Category Archives: Training

Topics of training issues

What stance should you take?

I estimate the majority of archers who have not been taught by a coach, especially those without some introduction to the NTS, have *no* awareness about kinesiology and body mechanics and instead just grip it and rip it, doing what comes naturally.  This is not horribly bad! Just likely to cause a failure to launch of a great athlete!

Yes, they don’t yet understand the importance of the open stance and the “coiling” (kerling, as our head coach would say) that results in a more stable platform to loose arrows from.  My experience is also that some small percentage are capable of totally natural methods that “work for them” to achieve good performance.

I think this is why sometimes a newcomer can blow the hinges off of records and “limitations”. I have witnessed some young archer arrive at a JOAD National event, shoot lights out awesome, and then never appear again.  Why? Because they didn’t know any better. As soon as a coach messed with their preternatural form and mechanics, and forced the frontal cortex into the picture they literally vanish from the sport. The athlete starts THINKING about what they were doing subconsciously and realizing there is work involved. Unfortunately for some it’s “game over” until/unless they work hard enough to lay down new and more reliable pathways in the brain-hand loop.

I am also firmly convinced that when a coach begins addressing an archer’s “picture”, it is best to start corrections with the foundation and move up.  In general terms, any able-bodied athlete can stand with their feet pointed at about 45 to 70 degrees away from the target (the general  epitome of an open stance), and STILL get their gun barrel into “pointing to the target” with NO conscious effort. They will NATURALLY fail to keep the hips in the best direction, and need education to effectively coil, to twist the abs, both the lower thoracic and upper lumbar vertebrae, to create the optimal more solid linkage of bones and discs to stabilize their shooting apparatus, the shoulder assemblies.  Often they will do this without any “mechanistic”  thought to HOW it happens.  They just make it so when coach helps them realize it is better.

Yes, the hips will tend to move towards the shooting line, a wrong alignment, if the archer is not aware of the motion.  Corrective measures, really preventative measures, do not require a great investment of effort, especially in younger archers.  Coach just needs to demonstrate it ad show them how.  Coaches who can demonstrate by self, by photo, by video, or by enlisting another archer proficient in a desired motion, in order to have best effect.  Why is demonstration so potent?

We are born with, or else soon acquire, the ability to adapt our movements to achieve whatever the desired goal is – to walk, for example.  The controlling factor is the mirror neurons of our brain – in the frontal cortex.  This area is what differentiates us from almost  all other organisms on planet earth. Most primates have been shown to have some of these, WE humans have the best-developed system of these mirror neurons, though.   We learn to walk as infants because we SEE others walking.  It is that simple.  We humans can learn to shoot with an open stance, FAR simpler than walking, by watching the proper method demonstrated, and mere guidance provided.

Can one shoot effectively with a closed stance, where the archer stands completely sideways to the target, both feet pointed “down the line” of archers?  Sure.  Will they be leaving a few percent of advantage on the table, that may cost them the personal bests that keep them interested, challenged to stay involved in the sport? Quite possibly. Elite archery is often an issue settled on the line by LESS than a single percent.  Coaches cannot leave a percent of advantage out and still be the best coach possible.

Are You Certifiable? Yep.


I just finished a day with a huge number of scout leaders in Houston, at a University of Scouting event.  I spoke to the many benefits of archery, and how important their role is in making sure that archery is not a painful experience, but rather a positive and impressive, life-changing opportunity.  I learned things from them, as well.  Every time I speak on archery, certify people as instructors and coaches, heck, even often when I am coaching a student, I learn something in return!  Here is what I got to take away from yesterday’s great experience.

Safety and Skill

Safety and Skill

The TSAA is blessed with a number of parents who have stepped up to help form JOAD clubs, 4-H clubs, Scout Leaders, and have gotten their instructor and coach certifications from USA Archery.

Anyone who runs an archery club or JOAD, a 4-H, and especially Scout leaders, needs to recruit the parents of their archers to become part of the support network. Scouts require there to be TWO range masters to increase the safety for the participants – if one instructor is focused on a particular archer, the other instructor can still hopefully maintain surveillance and awareness of the entire range of archers to insure safety is maintained.  I find this to be a concept that smart JOAD coaches/leaders will want to have as well!

And, PARENTS, YOU need to support your archer athletes by participating with them in their sport.  I know this from first-hand experience between my daughter and myself for more than 10 years of wonderful shared sport. I can TESTIFY about how much I benefited from this!

I don’t mean you have to shoot with them (but you can and it is super to do!, but you need to know enough to be able to talk with them intelligently enough, to guide them, to reinforce what the coach is teaching them when you are NOT at the JOAD session, for example if you are practicing in between club meetings.  If you really want to share a sport with your child, there is no better way than to learn enough about the sport AS IN THE WAY IT IS BEING TAUGHT TO YOUR CHILD  so that you can insure your role as the parent/family mentor remains intact and legitimate!

How?   Easy. Get yourself a level 1 or 2 instructor certification!   Every Level 3 coach has the ability to certify Level 1 & 2!  As a parent, this gives you the ability to see what your child is doing right, and to reward them with truthful compliments without sounding like an idiot!  It helps you to “parent” correctly.   You also can see what the coach is doing, and be able to gain confidence that your child is getting maximum benefit.  And you can have FUN being useful!  Why?

Because if you DO get this easy, inexpensive certification, then you can become part of the club’s support structure as a lieutenant for the coach, which could be to enhance safety on the range, to provide mentoring “on-task” as the head coach sees appropriate, as well as being able to be a role-model for your own child.

Added benefit: If you are fortunate enough to have a child that LIKES competition, you will be able to take him/her to tournaments, and in the absence of the coach who may not be able to be there, watch for “breakdown” in form and know what to say, not as some dictator, but as your child’s guiding parental over-unit<G>.

If you DO shoot archery yourself, getting this certification will, repeat, WILL improve your own game in very surprising ways.  This is especially true if you are more or less a self-taught bow hunter, and your child is getting started with the NTS because he or she wants to “be like mom or dad”.   Knowing the NTS yourself WILL allow you to postpone for awhile that point in time where your child exceeds your own ability. You WANT that, of course – it should be every parent’s goal, right?  It is validation of your parenting skills and your hope for a sort of immortality, for your child to one day be better than you were and to know that you’ve made a good difference.  Ironically, making yourself better now simply raises the bar over which your child WILL one day clear by giving you more tools.

And if you are the club coach/JOAD leader, involving more parents in your operations is simply SMART.  It enhances safety, increases the amount of knowledge circulating on the range, and creates a better family-oriented atmosphere, heightens participation, all of which increases retention and grows your overall success.

Remember that as in life overall, if you are not acquiring new skills and coaching technique/information then you are not progressing.

