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Training with Tony

Training with Tony

Tony is one of the best coaches I know. He usually coaches kids. He only coaches people who are serious and willing to learn. And in the last six months or so he’s been so busy even his regular students don’t see him much. I hadn’t seen him at all.

I went to the range yesterday to sort myself out after the discombobulation of Saturday’s Winter Games. I hadn’t put in the performance I had hoped to. Not even close. And…Tony’s there. Like magic. I was not going to ask him for help. But he always asks me what I’m working on, and I always tell him the truth. When I explained to him that my old anchor point was wrong and I didn’t know where the new one was yet he was like “those things don’t occur naturally, you have to force it”. And promptly took me to ” the wall ” and watched me shoot.

Then he put an 8 pound bow in my hand and proceeded to fix me. Some things were the same that he’d fixed six months ago (elbow too close to the body). Some were problems I’d noticed more recently but hadn’t been able to fix (not getting completely into my back. Guess what, your torso is supposed to move!) And yes, he fixed the anchor point, too. And then started working on my release.

I have a huge mental block when it comes to release and follow through. I keep thinking that I should be frozen in place, not moving, after the shot goes off. So I refuse to allow my elbow to continue going around the imaginary circle. I freeze all the muscles instead. So that I have almost no follow through motion. I think we wound up spending more time on this than anything else, and he was literally re-mapping what the follow through is supposed to be in my brain. And we made progress! My performance journal is filled with all kinds of excited hand  writing and exclamation marks!!

And he’ll let me send him video to look at, and help out when he has time. I feel like the last two weeks or so have been huge jumps for me in a lot of different areas of the sport. Things that I’m really excited about. Tony gave me enough to work on for probably the next six months. But I could already see and feel an improvement in my shooting. I felt like this was the first time I really understood exactly what each movement he asked for was supposed to do and feel like. Before, I’m sure most of what he said just went right over my head. But last night I got it. I really got it. I’m looking forward to shooting tomorrow night and training each movement a little more.

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I have to

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Evolution

Evolution

I started out shooting barebow with a traditional anchor. I shot barebow from February 2014 all the way through January of 2015. That is almost a year of using a traditional anchor at the corner of the mouth.

To understand how strong the muscle memories are that we develop, know that in February of 2015 I switched to Olympic Recurve precisely because I thought the form was more efficient. I made the switch mentally. I made the switch materially, with all new equipment. I’ve been making the switch physically for the entire 2015 year.

My anchor never completely made the switch. It moved lower, yes. But it moved to the side of my jaw, not under my jaw. Which caused (or was facilitated by) my draw wrist breaking inward, which caused my draw arm to not quite get into alignment, which caused my elbow to be in front of the arrow, which caused me to shoot very left almost all summer 2015 and also caused my arrows to go low, because there was less energy in the shot because I was not drawing as far back because my elbow was in front of the arrow.

WHEW! Could you follow all that?

WHY was I anchoring on the side of my jaw for so long, you might ask? I can hear it now: why didn’t your coach fix this?!?!? OMG that was such a huge thing you should have fixed it sooner!

No. I’ve spent the majority of 2015 getting straight. First I had to get vertically straight, from feet to head. Then I had to get horizontally straight, through my shoulders. That took months. Months of ab workouts and focusing on my posture at work and almost a year of carrying my purse on the left side instead of the right. Months and months of fine tuning my posture. Months that a lot of men, who don’t carry purses and haven’t had babies, don’t have to lose to correcting posture. I envy them.

Without the large blocks, the front end (bow arm) and the back end (draw arm), the connecting piece (anchor) didn’t matter. Now, neither can be fully aligned without the connection in between them being correct, but both could be badly aligned even if the connection was correct. So we fixed the front end. We fixed the back end. We fixed the front end again. They became stable but not perfect. That’s been my September through December focus.

Only the last two weeks were the large blocks of my form good enough to even address that connecting piece, the anchor. It was now the thing most obviously affecting my form.

So my anchor has changed. A lot. It’s not consistent yet because hey, I only started working on it yesterday. It’s such a small change, but such a huge change. Shooting with this different anchor feels lighter, freer, and more stable.

