded that a sedentary lifestyle led to impaired cognitive function. In their conclusion they wrote, “Our systematic review provides evidence that limiting sedentary time and concomitantly engaging in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may best promote healthy cognitive aging.”

I would not rank archery as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In fact, the less vigorous we are when we shoot the better. But, to be really calm, it may be beneficial to be fit and healthy. Being unfit and in poor health would make it hard to for the brain to relax – an important component to making a good shot.

Archery is one of the two sports where an athlete over 50 can be or become an elite. Making it to over 50 in good health takes a bit, not much – you don’t need to be an Ironman or marathoner – of exercise. I highly recommend a routine and somewhat structure plan for exercise. If you’ve never done any exercise, it is not going to be easy at first. Heck, there are times when it is never “easy”. Easy is a sedentary life style. Over the decades an easy lifestyle will catch up with you. So, do a bit of exercise, in the long haul you’ll benefit from the effort.

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A bonus is, you get to keep your brain operating at a high capacity. Which in turn will help you with your archery.

Reference:

1.) Falck RS, Davis JC, Liu-Ambrose T. What is the association between sedentary behavior and cognitive function? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2016 May 6. pii: bjsports-2015-095551. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095551. [Epub ahead of print]

Well, this sucks

Two major tournaments in two weeks.  Going into both events I’d been shooting well.  Practice was moving in the right direction. Then it all fell apart.

I understand that in sports we all have good days and bad days.  I track practice and do intermittent practice that simulates tournaments.  I record all the shots and scores.  Those results are added to a spreadsheet.  From that I can see my progression.  I can further look at statistics.  Those give me high and low scores, mean scores and clusters of low, medium and high averages.

18-meter 3-spot scores since picking up a recurve 18 months ago. The dip at the end of the line represents the USA Indoor Nationals and Georgia Indoor Championships

Generally, I have a good idea of how I’ll shoot going into a tournament.  In the case of the USA Archery Indoor Nationals and the Georgia State Indoor Championship I shot outliers that were significantly away on the wrong side of the bell curve.

When this happens whether in practice or competition I work to find the root cause.  At the National Championship I felt the root cause was warped limbs. I knew I had them going into the tournament.  They were all I had so I went with it. There, despite feeling good I landed my lowest scores.

Prior to the Georgia State Indoor Championship new limbs arrived.  In practice all was well.  During the three ends warm-up, at the tournament, all was well. All nine arrows landed as 9s or 10s.

That’s as long as it lasted.

An archery tournament is a bad time to have eye-floaters.  I get them occasionally.  Everyone has them.  Our brain is able to see past them – most of the time. As we age eye-floaters can increase, usually we see an increase between 50 and 75. (I’m 67 soon)

In this case the floaters were particularly bothersome.  The floaters were right inline with the target and floating about in direct sight with aiming.

Never during a tournament have I missed the target.  At the Georgia State indoor championship I did it twice.  I simply could not get a bead on the target.

In this case pathophysiology trumps preparation.

 

 

It May Take Practice, But Confidence Rules

I was shooting with one of the top archers in the world. On this day, it was the second time less than 6 weeks (in two states)  I ended up on the range with him. Between the two tournments I met a coach that said to me, “Archery is all mental.” That comment had me reflecting and thinking.

Those thoughts and reflections ended in a post at this site, “It Takes Practice.” (1) In that writing I examined other physical development aspects of shooting. Wanting to learn more about science behind the coach’s claim I turned to research.

After reading an article in a peer-reviewed journal the top archer I’d recently shot with came to mind. In particular, the second tournament is what I most clearly recalled. It was an event where we had 40 3D targets to shoot during two sessions of 20 targets each.

During the first half of the event the popular pro was shooting good. He was leading but not by an amazing margin. The first shoot had been early morning and the targets were dark and hard to see. By my estimate, I felt he was struggling just a little. During the second half of the event things began to change, then things really changed.