Increase Myelin For Elite Performance

Elite archers become elite by doing the exact same muscle motions precisely over and over, through thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of arrows shot.  The elite development is because the human body, through evolution, responds to ANY activity by buttressing, reinforcing, that which is working.  Bones that are stressed by weights or impact of running flex, and the body responds by sending in more calcium.  Muscles that are torn down by weight lifting are rebuilt in larger fibers with more nerve connections, as long as the appropriate nutrients are available.

NERVES INVOLVED IN SHOOTING – the path from the brain to the muscles – are made up of millions up millions of axons (nerve cells) strung together like a string of sausage links. As they are used over and over, the body has little octopus-looking machines (oligodendrocytes) that detect the higher activity and go to work, laying down a wrapping layer of FATTY TISSUE.  In this case, the fat (myelin) is like a super-conductor.  It turns the nerve from a skinny straw into a firehose, capable of carrying information in both directions so much better that the person becomes elite.

Myelin comes from Oligodendrocytes, tiny little, insanely busy machines that look like an octopus.  Oligos lay down the fat. Oligos have been shown to malfunction and are a major factor in Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

copyright IStock/ttsz, purchased 3/29/2016

oligodendrocytes is to provide support to axons and to produce the Myelin sheath, which insulates axons. Oligodendrocytes form segments of myelin sheaths of several neurons at once.

Studies show Oligos only work most efficiently when they have vitamin D.  Seriously.  Archers that train in high-quality sunlight, exposing as much skin as possible, will have the best Oligos.  The most Myelin. The best chance to reach their potential highest evolution of performance.  Proof?  There are many studies, which you can access via google, using search terms “oligodendrocyte vitamin D”.  I’ve listed a few links below.  You will find that many focus on the FACTS regarding MS – a fatal disease where the oligos break down and stop making myelin, and so the parts of the brain lose the ability to talk to the muscles, among other things.  I cannot help but wonder if Stephen Hawking had grown up in south Texas instead of cloudy England, whether the course of his  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) would have even occurred. Myelin failure is involved in ALS.

From one study: “The authors found that neural stem cells carry receptors that can bind to vitamin D. When they added vitamin D to the cell culture plates, the neural stem cells increased their numbers significantly after one week, demonstrating that vitamin D triggers neural stem cells to activate and multiply. Importantly, vitamin D stimulated the neural stem cells to mature into both neurons and myelin-forming oligodendrocytes, but not astrocytes. The mechanism by which vitamin D activated neural stem cells was through promoting increased activity of several important neurotrophic factors.”

SO the short of it is, athletes need vitamin D levels that are higher than normal mortals because their oligos literally consume it faster, as do the inflamed muscle tissues, if they want MORE MYELIN.

The slightly longer of it is that D is not a vitamin.  It is a steroid.  It is a hormone.  Its functions in the human body are to enhance the functions of the immune system and to deal with any kind of inflammation, whether due to trauma, disease, or purposeful athletic training.

When you want to become stronger, you work out.  You lift weights.  You run.  You use your muscles as hard as you can.  This all is literally causing inflammation.  Exercise is willful inflammation, destruction, of the muscles.  You tear down the muscle, and if all is working right in your body, those muscles get rebuilt bigger, stronger, twitchier, and with more nerve endings (which are more myelinated).  That happens if you have enough vitamin D, of course.  Low in D?  it will still happen, but no where near the “best” or optimal, way.  So you want bigger, stronger, faster muscle power? You need an adequate supply of vitamin D for your unique personal needs.

I’ve developed enough understanding at this point to have recommendations for how much D one should take orally, if you cannot get out into high quality sunlight for an hour or two every day.  And for extreme athletes it may not be possible to actually make enough for nominal levels unless the sun conditions are perfect.

On a per/day dosage for normal humans, in order of criticality:

  • 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight for pregnant women and the male contributor of the sperm* (obviously this should be established for MONTHS prior to conception)  D stabilizes the DNA of the sperm.
  • 10,000iu per 100 pounds post-partum, especially if/while nursing.
  • 1,000iu per 25 pounds for newborns via drops/liquid form (1000iu per drop) even if nursing.

Athletes and young adolescents subject to growth spurts:

  • 15,000iu to 25,000iu per 100 pounds body weight (25,000 is for the extremely heavy training with NO sun exposure – the typical gym rat)
    There MAY be no need to vary dosing during periodization training.  I do feel that adequate D contributes to achieving supercompensation!

50,000iu daily for 3 to 5 days if apprehending an illness. IOW: “I’m coming down with my roommate’s crud” or “I’m flying for 12 hours to an international competition, and the guy in seat 6b is hawking up a lung” or “I think I’m coming down with something”.

“Normal” people:   5,000iu to 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight

There is genetic variation in several factors.  Dark skin will take up to 8 times longer to make D in the sun.  Oral dosing is the same, but much more critical as a result of the sun resistance.

Some will not need this much.  The only smart, sound thing to do is to test your blood level 2 months after you start your dosing.  The test can be done at home, for as little as $50. (see to order a test online).  You MUST test your level, in order to know whether you are doing the right dose.  Your goal should be 50 ng/ml to 100 ng/ml.

For people with a disease related to chronic D Deficiency:  RA, MS, Diabetes Type II, Crohns, Lupus, fibromyalgias, inflammatory diseases of any nature, cancers.  Much more.  Google your disease and “vitamin D”.  Double all doses.  At least.

By now you understand that the human body responds to precise repetitions of a physical act by hyper-developing the neural pathway involved.  In other words the body makes myelin layers on the nerves that are getting the most use.

Myelin is a fat.  A lipid.  It is vital for brains to interconnect all of the multitude of nuclei of special functions to enable us to be well, us.  When someone’s immune system decides that Myelin is a foreign invading body, it develops antibodies that actually attack the myelin.  This is a simplistic description of MS – Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, as well as Autism.  Studies of these devastating diseases have given us the opportunity to understand how myelin is formed, maintained, and why.

If you are not already familiar with myelin and the “10,000 hour rule”, then do some reading on my bibliography listed in this blog by using the search tool.  While the “rule” of 10,000 hrs is not really a “rule” per the author, it’s a valuable concept.  It helps us understand a biological process that leads to enhanced physical performance.

Myelin is made, is laid down in a wrapping fashion like a bun around a hot dog, Each axon is the hot dog in this example, so we’re talking a chain of millions of hot dogs in one single series from the brain to a muscle bundle in say, the string fingertip.  Now consider how many millions of muscle bundles there are in the muscles involved in a shot cycle.  That is a LOT of axons!

Where does myelin actually come from?  Oligodendrocytes.  I’ll shorten the name to Oligos ’cause I am lazy.  Oligos are amazing.  Scientists have identified the way D enables enzymes to be expressed, since more than 1000 genes are controlled by D.  Some of those enzymes are key in Oligos doing their myelin thing.  Other enzymes D facilitates repair damage to DNA.  In fact, D makes the only enzyme known that can mend not just one side of the helix, but BOTH sides of the strand of DNA.  So D is also one of the most potent antioxidants known to man.

