Here’s the thing – I can’t do any one single sport all day. For example, I can’t ride a bike all day everyday. Some people can – not for me. One to six hours on a bike is enough. I can’t shoot a bow all day. Unless I am taking a rest day or traveling, I shoot for several hours per day, but rarely over 4 hours in a day.
Yesterday, I did get in nearly four hours of archery practice. In addition, I ran for over an hour, 75 minutes to be exact. It wasn’t at a hard pace. It felt good. The combined sports training added up to less than 6 hours and the day had begun at 0600. There was plenty of time to get out on the water.
The Carolina Skiff that sits on my boatlift is a daily temptation. We’re out on the water year round. One of the nice things about living in the South is throughout the winter there are always a few days every month to get out on the water. Spring days with 78°F temperatures are even better than winter boating.
Today was the first day in a week where I wasn’t trying to shoot in wind blowing at 25 mph. This morning – no white caps on the Little River. The sky was clear and the temperature rose to 78°F. Pretty darn nice.
Per my current training plan I shot paper in the morning. Without the wind it was a pretty decent practice. Then, it was off the swim and lift weights.
Swimming kicked my butt. The pool was crowded and along with other swimmers I was sharing a lane. Every lap became a silent unannounced contest – at least that’s how I perceived it.
By the time I was back home I was dead. I’d been looking forward to 3D practice, but I was so beat I wondered how I’d make it through the session.
Around 3:00 PM, after a few hours of work on my dock, I rallied and got in the 3D practice. Still no wind and shooting was pretty good. I finished up around 6:00 PM in time to grill chicken for our dinner fajitas.
Over decades of competing in cycling, running, and triathlon, I’ve put together a training schedule that works for me. It needed to be time sensitive because I was working – a lot. It also needed to be more sophisticated than go outside and run around until I’d had enough. The preparation time I spent on triathlons, cycling and running ranged between 8 hours and 20 hours per week.
Since retiring I have replaced “work” with archery on my calendar. Obviously, I can’t shoot all day, but I shoot about 4 hours per day. That leaves me time to train for cycling, running, and triathlons.
Because I’ve been asked, often enough to make me think there is interest, here’s an example of a week’s worth of my training plans. These are prepared in advance and based on tournaments and upcoming race. This is, in fact, for the week of April 17th – April 23rd. Not on this list are the specifics about the time spent in each activity. For example, swimming is only swim, where in reality the swim session is divided into sets of activities [i.e., 5-8 x 100 (:10RI) at T1 pace, 1:00RI – which you can see is irreverent to this post.]
Sunday: AM archery, dots at 35 – 50 yards. 40 – 60 arrows
Tuesday: AM archery, dots at 35 – 50 yards. 40 – 60 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Run 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Wednesday: AM archery, 3D, known yardage, 60 – 80 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Cycling – 1 hour and 30 minutes
Thursday: AM archery, Indoor, 18 Meter, 60 – 80 arrows
PM archery, 3D, unknown yardage, 40 – 50 arrows
Swim 1 hour, mid-morning
Run 30 minutes
Friday: AM archery, 3D, 20 – 45 yards. 20 arrows
PM archery, 3D, 20 – 45 yards. 20 arrows
Run 30 minutes
Cycling 1 hour
Saturday: Archery – 3D tournament
The total training time, this week, breaks down like this: archery @ 24 hours, multi-sport @12 hours, essentially a workweek. This doesn’t include the time on the range at Saturday’s tournament. You can see Saturday is somewhat like a rest day. The training varies, of course, with travel, race plans, and archery tournaments. Because I have “serious” racing on my calendar, the morning easy runs with River have been dropped. When I do run, she runs with me. There are times, early in the morning, she refuses to reason with me and I will join her for a short (1-2 mile) wake-up play run even though it might not be part of the plan. It’s all flexible. (And now I’m heading out for a ride.)
