When I was shooting compound there really was no “off” season or down time. One season blurred in to the next, and I think it was very easy to get burned out if you weren’t careful and really paid attention to structuring your training plan accordingly. In fact, one year I shot World Cup Finals at the very end of October, and the first indoor World Cup was something like two weeks later. With my switch to recurve it is totally different. Obviously, I am not qualifying for World Cup Finals, and unfortunately, I can’t afford to shoot the indoor World Cup circuit. This has left me MONTHS of time between seasons. My last outdoor tournament was in August, and my first indoor tournament will likely be in January.
Since I’m preparing to head off to take my level 4 coaching course soon, let me put my coaching hat on for a second. I’d like to address some of the common pitfalls I see among athletes during the off season, and my solution for them.
1)First up is the type A overachiever, who goes full speed into every workout. This person refuses to take a day off and grinds through the fall like they have tournaments every week. From my experience this individual can, and usually is, very successful…until they aren’t. Without proper rest and recovery, this person will burnout. Treating every training session with an 11/10 intensity level is simply not sustainable over time. You don’t have to take my word (or experience) on this, there are literally hundreds of thousands of scholarly articles out there that explain why over-training is a real thing.
Here are a just a few examples (feel free to comment below or message me for further reading):
An analysis of the training stress syndrome in competitive athletics
The easiest way to combat this is to build rest periods into your training plan. For example, if you have a long break between tournaments, take two weeks off, completely away from archery. This is a great opportunity to do other things you enjoy, that you may not get to do in the middle of heavy training periods. This is also a great time for catching up with friends and family members, getting ahead at work or school, or finding a new passion. It is important to use this time to not only rest your body but to recharge and reset your mind. This way when it comes time to get serious about training again, you will be ready.
2)Similar to number one, I have seen a lot of people think they can go from zero to hero overnight. Whether you are starting from scratch, or coming off of a rest period, I don’t recommend jumping straight to your heavy tournament limbs, 400 arrows a day, or running a marathon. It’s important to work your way up to where you want to be and the fall is the perfect time to do this.
Want to shoot a bow that is 5 pounds heavier, increase 1/2 pound per week over 10 weeks. Want to increase your weekly arrow volume from 500 to 1200, the key is to add volume each week until you are where you want to be. A great article to explain the best way to do this is: Forget the 10% Rule: How to Increase Mileage Safely Yes, it is a running article, but replace running and mileage with archery and arrow count and you get the gist. When in doubt, go with the tried and true practice of increasing just 10% a week.
3)Next up on my list of mistakes is forgetting to cross train. The off season is the perfect opportunity to add cross training into your weekly routine, especially if this is new for you. The key here is to remember the last point. Adding cross training during the middle of the tournament season can be tough, because your body doesn’t have time to properly adapt to the changes, with tournaments on the horizon. This is one reason why the fall is a great time to get started on a fitness program. Add strength training and/or cardio to your weekly training, and you will find it will help your archery on many levels. The benefit of cross training isn’t just a healthier body overall, it also allows you to rest muscles that may have been overworked during the year, while building strength in other areas. Cardio workouts can improve your lung capacity, and I find help me from getting sick during the periods of intense travel.
Adding cross training during the off season is great for a few reasons. First, you can shock the system with something new, and not worry about it’s effect on an upcoming event. Two, you are likely shooting less, so you have more hours available during the week. I always suggest increasing cross training when archery training decreases and vice versa. This means you don’t have to come up with extra hours in what is probably already a very busy week! For an easy to read summary of why cross training is important, read this.
4)Failing to plan for following year.
Another common pitfall is forgetting the big picture. This can be easy to do when you are going from tournament to tournament, which is why the off season is a great time to stop and reflect. Really focus on what matters to you, re-evaluate your goals and decide what to focus on for the upcoming year. This can be tough, especially when we see our friends and fellow competitors signing up for tournaments. We don’t want to feel left out, so we sign up. This can be a huge mistake if that tournament isn’t aligned with helping us reach our goals for the year. The easiest way to avoid this is to map out the season ahead and plan for the year as a whole. Look at your budget, look at your non-archery commitments (think work/school), and looks at your goals for the year. Make a plan and try to stick to it. This will also help you in forming a training plan that will allow you to be at your best during the tournaments that mean the most to you.
If you don’t have a map for the year, it’s almost impossible to plan your training. This can lead to “just shooting arrows,” which we all know has little benefit to you. Know what each day’s focus is. Know what your working on this month, and know where you need to be next week. If you can’t answer these questions, then you are holding yourself back from reaching your full potential!
With that, I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve personally experienced, or what you’ve seen. What are mistakes we as archers make between seasons/during our off season?