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Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Range Cannot Teach the Body

The Range Cannot Teach the Body

I have been reluctant, until now, to take time away from the range to do other exercises. Shooting brings me a type of tranquility that I can’t find elsewhere. But I want to improve, and at this point, to improve I must train my body away from the range, so that it will perform at the range.


The muscles we use

See that muscle on the left hand side, the trapezius muscle? In my right shoulder, much more than my left, I carry all my stress, tension, anxiety, and bad things from the past in that muscle. The trapezius is important to archery. It’s necessary for drawing properly and for holding up the bow. But for me, the top of the trapezius wants to do all the heavy lifting. All of it. So my shoulder tends to lift, rising towards my ear. This is bad form. It brings me out of alignment and the muscles that are supposed to do the work are left out of the loop.

See the deltoid and the latissimus dorsi, and the tricep (actually the tricep isn’t pictured)? Those are the ones who are supposed to do the work. But they are muted if my shoulder lifts.

I have to get my shoulder down. I thought I was succeeding at that, but I wasn’t. And I have made a commitment to myself that I will do whatever it takes to improve and do well in competition.

So how to keep the shoulder down?  My coach jokes about putting a weight on my shoulder. But I may shoot with a heavy rice bag on it as an experiment to see if that works. Lots and lots and lots of stretchy band exercises in the mirror. And a training program to build up the other muscles so that they can compete with the ones that are over developed.  Lastly, massage to get rid of excess tightness in the muscle.

That’s my plan, Stan. Gotta stick to it.


Comet Tournament Report

Up until now I’ve only shot a 30-arrow local tournament league once a month. It’s a place where I can judge my own progress as opposed to competing against other people.

Last weekend I shot my first indoor tournament, a double FITA 120 arrow affair over 2 days. I was the only Senior female barebow participant, so I was using this as a jumping off point into a longer tournament format.

Overall, it was good. I shot a new personal best in one of the rounds and I’m that much closer to shooting my current personal goal. But this weekend taught me a lot about the mental aspect of the game, because I wound up shooting horribly on Saturday.

Why? Because I let things get inside my head. The three closed on-ramps onto Central that made me late getting there. The whole one arrow I got to shoot in practice. The comments made by my scoring partners. “What happened? You were doing so well!”. That’s all it took. I bombed hard. It took me most of the second round Saturday just to get back to where I had started our at, instead of gradual improvement as the day wore on.

So I learned the importance of no-mind, that mental space where you get out of your own head and out your body’s way. Some people call it concentration training, but I prefer to think of it as meditative kata. Do the form. Nothing else exists but the same repetitive action of the body in the same sequence. Your mind is down the range, on the target. And properly focused, everything else fades out of reality. Concentration brings to mind, for me, holding on to something. What I need us the opposite. To let go. It can be difficult to get to this no-mind place. From my past experience with karate I know what it feels like, though. I might even no how to get there. I just need to cultivate it much better.

Good Form, Bad Arrows

There are two pieces of my form that I am working on simultaneously right now. First, abdominal engagement to keep me straight (so that chest does not lift). Second, lat engagement so that elbow comes back more and shoulder stays down.

I didn’t shoot a lot today. Maybe 40 arrows total. My abs are just sore, which is good. It means I was activating them and using them. Lats and trapezius are just sore, which is good. It means they were activated and being used. I feel like my right shoulder stayed down more. Which is good, because keeping my shoulders down is something I consistently struggle with. I’m a tense person, and that kind of tension doesn’t help me at all in archery.

But I didn’t take pictures. Because even though I was working on the parts of my form I needed to work on, I didn’t group well. No great shots of arrows all clumped together. I shot almost perfect vertical lines up the wall at 18 meters. But to me that’s not good enough. Instead I’m taking pride in the fact that the right muscles are sore.

This week I’m getting ready for a double FITA indoor tournament, so today was my last day shooting blank bale. I’ll be working on hitting on target the rest of the week, so that I’m confident I know where to aim come the weekend. 