Cautions:  D enables calcium (and other minerals) absorption.  If you are deficient in D, you’ve been able to take excessive amounts of calcium (say, too many Tums a day), but without the D you haven’t been absorbing the calcium.  You fix your D level, and suddenly start absorbing excess calcium, and you can get into hypercalcemia which is life-threatening.  So adults, 1 gram of calcium per day.  Teenagers, 1700mg (1.7 gms) daily because you are actively growing more bone.

D IS NO SILVER BULLET.  But for athletes, if you are not “right” with your D level, you will never reach your ultimate potential no matter how hard you train..

Recent study that is related to my point, but also takes it further…

NTS Ain’t Jest Fer Recurves

Just attended a “refresher” seminar chock-full of information on coaching and the National Training System (NTS), conducted by USAA Level V Coach Guy Krueger.

A total of 21 Texas coaches attended this day-long event in College Station.  It was most enjoyable from every aspect.   Good friends.  Dedicated archers & coaches.  Congenial environment.  HIGHLY interested and motivated to learn.   A Texan teacher who speaks our lingo.

This event served to raise the group’s awareness and refine our knowledge on the finer points of the NTS shot cycle.  We will all be better educators because of that single day.

There are a couple of steps in the NTS that must be modified for compound shooters.  But the vast majority of the NTS elements do the same thing for compound archers that they do for the recurve archer:  Provide a consistent way to control the bow as it is drawn.  To INVEST yourself into the back and achieve HOLDING with a proper, highly-efficient bone alignment to handle the mass of the bow and the weight of the bow.  To provide the follow-through mechanism that minimizes “influence” altering the arrow’s point of impact.  To REDUCE the size of the hover circle and help the archer to STOP wasting time aiming.

The single biggest impediment to ANY compounder being able to raise the quality of her/his shooting via the NTS is getting the draw length set so the archer can create 100% of the gun barrel.  That accomplished, the NTS can be taught by the coach to compound archers and WILL enable them to become better shooters.  We just have to teach it.

If you want to be an archery coach, you cannot refuse to ignore the compound archer anymore. And it should be obvious that compound archers will eventually make great recurve archers, if they are taught the right way.  Just ask Butch or Brady.

Sometimes The Lightbulb Takes A While

I’ve known and talked for many years about the nature of vitamin D and its effects on human (and pet) health.  I’ve strongly maintained that serious elite athletes need to insure their levels of active D are well above 50ng/ml, to as far as around 70 ng/ml!  Some 80% of the American population is deficient, ie, LESS than 40 ng/ml, and many are in the teens of ng/ml, surely leading to diseases. I am writing this primarily for those that “get it” rather than to persuade the resisters of D benefits.

Something about the nature of D, despite my years of intensive information gathering on it, recently took me totally by surprise, and has altered my stance on my dosing recommendations for vitamin D3 for athletes and anyone undergoing physical stress/exertion OR CHEMOTHERAPY.

For years, I’ve been able to keep my blood level, as measured by the 25(OH)D blood test, well above 50 ng/ml.  Studies have shown better athletic performance for up to 70 ng/ml.  Elderly people fall down less often, and suffer hip fractures far less often, the higher their blood levels are, and for athletes needed *excellent* balance and control over muscle function, up to 70 is shown to help.  Logic dictates: If you want to cover your bases and be as healthy as you can, you must insure your D levels are at least at the mother-nature level of 50 ng/ml.  And if you want to be an elite performer of maximum personal potential, it must be up in the 70ng/ml range.

I have been remarkably consistent in body weight over the last decade, staying at around 238 to 240 pounds, with a 6’6″ frame.  Though a few years ago, I ruptured/liquified a lumbar disc or two, and lost about an inch in height.  But still a fairly good, “dad-bod”.  Not terribly active physically other than the standing and walking a pharmacist gets daily. BP and heart rate both healthy/low.

Just a month or two back I had my D tested, and it was over 80 ng/ml, much to my satisfaction.  It goes up slightly in the summer due to extra sun, not because I changed my daily oral dose of 10,000iu of D3.

Since that test, I have had to suddenly do a lot of hiking in the hill country.  Hiking up and down, over hills, down ravines, slippery rocky paths, cutting branches and trees, clearing brush, going several miles a day, making notes and taking rangefinder distances to decide the placement for 24 target stands and bales for an archery tournament.  This in Texas summer, June and July heat and sun, on weekends.  After 3 or 4 weekends I had the plan, but no one to execute it with.  So from sunup to sundown, for five straight days of “vacation” from the pharmacy, I carried wooden stands, pounds of metal spikes, rolled 30-pound 52-inch target bales throughout, and toted assorted tools over a two and one-half mile course that gained and lost hundreds of feet in altitude, cutting branches and clearing paths and brush.  I drank constantly but never stayed caught up with hydration, my clothes were always sopping wet and rarely did I need to umm, micturate after around 9am.  I stopped for breaks only when my pulse exceeded 160 or 170, or else my vision became monochrome, or my disorientation kept me from figuring out what I needed to do next.  I did this for 5 days straight, stopping each day when it got dark.

I shed somewhere around 16 pounds during those 5 days, and every morning was extremely painful due to muscle and joint soreness, which disappeared as I warmed up.  I’ve done Colorado Outward Bound(yeah, with a 17-y.o. body), I thought, I can do anything I truly need to, and this needed doing. So I did it.

The tournament went off nearly perfectly, thanks to some help at the very last, on the last two days prior, by a couple of good friends, including my wife(my best friend, actually).  John Magera and Gina, also  finished because I was out of vacation days and had to return to work in the pharmacy. (air conditioning, LOVE IT)…

We had 40 archers shoot the course, I shot more than 1500 photos (and posted them in a great album format).    I then reclaimed all the bales, the stands, the spikes, the signs, removed the trail tags, picked up all the distance pegs and markers, again mostly on my own, though Gina was extremely helpful on several of the days, and John also helped right after the tournament.

A week later, I did another D test for no real good reason other than I thought since I had been in the sun so much it would be good to evaluate the effect.  I used a $50 test from the Vitamin D Council.  It came back as 36 ng/ml!   Holy Cow, I haven’t had that low of a level in a decade!  What was wrong?  I’d been in the sun those days for 14 hours, and I never use sunscreen.  Never changed my daily dose of capsules of D.  Didn’t change my diet other than to miss the noon meal each day, which helped me with that weight loss.  What could explain the drop?  It should have gone UP, I was in the sun so much.

After hours of mulling it over, the lightbulb FINALLY lit up.

D helps the immune system, makes cathelicidin which can decrease the level, somewhat especially if you are ill with a viral/fungal/bacterial infection.

But I haven’t been sick in my memory over the last decade, no flu, no crud, no skin infections, lung infections, nada!  So that couldn’t be why.

