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The Most Common Injury To Archers?

Even with the NTS, the archer has as a great risk injury to parts of the drawing mechanism.  The most common injury to beginning archers is of course, the string slap to the bow forearm.  NTS coaches know that this has a simple fix – rotation of the bowarm into a vertical elbow, proper tricep tension, etc…oh, and of course, an arm guard in the appropriate position at the point of loose. (release of the arrow).

Beyond the simple, the part of the arrow deliver system, the physical part that is most subject to abuse, inflammation, injury, and pain is likely the shoulder region.  It is not designed specifically for the precise duress and motions involved with drawing a bow, when the athlete uses the wrong mechanics!

I know from personal experience that the archer who allows the string shoulder to rise up during the drawing motion will most likely develop pain!

Even with the best mechanics, the design of the shoulder varies from person to person and problems such as inflammation and pain can develop.  I have noticed that there are “channels” and “pathways”, where the motion of drawing can be LESS painful for even the injured archer, if the shoulder is kept at just the right level.  A few fractions of an inch too high, and the pain can be enough to leave the sport.  IF THE COACH CANNOT DETERMINE THE BEST PATH TO AVOID PAIN, even if it departs from the “ideal” NTS method, the coach may fail the athlete.

Human physiology is not uniform.  It varies.  So to must the coach vary, in approach, to insure continued success in the athlete’s development!  Without flexibility the coach may be worth than useless. First, cause no harm.

A medical perspective about “shoulder impingement” helps, even if you do not have a medical background: General Introduction to shoulder impingement.   More In-depth review.  I also suggest you review google search on images for “shoulder impingement”, and pay attention to the the way the shoulder – the clavicle, the acromium, the attachment to the ball of the humerus, all the designs of mother nature, for a LOW motion rather than a HIGH motion when the area is under duress.  The tendon is in a lousy place for moving a heavy load in just the way a bow requires when the load is applied too high.

Final words:  be flexible.  Having a “too-low” shoulder is not the worst thing for the NTS.  Failing an athlete is.

(IS) There Is Only The Right Way!?

I am currently in a situation, a classroom, with more than 30 coaches from some 20 countries.  The majority of the coaching instruction is coming from one U.S. Coach, Don Rabska, for whom I have the greatest respect and appreciation.

He’s emphasized something time and again, that many coaches in the U.S. do not fully understand, nor feel comfortable with.

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SHOOT A BOW.

It is ok to teach a customized-for-the-individual-needs of the athlete.  The obvious provisions come into awareness for the athlete with a physical impediment (aka a paralympian) but a wise coach may find it productive to change a part of the method in order to succeed with an archer that has other issues – say, a shoulder impingement from some other sport.  I recall one JDT camp I was an observer at, where I was repeatedly admonished to watch, to observe, and to shut up.  Two separate youths were shooting their hearts out (among many others) to try and make the team, and who I was to observe.  Each   had some issue that were obvious to me as painful, “hitches in their giddyup”, but they were bound and determined to gut it out and shoot exactly as the JDT coaches were teaching – in one, the dad was also watching, adding the pressure.

I ended up accompanying one of them to the sports medicine facility, his JDT experience effectively “shot” because of the pain in his shoulder.  Career in archery effectively over.

With what I came to know afterwards, and what is being emphasized now in this superb class, if the normal draw path causes pain, a good coach should be able to explore other paths, try different methods, to avoid pain yet achieve a consistent shot method. And to do so without delay or floundering!  The first sentence in my coaching philosophy is, “First, do no harm”, and it is that way because I was victim to a feckless individual who called himself a coach yet nearly destroyed an archer near and dear to me.

The predominant method for teaching archery in the U.S. is the NTS, and I deeply believe it is the best method for uniform archery instruction ever employed in the U.S. .  BUT, it is not a “one size fits all” rigid code.  A good coach learns as many styles, methods, and philosophies as possible, NEVER stopping his/her own learning process, in order to bring to the student every resource possible.  A coach must have as many arrows in the quiver as possible, and know which one to use for a particular “target” in training the athlete.  If the athlete needs to draw lower than the average height at “set up”, so what?  The critical element is whether that enables said archer to achieve holding or bridging without pain in the shoulder assembly.

Be flexible.  Be innovative.  Be open to using alternative methods that help, not hurt, your athlete.  Just be sure your adjustment is a positive one for the archer, not an unthinking compromise to a rigidity in thinking that causes failure or injury.

Preparing X10 Arrows, or “how much is too much?”

Arrows need to be assembled, unless you are working with fiberglass arrows.

For the vast majority of archers, this is the priority in arrows:

  • Right Length (so the arrow does not fall off the rest and go through the hand)
  • Sufficient Stiffness (so the arrow doesn’t whip against the bow as it is shot)
  • Correct nock (so that it does not fall off the string)

Once the archer is beyond the first few weeks/months, and wants to “move up” and buy her/his own gear, I usually suggest purchases in this order:

Finger tab – the most personal piece of archery gear, and one of the most critical. At this writing I recommend ONLY the Black Mamba finger tabs.  I’ll write about them soon and why an archer would want them over the others out there on the market.

Arm guard – needs to not be the bicep-to-wrist covering length which just potentiates bad habits. The simpler the better, and the smoother, the better.

Riser – Generally has to be bought at the same time as limbs, but some clubs will have loaner limbs (desirable especially in younger archers where strength and bone growth plates are still active).

