There are many different disciplines and competition types in archery, and therefore it is impossible to come up with a “recipe” to ace any of them. There are, however, a couple of things any aspiring champion should include in their prep besides just practicing shooting as much as possible. Of course this list is not extensive, but I have included the 5 things i deem most important.
1. Train those muscles!
Shooting a bow is like lifting weights: it requires muscle strength. Although it is ultimately our technique that determines our results, we need to make sure our muscles can keep up, otherwise our technique will suffer too. Nothing is worse than arrows going all over the place due to tired muscles. When our muscles get tired, our draw will become shaky and as a result aiming becomes a greater and greater struggle. The release will also deteriorate because our stance will relax itself before the arrow has cleared the bow. These problems yield inconsistent mistakes that are extremely difficult to fix once they have set in.
Therefore: we should avoid muscle fatigue by ensuring our muscles are properly trained. It does not require a gruelling long training programme to achieve this. Doing a few core strength exercises every evening/morning/whenever you prefer can have great effects. Pushups are in my opinion the best because they train pretty much the whole body but in particular the back and arm muscles, most important for shooting.
2. Don’t Forget to Stretch!
It is very important to stretch before shooting, in order to avoid pulling our muscles or getting sudden pains. Pulling a muscle can mean a long time of no archery (or anything else), and that sucks so all precautionary measures should be taken!
Stretching regularly will make our body more flexible and will decrease the likelyhood of pulling a muscle. It also has very beneficiary effects on our shooting form, making it easier to press the shoulderblades down, turn the elbow, ect… Its best to incorporate a series of stretches (especially for back and shoulders) in our short daily training that was suggested in point (1).
Even better is to take up yoga! Apart from training flexibility, it also trains the sence of balance, and concentration. It can also help us to be relaxed, calm and *in the moment*, which is crucial for competitions. Yoga also teaches us to be aware of our body and muscles, and helps to be better coordinated. As a consequence it becomes easier to improve our shooting technique. I am aware that yoga is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is really worth to try out before making any judgements based on prejudices. In my opinion yoga goes very well for archers.
3. Go outside and run.
Running is the best exercise for cardio fitness. Although archery is not a sport which directly requires high cardio stamina, having good conditioning will help a lot. During the pressure of the competition, those with good conditioning will have lower heart rate and breath rate despite stress, and will therefore be less likely to be disrupted by it.
Running outside on the fresh air is also a great way to get rid of stress that is accumulating over the day and has also many other health benefits, so i recommend to archers and non-archers alike.
4. Practice Competing
A great way to gain experience, confidence, and find out our strengths and areas of improvement are to compete with friends or members of our club. Many archery clubs have internal competitions, and it is also lots of fun to just challenge the people shooting next to you or sharing a lane with you. This kind of competition is fun, friendly and does not come with the pressure of a full blown official shootout. It can add colour to trainings for all involved, and is a source of learning and experience, and knowing where we stand.
Feeling confident? Put up tiny targets like playing cards or empty toiletpaper rolls. Traditional archers: challenge the recurves and show’em you don’t need aiming sights to shoot well! There are also tons of awesome games to play. Be creative and have fun, while improving shooting technique, concentration, and thinking on your feet!
5. Don’t be overambitious.
Competitions are exciting and i know I’m really stoked for them and work hard to perfect my technique as much as possible. However, too much of ambition will be counterproductive. When we start becoming overly compulsive and “want it too much”, that is when our shooting skill will usually deteriorate. As a consequence we push ourself to work even harder because there is obviously something wrong, at which point we just shoot all across the rainbow. Grrrrrrrrrrr!
When this happens, we need to become conscious of it and remove ourself from the cycle. Put down the bow for a minute, have a nice stretch, drink a coffee/smoothie/whatever, eat a cookie…
Once the tension has settled down, we can go back to shooting. But be gentle with yourself! Perhaps go back to shooting totally instinctively. Or treat yourself like a beginner and go through every motion like repeating a mantra. And instead of judging every shot and obsessively counting averages, just shoot. It will come back, have some faith.
***The most important thing is to enjoy yourself! Be motivated by your passion and love for archery!
I wish the best of luck and skill to everyone going to competitions ^_^
I am also looking forward to any suggestions you readers may have.
kitty hugs to all~