On Scientific Behalf Of Exercise

One of the best archers I ever met just showed up at the field right out of the blue.  I watched in curiosity as he remained aloof, apart, shooting at his own target foam block while UT students went about being, well, college students.

Let’s call him, well, Easy.  Easy would shoot his arrows from a full-blown archery kit setup, hitting target decently at 70 meters, and then set bow down, and RUN to the bale, pull, and RUN back.  Seriously.  This guy was dedicated.  I know him better now, and have tried to informally help him though we have never had a formal coach-student relationship.  He’s a marvelous human in many ways.

I have recently learned WHY he became an excellent archer so quickly, or at least, one reason why.  He exercised aerobically before he exercised anaerobically.  He would get his heart rate up, then shoot.  How many archers do YOU know, coach, that do this?  DO you teach this?  Kisik Lee, National Head Coach, has the Resident Athletes do this at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.  I have to wonder:  WHY in the world do we coaches follow the path he lays down in shooting technique yet FAIL our athletes by not having them follow ALL of the methods he uses?

Let’s go to the mattresses:  Get a copy of SPARK.  The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman).  Or, subscribe to my notes in Amazon Kindle, and zero in on the passages I extracted as relevant to archery coaching.

I’ll try to briefly summarize for you lazier folk<G>.  Children in one Chicago school district, over 17 years of doing this, who are led to exercise in a specific way at the beginning of their school day, in controlled study, are able to outscore like aged children in every country in the world in a standarized test (the TIMSS).  Nothing else special – no megabucks spent, just having them exercise. Google “Naperville TIMSS Singapore”  – singapore routinely cleans the clocks of American students in readin’,writin’,and ‘rithmatic.

Got to keep this short: When YOU exercise to 60-70% of max heart rate in a way that requires your brain engages for stability, dexterity, coordination, etc. then your brain releases glutamate, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA, and most importantly Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. If you want the science of it, then read it. This book has it in spades – transparent, clearly said, easy to understand, scientific proof of a nature that is reliable enough to be acted on.

Again in short: With these chemicals cascading due to exercise, your brain chooses to use the “flight or fight syndrome” to lay down memory in a more powerful way.

Read that again as though your success as a coach depended on it.

Muscles exercising will create IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor), VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), and FGF-2 (fibroblast growth factor).  To be simplistic, these migrate to the brain and lay down more brain cells, more blood supply, and selectively myelinate the nerve pathways that are exercised immediately following …… aerobic exercise. If that happens to be shooting an arrow, the brain myelinizes better the skill of pointy stick into the gold, IF THE COACH IS DOING THE JOB A COACH SHOULD DO.

Ok, I’ve gone on long enough.  Get your students to exercise for 10 to 20 minutes before they shoot, and get their heart rates up to at least 120, maybe 160, depending on their age and their health.  Use prudence.  First, do no harm.  But like Easy, they will give you far more progess if you do this.  You will get credit you probably don’t realize you deserve.

Read Spark.  you will find it a great educational opportunity.  To get a taste of why it is pertinent to every archery coach, try this link.

Do some good today.  Make your students’ heart rates zoom before they shoot…


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