Limbs – as skill evolves, so does strength.  Limbs are the energy handling part of the bow and the dynamics dictate a *lot* of things.  I suggest any archer always save every pair of limbs owned, so as to have a library to choose from as future circumstances (say, recovery from injury, change in methods) might dictate.

sight, plunger, clicker – these are relatively inexpensive and purchase usually comes with the riser if the archer is inclined to acquire accuracy at  longer distances.  Barebow archers sneer at these, of course.

ARROWS.  back on topic!

Arrows are chosen by environment:  Hunting, Outdoor Target/3D/Field, Indoor Target.

Hunting arrows carry heavy tips and need lots of stiffness.  Enough said since they are a whole ‘nother topic.

Indoor – briefly, they can be thicker, cheaper, aluminum arrows with larger feather vanes.  Since indoor distances tend to the 18 meter length, you want aerodynamics exerting effects faster, hence the larger vanes/feathers.  Some archers feel they get a scoring advantage with large shafts (“guppies”) that might cut a line and yield an extra point.  Most world records, however, have been set with slender arrows in recent years, though not all.

To the outdoor target/3D arrow:  The hollow, carbon, or carbon/aluminum arrow, especially the X10!

These are a good example of the height to which our civilization’s technical abilities have risen (much like the riser and the limbs).  The most medals, probably 99% of all archery Olympic medals since 1972 (when archery was re-introduced into the Olympics) have been won with an Easton Arrow, and the majority of those were with the X10 arrow, an aluminum tube-wrapped-in-carbon-fibers-embedded-in-a-carbon-resin shaft which is barrel shaped to provide an accurate, aerodynamic performance even without vanes.   These shafts are strictly uniform in weight and stiffness, such that the factory actually rates them into batches of 12 shafts that are closely identical (not perfectly, however!).

The arrowheads for X10s are actually called points, and the most common form in use is a stainless steel point with a smaller shaft portion that is inserted into the hollow front end of the X10.  By the way, what I describe for the X10 goes for the other similar shafts, including the all-carbon versions.

The points have notches in the insertion part, so that you can change the net weight of the point by breaking off a section.  Breaking a section off is fairly simple, requiring two sets of pliers, and a careful technique to avoid bending the rest of the point’s shaft.

To mate them with the shafts, the points are heated slightly with a clean flame, some special hot glue (supplied by the manufacturer) applied to the insert portion, then pushed into the front end of the arrow shaft and held steady for a few seconds until the glue “sets”.  Excess glue is removed with fingers.  With a little practice, the fix is permanent and the points are in for good, but can still be removed with gentle heating of the tip if needed.  Heat must never be applied directly to the carbon shaft as it will cause the front of the arrow to weaken and perhaps crack sometime during its future.  If the glue become liquid or fluid when applied to the insert shaft, it is too hot for the carbon , so wait until the glue become viscous before inserting.  If you cannot hold the point in your bare fingers, it is likely too hot.

In preparing one archer for a major world championship event, I was driven to get everything as right as possible.  Since I had a scale at the pharmacy that measures accurately down to just a few mg, I decided to really get precise.

First, I got 2 dozen new X10s courtesy of my archer’s sponsor, Easton, and I confirmed the arrows were all the same rating.

After cutting each new shaft (of 2 dozen) with meticulous care, working outside with an Apple arrow saw, I used a can of compressed air, with a straw attached, to blow out all dust from inside the shafts.  (never breathe the dust during cutting/cleaning)

Then use a paper towel soaked with either 70 or 91% rubbing alcohol to rub down the outside of the shafts.  Use just enough pressure to feel the shafts resonate as you do this, and change the surface of paper contacting the shaft frequently. You’ll see a good deal of dark residue the first pass, and less with the next pass.  Don’t overdo this, and be careful using 91% alcohol as it is flammable – burns with an invisible flame (!). Also, while some will recommend using acetone or mineral spirits, I dislike (as a pharmacist) using such toxic chemicals that are sure to be absorbed through the skin.  Some may also harm the resin, shortening the life of the arrows and/or affecting accuracy as they age.

Next, clean the inside of the tube where the points and pins (for pin nocks) will be glued.  I use 8″ long pipe cleaners which come in packs of 30 or 100 at party stores and Arts/Crafts stores.  Cut them in half with scissors once and you have a lifetime of cleaners.  Dip one end of a cleaner into the alcohol for an inch or two, then insert carefully into the arrow shaft.  Some will drip, so be careful.  Insert/remove the cleaner once or twice each end, and discard.  Take a dry cleaner and follow the same in and out a couple of times.  The cleaner should not have much dark residue discoloration – if you are in doubt, repeat the process.  NOTE that you don’t need to clean any deeper than the point will reach.

Here’s where I got really obsessive-compulsive.  I do realize that the density of the resin causes a variance in the “per inch of shaft” weight and stiffness, and it’s impossible for me to equalize that variance.  But I can take some steps to even out the net weight of the arrow, and the variance between point weights.

I weighed each arrow shaft at this point, and used post-it notes to label each, and I laid them down in order of weight.

I also recorded the weight of each on paper, and then found the average weight, the max, and the min weights.  There were almost no identical weights, by the way, given that my scale was so precise.  It is able to weigh a single grain of salt, for example.