D also helps the body … with inflammation.   AHA.   My severe cross-training-like days working out were very effective in tearing down my muscles – each night I would start severe leg cramping until I took diazepam, despite drinking plenty of rehydration fluids – and muscle/weight training is nothing more than purposefully inflicting damage and inflammation, and expecting the body to respond by rebuilding that damaged muscle fiber back bigger, better, and stronger.  Likewise bones that are stressed, by say, hiking up and down hills bearing extra weight, will increase their density by migrating calcium to them to enhance the matrix.  These things require vitamin D!   I literally burned up my D by overtraining.

I was so astonished, though.  I knew if one has a bone fracture, the blood level of D virtually vanishes overnight, going to close to zero as that bone area absorbs it to begin the knitting process.  But I hadn’t linked muscle destruction of the intense sort I underwent with the same physiological response!

I wrote to Dr. Cannell, a noted expert on D and the head of the Vitamin D Council, and he confirmed my suspicions – it is entirely consistent that my levels would fall so dramatically in such a short time, given the workload I performed.

So I am taking 50,000iu daily for the next two weeks, then returning to 10K iu per day.

More importantly, I am urging every athlete in training, particularly archers who cross-train, to get their 25(OH)D tested ASAP.  Make sure that your blood level is at least up in the 60 ng/ml to 80 ng/ml range while you are in your training cycle. 

I have been recommending far too little up until now, and the only “sure” way to know you are taking enough is to get that $50 test.  It’s quick and easy, only takes a little finger-stick, like diabetics do multiple times a day.  If you are serious about either your health or your ability to perform at your very best, test your D level while you are demanding the most from your body and make sure your level is top-notch.  50ng/ml is the very lowest it should be, and anything up to 100 ng/ml is now considered safe and a normal range by most labs.

If you are NOT an athlete working out, and do NOT have a pathology (cancer, RA, MS, chronic nerve irritation such as a “myelitis” or a neuralgia, a bone infection, or are pregnant, or dealing with autism, etc.) then taking 5,000iu to 10,000iu daily per 100 pounds of body weight is prudent, provided you get a test after two months on that dosage to verify your level is at least 50 ng/ml.  Got a pathology?  You should consider 50k/day for several months, and evaluate your pathology/signs & symptoms at that point.  It may take *months* of good levels to undo *years of chronic deficiency*, or even longer.

If you are in heavy training, or under a lot of duress from competitions and traveling, you need more.  Possibly as much as 30,000 or 40,000iu of D3 PER DAY.  Much more than you can generate by laying out in the Texas sun from 10am to 4pm, completely nekkid.  Studies show that lifeguards, for example, routinely can generate 20,000iu per day!

What happens if you take too much?  Nothing.  The only true risk is for those that take too much calcium (ie, more than 1200mg for adults, 1700mg for adolescents, per day) because the enhanced D will improve your absorption of Calcium, and hypercalcemia CAN be a problem, and even life-threatening.  Just don’t take too much calcium, and the extra D will do nothing adverse.  USADA has no issue with vitamin D – just take a reputable brand (I use BioTech Pharmacal, after discussing manufacturing methods with the owner of the company, they do not “mess” with any USADA-forbidden substances)

Your tolerance to sun exposure will go up.  Your risk of infections, cancer (20+ types and counting) will go down.  Your nervous system and your muscular tissues will communicate better.  And so on…..

Oh. Yeah, there I go with my eurocentric narrow-window perspective again.  I forgot about all you athletes with naturally dark skin – yep, if you check a box other than “caucasian”, then I have some rude news for you.   You are FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE DEFICIENT than I am(I’m a typical gringo skin type), if we are both getting the same amount of sun exposure.  Where I might make 5,000iu of D3 in just 15 minutes laying out nekkid in the Texas noon-day sun, if you are exposing the same amount of skin as I am, it may take you FIVE TIMES AS LONG to make that 5,000iu of D3.   You see, having the sun provoke your skin into making vitamin D is mother nature’s way of protecting your skin from the damages of UV-A sunlight (which damages DNA and causes cancer big-time).  Dark skin NATURALLY is not as susceptible to UV-A wavelengths of sun, so unless you are living near to the equator, you have to work much harder to generate a healthy amount of vitamin D.  Not fair, not unfair, just the way it is.  So you can compensate by taking MORE vitamin D3 orally, perhaps two or three times as much daily as I do, to get to the same beneficial levels.

And any doctor that prescribes say, 50,000iu of vitamin D once a week?  Malpractice.   The half-life of D3 is less than 24 hours.  If you need 10,000 or 20,000iu per day,  then on Day 1, you’ve got it.  Day 2, you’ve got 25,000.  Day 3, you are down to 12,000. WHOOPS.  Day 4, 6,000, and on days 5, 6, and 7, your tissues ain’t getting bupkus!!!  Most of your body’s cells need D3.  Only a few need the activated form produced by your liver and kidneys from D3, known as 25(OH)D.  Most cells absorb the “raw” D3, and activate it internally to be healthy. To fight off cancer-causing free radicals and DNA damage.   So any prescriber that thinks that 50K a week is good is not even hitting the bale at 18 meters, let alone scoring an X at 70 meters….

Want to have your best chance for a healthy life?  Want to reach the top step?   Take your D3.   Get some sun, don’t burn, but get some sun.  And get your level of 25(OH)D tested and make sure it is at least 50 ng/ml, and if you want to be elite, get it to 70 ng/ml and keep it there during the heaviest training regimen.

Your eyes are growing….sleepy…..Relax…..Relax….

Ok.  That’s a bit extreme.

I saw a video posted by Jesse Broadwater, a compound archer well renowned these years for his routine winning performances.  Here’s the video, which may or may not be available when you view this – links change….but his message is the same as mine to all recurve archers: keep your string hand relaxed.

What?  If it’s relaxed, the string slips out and you can’t draw the bow!  NO.

If the technique is correct, it is completely possible to separate the effects of the tendons which do the majority of holding the string by just the effort of the finger-tips, from the sheer muscle bulk that dominates the forearm, upper arm, and even hand in the untrained athlete.

It does not take 40 pounds of effort to hold a 40 pound bow. This is not a trick question – I used to ask such and respond: it only takes 40.25 pounds to hold 40 pounds if done properly, and that most archers wastefully use 50 or 60 pounds’ effort. Through proper leverage, it takes far less than 40.25 pounds of effort in the string fingers to maintain control of the bowstring.

The evolutionary design for gripping with fingertips is incredibly efficient.  Efficiency in this case means that 1/x effort provides 2X effect.  Most coaches never realize this, and therefore most coached athletes are never purposely taught to minimize their string hook efforts.

You MUST teach the athlete to use minimal muscle and maximal tendons in the finger hook technique.

