Category Archives: Training

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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: http://usada.org .  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:

0004

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…

 

0007

 

 

 

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.

0009

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…. usada.org .

 

Tendons. Everybody’s Got ‘Em. Antibiotics Might Be A Problem.

Back in 2009 during a coaching meeting at the COS OTC, I made a brief talk about cameras and drugs. I doubt anyone paid that much attention but I want to bring the “drugs” up again. The reason I talked about them, flouroquinolones in particular, was because at that time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. had just black-boxed them due to a tendon problem.

Remember that tendons are what tie the muscle to the bone.

ALL muscles attach to a bone via tendons.  Catastrophic failure of a tendon is called a rupture, and the tearing of a tendon right off of the bone, an avulsion.  Extremely painful and immediately immobilizing, the athlete may lose a career in an instant.

When a drug company is permitted to make a new drug in the U.S., usually an exhaustive process is followed, including carefully conducted human trials. This makes the safety margin for drugs in the US one of the best in the world, and it also means some beneficial drugs are kept out of the hands of desperate patients.(but that’s for another day).

WHEN a drug has been in use long enough, millions of doses given, there becomes possible the analysis of side effects in a way that was impossible prior to release. Very rare side effects can suddenly be revealed through computer number crunching.

When those appear, the FDA issues a “black-box” warning, stating that the drug has a certain side effect, not strong enough to warrant removing from the market, but a warning none-the-less.

Flouroquinolones (aka quinolones) are antibiotics. Very potent.

They are NOT usually considered the first-line, “drug of choice” (DOC) for any particular infections, but useful when there is a reason not to use the DOC, such as patient has an allergy or the DOC failed to work, or a lab test shows it is more suitable than the DOC.
ANYWAY, the new black-box warning for these drugs was and is that it increases the chances of a tendon rupturing months later, after the athlete forgets he/she ever took it. Know any athletes who’ve ruptured an achilles tendon? (basketball, football, track, etc.)  Or had a “joint/muscle pain” that happened during training/competition, right out of the blue)?
There is a distinct possibility that if an athlete has a respiratory infection, a paralympian gets a staph infection on his stump (very common), or a swimmer has a chronic UTI, they all get a quick script from a doctor or nurse practitioner for Cipro, and then, months later might blow their future olympic dreams during the stress of a competition, or even simply walking across a field. It can happen to archers, as the tendons surrounding the shoulders are subject to repetitive and intense stress.  There is no warning.  No “funny feeling” beforehand.  Just a sudden and massive “pop”, and the loss of the function.  The next stop: surgery.

Coaches:  Talk with your athletes about drugs in general, and cipro/levaquin/etc. specifically.   And include the parents, training buddies, related coaches (ie, you are a private archery coach and the student also participates in baseball, then the baseball coach!), who might be involved in the decision-making process to seek medical attention at some point in the career.

WARN ABOUT CIPRO and the other flouroquinolones!

There are USUALLY other antibiotics that can be chosen in place of CIPRO to do the same thing.  If the practitioner understands the risks and weighs the potential benefits properly, 99% of the time there will be an alternative to a quinolone for any given infection.

Here is a chart of the flouroquinolones:

Generic Brand Name
First Generation
Flumequine Flubactin
Nalidixic acid NegGam, Wintomylon
Oxolinic acid Uroxin
Piromidic acid Panacid
Pipemidic acid Dolcol
Rosoxacin Eradacil
Second Generation
Ciprofloxacin Cipro, Cipro XR, Ciprobay, Ciproxin
Enoxacin Enroxil, Penetrex
Lomefloxacin Maxaquin
Nadifloxacin Acuatim, Nadoxin, Nadixa
Norfloxacin Lexinor, Noroxin, Quinabic, Janacin
Ofloxacin Floxin, Oxaldin, Tarivid
Pefloxacin Peflacine
Rufloxacin Uroflox
Third Generation
Balofloxacin Baloxin
Gatifloxacin Tequin, Zymar
Grepafloxacin Raxar
Levofloxacin Cravit, Levaquin
Moxifloxacin Avelox, Vigamox
Pazufloxacin Pasil, Pazucross
Sparfloxacin Zagam
Temafloxacin Omniflox
Tosufloxacin Ozex, Tosacin
Fourth Generation
Besifloxacin Besivance
Clinafloxacin
Gemifloxacin Factive
Sitafloxacin Gracevit
Trovafloxacin Trovan
Prulifloxacin Quisnon

