Archery during Covid-19 – keeping sane

A chance for change? Staying fit and keeping perspective in difficult times. By Arne Metzlaff and Bow staff.

Chances are, by now, you’ll never want to hear the word ‘coronavirus’ ever again, unless it’s in a historical context. But inevitably, you know this will be with us for a while yet.

Almost every national or international outdoor competition this year has been cancelled, and it’s not even certain the indoor season will restart on time either. While clubs may be gradually reopening, it’s obvious that club archery as we know it is going to look very different this year.

But what does it look like if you don’t have your own garden (with enough space so that you don’t accidentally shoot the neighbours) or the ceiling height in your own house or flat is not sufficient? How can you still call yourself an archer? 

An enforced break from the sport can offer us some opportunities, however. Who hasn’t heard the phrase “I should really do more training at home”.  But how many of us do it? Why not seize the opportunity now to really take a few minutes each day and devote it to archery – even with a lack of ‘live’ training opportunities? 

Banding together

Let’s start with the most basic: training with a stretch band or Theraband. Here you can train your normal movement pretty  well and also vary the ‘poundage’ instantly. You can optimally combine this training with a mirror, with the help of which you can also carry out a visual check of the movement.

In addition, you can combine the whole thing with a change of lateral side, i.e. if you are right-handed, try shooting left handed. This offers the opportunity to train the muscles, which are otherwise stressed differently on both sides, and especially to feel the movement on the “wrong” side, making it important for motor skills and the brain.

You should have more than one Theraband, of course. Stash a dozen of them all around the house if you have to.  

Shooting (safely) at short range indoors will help to keep form

As well as the Theraband, there are more powerful long training bands with handgrips widely available which are a solid substitute for the gym for flexibility and strength-building. Working on pushups, even the most ‘beginner’ forms (as recommended by Lucy O’Sullivan in a previous issue) will help a great deal.  

The next thing to try is to improve your sense of balance and body stability through targeted exercises. The easiest option is of course a balance trainer, which only a handful of archers have at home. (You can get some of the way there by just folding a towel several times so that you can still stand on it with one foot.)

Then practice shooting with the Theraband on the balance pad (or the towel). Other exercises here can include standing on one leg, circling an object around the body or legs, and picking up or throwing an object, like a medicine ball.

Pulling it back

Reversals, or targeted training with the bow without shooting, is a completely essential part of all serious archery training, and one consistently ignored by the average shooter. (This has been covered in Bows passim many times, most recently in a piece by German youth team coach Marc Dellenbach). If you can set the bow up and draw it, there really is no excuse. (Although, there frequently is one.)

Reversals can be hard work, aren’t much fun, and can be pretty boring too – which is probably why they are so often left by the wayside.  It’s a good idea to try and combine reversals with something that will take your mind off reversals: music, a radio comedy show, a podcast, or a TV programme where you don’t need to look at the screen too much.

If you can make it habitual, or just incorporate them regularly into your routine, you will find that your strength and endurance increases so rapidly it will surprise you.

This is also an excellent time to start getting familiar with the Astra Archery shot trainer or similar Formaster-type device, as it does take quite a bit of practice and getting used to – finding a little ‘space’ to get familiar is well worth the effort.  

For all those who can shoot in the house or even the garden, there are a number of other options. It doesn’t matter whether you can shoot three metres or thirty.

If shooting is possible, there are various options on the internet for printing out correspondingly scaled variants of the original targets even for shorter distances (e.g. at that should match the actual target image. World Archery has developed a series of fun ‘corona’ target faces for use if you fancy metaphorically striking back at the virus. 

Back-garden shooting is also an excellent time to be using video analysis to work on your form; and asking your coach or other experienced archers for a critique.

Of course, these videos do not replace real training with a trainer standing next to you, but it is another help to improve your shooting during this break and do something to maintain strength.

Even if the compulsory break is over, there will probably be few tournaments for the time being, so this time should be used as sensibly as possible and should be put into improving the ‘technology’.

This is often possible with simple ideas, such as a band that hangs on a doorknob somewhere at home and that is always pulled back for a few “shots” as you go past. In principle, the unwanted break should be used as effectively as possible to lay the foundations for a successful coming season.

A lot of people, archers and not, have of course been working on many aspects of their fitness. (I have been astonished by the number of people out jogging during lockdown.) Cardiovascular fitness remains perhaps a little underrated for archers, and will, of course, improve all aspects of your life.

Keeping perspective 

Of course, this is a positive spin on things. You many have read a few articles about what to do with your time this year, and more of them should end like this: absolutely, categorically do not beat yourself up about it.

Many (perhaps most) people entered lockdown thinking that they would get fit and healthy, or learn a new language, or complete some other project, and they simply haven’t managed to do it.

It’s a great time to use an Astra trainer or similar device. Pic: Astra Archery

The circumstances are difficult, and the mental health pressures on everybody should not be underestimated – and for people with children, everything becomes exponentially harder. 

One of the best things about having archery in your life is that skills and form never atrophy completely; it’s a sport you can quit for six months, two years or twenty and still come back to.

It may be a while until we collectively get out of the woods; so please: stay healthy and just try to make the best of it you can.

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