Start at 5 feet from the bale.  No clicker.  Accept nothing but perfect finger-on-string placement – if either finger touches the arrow, PRUNE the gap of the tab, increase the spacer dimensions if appropriate, or correct the archer’s method. Remember that the string hand should approximate a right angle to the string at set and even set-up positions.  Have archer draw 1/4 of draw, and let slip – loose the arrow while focusing on “relax”, not “let go”.  There is no target and no aiming, and the archer can close eyes to enhance the awareness of the feeling in the fingers…

Do this until the archer learns how to set the resistance, and not change the amount of tension/resistance, and have the draw hook FAIL before the bow is fully drawn.  Then, advance to touching the chin and loose, which does require a slight increase in the hook leverage/effort.  Repeat ad nauseum!  Then, as the string hand goes from the chin, to the anchor, ARCHER SHOULD NOT CHANGE THE HOOK EFFORT AT ALL.

This is remarkably similar to teaching the archer to set up within 2 or 3 mm of the tip of the arrow.  If the archer never “blows through” the clicker, s/he is NOT training to the edge.  When one trains to the edge, some error MUST happen on the “too far” side or else the athlete never knows where that is and cannot learn to accurately approach that edge.  In downhill skiing, if the athlete never falls, that athlete is never pushing the edge.  It is the same concept.  Here, we are teach the archer the minimal effort to hold hook by failing to hold hook in the beginning, and get comfortable with that failing, and then gradually increase the hook hold effort until “just enough” is used.  The archer will initially note a feeling of some slippage and if complains of this, you know s/he is very close to the perfect amount of effort.  Never let the archer get away with less than perfect placement of the joints on the string as prescribed by Kisik Lee and the NTS, and the “flag in the wind” where the hand is like a flag waving from the bowstring at a perfect right-angle.

Once the archer understands this goal, she or he (s/he) can strive to minimalism, which is what Broadwater is trying to say, even though he’s talking mechanical releases/string hand interface.  THERE IS NOT THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPOUND RELEASES AND RECURVE HOOK-HOLD in terms of the athlete over-muscling the hook/holding.

99% of all archers never learn to minimize their hook.  They OVERHOOK.  Look. If you are an “untrained archer” drawing a 40 pound bow, chances are you use not only the minimal leveraged tendon tension needed, but also an extra 20 or 30 pounds of MUSCLE to be sure to “hold that sucker.”  This is natural, and it is wrong.

Archers view the holding/hooking of the bowstring as a battle, an active fight!  In the NTS method, all of that invested power should be (only) in the back, and the string arm from the elbow to the bow should be essentially stone cold steel chain links.  Dead.  Powerful, but actually relaxed.

TEACH them to find the minimal effort needed – this is your job, coach.

WHY?   I keep using this artifice because I want you to be engaged and questioning me…

Two examples:

Archer GOOFUS:  I have put 40.25 pounds of muscle effort to hold my string.  I have recruited (a medical term) all of forearm and upper arm muscle bundles to help me achieve holding.  I can hold forever (in my mind, at least) because I am hugely overdeveloped by lifting weights and cross-training in ways that are useless for the practice of efficient archery.  But MY HOOK is so strong I have absolutely no fear of slippage.

Archer GALLANT: I leveraged the inherent, evolutionary ability of the last joints of my three fingertips to curl and hold position via minor muscle groups surrounding the ends of the tendons (UP in the elbow region as well as in the fingers!) with only the barest of actual effort which means I will not fatigue just to get to holding 144 times in a qualifier.  The fewer muscles I actually use, the more JUDO I use, the less fatigue I create. The less lactic acid and other metabolites of the sodium-atp pump activity in muscle cells created, the longer those muscle cells can function.

Coaches: here is the money shot.

When the click occurs, the archer must REVERSE every effort s/he has invoked to hold the string, CANCEL all of those contracted muscles, as quickly as possible to make the shot while the “spot is on”.  After viewing hundreds of archers with my 600fps and 1200 fps video camera, it is easy to tell the elite archer from the not-so-much.  The clicker falls.  In some cases, there are huge number of frames before the tip of the arrow ever accelerates (Goofus), and in others, an amazingly FEW frames.  Gallant!

Which archer will be able to loose the arrow the most efficiently and fastest?  To reverse the hook-involved muscle efforts? Gallant or Goofus?

Find ways to teach your archer to shoot as relaxed as possible with the string hand, simply because that will give the archer the best shot.

Last question: WHY do you think the elite archers all look so relaxed as they loose the arrow?  Their coaches know to teach them not to OVER-HOOK or they intuitively taught themselves through hundreds of thousands of arrows.  It does not take that many arrows if a coach is driving the change with wisdom.   Try it yourself to teach yourself the best way to under-hook, over-leverage the tendons and eliminate all that muscular (girly-man) pump-you-up wastage.  Then go coach it.



Coach and Olympian John Magera Provides A Critical Viewpoint!

I take this from a communication I got from Coach John Magera of T.H.E. JOAD in Columbus, Texas.  I could not make the point any better than he does so I repost his words:

Hopefully you will find this worthwhile. I think it’s something to talk to our young archers (and their parents) about. I know I plan to sit down with my archers and parents soon, and discuss it. Several of us were there, watching these youngsters at that event, and have seen this happen in real time.


The first year I coached archers at US JOAD Outdoor Nationals was a memorable one for me. I can easily remember so many of the young archers whose names are listed in the results. But what I find most interesting are the names of the youngest archers that have since become household names, and where they placed in this event.

Many archers who are well-known today, actually didn’t do all that well in the standings when they were young. Of course, there are the Hunter Jackson’s of the world – who all of us coaches and parents were simply in awe of as she shot near-perfect scores as just a bowman compounder.

But look closer. You’ll see names like Jake Kaminski, who finished 5th in junior recurve and later went on to become an Olympic silver medalist. Max Sera and Aaron Henslin, who finished 14th and 4th and went on to very successful college careers at Texas A&M.

I look at the Cadet ladies recurve and see nearly our entire first female class of the JDT named there. Names like Catherine Velez, who perhaps had the smoothest release I’ve ever seen from an American female archer, Jory Schroeder who went on to shoot for Texas A&M and is now a USArchery judge, Rebecca Timmins, Catherine Sahi and Megan Carter. Megan went on to compete at the 2007 Jr. World Championships in Mexico, and I believe even trained full time at the OTC.

But look who’s #8 in that division! None other than Heather Koehl, the alternate for the 2012 Olympic women’s team.

Finally, look who finished FIFTH in the Bowman Compound Male division that year. Yes, 2015 VEGAS CHAMPION, Alex Wifler. Fifth!

Many of the top archers at that event are sadly no longer competing, which is unfortunate. But what’s important to note is that archers like Jake, Heather, Alex and others proved to us all what patience, dedication and persistence can lead to in this sport.

One of the great things about being a JOAD coach, and taking archers to Nationals, is that we get to see these young archers grow up. And sometimes, seemingly from “out of nowhere” the next great US archer steps up from the 4th or 8th or 15th spot.

Young archers and new archers should pay attention to this and take heart. It’s too easy to think that the Jakes, Heathers and Alex’s of the archery world were ALWAYS on top of the leaderboard. They weren’t. They just outlasted their contemporaries, and outworked them.

