Archery is not all about Winning

victoryaSport should be about participation and physical fitness, not solely about winning. Archery is a sport you can participate in for your entire life. One of the things my coach always told me was there is a real danger of achieving success too earlier in young archers. Young kids sometimes get use to winning, and they start to expect it. They never expect to have to work at it again to win and archery (and sport in general) loses more participants that way than any other.
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As a national level athlete, everyone expects me to win all the time. I sometimes want to yell out “It just doesn’t work that way”. There is very little difference between top level athletes and it is more than a game of inches. As you develop into one of those athletes that are lucky enough to gain sponsorship, there is even more pressure to win. This is why I believe some athletes turn to performance enhancing drugs or cheating.
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The movie “Cool Runnings” has an excellent scene where Derice Bannock ask Irv why he cheated…
CoolRunningsIrv: It’s a fair question. It’s quite simple, really. I had to win. You see, Derice, I had made winning my whole life, and when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what. Understand?
Derice Bannock: No, I don’t understand. You won two gold medals. You had it all.
Irv: Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.
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Personally, it really troubles me to hear about athletes that use performance enhancing drugs or cheat, especially successful ones. They have made winning their whole life and they are not enough without it.
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As part of your New Year’s Resolution, why not make sure you are participating in Archery or any other sport for the right reasons. Whether your are participating for the competition, hunting, social aspect, physical fitness or just for pure fun, make sure you set your goals to participate whether you win or not.

Training to your Level and Desire

As many of you are aware I also have a Tumblr blog, this is to help publicize my WordPress blog and help reach more beginner archers.  When I asked for questions here on my WordPress blog one of my Tumblr followers, tuchesuavae, asked the following…

I was wondering, what exercises do you do? What is your regiment with band work? Weight, tension, supply details, repetition, how long do you hold, how often, etc.

I initially responded …

I have a 6 day-a-week training schedule including weight training, shooting, walking, aerobic and Pilates. My training schedule varies depending on the time of year. 

Sometimes I use a rowing machine or weights however I no longer add weight. Do not want to add mass; just lean strong muscles. I use bands for warm-up EVERY time I shoot. I shoot about 150-200 arrows a day. 

However I thought I would answer the question in more detail and discuss the importance of training at your level. A training plan for any athlete is developed in conjunction with the athlete, their short and long-term goals and their current physical abilities and limitations. Before developing a training plan, you need to ask yourself, “What do I want out of archery?”, since the answer will dictate how you proceed.

Personally, until 2010 I practiced with a training plan fit for an intermediate level archer. In 2010, prior to the 2011 Canada Games, I met with my coach and expressed my desire to go to the games and compete. She developed a plan that increased the number of arrows progressively, weight training without mass gain and developed a higher level of core muscles. Although at the time, it seemed like a lot, my coach explained that if that was my goal that is what it would take to get there, and she was right.

Every level of competitive sports has a new level of commitment. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. If you are planning on practicing only in classes and expecting to be a world champion, you are sorely mistaken.  For two straight years, I had a limited social life outside of the sport and the friends I had there.

My basic schedule included, taking into account time for studying, tournament schedules and travel.

  • Core muscle development one-day a week including weight training and Pilates.
  • 1-2 days of rowing machine
  • 1-2 days of cardiovascular including walking, jogging or biking. 20-30 minutes with a continuous high-heart rate.
  • Shooting 150-200 arrows 3-5 days a week.
  • One day a week I rested.

My six-day a week plan was tailored specifically for me and became more involved and more difficult as the shooting season progressed. It was made this way because I wanted it to be and therefore I stuck to the plan and attained my goals.  Remember my plan will probably not work for you, mainly because my strengths, limitations, and goals differ.

If you are ready to take it to the next level in archery or any sport, seek out a trained and qualified coach. Work together with your coach to understand where you want to go and together develop a plan on how to get you there.

