Training is critical to do well in any competition. You need to train in order to perform your best when your score counts.
What can I do to prepare before a tournament? The first thing that I do is set up a routine for myself. My routine is my daily game plan that allows me to get the most out of my training.
What should I add to my training routine?
I do a lot of very specific and coordinated daily activities that all play into the day of the competition. Doing the same things in the same order as I do on a tournament day brings a sense of normality to the tournament day. This helps lower stress and improves my focus and comfort levels to perform my best. I chart what I eat, when I work out, and what I work on to continue improving every day. This is an example of some of the things I do specifically for archery tournament days:
I wake up at the same time every day - 5:30.
I stretch before I leave my room.
I exercise in the morning or evening for a minimum of 30 minutes.
I shoot at least 60 arrows every day (I stretch before I shoot).
If I am unable to shoot then I work on my release and form with my string bow.
I complete some form of specific training that prepares me for competition (simulation, form, equipment work, etc…).
All of the daily activities above I work on during the weeks leading up to the tournament. The day before the tournament however, is just as big of a day as the day of the tournament. This is the day that we prepare for the specifics of the shoot.
What do I do the day before the tournament to be ready?
I follow the same routine as usual like all the days before, but I add in a few important steps to my day:
I get up all of my clothes that I will shoot in that day.
I create a meal plan for the day. I make sure I have snacks, drinks, and meals for the day of the tournament.
I make sure I have all of my shooting gear in one location, all ready to go.
I create a before-shoot playlist of music. I usually listen to more energetic music before I shoot to get me hyped for the tournament, but sometimes if I am stressed listening to calm music can help take off the edge.
I go to bed early to ensure I get enough rest.
These things all play into my performance the next day. Everything you think you're going to run into the day of the tournament you want to familiarize yourself with. It’ll help make things less new which actually helps with competition pressure in athletes.
To familiarize myself with everything I am going to run into the day of the tournament I do the following:
I scout out the course or location. If I know where I am shooting it is less stressful because I understand the layout and where I will be.
I work on simulation training in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Simulation training is basically simulating a competition in order to get through any struggles before you are faced with them. I go as far as to put on my jersey and everything while training. Then I shoot against my teammates who can help be my “competition” even if we wouldn’t usually shoot against each other. I find that this type of training really helps to give you an idea of the intensity of the competition.
Indoor archery is probably the most noticeable discipline as far as intensity goes.
What is intensity?
Intensity in sports is basically the amount of pressure we feel in the competition setting. This feeling of pressure can be really low and you can be relaxed, or it can run very high and you can be anxious. What every athlete shoots for is the optimal level of intensity. This is when there is enough pressure to keep us motivated, but not too much (to rattle nerves). Indoor archery in my experience has a higher level of intensity than 3D or Field. This is because it is inside, you can see your competition shooting literally right in front of you, and there are usually spectators all around you.
These are things I do to prepare for this Intensity:
I do simulation training to try and give me an idea of what it will feel like the day of the competition.
I come up with strategies to get through any level of intensity when it comes up. Here are some things that help me deal with intensity when I get to the tournament:
Music. I love using music because I have spent a lot of time studying how it affects athletes performance. If I feel super nervous or anxious I will play calm or mellow music to attempt to calm myself. If I do not feel any pressure then I will actually listen to energetic music that will help me get hyped for the shoot.
If my level of intensity is lower than it should be I will jump, run (at home beforehand so I am not interfering with anything), or do some activity that will increase my heart rate and breathing.
When I am really feeling the pressure I try to relax. I reset before every arrow, and in between shooting times because if your anxiety gets the better of you, you will start shooting poorly. *Deep Breath* (Zen breathing is a good way to do this. Breathe in through your nose for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count, and exhale through your mouth for a 4 count.)
Keywords and mental cues also help anxiety and intensity. If I am stressed I will tell myself “stay cool” and sometimes this verbal acknowledgement is all I need to do better and feel better. If the level of stress is really high I will even run through my steps for shooting out loud because I need that audible reinforcement.
Endurance is huge in archery because you are constantly pulling back a bow which can have a lot of weight. Plus, you are standing in a room for a long time doing nothing but shooting at a little dot - this makes competitions mentally draining as well.
So how do we work on both our physical endurance as well as our mental endurance?
Physical endurance is perhaps the easier of the two to achieve; however, it is also hard to accomplish because it takes discipline. Exercise and shooting are really the only ways to gain substantial physical endurance. If you add exercises to your routine and you are shooting so many arrows a day you will be able to maintain good physical endurance. (however, shooting arrows for shooting sake can be damaging as well. You must shoot every arrow with purpose and attention to form and mental focus.)
Mental endurance is harder to practice, but possible to conquer with a plan.
These are things I do during a tournament to ensure that I am able to get through it successfully with a strong mind:
I use a three step plan to keep my mind in the game. These are the steps and the order of execution:
Rest - I take time after I shoot a few arrows to rest. When I say “rest” I don’t mean I go find a couch, but I do stay calm and I try to stop focusing so entirely on the target. That does not mean I stop focusing on the objective; however, I always keep in mind my goals and objectives for the tournament. During rest, I stop looking at the target and staring at it. I take deep breaths and chill.
Regroup - During this phase I go over my strategy for performing my best in my head. I ask myself these questions “What do I need to do in order to achieve my goals?”, “Is my form still where it should be?”, “How am I shooting up to this point?”. This step really is meant to keep your mind and mental game in the present. Being “in the now” is critical for success.
Refocus - During this phase I turn my attention back to the target. I have rested and gone over my plan - it’s time to execute. For the first shot after my period of mental reorganization I say out loud my steps for shooting.
I hope everyone finds some use for these strategies for pre-competition training and prep. They have helped me tremendously in the past. I can’t wait for indoor season to kick-off! Good luck to everyone!
Strive to be Point-On, Ironman