Next, I took the points, and thoroughly cleaned them with alcohol to remove all machine residues and grime.  You want to do this in any case, even if you are not going to weigh them – the cleaner the “glue” sites are the better the glue will work.

If you weigh all of the points, each will vary slightly as well.  If you have to break off a section (or two) in order to get to the right dynamic spine of the arrow, you introduce even more variability to the arrow weight, the spine, and the grouping behavior of the final arrow product.

I broke off a section for each point, and then I did the same weighing series, and post-it labeling.  I compared the max weights and min weights, to calculate what was the best combined weight I could use as a target value for all arrows.  In other words, how could I combine a given point with a given shaft, and end up with the arrows weighing as close as possible to each other.

I had some combinations that were “outliers” on the too-heavy side, even after swapping combinations around.  For those, I carefully lightened them up using a dremel/grinding wheel on the break-of end of the point, and then carefully cleaned them.

When gluing the points, I was careful to apply enough glue to fill the break-off valleys.  I doubt the glue all stayed there in those valleys, but I know that at the start of insertion the amount of glue was the same.  Once they were all glued, I was surprised at how little more weight they gained from the glue, and there was next to nothing in the way of variance.  Also, clean your fingertips with alcohol frequently to eliminate the oils that will leave discolorations, if you are as obsessive as I am ;)

I was likewise very careful gluing in the pin nocks, regarding weights and glue use.  The final 24 arrow products were all as uniform as I could make them in terms of weight overall.

My archer was able to shoot groups with bare X10 shafts from 70 meters which made this next much easier – remember that X10s have good aerodynamics due to barreling which no other shafts do.  If your archer isn’t that consistent then use a distance that works best.  All shafts were uniquely numbered, and we kept track of the top performers over several days, selecting Team A and Team B groups.  We then fletched 8 of each team with kurly-vanes, leaving 4 bare shafts for tuning purposes in each team.  I don’t see any functional difference between spinwings and kurlys, but the archer liked the bling factor of the kurlys (red holograms in particular), and whatever makes the archer happy…

At the end of the tuning process the bare shafts were impacting at 10 to 11 o’clock, within 2 rings of the fletched group center at 70 meters, so we then fletched the rest of the arrows and called it a done deal.

I did not do this before Athens, and I have always fretted about leaving something on the table ever since.  Doing whatever YOU feel is worthwhile, will leave you able to sleep nights as a coach.

Note: if I was doing this again, I would consider: fletch ALL of the arrows initially, then TAPE down with vane tape the vanes, so they have the weight at the back end with none of the aerodynamics, and compare behavior.  An engineer I greatly admire at Hoyt used this method, and I’ve sometimes wondered whether the ensuing drag was a greater influence than the weight, in terms of evening behavior out when bare-shaft-testing the bow’s tune.  It’s probably a wash for all but the top 1% of archers, but it certainly bears testing.

Long Term Athlete/Archer Development

A splendid coaching document was brought to my attention by Tom Barker.  I’ve long known and respected the Canadians for their level-headed and all-inclusive approach to the sport of archery.  They often have a unique perspective on elements of coaching, as well.

While no program is perfect, the Canadians have seemed to me to often be on the leading edge of developing a more well-rounded program that does not sacrifice the well-being of the individual athlete for the sake of national dominance or even “excellence” to the elite level.   Excellence in a program is possible without disregarding the ultimate welfare of the participating athletes.

There is a philosophy of “you are not doing your best coaching unless you push all your athletes so hard, you lose 25% to injury or burnout.  The knowledge that for the limited number of spots on a national training team, the competition is so high that if coach “uses up” an athlete, there are plenty more eagerly waiting where that one came from who are just dying to get a shot seduces a coach into a win/lose coaching mentality.  It does not have to be that way.

This document might help you to develop a win-win coaching philosophy that does not require you to sacrifice *any* athletes in pursuit of excellence.

I do not believe there is a more well-developed overall plan of athlete/archer development for all levels of athletes anywhere. Every coach should read and evaluate this, and incorporate elements into your own philosophy for coaching.

Nerves. A Coach Often Struggles To Teach The Athlete To Deal With Anxiety Of Performance.

Mike Rowe has a way with words.  Here are some of his best on the topic of being nervous about a looming event.  To be direct, this was on FaceBook, and is copyright (as far as I know) for fair use.  Mike Rowe’s awesome website for his MikeRoweWorks program is well worth your visit and your support.

nervousness by Mike Rowe:

(A woman wrote to Mike to ask about her nerves at adopting the course of welding as a sea-change in her life’s course)

Hi Jenn

Most friends of this page know better than to ask me for advice, primarily because I’m known to give it. So heads up – while I can offer you a variety of words, I can’t vouch for their wisdom…

You’re 27-year old single mom. You’re about to enter what many still consider to be a man’s field. If you’re not nervous, you’re either arrogant or naive, two qualities rarely associated with great welders, and far more difficult to remedy than the apprehension you feel today.

Nervousness is like sea sickness. It’s a normal reaction to an unfamiliar setting. It won’t kill you, and it’ll probably go away as you become acclimated to your new environment. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Because like nausea, nervousness can turn you into a pathetic pile if ineffectual humanity. So it’s best to treat the condition before the symptoms really jack you up.