At the 2016 USA Indoor National Championship, in Snellville, GA., an archer asked me a question. She wanted to know if I’d done research that evaluated the fitness of archers. I have looked at calories burned during archery practice and a 3D competition. I’ve also measured the distances covered during 3D tournaments while walking. I haven’t, however, undertaken a serious study that measures archers’ fitness. Others have spent time looking at the fitness of archers. I’ve spent decades studying sports, fitness and general health. So, I gave the lady’s question some thought and came up with:
Decades ago I wrote a textbook (there is no money in textbooks) “A Systematic Guide to Physical Assessment.” Throughout that process I evaluated hundreds of people. During my career in medicine I took care of thousands of people. In sports science I’ve done research on elite and no so elite athletes. There are certainly times when I can look at a person and judge, to some degree, their level of health and notice obvious problems.
When the archer in Snellville asked me if, as a population, are archers healthier than other people. My answer was. “No.” She seemed surprised. I responded to her saying, “Look at the line, that is the general population.” (There may be a slight advantage to archers, but I’d guess not statistically.)
On the line was an obviously wide variance in fitness. The older the archers became the less fit they appeared. However, the lack of fitness was not specifically dependent on age. Overall, the archers’ phenotypes didn’t match with triathletes, runners, cyclists, or folks in track and field. It made sense, the people shooting were all archers and they looked like archers. That is, they held bows and shot arrows.
There’s a major cardio difference between most sports and archery, in archery we need to be very still. It is more skill and technique based than say running. It takes a lot of practice time to develop consistency and accuracy. Archers spend hours every day shooting. That leads to great archery, but not necessarily great fitness.1
There is a lot written describing core strength training for archers. There are recommendations for spending time in the gym lifting weights. And aerobic fitness is often linked as a key component for archers.1
The premise is that a very fit archer is going to be better at shooting than a not so fit archer. For an archer with decades of practice, i.e., Reo Wilde, maybe this isn’t exactly on point. He hasn’t been a model of fitness, but is a model for skilled archery.
Still, there remains a focus on core strength training for archers, with suggestions to spend at least two sessions per week spent in the gym. Aerobic fitness is also encouraged to ensure athletes are able to perform at their best both physically and mentally.1
In sports, clearly, being fit is better. In archery being fit means you’ll likely be able to lengthen your career as an archer. While shooting, fitness may enable you to practice longer.
What we do as archers is Specific Physical Training, (SPT). SPT “is an exercise, when performed correctly, which will increase the shooting strength, conditioning and endurance of the archer. An archer can perform weight training but this is more for injury prevention and also so the archer does not become “lopsided” in muscle development because, by its nature, archery will develop one side of the upper body more so than the other.” 2
Seriously, who wants to be “lopsided?” So, heading to the gym may not simply help add strength needed to steady a bow and drawing an arrow, it might help prevent asymmetric muscle development.
Then, there’s aerobic fitness. My guess is, if you are reading this, you are not a runner, cyclist, or triathlete. Most archers aren’t involved with aerobic fitness. Some are and I’ve written about a few I know. But, aside from the obvious health benefits of aerobic training, it can help with archery in other ways.