In the same group was another archer, a two-time world champion. He was obviously struggling.(He actually commented about his struggling)  He was consistently shooting high. (Just high enough to lose a couple of points here and there – he still beat me.) There was a noticeable difference: the first elite archer began to appear more confident than the second elite archer.

In a study by Kim, et al, they examined  11 elements of archery that archers determined were needed for top-level performance. These elements where isolated though meetings with 20 elite archers. Then, the scientists confirmed those elements with 463 different archers and created an analytic hierarchy process that was verified by addition 36 archery experts.

The results of this revealed three sets of performance factors: mental, skill and fitness categories. Fitness factors affecting performance included “drawing a bow without an arrow,” “lower-body weight training,” and “upper-body weight training.” Skill factors affecting performance included “extending by maintaining left and right shoulder balance during aiming,” “shooting skill over a regular clicker time,” “maintaining pace and direction at release,” and “drawing skill by maintaining left and right shoulder balance.” Mental factors affecting performance were “confidence,” “concentration,” “emotion control,” and “positive thinking.” (The 11 elements are in quotes from reference 2.)

What is clear from the athletes, archery is not all mental. What is paramount is what the archers selected as the most important of the 11 elements of importance to performance: confidence – that is mental.

Recall the elite archer I’ve competed against twice who I mentioned the opening? During the last shoot with him I noticed a change in what I perceived as his level of confidence. There was a clear change in his demeanor. His final score for the day reflected the change: one 8, ten 10s, and nine 12s for a score of 216.

Regarding the comment, “Archery is all mental” – well it’s not, at least according to archers. Archery is part mental, part skill and part fitness. The trio of performance factors developing together and not necessary at the same pace.  I believe, after the skill and fitness performance factors of the sport have been satisfied, then the mental aspects of the sport are primed to take control. Confidence, built on practice and fitness, was the most important, according to this study, mental category – as judged by the athletes.

Reference:

1.) http://puttingitontheline.com/archery/it-takes-practice/

2.) Kim HB1, Kim SH, So WY. The relative importance of performance factors in Korean archery. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 May;29(5):1211-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000687.

It Is Cold Again

Winter near Athens, Georgia is mild compared to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or Cleveland, Ohio.  It is mild compared to Easton, Maryland and even milder than New Hope, North Carolina.  All of these are places where we’ve lived.  Mild is relative.

Practicing archery in cold temperatures is more of a challenge than during the warmer months.  Practicing with a compound bow is less of a challenge compared to an Olympic recurve.  The issue comes down to strings and fingers.

Wearing additional apparel to practice with a compound bow isn’t too great of a problem.  The same amount of clothing needed to stay warm shooting an Olympic recurve (recurve) changes things.  That is because the angle of the string isn’t the same for the two bows.

The compound bow is often shorter and the string angle is more acute than a recurve. This means the string rarely has interference from clothing.  The recurve has less of an angle and can touch clothing when bundled on for warmth. Warm clothing is often ‘puffy’ and can interfere with the recurve string.

Obviously, an arm guard helps as do chest protectors help with a recurve.  I use both during winter months.  Still, I can’t wear a nice down filled vest – it is simply too ‘puffy.’  I had a perfect one for winter training while shooting a compound bow.

I do my best to stay warm while shooting outdoors.  I also shoot several days a week at a local range, at the ACE Hardware in Social Circle, Georgia.  I buy the monthly range pass and get there 4 to 5 times a week in the morning.  (The ACE range is closed on Sunday and Monday) In the afternoon when it warms up I practice on my range rather than making the hour round trip back to Social Circle.

In order to shoot okay during the colder afternoons I try to find a balance of apparel for warmth and apparel that won’t hang up in my bow string.  The result is I stay cold even with an outdoor propane heater nearby.

The heater helps. I shoot, stand next to the heater, go pull arrows, return to the distance for shooting, stand next to the heater then repeat the process.  I make sure I am standing a bit away from the heater while shooting. There’s no gain in melting the fletching on arrows or catching myself of fire.