The first step is admitting that you’re nervous, and not just on Facebook. When I’m nervous or unsure of something, I make sure everyone around me knows it. Especially the people who are causing me anxiety. The more I try to appear “not-nervous,” the more likely I am to shit my pants. Nervous people who deny their apprehension are like seasick people who deny their nausea. It’s only a matter of time till the vomit squirts through their fingers, as they stand gamely on the Lido deck, trying to pretend that all is well.

Back in 1990, I had just been hired as a show host on QVC, and I was nervous. Very, dreadfully nervous. I had no experience on live TV, no prior training, and no knowledge of how the many products I was supposed to be selling actually worked. Plus, I really needed the job. (In those days, QVC hired anyone who could talk about a pencil for more than six minutes, and put them on live television for a three-month probationary period. The washout rate was 99%, and many of those who debuted on the graveyard shift never showed up a second time. Trust me – it was nerve-wracking.)
MikeRoweQVC
On my first night, I was a mess. My palms were sweaty and my stutter was threatening to return at any moment. My first item was something called The Amcor Negative Ion Generator. I had no idea what it did or why anyone would desire a preponderance of negative ions. So when the red light appeared on the top of the camera and the director pointed at me and said, “You’re up,” I looked into the lens and told something very close to the truth.

“Good evening. My name’s Mike Rowe. This is my first time on live television, and frankly, I’m a nervous wreck. Furthermore, I have no idea what to say about The Amcor Negative Ion Generator. So please, if you watch this channel often and have any useful facts about this particular item, call the number on your screen and tell the operator you need to speak with me right away. We’ll chat, and hopefully, sell a few of these things.”

The directors jaw hit the floor, and the lines immediately flooded with calls. For the next three hours, viewers offered all sorts of encouraging words. They explained the purpose of whatever crazy product had been plucked from QVC’s bottomless inventory of and made me feel welcome. In this way, I was trained for my job not by the people who hired me, but by the people who watched me. Interestingly, sales were brisk. And more importantly, my nervousness went away.

Point is Jenn, most nervousness comes out of fear and insecurity, and those things can usually be made much smaller with a big blast of unapologetic honesty. Also, curiousity is a great replacement for nervousness. The things that make people nervous – ignorance and uncertainty – are the same things that make people curious. And yet, it’s hard to be nervous and curious at the same time. Nervousness will keep you from trying new things. Curiosity will force you to. So try to replace your apprehension with a heightened measure of wonder. Be intrigued by the uncertainty before you. Don’t look at your ignorance or your inexperience as the enemy. Look at them as the necessary qualities which allow you to become a more curious person.

Finally, google women and welding. You’ll feel better. You’re learning a solid trade at the right time, and your gender has some real advantages in this career.

Good Luck.

Here ends Mike’s words.  Consider well how you can benefit, apply, these concepts.  As with Coach Wooden, the words are somewhat simple, but the reason behind them a golden nugget for the worthy prospector.

 

Why You’re Most Likely To Get Sick…

Addendum:

Or rather, Pre. dendum.  an article came to my attention, and I want to include it in this treatise on air-travel and infections.  It makes a few good points.  Hopefully this link will be active for the duration.

Fundamentals:

If you are serious about your archery game, you must attempt to compensate for the stresses your body must deal with.   Heavy physical training makes consuming adequate nutritional variety more difficult – how many great athletes do you know that are perpetually fighting some minor infection or flu bug? (lots)
Science has shown for many years that when a human body is “anergic” (lacking in total nutrients needed) that the first thing that gets sacrificed is the body’s primary defense barrier in the immune reaction system.

SO you must insure a good source for as wide of a variety of fruits, vegetables, berries, and proteins as possible, not just before a tournament but like the Olympics, EVERY DAY…  Of course you must also properly hydrate so that your kidneys can freely dispose of the metabolic wastes you produce.  Following the concept of compensation, recovery, and supercompensation is a good way to avoid overtraining and weakened immune function.

Traveling in an aluminum tube at 30+ thousands of feet

We have to get to where the action is.  Rarely will the tournament be at home. There are several risk factors to be aware of – most can be minimized – in flying for 8 to 12 hours (or more) en route.

Humidity in jet planes is virtually non-existent.  Why is this critical?  Your sinus cavity and throat, even your esophagus and bronchi, are lined with mucous membranes which produce a barrier of thick, gooey, mucopolysaccharides (aka snot) that are rife with white blood cells.  Any foreign bacteria you inhale gets physically stuck on this stuff, digested, and killed.   WHEN you are at a low humidity in a plane, your production of snot goes way down, and the mucous beds actually become much more thin, much LESS of a physical barrier.  You lose much of that first line of defense, so when the person in 12b from some far away country starts hawking up a lung, YOU are more at risk for absorbing his viral or bacterial donation.  Incubation periods vary, but this is often why 2 to 5 days AFTER your flight, you suddenly have a “cold” or a head full of phlegm and the grizzlies. Often that is right when you are supposed to perform at your peak.

Smart frequent fliers realize this humidity-related risk, and plan for each trip by spending a couple of bucks at the drug store buying “normal saline nose spray”, brands include Ayr and Ocean – these are sterile solutions of water with just enough salt to match your body’s own fluids – no stinging or burning.  During the flight, about EVERY 15 minutes, you should inhale in each nostril a shot of spray, and your membranes won’t thin out and your mucous production remains both more thick and effective.  Once you are home, throw that bottle of spray away – it contains no preservatives and so could become a host colony of bacteria over time, sitting in your travel case after having been used.

