In this Improve Your Game we are discussing how to prevent injury. Stuart Taylor explains different elements to help.
Archery is an incredibly skilled sport using a lot of fine motor control under high tension. This makes injuries easy to pick up. This Improve Your Game will how to help you prevent injury in the future.
At InFocus Archery we have dealt with plenty of injuries ourselves and with our athletes. We have learnt what it takes to decrease the chance of injuries. Prevention is always better than cure.
With more and more focus on general fitness and strength in archers, taking the leap to pick up some weights and pull on some bands is on a lot of minds. It is certainly beneficial and can help prevent injuries on the field. You can also increase the chance of injuries when done without proper care.
It's impossible to guarantee an injury-free archery career but there are archers shooting thousands of arrows alongside strength and conditioning sessions that successfully avoid injuries.
The most well-known and yet so widely neglected aspect of injury prevention is a good warm-up. Before doing any sort of exercise, be it lifting weights or shooting your bow, warming your muscles up is crucial.
Your muscles are made up of lots of fibres and as you push them, those fibres will strain and sometimes they break and grow as the mend themselves. This is a perfectly natural process when building your strength and endurance, but you need to ensure your muscles are in a good position to do this efficiently.
Your muscles need a good blood flow for the duration of exercise so that they are receiving more oxygen. Oxygen is released more readily from your capillaries when at a higher temperature. So doing an active warm-up will really help get your muscles ready for taking on the load, and ensure they recover quickly.
Warming up also allows for faster expansion and contraction of your muscles by improving the speed of transmission of signals through your nerves, as well as muscle metabolism. Meaning your muscles can react quicker and stronger to changes in position and load. This is important in archery, especially on a windy day.
The key things to bear in mind when you are deciding what should go into your warm-up to help prevent injury are these:
Whether it's doing exercises in the gym, with weights at home, or shooting at your range, your form is particularly important. We've all experienced that level of fatigue when shooting that causes our form to go out of the window.
It's at these moments that injuries so often strike, and that's for two reasons. It's possible that your muscles are just too worn out at that point. As you persist in using that muscles the fibres start breaking down and just can't recover fast enough.
These injuries usually pass with rest and a good stretching regime over a short period of time because they are injuries of overuse.
More significant injuries develop when we compensate.
If you're at the level of fatigue that you cannot keep your form correct then you start to use muscles that weren't intended for that motion. You haven't been training to cope with this sudden force you're asking of them. These injuries can occur even when you aren't fatigued because they arise simply from your form changing suddenly in a way that asks too much of muscles you shouldn't have been asking anything of.
Firstly, if you can help it don't perform exercises, be it shooting or lifting weights when necessary muscles are too tired for you to be able to do them with correct form. Pay close attention to your form and make sure your muscle use is consistent.
If you're fatiguing too quickly then you should make the exercise easier to help prevent injury. You can do this by decreasing the weight, or poundage of your bow, or using lighter weights. You should build a training plan. Like those we work with at InFocus Archery to make, that will gradually build your strength and endurance, specifically targeting your weakest areas, to increase the load your muscles can take.
Of course, you will not always be able to avoid shooting while fatigued. Pay extra attention to your form, focus on your shot process still using the same muscles.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to fatigue, and consistency, is this:
If your muscles start to feel weak you can fight through it, if they start to get tight you can stretch them and keep pushing on. If you feel any pain, stop.
An often-ignored aspect of muscle health in archery is flexibility. We don't need to be very flexible for archery. In some cases being too flexible can cause problems with our form. However, allowing our muscles to become too tight can be just as detrimental, and it increases the chance of developing an injury from overworking.
Try adding some gentle stretches into your training regime.
Firstly, doing stretches once you have finished exercise, whether at the end of a competition day or after a session in the gym, will increase the rate at which your muscles can fully recover.
If you like, you can see stretching as realigning all of those muscle fibres that you've been working so that as they heal, they are doing so in the right way. Rather than forming large knots of fibres in your muscles that cause pain later on. You're pushing the lactic acid build-up out of your muscles too so that your muscles will be less inflamed following your exercise.
Stretches can be really good as an extra training session all on their own. Remember that stretching often doesn't need to be about improving flexibility. Unless you're particularly tight in a certain joint, stretching can be more about developing control throughout your range of motion.
I like to do stretching sessions that allow me to take some me-time. I'll focus on my breathing and settle into stretches. It's not about doing difficult, or uncomfortable, stretches in fancy positions, or trying to do advanced yoga techniques. For me, it's just a session compiled of simple stretches that cover all of my main joints and muscles, that I can settle into for a couple of minutes.
Completing a stretching session between each of your gym or shooting sessions will vastly improve your muscles' ability to recover quickly. This way you'll find you can build your strength and endurance much more efficiently while also greatly decreasing your risk of injury.
The penultimate aspect I want to raise around injury prevention is good nutrition.
It is popular to believe that protein aids with injury prevention, however, this is debated. High protein intake, up to 40g per meal, will benefit muscle recovery. In a way, this can help prevent injuries as it can ensure muscles are in a better state. They will be able to take the load required of them in future training sessions.
Protein intake can help muscle injuries. Nutrition is perhaps most notably effective for injury prevention in tendons and ligaments. Vitamin C and copper have both been shown to improve the ability of tendons and ligaments, as well as bones. They help to respond to changes in load quickly (by increasing collagen synthesis).
It's important to note that this benefit has only been shown by increasing the intake from a deficiency up to the recommended daily amount for a person of your size and age. Increasing copper of vitamin C intake beyond what is recommended has no signs of benefit.
Finally, your environment when doing your exercise has a large role to play. On a cold day, wrap up well to keep warm. You should keep your muscles moving throughout the training session. This will keep your blood warm and your heart rate up. If it is also windy or raining then you can feel even colder. So, those layers are just as important as keeping moving.
A windy day on the archery field brings a plethora of opportunities for your body to pick up an injury. Your muscles and ligaments will be consistently shifting tension to handle the changing force applied by the wind. It is windy days that you should be extra careful and focus on how your body is feeling. Combine moving around to keep your blood warm and pumping. Use stretches to keep from building up lactic acid. It will allow your muscles to repair.
Sleep is also important. Protein is used to its fullest by your body when you're asleep. Getting a good night's sleep before and after training is important. This is to ensure your muscles bounce back quickly from your training. Rather than building up inflammation and knots that lead to worse injuries down the line.
In short, looking after yourself and listening to your body is really important when it comes to preventing injuries. Get a good night's sleep, warm-up and cool down properly. Do some stretches, have three good meals a day and don't fight pain.
A good training plan, like those we create for our athletes at InFocus Archery, that is designed around what you and your body need can be really helpful. Follow InFocus Archery on Facebook for more tips to boost your shooting!
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