Fit­ness? Or not?

Lucy O’sullivan talks about the age-old ques­tion

Bow International - - CONTENTS - By Lucy O'sullivan.

Last month Bow re­ceived a ques­tion for the Ask The Ex­perts sec­tion which said this: "We are of­ten told that over­all fit­ness is cru­cial to archery, yet I have to say I look at a lot of elite archers and they are ob­vi­ously not ath­let­i­cally very fit. Which is it?" We de­cided to let Lucy O'sullivan, archer and fit­ness trainer, an­swer it more fully.

This is the age old ques­tion for archers, we are con­stantly told that we should be ‘fit’, and yet many get re­sults at all kinds of ap­par­ent sizes. So what should we do?

I don’t think it is ever fair to say that some­one is fit and some­one else isn’t fit – as a per­sonal trainer I coach so many dif­fer­ent kinds of “fit­ness”. I have peo­ple who are swim fit; run fit; archery fit; peo­ple who are body weight strong; and some who are heavy-lifters strong. It can be very dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine what you mean by “fit”. To be fit is based on be­ing fit for ones own en­vi­ron­ment, in the way a fish is fit for the wa­ter, and a bird is fit for the sky. So some­one fit for foot­ball, will be dif­fer­ent from some­one who is fit for sumo wrestling.

How­ever for some­one to be ‘ath­let­i­cally fit’ there is the gen­eral con­sen­sus that they have a lower fat to weight ra­tio, and are able to per­form ba­sic ath­letic skills with ease. As some­one who has been through many body com­po­si­tions (body shapes), let me ex­plain my per­sonal per­cep­tion on this re­lat­ing to archery per­for­mance.

When I was a teenager, ob­vi­ously body shape is a huge deal for teenage girls, cou­ple that with a par­tic­u­lar na­tional coach who made us all feel like we were ‘fat’, I lost a lot of weight. Yes I looked skinny and healthy, but I was NOT fit or strong, let alone archery fit, and my per­for­mance suf­fered!

On the flip side, at uni­ver­sity I was very, very strong, and my archery per­for­mance was okay, how­ever I was very un­healthy. Adding the uni­ver­sity drink­ing life­style to a griev­ance I had at that time; I ate and drank a lot of the wrong things and piled on the pounds.

I be­lieve that your phys­i­cal out­side is of­ten re­flec­tive of your psy­cho­log­i­cal state. For ex­am­ple if peo­ple are not par­tic­u­larly happy in them­selves, they don’t look af­ter them­selves as much; they may not be as well groomed; or wash them­selves as reg­u­larly; or they may com­fort eat more, or ex­er­cise less. For me it was the lat­ter two. Now my archery per­for­mance wasn’t ter­ri­ble, nor was it amaz­ing, but my state of health and mind was def­i­nitely not in the right place. (If you want to check if you are okay have a read up on Maslow’s Hi­er­ar­chy of Needs).

Let’s look at the present. I make it my mis­sion to stay fit and healthy, and help oth­ers do the same. Hav­ing be­ing on both ends of the spec­trum, I be­lieve that be­ing fit is more a mind­set then any­thing else. Why would you want to be too big or too small, if both ex­tremes are go­ing to cause health im­pli­ca­tions? Peo­ple who are anorexic for ex­am­ple, tend to get joint prob­lems; bone


prob­lems; and can’t heal as fast, not the best thing to help an archery per­for­mance. And on the flip side peo­ple who are obese not only strug­gle with move­ment in gen­eral, but they are more likely to suf­fer from di­a­betes; high blood pres­sure; and all sorts of other nasty ill­nesses. Now of course those are both ex­tremes, but why put your body through that?

Some peo­ple have ar­gued that more body­weight means that an archer will be more sta­ble in the wind, and sev­eral Olympic cham­pi­ons and top-level com­pounders have been on the heav­ier side. Re­gard­less of mus­cle or fat mass, all elite archers, es­pe­cially re­curves, are im­mensely strong – of­ten a lot stronger than they look. All those at the top level will be work­ing with weights to build strength and stamina, what­ever size they are. How­ever, you don't usu­ally see a lot of large body­builder-type mus­cle mass on elite archers – they're usu­ally go­ing af­ter dif­fer­ent goals.

I per­son­ally found that when I trimmed down, yes I lost some of that gen­eral “fat strength” which can be ideal in sta­bil­is­ing the wind, but the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions know­ing that I was look­ing af­ter my body for the fu­ture, be­ing able to per­form ev­ery day tasks with ease, and then of course be­ing com­pli­mented, boosted my self-es­teem more so than the points gained by be­ing big­ger, and there­fore be­ing fit­ter added to my archery per­for­mance! At some point, if you don't work on your over­all fit­ness your archery re­sults will start to plateau - guar­an­teed.

Of course, if you get two un­trained peo­ple of the same height and build, the big­ger per­son will be gen­er­ally stronger than the thin­ner per­son phys­i­o­log­i­cally. Great for per­for­mance, how­ever it will cost them more en­ergy to move around and causes more weight bear­ing strain on the joints, which is not go­ing to help in the long term. So it is bet­ter to be a gen­er­ally healthy build, to look af­ter your­self. If you do find you are still strug­gling in the wind, you can use a ruck­sack filled with heavy items on your back while shoot­ing, or even bet­ter, plain and sim­ple get strong in the gym.

Now there will al­ways be times in the year when we archers strug­gle. As an elite ath­lete be­ing on tour means that habit and rou­tine goes out of the win­dow, and there's a lot of tempt­ing junk food about. So it is usual for peo­ple to put on a few pounds (my­self in­cluded). You can ei­ther try re­ally hard to pre­pare your­self to be healthy while you are away. For ex­am­ple, tak­ing healthy snack op­tions to shoots with you, like fruit and nut mix. Of course, your body needs to be used to this health­ier food at home first! Or you could just be less strict on your­self while you’re away, and know that you have to work ex­tra hard before and/or af­ter you go away, in the gym and on diet.

You could even wait un­til your off sea­son to re­ally get back to a good state of health and fit­ness, per­form­ing ev­ery­day tasks with ease, take it eas­ier on your­self in sea­son but know­ing that come the off-sea­son you need to be firmly back on it.

Of course it is al­ways dif­fi­cult to achieve the ath­letic body, es­pe­cially in sea­son, but I be­lieve that if you look af­ter your body, it will look af­ter you in the long term, help you with men­tal per­for­mance such as con­fi­dence, and keep you from nasty ill­nesses, too. Re­mem­ber it is at least as much about the food you eat as the miles you run, so try to make sen­si­ble food choices ev­ery day, and on days when you’re not eat­ing the best foods, do try and add in ex­tra ex­er­cise.

be­ing fit is more a mind­set than any­thing else

left Be­low

Oh Jin Hyek: big man, big re­sults me shoot­ing when I was a lit­tle heav­ier

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