At the hotel

Another Frequent Flyer (FF) trick:  Run a hot shower, but stopper the tub drain, and leave the curtain open as much as possible without water on the floor.  Locate the bathroom exhaust vent on the wall near the tub, and place a kleenex over it to impede the loss of the steam.  If you have clothes on hangers that are wrinkled, hang them from the curtain rod – the steam will release the wrinkles (don’t spray them with the water, though).  Once the air is so thick you can’t see yourself in the mirror, breathe deeply through your nose, exhale through your mouth for at least 5 minutes.  You are rehydrating your breathing passageways – don’t be shy about clearing your sinuses by blowing them – the mother-nature method is much better than with a kleenex, by the way.  Once your tub is full, do NOT drain it.  Open the bathroom door, and let the steam escape into the room, increasing humidity and making it more sinus-friendly for you throughout the night.  This is especially useful during winter months when the humidity is, you guessed it, low.

Prophylaxsis

No, this doesn’t mean those things wrapped in a foil packet (although those are a good idea, always).  If you fear you are coming down with “something” despite your best precautions, you must be mindful of USADA restrictions on taking certain drugs both in and out of competition. Sudafed, for example, is a definite no-no.   The only true immune booster that you can take without a prescription, that has zero adverse side effects, and actually increases T-Cell production, Interferon production, and improves the motility of your macrophages (your white blood cells get around better to englobe foreign invaders, is known incorrectly as “vitamin D”, and USADA has no problems with it.
It’s not truly a vitamin, but that doesn’t matter – your body can make it, the Over-The-Counter version is called D3 and is exactly the chemical your body makes so there is little chance of an adverse reaction.  MOST people are deficient in it, so their immune systems are challenged.  Taking 50,000iu a day for 3 to 5 days is much more than the minimum daily allowance, but will not be dangerous for the otherwise healthy athlete.  What it will also do in addition to the above mentioned benefits is enable your body to create “cathelicidin”. (hint: follow the link)
Since insuring your blood level of D (test is a “25(OH)D” test) is 50 to 70 ng/ml has been shown to improve balance and muscular strength, it is a win-win.  Since it is safer than water, cheaper than bottled water, it is actually a triple win!  BTW: A ng is a billionth of a gram, which means that not much at all can sure have a hugely beneficial effect on health.

I still don’t feel good

Despite your best efforts, your head is about to explode,  Or, you can’t take ten steps away from the toilet without feeling *very* insecure.  Being a Boy Scout (be prepared) can be a life-saver and keep you competing.

USADA is your friend.  Check ahead of time for what you can pack with you “just in case”.  Pepto Bismol for stomach cramps and upset?  In-competition archery, it’s legal.  Plain antihistamines for sinus symptoms like Claritin or Zyrtec?  OK.  (but NOT the combinations with pseudoephedrine!) Phenylephrine (a weaker version) – ok.  Afrin, a nasal spray that can relieve clogged sinuses quickly and for just a few hours – legal – but do not over use it or it will stop working for you.
LOPERAMIDE (Imodium) – this can be a huge comfort, as it can stop diarrhea – is legal in archery for both in and out of competition.  These are all available OTC, as individually wrapped tablets/capsules, so they travel well and don’t take up much room, and you can carry them with you to the field.  Don’t expect finding these will be easy at your competition city!   And if you are in doubt – always check the drug against USADA’s search tool, and printscreen the USADA results page that say it is ok – the page includes a reference numbeR that *may* be useful in arguing.  Bottom line, check USADA about *anything* that is a medicine, that you are taking to cause a change in your body’s functions especially if it is available without a prescription.  Do NOT remove these tablets from their packaging that positively identifies them.  Mysterious tablets in one’s possession in foreign places can be a distraction from competition!

MORE PRECAUTIONS

For the seasoned traveling competitor this is an obvious, but…Never drink from a water bottle that has been opened outside of your immediate control.  If you have a doubt about which one is yours, toss it and get a new one.  DO stay hydrated – if you are not feeling the need to urinate every hour or so during competition, you are possibly falling behind in hydration BUT DO NOT OVERDO!  Don’t drink only straight water in hot sweating occasions – alternate with propel, gatorade, etc. for electrolytes and variety in flavor as you are more likely to stay caught up.  NEVER ever accept an open drinking container from another competitor or coach that is not a member of your team, and likewise be cautious with anything taken internally – food, candy, gum, etc..   Another good reason to know your balance needs – when USADA does come calling on you after an event, if you are dehydrated your urine will not be acceptable to the test.  You’ll have to drink, wait for it to percolate through the kidneys, and then test.   If you have been TOO aggressive in hydrating, your urine will actually be too WEAK in concentration, and then you must wait even longer before you are able to provide a testable sample.  Smart athletes gauge the conditions, and drink accordingly.

BEFORE Competition

Sure, you are in a new country with exotic and fun things, including foods.  Before your competition, stick with the “normals” as much as you can, including ENROUTE.

Travel with your comfort foods in your carry-on, along with your finger tabs, releases, (yadda yadda you know the travel drill for your gear!) peanut butter (including the pre-mixed-with-jelly, and the packaged in squeeze tubes kind), beef jerky if that is your passion, craisins, trail mix, etc…  And try to buy several smaller sizes rather than one big size.  Makes for easier packing, and reduces the chances of contamination.