“Aerobic fitness and a corresponding ability to control the heart rate of the athlete in the stress of competition is of critical importance to the competitive archer. Aerobic fitness assists an archer in offsetting the fatigue that results from standing for several hours through a competition, where during the delivery of the arrows the athlete must be strong and physically prepared to compete. The high level of mental focus required to concentrate during every attempt at a target (the archer may deliver over 60 arrows in a single session) is best supported by a body that is fit.”3
“Archers employ a variety of mental conditioning techniques to prepare themselves for an event. Many of these devices include both visualization of the physical movements that the archer will complete to shoot a perfect arrow; other techniques encourage the athlete to use imagery to relax prior to the event”.3 (Quotes from reference number 3) That is not to suggest that the same isn’t applicable in other sports. When I competed in other sports I frequently took time to examine a course (by car if the entire course wasn’t one I could ride or run beforehand) and visualized where I’d be on the course and how I would handle it. Archery, however, is a deceptive sport in terms of the approach to physical training and fitness required of the competitive archer. 3
“As a general proposition, the lower an archer’s heart rate, the steadier the aim. The rate at which the heart beats is a function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls other involuntary systems such as respiration. Most competitive archers employ one of a variety of deep breathing techniques prior to the actual delivery of an arrow to take the pulse to its lowest possible rate to create the greatest degree of stability and control over the delivery of the arrow.” 3
I enjoy archery. I also enjoy running, cycling, swimming, and competing in triathlons. I am always on the lookout for a race to enter that isn’t too expensive and too far from home. With all the travel I do to compete in archery, and because archery eats up a lot of weekends, it’s not easy to get in a race during the archery season. Nevertheless, I find the time to train as if there was a race on the horizon. It is my belief the training will pay dividends in archery.
Someone recently asked me how many Ironman events have I done and if I am planning another. When it comes to Ironman ‘brand’ specific events I’ve done 3 of the full distance (140.6 miles) races, including the World Championship in Hawaii. But, I’ve also done 12 of the 70.3 Ironman races and 15 non-Ironman brand triathlons. I train everyday as if I were signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon (1500 meter swim, 40K bike, and 10k run.) I do it to stay in shape.
A full distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26 mile run) is ranked the 10th most difficult sports event, boxing is ranked number 1.4 Archery on the other hand is ranked 55th, above curling, bowling, shooting, billiards, and fishing. 5,6
Archery, as you can see, isn’t going to get anyone into top physical condition. It’s better than sitting all day, you will be working your shoulders and walking to retrieve arrows. But, it’s not going to give you a “work out.” Yes, you can fatigue shooting and yes you can get sore. But, if you want to really improve your health, you should add more exercise to your training. In the long run it is beneficial.
Granted, you might be offended to learn that archery isn’t one of the top sports for fitness. You also might be extremely fit. My guess if you are really fit, you didn’t get that way by shooting.
River runs with me. She’s a lab and she love water. Muddy water is as acceptable as a clear lake. When we pass any wet area she will test the water.
Today as we headed down a trail I spotted a puddle that was red with saturated clay. There was no way to change River’s inertia once she got a whiff of mud. She made an all out sprint to the crimson pool.
As we headed home my running partner was no longer strictly brown, she was more of a rust color. Thankfully, she took a nice long swim in the lake, which, in effect, was her bath.
Saturday begins the 3D season here in my neck of North Carolina. The following week I head to Georgia to shoot two in two indoor tournaments. Hopefully, I’ll find another 3D shoot while I am in Georgia. Friday, I shot outside and didn’t shoot all that well.
I did a practice round, without a range finder, at random distances over 20 targets. I tried to make each shot tough – judging by my score (188) I succeeded. To make a random sample I used a random number generator with a range from 20 to 50. Here’s how it ended up:
44 23 20 44 32
24 50 26 49 27
24 24 41 30 40
43 23 34 22 47
Then, the yards were assigned to targets 1 through 20 based on the random numbers generated. As it turned out target 1, for example, was a turkey at 44 yards. Then, on the range, I estimated the distance for each shot without a range finder. So, at the first target, a turkey, I walked out to what I judged as 44 yards and shot it. I scored a 10 on that shot.
I did worse on target eight, having shot all 10’s and 12’s until that point. Eight was a small boar. This time I shot it from the reverse side – not my typical shot. I ended up with a 5. It was a difficult shot where I needed to place an arrow through a small opening in the bushes. The next shot was from 49 yards and I hit a 12, then back to 27 yards on a coyote for a 5 and so forth.
It is a little bit backwards to walk the distance first, trying to judge it, rather than walk up to a target and make the call. I didn’t approach the target then walk away while counting steps. I walked the range approaching targets from a tangent.