Last thought:  Some archers are lost to the sport because they develop an intractable pain, a sharp shooting pain in the vicinity of the shoulder, or in the back.  I have no way to confirm how many are due to a small tendon tear, but the odds are good that some are.   Now you know, and so may the odds be ever (better) in your favor…

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.

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.

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.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

You practice, practice, practice…goes the old joke.  If all your archer does is practice flinging arrows, you’ll never get her to Carnegie Hall, though, because it takes more than just practice.

It is a fairly well-accepted rule that in order to be the best at “something”, you have to put in a lot of work, and a general rule of thumb popularized over the last few years is 10,000 hours.

That’s right, they say – Michael Phelps spent 10,000 hours swimming laps, Michael Jordan playing pickup on the neighborhood basketball courts for 10k hours .  There is a lot of evidence when you look at various successful olympic athletes, that something similar about “time invested” applies.  Another argument is that there really aren’t any “child prodigies” for sports, that the overnight sensations are usually people that labored (practiced) anonymously for years until they were discovered (or had honed their skills till they were “good enough”.

I fell in love with this whole concept when I first was told about it during an olympic coaching seminar held for all sports disciplines in Colorado, and I took it to heart since it merged with what through personal experience I felt I already knew.  I also came home with the understanding that it is not merely “doing it everyday” instead of once every four years, but that it had to be purposeful practice.

This concept struck a deep chord, for I had unwittingly performed much this same concept in working with my athlete that ultimately medaled in Beijing. Coach Tom Parrish had told me as early as 2001 that Korean archers (then as now renowned as some of the world’s best) always practiced with a coach so that no bad habits were allowed to creep in.  Therefore, I had resolved to coach my daughter this same way.

For my archer, it was that nearly every arrow, of nearly every single practice day during more than 8 years of dedication, was done with me coaching – analyzing, assessing, judging, providing instant feedback and reinforcement.  The archer was incredibly adept at receiving the observations and adjusting continually.  I would guess this applied for 80% of her practice time – the rest of the time she diligently worked on her skills by herself, almost always with a set of particular element(s) to improve.   She rarely met the “4 to 6 hours per day” workload due to physical limitations.  However, when she was training she put 100% of herself into it, a higher commitment than most athletes can manage for such an extended time.  She was deeply invested in “purposeful practice”, and though I estimate she put in “only” 8,000 hours, it proved enough.  Which brings me to ….

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence , by Daniel Goleman

This book confirms in many ways the need for the “whatever-the-heck-number-of-hours-you-can-get-out-of-your-athlete” are, to be purposeful, innovative, challenging, stimulating, non-boring, enjoyable, well….you get the idea.  I know it is a fact that in at least one medalist’s case, that if done with the right technique, you don’t need 10,000 hours and that is part of Goleman’s argument.  It can be done with far less, (as well as require far more) – the 10k rule makes the assumption that the individual actually has the core strength in all the elements that define “elite” to rise to the top step.  In reality few will, but I do believe the investment of hours will lead that athlete to be the best that she or he “can” be.

This book should be on your shelf, coach, with ample highlights, underlines, quotes identified, and with the understanding that like the other books in my bibliography up here, it’s both completely right and maybe all wrong.  Take the parts that work best for your coaching philosophy and own them.   If you are fortunate enough to encounter an athlete dedicated enough to attempt 10,000 hours of purposeful practice, you must be prepared to contribute your part to making those hours to be….purposeful enough, useful enough, effective enough, RIGHT enough, to enable that athlete to rise to his or her full potential.  Will it be on the medal stand?

Only the gods of sport will decide upon which head the laurel wreath will rest.