If you want a personal recommendation on a neutraceutical, USADA-safe, that travels extremely well and insures nutrient intake is maintained under *any* circumstances which I recommend and sell, email me.  Athletes the world over (23 countries so far and in a number of NGB-sanctioned diets) are discovering what I have been using and recommending for more than 8 years, it again is USADA safe and has more gold-standard studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals than any other neutraceutical.

Addendums after the post:

If you do develop diarrhea be aware that your hydration needs will triple or quadruple. Imodium is much safer than Lomotil for a competitor, but if Imodium(loperamide) doesn’t work resorting to Lomotil may be a rational decision but be aware that Lomotol WILL alter your senses.

Technical Medical/Clinical Talk

Normally, your large intestine’s main function is to regain water from your gut to help homeostasis.  That means muscles of your large intestine squeeze the water out of your stool, kneading it like bread dough, and return the water to your bloodstream so that you do not endure wide swings in your blood thickness.  That is why when you are dehydrated, like when you go to the AZ cup, you are more likely to be dehydrated AND constipated, with harder, smaller stools.

But things like unusual bacteria (which are not pathological in the traditional sense) that cause diarrhea to the unfamiliar switch the great bowel muscles from the kneading dough mode to a propulsion, get the heck out of dodge mode, forcing the contents that offend your body out as quickly as possible, homeostasis being less important than hydration stability.  In essence, mother nature knows it is better to be dehydrated than retain that which offends and might rot your gut.  IF you develop diarrhea, taking more fluids, especially with electrolytes, is critical for maintaining muscle strength.  After a bout of diarrhea, you WILL be weaker even if you do not feel such is the case.  Rehydration, but with the right mix of electrolytes, is key.  (No, drinking lots more beer is not going to help)

In the timing of competition once begun, it’s likely that what you do in the the short term is what wins out.  Regaining fluids, simple sugars for short-term energy, potassium and magnesium for muscle contractility, these are paramount.  AFTER the event, taking probiotics you carry with you or eating local yogurts, to re-establish the flora in the gut will provide the faster path to normalcy.  It is suspected that the appendix provides the inoculants of beneficial bacteria for the recovery after the diarrhea attack but that takes longer time for the colonies to multiply and spread.  It’s much faster to supply the gut with probiotics, which are encapsulated and USADA safe.

The bacteria making up yogurts in say, America, will be FAR different than that found in perhaps, Turkey or Mexico.  NOT PATHOLOGICAL, (DISEASE CAUSING), JUST DIFFERENT.   During a prolonged stay, for say the Olympics, where the athlete will likely be exposed to foreign bacterias for many days, inoculating yourself early after arrival with native bacteria can actually LESSEN the debilitating effects which might occur during competition by precipitating them during the acclimation and practice periods.  I for one am NOT a fan of having the athlete stay at the Oly village and eat nothing but McDonalds – it might be “safe” from a bacterial sense, but a cratering of nutrition otherwise and very, very bad for supercompensation goals.   NO smart US athlete eats nothing but McDonalds (and yes, Usain Bolt swears he ate nothing but chicken nuggets during his games, but that *may* have been a step up in his dietary quality) on the way to the games so why eat that way in the moments leading up to the penultimate competitive moment in an 8 or 12 year odyssey?  No sense there.

 

What can you do?

Your fairly inexperienced archer shows up with not one, not even two, but multiple things changed, such as:

  • new, heavier limbs (by more than 2 pounds difference)
  • a new fingertab
  • altered bow grip with plumbers’ epoxy
  • clicker (for the first time)
  • added weights to the stabilizer
  • added lateral bars to the stabilizer setup (with weights)

So what do you do, coach?  Hissy Fit?

You may need to decide what the net impact is, when the archer realizes he/she has lost all semblance of the shot skill from before.

There is the distinct possibility that this is a good thing – get it all over with faster – by making so many changes that the archer’s brain is totally discombobulated and you can make huge strides in correcting form issues and technique bad habits.  It provides an opportunity for you to stretch your coaching muscles.

Or, this has such a negative impact on performance, or else you kneejerk the reaction so badly, that the athlete becomes disillusioned and quits the sport.

Finally, more cautiously, sometimes the best coaching technique is that of benevolent observation and inaction, followed by acute inquiry….After all, the coach has an obligation to WORK with the athlete, as long as the athlete is working.  I think I like this approach the most – it’s like, “hmmm, very interesting.  How does that make you feel”? that psychiatrists are so famous for using in *any* situation.  SEE what negatives crop up, deal with/knock them down one at a time, and seize upon the positives that arise from the archer feeling they’ve done good.

It may very well be that the way you handle the athlete doing something that demonstrates just how badly he/she needs you such as mega-changes, defines your own capability as a good coach.  It’s worth thinking about now, so you will be more comfortable and react optimally, when it does happen to you. And it will very likely happen to you.  Remember when you were starting out?

My Favorite Vitamin For Performance

I’m thinking today about one thing in particular, having today come across yet another study indicating the lack of a fundamental element of health in athletes.  NCAA Athletes in Southern California…, wherein about one-third of these subjects are either deficient or insufficient in a fundamental nutrient which is critical for health and vital for peak athletic performance.