In a comparison of known distance yardage (ASA State Qualifier where they provided the yardage on the 1st 10 targets – I still have the little slip of paper they handed out.), it was interesting to discover in that previous tournament the average known distance was 34.8 yards. My randomly generated average was 33.4 yardage (for 20 targets), or only 1.4 yards difference between the averages. However, with my random number generator the average for the targets 11 – 20 was 36.6 yards, or 1.8 yards further. (Unless you care about stats and numbers, you’re probably ready to click this page closed.)
Finding new ways to make 3D more challenging in training, especially on your home range, can be important during a tournament. Moving target around helps. Coming up with ways to make judging yardage ‘different’ should pay dividends later this year.
I suppose I don’t recover from working out like I did when I was in my 20s. Well, I know I don’t. Lately, I’ve been on a tear of riding, swimming, lifting weights, running and shooting. On top of that I’ve been hauling lumber and moving loads of dirt. It seems to have caught up with me and I felt it this afternoon while shooting.
I try to take rest days. Most of the time I succeed. This morning I didn’t even run that far. Not so much because I felt tired, Coco, the lab down the road, joined up with River, my lab, and I on the run. With all the rain we’ve been having I knew the two labs would get filthy. That meant I’d need to give River bath. I’d just bathed her yesterday (mud related incident) and was not up for doing it again. So, I turned around before we reached cresting creeks and over flowing ditches – one that is the last resting place of a buzzard picked deer.
Shooting in the afternoon I was on a muddy wet 3D range. I had no gittyup. Still I shot, and ended up 2 down (198 out of 200). It wasn’t so much a matter of not being able to judge yardage. At each target I recorded my distance, shot, then recorded the distance using a range finder. The average distance per my estimate was 32.3; the range finder’s average was 33 yards. The minimum distance, a mosquito was 18 yards and the maximum distance was 57 yards, a mountain lion. On both of those targets, the distance was one of convenience; water left me very few options regarding where to stand. I shot poorly, hopefully, just because I was tired.
To complicate shooting the sun, which can come through the trees because the leaves are down, created a glare on the lens of my scope. I was happy I didn’t lose any arrows. At least two shots were as much of a guess made aiming as I like to make. Amazingly, both of those shots were 12s.
I did run this morning, I shot twice, and I will force an easy bike ride in an hour. But, tonight, I plan to have a good nights rest.
My average score for 20 yards was 9.27, which at first glance seems pretty good. Actually, it’s okay. It’s not great, yet.
An average score of 9.27 for 60 arrows against a 3-spot using the current USA Archery scoring is only 556. Again, just pretty good. The new USA Archery rule scores the little X circle in the yellow as a 10, the rest of the yellow is a nine. That means it’s harder to score 10s.
I’m always looking for ways to make marginal gains. Going from 9.27 points per shot to 10 points per shot is only 0.73 points. While this sounds like a little but it is a lot. It means advancing from an average score of 556 to 600 or 44 points, now it sounds like a much higher hurtle.
Obviously, more practice is the first thing that comes to mind. Practice helps, especially if you have decades for improvement. But, at a certain level more practice does not necessarily mean more improvement. How the practice is conducted becomes more critical as perfection is approached. That matter is for another paper. This is about a simple addition I made to archery and the results.
When I was not involved in archery, or about 2 years ago, I was heavy into triathlons. A friend of mine introduced me to a product that was sold by the company where he worked – EPO Boost.
EPO Boost contains “Echinacea an herb that stimulates your immune system and your kidneys to make more EPO. In the long run, this results in more red blood cells…and peak performance.”1 It is legal and not a banned substance by WADA or other performance enhancement agencies.
Before I tried it for triathlons, I did some research and felt it was safe for a trial. In advance of the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, I’d been taking EPO Boost for about 6 weeks. I finished par in the event, but what I noticed was that my recovery was noticeably reduced. In fact, I published a paper describing its use and my results.2 A few months ago, I decided to see what EPO boost for do for archery.
