“At your age you need to be careful to focus on that shoulder,” was the comment from Big John a Level 4 USA NTS Archery coach. He was right and I knew it. I’d been somewhat aware of the error I’d been making.
The mistake was laziness. It was easier to shoot having a weaker form. Doing it right, well I admit, hurt.
I’d slipped into the poor form not from a lack of practice but from an overuse injuries. I’d strained both my shoulders. I compensated and shot weakly.
It was clear both shoulders needed rehab. The joints needed to be strengthened. I’d been there in the past having more than once injured shoulders in other sports. This was a first in archery, but an old problem with a familiar ache.
The first step was rest. Then, slowly followed by more time in the gym. Eventually the gym time with specific exercises to improve both shoulders was doubled.
As we age we all run the risk of diminished muscle mass. That can lead to an increase chance of joint problems. In my 2020 plan there is double the amount of gym time compared to 2019. Gym training is my least favorite routine but a practice that has on more than one occasion paid dividends.
The gym is where I left weights. Monday is the “can’t miss” weight lifting day. My objective with weights is to protect muscle mass. I’m not trying to bulk up or body build. If there is room in my schedule I’ll hit the gym again on Wednesday. Wednesday is a low priority – Monday is fixed.
Of course there are weeks when the schedule needs to adapt. Travel sometimes interferes with training plans. Where I know travel is on the calendar I make adjustments for rest days.
Today, I needed to make an adjustment in the afternoon I ride a bike. Cycling is my second cardio session. Cardio is running in the morning and cycling in the afternoon. Twice a day, morning and afternoon I’ll practice archery. Plans today got a bit warped.
Cycling had to be eliminated. There were simply too many unplanned interferences. One thing did remain constant – how badly I shoot after weight lifting.
Morning practice was decent. Because I dropped cycling I started shooting earlier than usual. Along with that came some real trembling arms.
Trying to stick to a training plan isn’t always possible. Small changes can make a noticeable difference. Not having enough time to allow muscles used to lift weight to recover meant a bit less accuracy shooting. The hour or so I’d spent riding might have given my arms a longer period of time to recover. But, from experience, the archery practice after lifting weights is rarely a keynote session.
Some folks just don’t have any ‘gym’ sense. In fact, some are just stupid when it come to the equipment. Let me provide you an example of stupidity.
A group of three was working out together. It was a boy and two girls. Not a man and two women as that might imply they were adults. Their actions gave the impression they were little children at the gym playing on things.
Here’s the complaint: They were trying to do curls. They appeared to believe the entire gym was their’s and curling was an exercise done during their social mixer. All of their gear, water supplies, and energy bars were laid on and at the equipment surrounding them. It wasn’t just at the bench being used for curls, it included the bench next to them, the floor and the apparatus used for dips. Very bad behavior and rudeness.
Needing the equipment they were using for their valet I stood next to it looking at their little campsite hoping they’d pick up on the hint. When that failed I picked their gear up and moved it. It seemed for a second the boy might say something. He didn’t.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is not a post about which exercises are best for archery. It’s about a heavy day in the gym followed by trying to hit a decent shot afterwards.
It is important for people in sports lift weights. All sports seem to gain a benefit from lifting. It is also a good way to protect from the loss of muscle mass as we age.
Today was a long one in the gym. It felt good and the YMCA where I lift in Elizabeth City was quieter than usual. Taking advantage of a basically empty weight room I skipped swimming and spent extra time lifting.
Back home, after lunch and a break, it was time to pick up my bow for afternoon practice. Not for the first time following a heavy workout I shot poorly. Shooting around 100 arrows at a 3-spot I hit three 8s. Hitting 10s was more frequent but the winner of the scores where the nines.
Compared to weights in the gym the Elite bow in my hand felt light. Even so, there was a bit of a post workout tremble somewhat like a muscle vibration during many of the shots.
Tomorrow things will be better and time in the gym pays off in many ways.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.