As with so many such studies, I feel the actual “situation” is much worse than it appears from that study as the typical researcher sets the bar far too low.  In this study they called a vitamin D* blood level of ~32 ng/ml to be the desired level which is wrong.  When mother nature is in control the blood level is actually nearly double that!

There are studies indicating that blood levels approaching 70 ng/ml (but no higher) yield positive changes in muscle performance.  If they had set the bar to 50 ng/ml a far greater percentage would be insufficient/deficient!

TO QUOTE the authors of that study: “Recent studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between serum 25(OH)D levels and muscle power, force, velocity, and optimal bone mass. In fact, studies examining muscle biopsies from patients with low vitamin D levels have demonstrated atrophic changes in type II muscle fibers, which are crucial to most athletes. Furthermore, insufficient 25(OH)D levels can result in secondary hyperparathyroidism, increased bone turnover, bone loss, and increased risk of low trauma fractures and muscle injuries.”  (Atrophic in this sense means the the more critical fast-twitch muscles fail to grow to potential during training – the exercise training is not having the desired effect.)

The Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine: An IOC Medical Commission Publication, states very much the same thing, “maintaining adequate vitamin D blood levels may reduce risk for stress fracture, acute infection, inflammation, and impaired muscle function”.  The”may” in that sentence is again a timid researcher avoiding responsibility.

What virtually no researcher will go on record saying, is WHAT the ideal blood level of vitamin D should be, always instead cautiously calling “for more research”.  So why am I, a simple pharmacist and an archery coach, confident in calling for at least a blood level of FIFTY nanograms/ml (50 ng/ml)?  Because 50 is the natural, optimal, desirable blood level in humans.   I know this because, if you take ANY person of ANY skin complexion, and put them firmly in the sun’s grasp (ie, scant clothing and NO sunscreen) close to the solar noon, in Austin, Texas during the spring, summer, and even early fall, that athlete will generate enough vitamin D in as little as 15 minutes to an hour, to achieve a blood level of ~50 ng/ml. That’s mother nature, evolutionary process for millions of years, at work.

Darker skin requires more UV-B, lighter skin less exposure so the times will vary BUT what is obvious is that the body generates vitamin D in response to sun exposure, as a means of providing health.  Mother Nature says 50 ng/ml is optimal, in other words.  Some studies in athletes do show improved performances going to 60-70 ng/ml, but I have yet to find any speaking to > 70 ng/ml.  Some people will have issue with my choice of  “Mother Nature” as the controlling entity, so let me say it differently by paraphrasing the words of one of the foremost authorities in the world on vitamin D effects, Dr. John Cannell:  “God designed us, God gave us the ability to respond to God’s sunshine, to generate our personal health.  It is clear to me that in order to be healthy we must not shun that which God designed.  That does not mean we promptly go out and get sunburned to a crisp, but that we act in accordance and prudence to treat our bodies as our temple, with the respect God demands.”

Yes, coaches must focus on the sport in their mentoring, but I also feel the good coach must address in an appropriate way those “outside” elements like diet, sleep, hydration, nutrition (not the same as diet), and yes, sun exposure & vitamin D acquisition.

By the way, the athletes in that study I started out with, where 1/3 to 1/2 were deficient?  They  lived and exercised in “sunny” southern California where they had a superb opportunity to get adequate sunshine (but obviously were not)!  Know that the further the athlete lives from the equator the less sun intensity they will receive.  For example if those athletes were in Chicago, New York, Seattle, etc., the number of months of the year where “good sun” could happen would be far, far fewer and they’d be more deficient.  That means that the study looked at a “best-case scenario” where the athletes were MOST LIKELY TO HAVE GOOD LEVELS, yet even they came up short by a significant number.  That study, were it done in any university north of the Red River in Texas, would show far more deficiency. Period.  Thought: where do YOU coach your athletes – how far north (or south) of the equator?

Safety?  People are admitted to the ER on a daily basis for overdose of “multivitamins” and iron tablets, which can actually cause death.  Yet, there is an astonishing absence in the literature for any cases of the over-the-counter, inexpensive vitamin D anywhere causing any kind of overdose!  Vitamin D can be accurately said to be safer than water, since more people are admitted with life-threatening “water intoxication” than ever for vitamin D overdose!  In my own professional opinion,  multivitamins are never to be recommended to an athlete. Never.  That’s right – as a pharmacist I quit recommending every vitamin aside from D years ago.  Pardon my Texan but multivitamins are just plain bullsh*t.  Even the AMA recently proclaimed an absence of science to justify multivitamins.

Just so we are clear: vitamin D is not a vitamin.  Vitamins are substances humans must take internally (eat) because they cannot make it, that are necessary for health.  Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a good example – without it your teeth fall out and you die.  You can’t make vitamin C, so you should drink a margarita often.  (Or, maybe some orange juice or other citrus). :)  But “vitamin D”?  You make it!  Therefore, it is NOT a vitamin.  But just call it one to avoid distress.