First, did it reduce my recovery time? Well, I didn’t measure that so I don’t know. What I studied were the data recorded shooting Vegas and vertical 3-spots. 3D shooting was not included since judging distance added too much complexity.
All the targets were scored in the usual fashion, 10 points and below. I did use the current USA Archery scoring system, so that the smallest ring in the yellow equaled 10 points. The data was collected and stored on an Excel Spreadsheet. The scores were pre-EPO boost and during EPO boost consumption.
I allowed two weeks of EPO Boost consumption before I began entering the EPO Boost data. The data needed to be collected throughout a reasonable time so that it might not be affected my natural performance progression. In other words, I wanted to not have a change simply based on “I got better over time.” Therefore, the entire test was relatively short, over 5 months (pre and during EPO Boost). Basically, a convenient way to see what would happen if I took EPO Boost.
My average score before EPO Boost was 556.2. At the end of the data collection the average score was 562.8 or a 1.17% increase. Clearly, not a statistically significant interaction (p=0.29. 1-tailed t-test for math people). That doesn’t could like much, but it is a nearly 7-point improvement (6.6 points rounded up) over a short period of time with no other changes.
In competitive review, 7 points at the 2015 USA Indoor Nationals, for my section, is the difference between 1st place and 4th place.3 (Won by Dee Wilde). Another way of saying this, those 7 points were the difference between the National Champion and not finishing on the podium. (By the way, I did win the 2015 USA Archery South Section for the event, but who’s keeping score.)
Yes, this is a sample size of 1 (n=1). But, the ‘n’ is me so I’m interested. You know, 7 points here and there do add up. Marginal gains, every little bit helps.
(EPO Boost is a product of BRL Sports Nutrition. BRL Sports Nutrition in part, sponsors me. However, they did not influence this work.)
Some days at work are longer than others. Today was a long one. For me it meant an early meeting with a 5-spot. It was a short meeting only an hour. Then, my next two meetings were laps in the pool followed by weight lifting and it wasn’t even noon.
Noon meant a break for lunch. Brenda, my wife, who’d also been working out and I were by now starving. Yogurt with fruit and granola for breakfast does not last as long as bacon, eggs, grits, and biscuits. We stopped at Chick-Fil-A. We don’t do that often, but when we do I really enjoy their sandwich and cole slaw.
They’ve stopped making the cole slaw. I got lucky; the Chick-Fil-A in Elizabeth City still had some so I got it. They’d offered me something with kale in it. I laughed and offer them good luck with that.
Home, I took a 20-minute nap before starting my afternoon work. The afternoon began with more archery. This time shooting at known yardage out to 55 yards. That took about two hours and led to a run with my dog River. I’ve found if River doesn’t get in a run she wants to play in the house in the evening. Actually, any run less than 3 miles means I’m fair game for River all night.
The run led straight into a bike ride or a brick. When triathletes do a run/ride or ride/run in succession it’s called a brick. That’s pretty much how your legs feel, like bricks at some time during that activity.
You know, that’s not a bad day’s work and it sure beats sitting in an office.
Living out in the country has advantages. It is quiet, scenic, and I can play outside all day without disturbing neighbors. When it is too cold and windy to practice archery outdoors I’ve got a alternative, I shoot from a shed on my property.
It was cold and windy here today. I didn’t feel like driving into Elizabeth City to practice on an indoor range. It’s about a 40-minute trip one way to the range. Granted, it is nice that there is an indoor range so close, but there are days when driving anywhere isn’t fun.
At home I can stand in a shed and shoot. Because nobody lives near me I’m not worried about someone walking across my property and into the path of an arrow. Out here in the sticks we are very isolated.
A plus is that I now have heat in this shed. I had this storage building renovated and now have heat, AC, carpeting, paneling, and it is insulated. It is a great workout room and not a bad place to stand inside against the cold. There are some unique advantages to living off the grid.