Many young archers or their parents will, instead of attending Nationals, just stay home thinking, “I won’t win or medal, so what’s the point?” These archers prove there is a point.

And that’s a great lesson for all of us.

I will close John’s article with an observation from Coach Tom Barker:   “Well said, John, and I am reminded of this from Kevin Durant — ‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’
The studies all tell you that late bloomers end up on top if they have the support system to enjoy the journey and be patient.”

I will close this post of wisdom from John and Tom with this observation:  Texas has some truly great parents and coaches, that use archery as a model for life.  I hope you are either one of them, or CHOOSE to BE one of them in the future.


The Most Effective Dao Of Shooting Arrows

After spending a week at a coaching technical conference I have re-reached a conclusion I had somehow let slip below my awareness.  (I just forgot it, I guess).

I have been privileged to be a part of an archery renaissance – a revitalization – of one of the oldest activities of mankind using tools.  This has happened in the United States, and spread around the world.  It might be said to have begun in Korea, except that Korea modeled their own “fast-lane to excellence” by studying the best American archers of the 60’s and 70’s.  In archery, what goes around comes around again most assuredly.

The USA’s National Training System (NTS) establishes some very clear and definite steps in delivering an arrow that each coach certified by the USA Archery association agrees to adhere to.  This is a revolution, of sorts, never having been so broadly put into practice so widely.  A level III coach in Key West, Florida will teach an archer with essentially the same fundamentals as one in Anchorage, Alaska, and if either of their students have the drive, will, ability, and dedication to make it to the Resident Athlete Program at the Chula Vista ARCO Olympic Training Center, that archer will be ready to step into the program with little re-training or remediation needed.  If they wish merely to shoot recreationally (as the vast majority do!) they will have the most fun, the most success, for the least effort possible thanks to the NTS.

So is it absolutely necessary that a “good” archer become the “best” archer by adhering to every single aspect of the NTS?  Why, no.  Of course not.  There are world champions all over the well, WORLD, who have their own special, unique method of shooting, that has gotten them to the top step.  What is just as obvious, though, is that for each such individual, there are countless others who try to mimic that special, odd method and fail miserably.

So to teach variations on the NTS requires a thorough knowledge of the NTS, as well as a variety of other methods, AND the wisdom to recognize what can block the NTS, and what can compliment it, for each athlete you mentor.  By way of example, I have in mind the concept of expansion, that part of the shot cycle that enables the clicker to slip the tip of the arrow, while nothing affects the sight’s position adversely.

When an athlete (or a coach) cannot grasp one method for expansion through the clicker, if another way can be found, as long as the athlete has achieved holding then success can be had with a subtle movement of the bow scapula towards the target, the archer mentally reaching for the target, that last millimeter to “click”.

Note that in any case, the archer must always achieve a stasis in body mechanics, often called “holding”, where the string scapula is maximally contracted by the trapezius, rhomboids, and other muscle groups in to the spine, allowing the string forearm to arrive into alignment with the arrow, and more.

Remember! As the USAA national head coach and architect of the NTS Kisik Lee states, “the purpose of this method is to achieve holding”.  Once all of the athlete’s bones have been properly employed, aligned, and locked (with a surprising little amount of overall muscle effort), only then can the clicker be fired, the arrow loosed, in an optimally neutral way.  That neutral way might be the result of visualizing the flow of energy out of the antagonistic chest muscles allowing them to relax slightly, in turn allowing the mighty back muscles to “have their way”, or it might be an ever-mounting (but slight) pressure in the lungs, in both cases enabling an expansion of the rib cage, or yes, it might be the archer has devoted “everything” to the string back muscles, and THEN insures the front half gets to its own 50% of the balance by reaching for the target, tightening slightly (and to complete contraction) the muscles of the bow side scapular region and moving the whole bow arm assembly from one of passive compression by the bow’s resistance to a mental “reaching” towards the target. The key, crucial, elements are what the archer does to achieve holding.

Note that this is far different from the “push/pull” concept.  “Push” is a crude motion humans employ to move something away from self.  “Reach” on the other hand, evokes all of the exquisite dexterity our higher brains have developed in order for us to extend our hand out away from our body, and acquire that which we most desire: a perfectly executed arrow shot.

Why Do Athletes Need Vitamin D? How Much D Is Enough?

Vitamin D is critical for reaching potentials in life, like the top step of the podium.  Maximum health.  Strongest bones and immune system.  Best neural development in utero.  Avoiding a host of diseases later in life, such as MS and RA, to name just two. (Want to review the whole range of possible impacts? Look to the left side of this page)

To achieve the best elite athletic performance an archer is capable of, as well as to promote “normal” human health, the athlete’s vitamin D must be at least at a “mother-nature” blood level (MNL) throughout the year.  To get there, an athlete needs to either get enough raw, high-quality sunlight, or else take over-the-counter vitamin D3 capsules, about 1,000iu for every 10 to 20 pounds of body weight, daily.  The goal is to achieve a blood level as measured by a 25(OH)D test that is between 50 and 70 ng/ml.  I cite 70 ng/ml because there are studies that show improvement going from 30 up to 70, there are none (yet) that show enhanced performance comes from having more than 70ng/ml.  One needs to be tested in order to know for certain what the blood level is, using what is called a 25(OH)D (aka, 25 hydroxy D) test.

How do you get tested? It involves making a small hole in your hide, and collecting the blood for a special machine.  Your physician can order it, and you may end up paying hundreds of dollars per test.  Or, you can go to the non-profit organization, Vitamin D Council, and order an in-home test kit for $50 (or 4 for $180).  It requires you to prick your finger with the lancet supplied, and put drops of your blood onto circles on a special blotter paper.  Let it dry, mail it in, and in less than 2 weeks, results!  Based on those results, you then adjust your intake of vitamin D capsules, or your daily exposure to sunlight, to get your levels up.  This is really the only to know whether your blood level is competitively at MNL.  The further from the equator you live, the weaker the sunlight.  The weaker the sunlight, the more critical it is that athletes take oral capsules of vitamin D.

That’s the short of it.  For those that want a better understanding of the “why” of my recommendation, read on.

One of the best references published in the last few years is “Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D” by Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council.  Recommended.

This s a link to a page where I have stored a number of good studies on athletics and vitamin D, it’s effects on myelinization, immune, power, etc.