To help you arrive at your own dosing regimen I can share what I do for myself:  I take vitamin D based on the formula of 1,000iu per day for every 25 pounds of body weight, always rounding “up”, so for 100 pounds a 5,000iu capsule (commonly marketed) is logical to me, and at 6’5″ and 235 pounds, I usually take 10,000iu per day unless I get some “good” sun which I would rather do than take a pill.  Being a health professional, I also get tested at least once a year for my 25(OH)D level, and it’s always between 50 and 70 ng/ml, depending on the time of year – runs higher in the summer because I try to also get routine sun exposure to boost my levels “naturally”.   Why “round up”? Your body will not activate the D3 into 25(OH)D unless it needs it.  Taking a small amount extra insures that your body stores away some vitamin D for when it needs extra.  If you break a bone, your D levels actually disappear!   If you acquire an infection, your body converts D into cathelicidin (google it).  If YOU TRAIN HARD, your body uses it to reduce inflammation and help build muscle to recover better, to actually achieve supercompensation.  If you have excessive body weight, your needs do go up as well.   For any other elite athlete, I would do as I did with my daughter – dose per my guideline, then get a blood level to make sure you can “check off” this concern, and then deal with other things, knowing you’ve done the right thing and that base is covered.  She won’t get sick as often, won’t risk injury as much, and will benefit to the max from training.

If you are not an athlete, everything regarding D still applies.  If you are an athlete, vitamin D can be that which allows you to focus on the top step, instead of trying to breathe through a sinus infection while you draw down on the X.

* I call it Vitamin D throughout this article – what is measured is actually the active form of the chemical, 25(OH)D , which your body makes from regular, over-the counter vitamin D3 aka cholecalciferol.  Incidentally, what you body makes from the sun’s rays is the same cholecalciferol as the capsules you can buy and take when the sun isn’t available. Sun is better, but the capsule is vitally better than going without.

Vitamin D3 is available in a variety of strengths, over the counter, in drug stores and big box outfits like Costco and Sams, as well as online.  Don’t waste your time with anything less than 5,000iu capsules and be careful online with your source.  I see prices of $17 for 300+ capsules of 5,000iu at Costco.  Years ago, I started buying from BioTech directly over the net because 5,000iu caps weren’t yet available, and I supply *every* extended family member that wants it.  50,000iu D3 caps allow for a less-than-every-day dosing regimen.  I do not like it, as a pharmacist I know that people forget to take meds, and missing once a week can be pretty important.  Missing a daily dose, not such a big impact.  Also, you can refine your dosing a little more easily with daily dosing.  Some might take 10,000iu one day, 5,000iu the next, alternating….  All good.

Cover your bases, coaches.

Knees

Last month during the annual USAA Coaching Conference in COS, we were informed that a slight enhancement to the stance of the shot cycle was being considered.  When weightlifters “lock” their knees and undertake a strenuous lift, they increase the risk of momentarily blacking out due to an impediment in circulation caused by the overwhelming contraction of muscles throughout the body and in particular, the lower body.  There is an Fainting after Strenuous Exertion or two on YouTube showing this effect.

Those educated in physiology are taught this characteristic, as Coach Kisik Lee was, and it was logical to extend this caution to archers who have a similar stance, similar posture (when doing it right) and experiencing the duress of holding 40 or 50 pounds for a time very similar to that required of a weightlifter qualifying for a clean lift.  So, in the beginning of the NTS, we were taught to be mindful of this and to insure that the archer did not lock the knees.

Careful consideration of the current evidence including the absence of archer faceplants,  has led Coach Lee to conclude that locking the knees does not create the same internal obstructions to circulation as in weightlifting.  Today, I received an email that clarifies further what we were taught, from Steve Cornell, the new head of Coaching Development at USAA (and congratulations to Steve!):

“Stance
We are now asking archers to completely lock their knees when they shoot. There is a
universal concept that if you lock your knees you will pass out; however, archers will not
pass out for the amount of time it takes to execute the shot cycle.
Locking the knees provides several benefits in terms of stability, including keeping the
body still during shot execution.  Archers should start locking their knees completely at the
completion of the Set position, but can relax their knees after the completion of each shot.

As you know, archers “coil” – rotate the upper body – from Set position through Setup, and
remain in this position through the shot cycle. We have seen that a lot of archers are having
difficulty keeping their hip position as they coil when they do not lock their knees.

Losing the hip position will reduce the amount of tension the archer feels in their back, and
will also cause the hips to move upon release. Keeping the knees completely locked
through the shot process will allow the archer to keep his/her hips from moving as he coils
to setup and a she releases the string.

We have included three photos to illustrate this concept (Page2). Notice that Ki Bo Bae
(pictured in both images on the left) has her knees completely locked, while the knees of
the archer on the right are not quite straight, and almost bent.  The knees should be
completely locked and not relaxed.”

Now, as a coach, I have been teaching this since January, and I’ve noticed that for some athletes this locking mechanism allows them to stand comfortably in a positive way, coiling, and assume a stronger posture overall, and improve their performance and happiness.

I have also seen that this does not work for 100% of the athletes – in some unique situations going to a “neutral” knee position that is slightly short of “locked”  MAY be warranted.  But every archer should be given the opportunity to benefit from this knee position before you surrender it as a goal to the more perfect shot cycle.

And these photo examples were provided.  Note that this information was sent to each NTS coach.

kneelock

George’s Blog

GTIf you are not privvy to this blog of George Tekmitchov’s I am pleased to bring it to your attention.  Incidentally, George is a long-time engineer and designer of risers at Hoyt AND the “voice” of Olympic Archery for a number of Olympiads (but for not the Paralympics, unfortunately).  George has extraordinary insights in archery.     HIGHLY recommended.