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Elbow comparison

On the left is all the progress I had made up until yesterday. But I was getting stressed, the tension was showing and my elbow was still in front of the arrow. On the right, after a short break and some breathing and stretching is the progress I made yesterday. It’s not perfect, but I’m more behind the arrow than I used to be.

It will take a lot of time to overcome the old muscle memory developed during barebow to get the new anchor consistent. There is lots of blank baling in my future. And then sight settings to change, because wow have they changed.

I am so excited. Yesterday felt like the missing link had been discovered and my archery had taken a revolutionary turn!

I can already see from these photos what I’ll be working on after the anchor. That chest lift will get ironed out eventually. But I’m comforted by the thought that it’s not as bad as it used to be.

So what does blank baling look like when you’re working on changing anchors?

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It looks like this

Bad Scrunch! Bad!

I pulled the GoPro out yesterday and filmed my practice. After implementing a new shot timing and mental software program I felt I was making good progress. For a while. But the last week or so my shooting felt off and I was coming away with a sore neck. I needed to see what was happening to make my neck muscles sore.

Sure enough, my shoulders were scrunching upwards and my anchor was sliding forward. Why? I didn’t have the ability to get into true holding because of incorrect form, so the more I tried the higher my shoulders would go. In typical “try to hard” fashion I had incorporated that motion into muscle memory from doing it so much, so it became a very consistent motion. So consistent that on 2 different ends you could find the string sliding across my face at almost the same exact time on the videos.

I took that as an encouraging sign! It’s proof that I can be very consistent!

Today with the help of my wonderful, now Level 4, Coach, I’m on the road to getting it fixed.

When you watch the draw you can see an exaggerated downward motion in my draw now, and then coming into anchor. This keeps my draw arm relaxed and “long” and allows me the room to get into true holding instead of scrunching all up. I’m impressed with how straight my elbow stays! I still remember the days of it being kicked up very high and very in front of the arrow.

And here is the stretchy band practice to get this motion to replace the old one.

I used to be very bad about using my stretchy band to practice at home. But with this I can definitely see the need. So wish me luck in getting all the stretchy practice in! This has somewhat changed where I anchor, so I feel it’s really important to get some kind of practice in every night. Otherwise I’ll be all over the place for a long time.

Form Improvement

It’s been a while, again. I have tons of pictures and thoughts from the last tournament we went to, but I just haven’t blogged about it. Today my coach took video for me during our lesson so that I could show some of the improvements I’ve made since the last videos I posted. So I’m going to throw them up here without a lot of comment. Documenting progress. That’s what this is for  🙂

This first video shows me shooting with focus on tricep during draw and anchor.

The second video shows me shooting with focus on scapula moving down and into spine during draw and anchor.

We spent a lot of this lesson refining the over correction I had made in my draw hand wrist. After that was corrected, we focused on bow arm, the super set of the elbow before set up and maintaining that position through release.

20 August 2014 – Lesson Day

I’ve been debating on this post for a few days. Wednesday was the first time coach used video and the new Coach’s Eye app that I have to analyze how I’m doing. For the last two days I’ve been debating on whether or not to post those videos. Last night I finally decided to put them up.

I arrived at the range late thanks to a combination of work and traffic and important phone calls at home while I was changing clothes. Coach and Jonathan were both there talking at the front desk when I arrived, and I got to show off my new arrow shafts and feathers and new tab that had just arrived (squee!!!). So we got started late.

It was pretty obvious that the new tab was flumoxing me a little bit. This was definitely a two steps backwards day.

I wasn’t balanced over my feet at first, something I haven’t had problems with lately.

The videos are out of order, so I’m just going to post them as best I can.

We worked mostly on shoulders down and disengaging the bicep. Tricking my bicep to stay out of the picture seems to be getting more difficult instead of less.

Zombie hands. Weird thumb positions. Ballet hands. We use all kinds of tricks to keep the bicep disengaged and the correct muscles engaged.

And one last one.

Stretchy band work outs are important. They aren’t my favorite thing, but they have become more and more important as I get more serious about this.

Sometimes you shoot yourself with an oversized rubber band and don’t mean to.

I know this is a video heavy post. But I’m trying to track my progress. Be nice. I’ve only been shooting a few months.