Category Archives: Life Lessons

Archery teaches lessons that are for life as well

Are You Certifiable? Yep.

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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.

Responsibilities Of The Coach: Penmanship, Math, and Sense

Somehow I wrote this in July, 2015 a few days after running the TSAA State Field Championship and never posted it.  In reading it now, seems to be valid, so better late than never:

Just finished running another tournament that included a number of young archers, and seeing a problem over and over again with the scorecards of these fine young archers.  But I am prompted to write because of an incident at a World Championship competition in Copenhagen 2015.

A top US compound archer who has been around for many years (I was honored to be an assistant team leader on a trip with him to the Dominican Republic years ago) managed to shoot extremely well in difficult cold, windy conditions.  At these events scoring is by BOTH electronic and paper means.  The relevant World Archery rule:

Article 14.4.1:    “One paper scorecard and one electronic scorecard are used, the sum total of the paper scorecard will be used for the final result unless the sum total reflected on the scorecard is greater than the actual score (in which case the lower actual score is used).”

The archer shot a good score, something like a 342.  On his scorecard, after a long and hard day, he mistakenly wrote a final score of 242, and he signed it and turned it in.  He accidentally cheated himself of 100 points and a caused a huge negative impact on his standing, and ultimately, on Team USA.   I am sure he felt worse for his two team mates that got “taken out” of a medal match than he did about doing that to himself.

ANYWAY, the WA properly applied the rule, (not saying the rule itself is “proper”, that’s another argument for another blog post) and the archer fell to 115th position, a disaster for not only himself but for his teammates, who were then taken out of the running as a team.  A very cold, hard lesson.  It’s likely he was simply very tired, and made a mental slip that could happen “to anyone”.  He’s an excellent sportsman, father, and generally well-respected and regarded individual.  And he certainly knows how to add and has been filling out scorecards for literally decades.  But it leads me to THIS point.

My point here is that at every event I have directed, MANY scorecards turned in by youth (and some adults) are well, just plain pathetic.  Instructors and coaches (and through the parents as well) need to teach archers how to properly write on a scorecard.  Pen, not pencil.  Black or blue ink, not pink, silver, gold, yellow or purple inks/gels or blunt sharpie!  Legibility is the goal!

At TSAA local and even state level events, as archers turn in their cards, we inspect them for completion, signatures, and such, and WE REFUSE THEM when there is a discrepancy or a lack of a signature.  In golf, such is grounds for disqualification from the event (it’s as though you never shot the tournament!).  We do this as a courtesy (giving the archer a second chance), because well, it ain’t the world championships.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if we should teach kids the hard lessons at an earlier time, like the one example above.

They/YOU/we also need to teach beginning archers how to add UP the 3 or 6 arrows.  If the archers are scoring routinely above 7 pts per arrow, then they need to teach the archers how to add DOWN and subtract from 60 the points they didn’t get to determine what they did get.  (it’s actually faster).

Archers MUST learn that after the last arrow is shot, the bow is put down, and the scorecards get tallied, there is a REASON why TWO scorecards are maintained, and why each scorer, at every end, adds the arrows separately, and then verbally confirms the total against the number the other scorer got separately, for the end.

Once you have actually taught HOW to write scores to your archers, you need to drive home the lesson.  A good teaching example is for you, the coach, walking up to 4 archers at a target full of their arrows during a mock tournament, you examine the score sheets and for each of the scorers with sloppy work, pulling a couple of their arrows OUT of the target and dropping them to the ground, and telling (all) the archers that due to a math error or an illegible number THEY DIDN’T CATCH DURING SCORING that those arrows won’t count in their final scores, and ask “how do you feel about that?”, to drive the point home.  You could/should have the entire club gather round so everyone gets the message.

Archers who are on the bale but NOT doing the scoring need to insist on each scorer adding separately and then verifying – if you are not one of the two scorers on your target, you better be watching over your scores!  Often I have witnessed (as an archer’s rep or as a judge) the scorer who is weaker in math skills simply wait for the other scorer to announce the tally, which he then writes down on his clipboard a number without a clue as to whether it is accurate!

Make sure your archer is equipped to do the math, and to stand up for herself when the scorer is NOT doing it right.

MATH counts.

See to it your archers understand if they are shooting for score, they need to get what they earn, and not settle for a point less.

And before they sign the card after the shooting is all done, double-check the math and THEN look at the final numbers, and ask, “Does this make sense”?

And remember there are several methods for math on scoring.  If the archer scores mainly red/gold, it’s often easier to track the difference(subtract from 10) between the arrows and 10 to add that sum. If they score less on average, it is often easier to simply add UP the arrow scores.

IE:    Let’s say that for a typical 6 arrow end, the archer’s arrows are:

10 10 9 9 9 8  ,
So ONE way to tally them is to say, 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 = 5, 5 from 60 is 55.  Here, you first figure out the “less than ten” points you for each arrow, then add up the points you did NOT GET, and take that from a perfect score of 60.  You can also work up from zero, of course, that is to say, go “10 + 10 is 20, plus 9 is 29, plus 9 is 38, plus 9 is 47, plus 8 is 55”.

Another way to build up the missed arrow points for the above example (which I find most comfortable) is to say mentally for the 10 10 9 9 9 8,   1,2,3,5; 55 as I add the difference on each arrow to a running sum in my head.  Takes very little practice and it fits the way my head works. THERE IS NO ONE PERFECT WAY!

With a lower-scoring end, let’s say:  10 6 6 5 4 2 , SO it becomes more work to add up the “missed points” and subtract from 60, than it is to simply add them up (10 + 6 = 16, plus 6 = 22, plus 5 = 27, plus 4 = 31, plus 2 = 33). Though yes, you could also say: 4, 8, 13, 19, 27, from 60 = 33.

Some will pair up arrows, esp. if they are smaller numbers:
16 + 11 + 6 = 33  (10 + 6, 6 + 5, 4+2) .

If the arrows are all the same:  9 9 9 9 9 9 , then 6 from 60 = 54, just as saying 6 * 9 = 54 .

9 9 9 8 8 8 = 3 * 9 + 3 * 8 , 27 + 24 = 51

So you can see there are many ways to add up 6 numbers (and I am not going to go anywhere near ‘COMMON CORE’ !!).  So please, coaches, TEACH your archers how to fill out a score card properly, and the lesson you teach MAY prevent the loss of a medal a decade letter on the international stage.  And make life easier for those who are running the tournament….

A final PS: In my opinion WA has made a mistake in the setting of this rule.

I was taught that Judges are a part of the sport in order to facilitate everyone getting a fair opportunity to compete.  NOT to penalize someone in a situation where no other archer is diminished or harmed.  As one wiseguy elite archer tweeted, “From here on out, I’ll just write 360 and 30 Xs, and THEY can figure out what the score actually is”.  You see, the rule allows for the score to be LOWERED to the accurate value if the archer makes a math error, but NOT to be raised if, yes, the archer makes a math error.  I feel this is less than fair, less than optimal, and while I can understand the concept, it does not make it equitable.  Regardless, the rule is as rule says and they have to follow the rule until they change the rule in the proper manner.  I bet and hope it gets changed at the next rules overhaul session.

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 …..deal 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.

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.

http://www.texasarchery.org/Results/NAA/JOADNationalTarget/JOADNatTargetFITA2006.htm

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.

 

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 .

 

(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.

What can you do?

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

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

So what do you do, coach?  Hissy Fit?

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Vitamin For Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover your bases, coaches.