Indoor archery season is almost at its end, and so it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming outdoor competition season. Outdoor competition comes with additional challenges, so preparation should include a few specific steps including gradual distance training, equipment tweaks for long-range shooting, and checking your form with the help of a good coach. Let’s take a look at each.
Gradual Distance Training
Going straight from 18 meters to your farthest distance, whether it is 50, 60 or 70 meters, can be a shock to your form. Holding your bow at a higher angle after spending months at a lower angle (with no wind disturbing your aiming) can activate muscles that haven’t worked in a long time, and that creates a possibility of pain or tightness, especially for recurve archers. Instead of jumping straight to your longest distance, a gradual move back to that distance over the span of a couple of weeks can be gentler on your deltoid muscles as they re-adapt to the arm angle. It can also strengthen the muscles that stabilize your shoulder for a good aiming pattern. Moving back in 10-meter increments and spending about a day at each distance will help with your shoulder, as well as break up the monotony of shooting only at 18 meters.
Tweak Your Equipment
Besides the obvious changes, like switching from line-cutting aluminum arrows to skinny long-range ones, you should also consider checking your tuning and the balance of your bow before tackling the outdoor elements. Sometimes a simple change like re-establishing which fletching works best for you will give you tighter groups. Point weight is another overlooked element that can have a big effect on your groups and scores at long distance.
Another tweak to consider is your stabilizer setup. Some archers switch to thinner stabilizers for outdoor shooting because the thinner rods cut the wind better. They also might shift their stabilizer weights to create a more “front heavy” balance on their bow. Most archers have different preferences, so it’s best to experiment and figure out what works best for you.
Shooting at longer ranges can feel very different than shooting at closer indoor distances, so getting your coach to look over your shot and form is always a good idea when transitioning to the outdoors. Shot execution is always something to look out for but with the higher arm angle, body positioning becomes a little more important, too. Some archers tend to lean back, away from the target, to compensate for the higher arm angle. Another part of the shot that recurve archers can’t see by themselves is the “cant” of the bow (the angle that the bow makes in relation to the ground). Compound archers are allowed to use a bubble level to check this angle, but recurve archers have to rely on the feel of the bow along with the help of a coach telling them when they are holding the bow perfectly vertical.
Along with your coach, you should plan out your season to be as cost-effective and successful as possible. Attending every single tournament listed on the schedule is not always the best plan. Professional archers definitely make it look easy, but they have figured out ways to mentally handle the pressures of high-level competition. For the average archer, a periodization schedule will be the best way to maximize results. Periodization means competing and then resting on a schedule so that your body and mind have a chance to recover before expelling more energy at the next big competition. Because it is extremely difficult to maintain high intensity for a prolonged period of time, a scheduled rest period helps time your competitive peaks for when you need them most. Most high-level athletes have a schedule that involves knowing how long they need to prepare for a major event, active rest after a competition, and a properly timed “ramp-up” in the weeks or days leading up to their next competition. This cycle keeps athletes at their best when it counts the most.
Archery is best known for its link to the great outdoors, and making sure that we transition to the outdoor season properly will ensure that we have a successful one free of injury or burnout. Have fun, enjoy the vitamin D, and shoot lots of arrows!