There are also enough published, well-done medical studies for me to conclude several things:

  • No matter how good an archer is, if she is deficient in D she could be perform archery better.  Why? Studies show that  D improves nervous system control over muscles, enhances balance, and increases muscle strength evolution in response to training.  The benefits vary based on gender, genetics, skin type, lifestyle (indoors vs. outdoors), many things.
  • D is one of the few things that actually stimulates the immune system.  Forget vitamin C – D has been shown to increase T-cell and interferon production, increase motility of macrophages, and when at MNL, produce cathelicidins and defensins.  You want to travel on an airplane to a foreign country to compete for Team USA and NOT get sick on the way?  D actually helps this, IF you have a MNL.
  • Far too many physicians (in my personal experience as a pharmacist) do not understand the full nature of mother nature’s most potent anti-inflammatory, nervous system maintenance drug, immune system stimulator, and skeletal structure enforcer.  If they did, they would not routinely refer to a deficient blood level (anything less than about 45 ng/ml) as “ok”.  And they would not keep setting up studies where the subjects in the study never get enough vitamin D to have any reliable effect.
  • The RDA for D in the US is an incompetent 600iu to 800iu per day.  If you give someone 800iu of vitamin D, you literally cannot measure it in the blood seconds later, it is so inadequate.  And no athlete can get to ~50 ng/ml on an 800iu dose per day.  If a person can make 20,000iu in a day from just being in the sun, then 800iu as an RDA  is not only a contradiction of mother nature, it’s an embarrassment.
  • If you read any studies or hear a news story about vitamin D, check what the dose being studied was, and chances are good that the dose was incompetent.
  • Be wary of news headlines, as reporters are usually less informed than most physicians. “Calcium and vitamin D do nothing for osteoporosis” was actually a recent headline. That borders on the criminal.  yikes!
  • Most coaches have little training regarding vitamin D and its effects on athletic performance. This is forgivable, and correctable.
  • Most athletes have even less. Ditto. Mature athletes take responsibility for their training, which includes nutrition and health concerns, so this is your chance to move in that direction.
  • What you don’t know about D CAN hurt you. It can leave you sitting in the stands instead of standing on the steps.  Get that book, or do some reference reading if you can, and at least start getting more vitamin D (but not in the form of a multi-vitamin. Definitely Not Good).
  • In more than 8 years of intense and diligent observation of the literature concerning nutrition and vitamin D, I have yet to find a study that shows that improving D blood levels *ever* decreases performance!

Coach Lee has taught that the main goal of the NTS is to achieve Holding.  My conviction about the NTS is that in addition to Holding,  everything the athlete does in the NTS also synergistically “reduces the circle”.  Firm foundation / stance / posture, lower center of gravity, squeezing the grapefruit, skeletal alignment, the gunbarrel, and so on, ALL serve to create a more steady bow arm which moves and wavers less during the final steps of the shot cycle.

At anchor, it is physically impossible to keep the pin in the aperture perfectly still, right on the desired aiming point – it will always move – BUT you can reduce the hover circle size, greatly enhancing accuracy at the moment of truth, as the arrow is loosed. (Yes, that is an archaic term, but hey, we’re talking archery here – one of the original SPORTS mankind ever developed!)

Improving D has been shown in studies to improve stability and coordination, so therefore, improving your level of D to MNL will help reduce that hover circle and more rapidly quiet the scope.  Your ability to “stand still” and not sway is actually enhanced.  If you are a coach, as you age your risk of falling and fracturing a hip goes up as your D level goes down.  Many studies show that improving D to MNL decreases falls, and also decreases greatly the risk of fractures.

Proper nutrition is just as important as practicing drawing the bow.  Unfortunately you can’t EAT enough of anything that grows or is grown, to get enough vitamin D.

Why?  None of our foods have enough!  You would have to eat so much cold water fish (one of the highest foods in D content) that you’d get mercury poisoning before you reach the MNL.

What to do?  Mother Nature gives us..for free…the Sun.  Sunlight.  (UV-B wavelength radiation, to be most precise).   Through evolution and thousands of generations, our skin, when exposed to quality sunlight, MAKES the vitamin D that is essential for health and for optimal athletic performance.

I define quality sunlight as when your shadow is shorter than you are tall.  In Texas, we can make some D just about year round, if we are out at high-noon.  But if you live further north than the Red River, well, your ability to get to MNL of D goes down because the intensity of the sun goes down, especially in the fall and winter and early spring.  WAY down, in some locations.

MNL?  Mother-Nature Levels. What the average homo sapiens blood level is when routinely exposed to the sun’s UV-B rays, which is around 50 ng/ml.  More than 80% of all Americans fall well below the MNL, some have virtually *no* measurable levels.  I won’t go into all the disturbing diseases and problems which chronic deficiency leaves you open to.

By the way, D3?  D2?  D?   What is the difference?  D3 is what your body makes, the chemical name is cholecalciferol, and when someone is talking about “D”, this is usually what they mean.  It is also the only kind of D available over the counter.  D2 is an artificial and inferior prescription version that your body does NOT make, and when your doctor prescribes it, he’s saying that he hasn’t got a clue about D.  He’s writing for you to take 50,000iu once a week, doesn’t realize that your body must attempt to convert D2 into D3 before it does any good (at a success rate of 50 to 70% ), and in short, doesn’t understand the importance of the MNL.  He’s the one who will look at your blood test result of say, 20 ng/ml, and tell you, “your level is fine”.  Always get the number and decide for yourself what is “fine”.  In my measured opinion, a level less than 20 is a sure ticket to troubling symptoms, diseases and ill-health.  Less than 40 is risking the same.  Less than 45 and you also are not going to be as good of an athlete as you would be, all other things remaining the same.  25(OH)D is a metabolite your body makes from the D3, and some of your organs need this as opposed to the D3.  YOU NEED THE D3, and your body will make the 25(OH)D it needs.

Back to sunlight and exposure for several important points. FIRSTLY, don’t overdo the sun – never burn, and if you find you quickly start to get pink, that is a sign that you are LOW in D, and reaching a point where you are starting to do damage.

Your body makes D in part to protect you from the sun! So do not overdo it, never burn, and don’t tan to excess, because that is damage you don’t need later in life.  You will rapidly discover that the time to “pink” goes from 5 minutes to 30 minutes to hours, as your levels of D build up.  Once you start to pink, THAT is when you should either get out of the sun, cover up, or else, apply sunscreen.  And you should insure the sunscreen blocks UV-A wavelengths! (UV-A does the DNA damage to skin)

The typical caucasian at high noon in Austin, Texas, in July wearing just a bathing suit, (let’s call him Leslie) will make 5,000iu of D in as little as 15 minutes or so.  The darker your skin, the longer making that 5,000iu will take – for truly dark skin it may take FIVE times longer.  This is one reason why a greater percentage of african-americans and latinos have more D deficiency!  Lifeguards typically make 20,000iu in a day, by the way.

So taking 5,000iu a day if you weigh 100 pounds is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.  I just finished studying a paper regarding prostate cancer and vitamin D, and while giving 40,000iu a day showed positive effects, it noted also there were absolutely NO adverse effects.   NOT recommending that dose for athletes in a long term, but if MY D test comes back with a level of 10, or even 30 ng/ml, I would load for a few weeks with a higher dose, then settle back into a 10,000iu/day dose that keeps me at around 70 ng/ml.  (I weigh 235 pounds, at 6’5″, AND I actively seek sun exposure when I can get it to help boost levels, AND I have been testing my levels for years.)