Granted the winter here in Georgia is mild compared to winter in Cleveland.  But, two long t-shirts and a thin vest don’t do a lot for thermal regulatory support.  Fortunately, I typically burn a bit hot and am able to get through training in the winter without a whole lot of archery burdensome clothing.  Still when the temperature is in the 30s it is cold out there. That is when finger tips start to sting on release of the string.

Last winter the skin on my right ring finger split open while practicing.  It took a while to heal and would bleed every time I practiced.  So far the callouses on my finger tips are holding solid.

Increasing Poundage on a Recurve Bow

Shooting an Olympic recurve is demanding.  Unlike a compound bow there is no let off when the archer reaches their draw length.  The archer has to hold the poundage at full draw.  Increasing poundage can be useful and finding an ideal limb weight takes time.

Adult beginners can typically begin and enjoy shooting a recurve bow at lower poundage.  As they improve they’ll often want to increase their draw weight.  Younger archers take time to develop and their draw weight increases as they mature.

Initially an adult who begins at 25 pounds may see a rapid changes in poundage.  Many people can jump from 25 to 35 in 2 to 4 pound increments fairly fast.  Fairly fast is months versus years. Even so there will be people more comfortable remaining at lower poundage for much longer if not indefinitely.

Higher poundage does have some advantage.  At longer distances an arrow launched at 32 pounds will travel more slowly and with more arch than the same arrow launched at 42 pounds.  (Yes, I know the spine is different for 32 versus 42 pounds – this is an example for illustration) The faster arrow and flatter trajectory is affected less by wind.  With a higher weight many archers see an improved release.

Moving up in poundage is not simple.  An increase from 28 pounds to 30 pounds may feel easy where moving from 40 to 42 can feel exponentially more difficult.  If the archer shoots using a clicker the archer may notice the clicker is more difficult to trigger.

The clicker and anchor point are note solely impacted by the increase demand to draw to bow there is additional compressibility of the soft tissue between joints.  When changing limb weight the archer may find their clicker needs a slight adjustment of a millimeter to a few millimeters.

If you are considering increasing the poundage of your limbs and shoot a couple of hundred arrows per day don’t stay at that same volume with you increase weight.  Decease by half or more until you can control your bow.  This will aid to maintain form and reduce the risk of an injury.

Vacation Can Be Tough

Vacation is fun or so they say.  However, it you are a competitive athlete time off can be tough.

It doesn’t matter what the sport is when athletes pause for recovery it can be difficult.  There is a feeling that time is wasting and opponents are getting better while you are relaxing.   That really isn’t the case. By that the case being that an opponent is getting better while the vacationing athlete is losing form.   Breaks are necessary.  It allows the body to recover and the mental stress to abate.  Non-stop training leads to injury and burnout.

Too many breaks is another matter. Pretty much that means, when you are taking lots of breaks, you are an enthusiast. Being an enthusiast is fine.  Most athletes fall into this class. The sport is more of a hobby.  Some folks call these individuals weekend warriors.  Again, this is the class of athlete that is the foundation of sport.

Top athletes are different.  Not simply that they train differently often times they are genetically different.  In football those professional athletes are bigger, faster stronger and have an ability to see rapidly moving patterns on a field. In baseball their speed and reflex ability is breathtaking.  In archery the top athletes can shoot hundreds to thousands of arrows (weekly) without damaging shoulder joints and have a keen sense of feeling a target and loosing an arrow. All of those top athletes still need to plan for recovery.

Jerry Rice the greatest of all time at his position was not the most gifted player of that position. He did however plan specific times for recovery and had a very specific off-season training plan.  Archery can be done year round.  As archers, we really don’t have much of a down season.  Once indoor season ends outdoor season begins.

This essentially non-stop sport requires scheduled period to recover.  In your yearly training plan you do need to have select periods where you don’t pick up a bow.  It is hard to do but it will help you recover and last as a competitive archer.