How to Select Arrows for Optimal Performance

How to Select Arrows for Optimal Performance

Choosing arrows can be difficult, especially if you’re a beginner. Erica goes beyond the confusing charts and blindingly small grids to explain the basics.

Erica Rascon

how to pick arrows for a bowMany beginners wonder how to pick the right arrows for a bow. I’m going to tell you the most mentally efficient method (simple + accurate) for selecting arrows, though there are much more precise methods like what you’ll find here.

The absolute easiest option is to walk into an archery supply store with your bow in hand and ask the pros. Let them know your target type, too. Then they can measure you, check out your equipment, and help you find arrows.

But for the self-sufficient types (and those who simply want to understand what they’re doing and why) I’ve done a bit of research that might help.

How to pick arrow length Roughly stated, arrows should be an inch longer than your draw length; when you place the arrow in your bow and draw back, the tip of the arrow should exceed your bow rest by 1″.

If your…

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Archery and Chronic Illness

Archery and Chronic Illness

My coach, the indefatigable Holly, is also a para-archery coach. She’s passionate about archery being a sport in which everyone can participate. Matt Stutzman, one of the best archers in the world, just happens to not have any arms. And he’s still great. He participates in para-archery but he could easily hold his own against the best not disabled archers in the world.

Participating in a sport when one has a disability is one thing. Participating in a sport when one looks normal, but has a chronic illness, is another. I’ve written before about my fibromyalgia. I don’t like to admit that it keeps me down sometimes. When my team mates talk about weight lifting and extra training, I don’t like to admit that getting to the range for an hour or more 3-4 days a week is almost all my body can handle. “Extra” strength training seems impossible a lot of the time. The meds that make me crave carbs and feel sick at the same time, the stressors at work that provoke all over muscle and joint pain, the fatigue that dogs my footsteps; they all govern how much I can participate in my passion and my sport.

If I say “today was hell at work, I don’t think I can shoot much” there are only a few people who understand. I’m lucky my coach is one of them.

But sometimes I don’t understand. I don’t understand why a hectic day at work has to leave me feeling like I was run over by a truck. I don’t understand why I have to see a doctor every two months just to know that there won’t be any change. Ever. I don’t understand why a 40 hour work week leaves me so tired that I could sleep for two days straight. I don’t understand why I can’t have the energy that other people have. I don’t understand why I get to wake up every morning and go to bed every night with a pain level that hovers around “5”. Without relief. Ever.

Archery is my chance. It’s my chance to be normal. Be active. But please don’t think that my lack of additional exercises is a lack of motivation. I am motivated. I want to be the best I possibly can be. I want to hit gold. I want to be on the Hoyt team. I want to compete in Copenhagen.

I want x’s. I want to be strong. I want my life to revolve around archery and family, not pain and fatigue. But sometimes I am daunted by figuring out how to do that. How do I get there? And how do I get there when extra training outside the range seems so difficult?

I don’t have the answers. But I will get there. I am an archer. I have a chronic illness. I want to show the world that people with Fibro aren’t lazy and unmotivated. That we can be great. That we shouldn’t be written off. That it’s not all in our heads.  One day, I will wear a team Hoyt jersey. And when I do I will use that jersey to help other people realize their dreams.


With support from my team mates, I'll get there

Kyudo Test!

I love reading about kyudo! This insight into a kyudo test is beautiful.

Does My Stance Affect My Head Position?

Definitely worth the read!

A Blog for Archery Coaches

QandA logoCoach,
I have a question: how does the foot stance affect your ability to rotate your head into a good position for shooting. I’ve been thinking about this and it seemed to me a closed stance can limit the head rotation. Taken to an extreme closed position it would inhibit your ability to rotate your head, having to look over your bow shoulder, not that you’d shoot from a stance like that. The trade off is that a closed stance has been key to getting good alignment into my shot.


The stance can indeed affect the position of the head but turn your thinking around. The arrow needs to point at target center (it needs to be in or very near a plane going through target center because if launched at an angle to that plane, it will only get farther and farther away from that plane as it…

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