Shooting with a Clicker

Every competitive Olympic recurve archer uses a draw length checker or “clicker”. A clicker is a device that assists an archer to draw their bow consistently.  The clicker rides along the side of the arrow and produces a “clicking” sound after it passes over the point, hence the name “clicker”. By consistently measuring the draw length of the arrow, you get a consistent power off the bow and therefore a more consistent grouping of arrows resulting in better scores.

There is a lot of debate of when you should start to use a clicker. Anyone who wants to advance and develop smaller groups should start using a clicker as soon as possible. HOWEVER, since clickers take a lot of discipline, patience and practice, maturity is the key factor; age maturity and shooting maturity. If you are disciplined and maintaining consistent form, then you are ready for a clicker.

Recently, one of my readers asked:

I just wanted to ask, with regards to the form, if I should be expanding my chest during the draw (pulling your shoulders back towards the spine) in order to activate the back muscles to take the load rather than the arms.

Shooting a clicker is a relatively simple process however; it requires the use of back muscles to create something called back tension. By compressing the rhomboid major muscles (between the shoulder blades and spine) together, it will draw the arrow past the clicker for the shot when you are at full draw.

First, you need to determine the ideal location for your clicker. Have a friend mark where the tip of the arrow is at full draw. This will be the initial starting location for your clicker. There are tons of clickers on the market however there are two basic types of clickers; riser-mounted or sight-mounted. Depending where the initial starting location is measured it will help you determine the type you need.

Once you have mounted your clicker follow this shot process.

  1. Nock the arrow, with the arrow under the clicker and on the arrow rest.
  2. Raise the bow and draw towards your anchor point.
  3. Continue to draw the arrow until the tip of the point is still just in contact with the clicker.
  4. Aim and while still maintaining, squeeze your rhomboid major muscles together.
  5. Once you hear the “click”, relax your fingers and finish the shot.

It is important that you are able to reach your anchor point at full draw. The clicker needs to be within the distance so your rhomboid major muscles can activate the shot. Remember, over the course of an entire day of shooting, your muscles weaken and you will have to work harder to draw the same amount, it may need to be adjusted to find the ideal location for entire day of shooting.

Important: Once you have determined your clicker location, leave it alone. Making any adjustments will affect all your sight marks, and they will need to be adjusted too.

If you have never used your rhomboid major muscles before this is going to take some time to master. Practice using your rhomboid major muscles with the following exercise.

With palms down and your forearms parallel to the floor, bring your fingertips together at chin level. Try squeezing your rhomboid major muscles together. You should witness your fingers spread apart about an inch. This is all the space you need to activate the clicker at full draw.

You can also check out this website for exercises to help develop strength in your rhomboid muscles.

The mastery of a clicker is essential for any competition archer. You will need to work on it regularly however once you master the process a clicker will become your best friend.

Training Vacation

Athletic training is a full-time job, I train a lot, 6 days a week, 2-3 hours per day and as a full-time student, a coach, and with a part-time job my schedule is full.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Besides regular competitions locally, provincially, nationally and internationally, along with the unique opportunities of Canada Winter Games and World Indoor Championships, I have been without any break for over two straight years. Personally, I never realized just how tired and exhausted I was, however my coach did. Therefore, I am on a two-week vacation from shooting and training.

There are many benefits for taking a vacation including…

  • Recharge & Avoid Burnout – Taking regular time to relax helps avoid burn-out and get us back to feeling our best.
  • Overall Well-being – Lower stress, better sleep and better mood will improve your overall energy levels.
  • Friends and Family – Reconnect and strengthen relationships with loved ones and reaffirm the support you have behind you.
  • Performance – Better focus and re-energizing will influence your performance in a positive manner in the end.

The key is taking a good amount of time off from the stresses of training and competing will recharge your batteries and help you reach those long-term goals. Personally, I recommend at least one to two week break between indoor and outdoor seasons and easing back into to your full-time training programs.

A good vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work.  – Morris Fishbein

Remember to stay active to during a vacation like swimming, taking a walk, going for a bike ride, going to the batting cages, or playing laser tag. Remaining active will make it easier to re-start your training program after the vacation is over.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vincent Lombardi