Bottom Line:  The difference in being on the step and in the stands is a matter of just a tiny percent of the overall score.

Often the two top finishers have to actually have a 1-arrow shootoff, they are so close!  If you can give your athlete even a “measily” 1% enhancement in her performance by insuring good vitamin D levels for free, how can you justify NOT doing that? And since a year’s supply of vitamin D 5,000iu capsules costs less than $20 at most pharmacies, athletes living where the sun isn’t strong enough can still be competitive in their MNL blood levels for less than the cost of a single night out on the town. (hmm, maybe not the best cost example to compare to)

If you want still more information, I recommend the non-profit Vitamin D Council’s website, and I have accumulated a host of studies over the last 8 or 9 years on my own website so that I can refer to them when discussing this with other health professionals.



More On Drugs

Coach, you need to be informed enough to help your athletes avoid negative outcomes. You work hard in creating a better athlete, a better archer. If you don’t know and teach enough about medications, though, your athlete can be eliminated from the top step, even if she/he makes it there.
I was just reading this article, a ruling where two archers were punished for testing positive for diuretic medications.

Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to lose water, often by excreting more salt, so that blood is thicker.  Some athletes use it to “make weight” such as boxers and wrestlers, who compete against others in weight classes.  Archers?  Not so much.  A 90 pound female archer can whup up on a 350 pound macho male in the blink of an eye!  So these two archers are confoundedly guilty – a water pill is not, in my opinion,going to provide any measurable improvement in archery skills, but WILL remove them from competition most definitely. I’ll mention in passing that often, abusers will take a diuretic in the hopes it will “flush out” (ie, HIDE) the abuse of a more devious medicine.  Not good.

Look, archers, coaches, parents, the rules are very clear and easy to follow.  If you are involved with this sport, and you/yours has a chance of competing well, then the chances are there that a NON-OPTIONAL urine test for a banned substance will be in your future.

It’s incredibly easy nowadays to check the drug your doctor wants to prescribe, BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE OFFICE, for safety with USADA – “yew-SAH-duh” – the United States AntiDoping Agency.  They are charged with enforcing the rules in the US, and they are to the WORLD Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the USOC is to the IOC.

Want to know if a drug is safe?  USADA has a great, easy to use tool you access using your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or computer, to verify whether  any medication, either prescription or over the counter,  is SAFE for taking. It only takes a few minutes to preserve an athletic career!  By the way, there are PLENTY of drugs you can buy without a prescription, that are forbidden in competition – test positive for one after you think you have won the gold, and you will never, ever, be the same when they publicly humiliate you and strip you of your medal.

What to do?  It’s easy!

You go to this link, and I’m going to type it out, not embed it: .  You’ll see a page full of things, but we are going to focus on the “substances” choice on the menu across the top:0002


Left-click on “substances” so you can see several options you need to know about:

  • A link to a list of everything prohibited which you can download to your device to use when you are off-line.
  • a search tool, “Global DRO Online Tool”
  • Drug Reference Telephone Line (yes, you can actually call a human and ASK them)

Le’s focus on the DRO Tool, since it is always going to be the most accurate and update reference short of a human, and unlike a human, available 24/7/365.  (DRO stands for “Drug Reference Online”).0003


Mouse-left-click the DRO icon, and then you go through a couple of screens that you need to take an easy, quick action on, such as what country you are in:


0005You will finally come to this screen, where I have filled in the blanks you will need to fill in with correct answers for who you are: Coach, athlete, etc…






I have chosen a diuretic, one that was part of that case mentioned earlier, called indapamide. Once you click the SEARCH button, you will see a list of ALL the different ways indapamide might be available – say, as a tablet, as an injection, or as part of another combination tablet: 0008

It does not matter which you choose, so select the ingredient you want, and click the “View Status” to find out about in-competition and out-of-competition status of this drug.


See the two red words, “PROHIBITED” ??  How simple is that?  Take this drug at anytime in your competitive career, and you risk getting your ticket cancelled.  Note also there is a reference number?  Let’s say it returned that this was “Not Prohibited“.  This would mean that you can safely take the med – so a smart thing would be to print this out and SAVE it to document the fact.  Or, take a screen shot and email it to yourself, just in case.  This is called “due diligence” – doing what is necessary to protect yourself or your athlete from a mistake made through ignorance.  A mistake for which ignorance is NO EXCUSE!

Ok, let’s get to what I think is the most common risk athletes make – treating themselves for common, minor, ailments like “the crud” or the flu –  stopped up sinuses – where you just go to the drug store and get a pill to dry out your runny nose.  When you check “Sudafed” or “pseudoephedrine” (notice you can search on either brand names or generic names, it doesn’t matter), you get a search result for In-Competition of “Conditional“, so you read further down the screen and it says, “prohibited when the urinary concentration exceeds 150 microgram/mL”.

What that means is that you should NOT take this medication in the week before nor during a competition, unless you can accurately calculate the concentration of the drug in your urine at the time of the test.  Without getting too technical, you are NOT up to the task of calculating the volume of distribution, the rate of metabolization and renal clearance, for ANY drug. I’ve done enough math on the half-life for pseudoephedrine and a typical dose, to estimate that a safe margin is no less than 7 days from a single large dose.  In some cases it may be many more days than that.  So when you see “Conditional“, it is safest to actually read that as “PROHIBITED“.  

You should know that virtually no one ever, ever, successfully evades cheating.  USADA keeps the urine samples for literally YEARS, and goes back to test again and again as the machines get better and more sophisticated.  Medals get revoked even 10 years after they were given, because a new test reveals a cheat.

I’m going through this long exercise, showing you how easy and short it is to CHECK a drug, so that you won’t accidentally take something that causes a broken heart, a lost cause, wasted years of striving to be the best.

Coaches, be proactive on this.  Parents, you too!  Do the checks WITH your athletes so they know how to do it on their own.  Give them homework.   “Check out aspirin, Claritin, Afrin, Delsym, and Mucinex-D” and do it yourself, just so you know.  These are some of the most common drugs I get questions about.

What were the odds for an archer to be tested at an event EVEN if they aren’t part of some elite unit like the JDT or the USAT?  In 2013, a non-games-year, 27 archer urine tests were given by USADA (out of a total of over 9100 tests).  In 2012, a “games” year for both the Olympics and Paralympics, FORTY archery tests were administered. When you consider that at the ranking events and trials there are usually less than 300 or so athletes competing, the odds are actually fairly good someone will get the tap on the shoulder, especially if you finish in the top 6 regardless of your status on a team.

About “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” – aka TUE – they are available on a very, very restricted basis for SOME drugs, IF their committee can be convinced that the prohibited medication is the one and only thing keeping you from dying on the field.  Seriously, it is incredibly hard to get a TUE.  But it can be done.  Read more on…you guessed it…. .