How to get outdoor ready

With the indoor season drawing to a close, Patrick Huston shares his guide to preparing for outdoors, so you can hit the ground running

Patrick credits mental rehearsal for his winning an Olympic place last summer

So, we’ve spent the past four to five months shooting and competing mostly at 18m. Occasionally you might have moved out to 25m or 30m if you’re lucky with the space available, but pretty much everything will have been inside a small sports hall, dimly lit and cramped. However, it’s nearly time to move outdoors and start shoot proper distances again. That means training outdoors, shooting more arrows and quite likely different arrows too. I hope to help you start this transfer off with a bang to really get you rolling at the start of the outdoor season. This article will talk about changing your training, some aspects of your kit, and a bit of mental prep. I hope you like it. 

The biggest thing that is going to affect you once you start competing outdoors is the increase in your arrow volume. We shoot 60 arrow rounds indoors, yet 72 plus head-to-head rounds and 144 arrow rounds in the summer season. This means an awful lot more volume through your muscles, and your mind as well. In order to get the most out of your season it is really best to start preparing for this as early as you can. So, what are you gonna do?

The change in body angle can be a shock when going from 18m to 70m, and can even be detrimental to your form

The easiest thing to say is to increase your arrow volumes, though that can often be very difficult indoors due to limited club times! Probably the easiest way to increase your bow fitness in the same amount of time is to start and finish your sessions with some bow training (I have written a previous article on this that will give you some ideas). This allows you to get a good degree more volume into your muscles, which will help you cope with the increase in arrow numbers outdoors.

I recommend reversals to start, followed up by some seven-twos. There’s other ways to use your shooting time more efficiently too – try shooting larger ends, or shooting more quickly. This will get more arrows down-range in the same period of time and be more intense training as well, due to the reduced recovery time. Both of these factors will help muscular adaptation. I’d also recommend putting your target right at the top of the boss; if it’s a triple spot put it up horizontally. Doing this will mean you can begin to coax your body into a 50/70m angle which can be quite a shock and actually be quite damaging to your form!

Check over your waterproofs and re-proof them if necessary

There are quite a few more ways not directly linked to shooting that can really help you to get fired up outdoors. One of the things we must contend with is the wind. I recommend doing some light clini band work to stiffen up your upper body. Try coming to full draw and having somebody pull slightly on a clini band tied to your bow, while you do your best to hold it steady. Try 10 six-to-10 second holds with alternate sides being pulled. You’ll find it remarkably hard even with a small amount of force. This can be a very useful training exercise. Focus on how your upper body connects into your core and down to your base when you are doing this. You’ll find a level of focus which provides the optimum stability. Do this every session and you’ll be fending off those gusts like a mountain! Feel free to experiment with this kind of training as the possibilities are near endless. 

Outdoors we walk a lot more distance, so if you can get out and do some cardiovascular training that will help no end. If that’s running, swimming, rowing, even walking the dog, just being a little more active will help you from flagging at the end of a long day shooting down the field.

Coming up to the outdoor season you shouldn’t do many big kit changes – that’s really best kept for the start of indoors – but an arrow changeover is one many will do. Going from fat arrows to skinnies is quite a big job and will be covered in my next ‘going outdoors’ feature.

Now is a great time to clean out your button and give your equipment a once-over

Things you should make sure to be ready with though are a couple of spare strings, waxed and stretched to go on as you move outdoors. Try to alternate them about every couple of weeks to make sure you always have a really effective spare. You should gather your waterproofs and possibly re-proof them. Fetch your tent, chair and any other kit you bring to tournaments out of the attic or garage and dust down the old scope. Doing a thorough clean of all your equipment can always be beneficial – and I strongly recommend you pay close attention to your button. They can clog up with dirt very easily and cost you postings, inevitably at the worst moment.

Now for the mental stuff: first off you need to plan out your season. What tournaments are you going to do? Are there travel or accommodation arrangements to be made for them? Which are the important tournaments you want to peak at? What are your goals for the season? Knowing all of this at the start will help to keep you focused and motivated in your training and preparation. It also means that you will actually be able to train alongside a plan, which most times will help you to achieve your goals!

Make sure your tent, chair and other field equipment are dusted down and ready to take with you

However, there is something I would really recommend you try to build in for the coming season and that is proper mental preparation. I’ll be doing a guide on this in the future, but it really is incredibly effective. One of the biggest things which helped me win my spot in Rio was mental rehearsal – seeing in my mind’s eye things I wanted to happen. I did this every night before I went to sleep for about 20 minutes. I would rehearse shooting matches against people that I was likely to meet in Nottingham, I would feel myself lift the arrow out of my quiver, see it nocked on the string, go through my shot routine and watch the arrow land in the target just as if I had really done it.

As you advance you can add in your surroundings and competitors. At top level you can pre-empt the feelings of pressure and the thoughts that will come into your head. I cannot praise doing this enough towards achieving a singular and important goal. If you’ve done it over and over in your head beforehand then it feels like déjà vu when you come to do it for real. Start training your mind for this coming season and see what the results you can get are like. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s really hard to begin with so start off just imaging yourself going through your shot and then slowly add layers. Remember, the brain is a muscle just like anything else in the body, it needs time to strengthen. 

So now you’ve got an idea some of the things you should be doing to start preparing for the outdoor season I hope you’ll get to work. There are whole hosts of reasons why indoors is brilliant for our archery, but it can get boring. Outdoors is really what our sport is about, so let’s step into gear for it now to really hit the ground running. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a little planning and graft! 

This article originally appeared in the issue 114 of Bow International magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store

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