Many of our Team Tough Chik members do more than running, biking and swimming. We have interests all over the board, but yes most of us are running, cyclists and triathletes. We do have a few trail blazers, and Crystal is the epitome of a TOUGH CHIK. I asked for her to share her love for archery with Tough Chik Nation! I know I learned a lot and I am sure you will enjoy this too!
Chances are if you watched the London Olympics last year, you probably watched some of the archery competition, as it was the #1 viewed sport. There were some great matches, with USA’s Khatuna Lorig in the bronze medal match and the men’s team beating the favorites (Koreans) to bring home the silver. Even if you didn’t watch any of the archery in the Olympics, chances are you have either watched some archery matches on YouTube (#2 watched sport) or been exposed to some form of archery in other ways, from the popular Hunger Games and Brave movies, Nock Out and Arrow tv shows, or you or someone you know hunts with a bow.
One of the great things I LOVE about the sport of archery is it truly is a sport for everyone. In fact, just a little over a year ago, I had no idea archery was even a sport. I had heard about local 3d archery from Rich (my husband) who had done some with his dad growing up, but until I watched the London Olympics, archery wasn’t even on my radar.
In fact, it was during this time that Rich challenged me to a duel in the backyard. Naturally, I was not about to back down from a challenge, so I picked up an old hunting bow to shoot against him. I easily beat him, so he decided winner was best out of 3 ends. Well needless to say this continued for nearly an hour, with Rich not winning a single end.
We had been looking for a new hobby that we could do together (we had tried biking and had both raced mountain bikes, but he was considerably faster making it frustrating trying to spend time together on the bike). Rich decided it was time to take me to a range, since it was something we could easily do together, no matter how good either of us got.
As a competitive person who has always dreamed of competing in the Olympics one day, I naturally decided to buy a recurve bow with hopes of someday getting good enough to qualify. I struggled with the recurve bow all fall, never truly enjoying myself, as I felt awkward and unnatural with it. On a whim, I entered the local shop’s event in the compound division and shot with a cheap hunting bow. I put up a pretty respectable score, but more importantly I knew this was the type bow for me. Even though it meant giving up my lifetime dream of someday making the Olympics, I sold my recurve bow and got a target compound bow for Christmas…not realizing this was about to completely change my life.
After being successful locally, I decided to try my hand at some national level tournaments, with my sights set on making the US National Team. The schedule was not in my favor, both as a new archer AND someone living in the cold Northeast, so I didn’t hit my strides until later in the season (and therefore did not make the team). I did, however, place 4th at the US Open (last day of the National Target Championships) and began to get equipment sponsors. And in August (just 9 months after getting my bow), I was offered the opportunity to become a professional archer. It was a tough decision, but with Rich’s support, I quit my job and will now be competing across the World as a pro.
Having competed in MANY sports growing up, from local to international level, I can honestly say the sport of archery as a whole is the most open and welcoming group I have ever met. There are people competing of all ages (friend of ours is a 5 time Olympian who didn’t make his first Olympic team until he was 36!), all walks of life, and all body types! In my mind it truly is a sport where hard work is rewarded, not just genetics.
The other aspect of archery I truly enjoy is the fact that you train your entire body. Yes, there is a huge physical component to archery, and as a beginner this is where the bulk of your time is going to be devoted. You not only need to build up archery specific muscles, but you will need to learn proper form and technique. In fact, you’re probably surprised to learn that very little arm strength is actually involved in shooting. Drawing a bow (correctly/safely) uses your back muscles, specifically the LAN 2 area (if you have ever swam the butterfly you know which muscles I’m referring to) in an angular motion, not simply a linear pull with your arms. This is one of the biggest mistakes you see beginners make, and it leads to injury if not done properly. In addition, brute strength is less of an issue in competitive archery because there are limits on bow poundage, arrow speed, etc to keep the playing field as level as possible.
From there it becomes more of a mental game as you progress. You are focused on making a “perfect” shot every shot for 60, 72 or even 144 arrows in a single day of competition. This is mentally taxing if you are not mentally strong. You also have to work on distraction training and being truly “in the moment” for the shot, which I’ve found can be a great stress reliever for those who have trouble shutting off their brains.
The final piece to archery competition, and probably the least known by those outside the sport, is the equipment. Your body and mind can be at 100%, but if your equipment isn’t, you will not win at the top level. You can think of Nascar, where a single bad tire change can cost you the race, the same is true of archery. The bow, the arrows, the rest, etc must all be tuned to you and each other. Just because something works for one archer, doesn’t mean it will work for another. This is one area I see a lot archers wasting time and money. They see one of the top archers shooting a particular setup, and they quickly copy, thinking it will result in a better score for them, when if fact, it could have the opposite effect.
As I mentioned, typical training for an archer will vary, depending on skill, time available and goals. Typically, beginners may shoot 2-3 days a week, with as much as ½ of this time not even with a real bow in their hands. They can work with stretch bands and other equipment to get used to the proper form (shooting with improper form or too much weight too soon easily leads to injuries). Their training will progress can progress to a more intermediate level where they are shooting arrows 3-5 days/week, and they are now beginning to incorporate archery specific drills into their shooting. These drills will work on both the physical AND mental aspects of archery (shooting faster/slower, shooting under pressure or with distractions, aiming off of the center, etc). And as a professional, I will be spending a much higher percentage of my time on my equipment vs shooting my bow. This is not to say I will be shooting any less, but instead of shooting 14 hours in a week and tuning my equipment just 1 hour, I might now shoot now shoot for 16-20 hours and tune for 4-5.
One thing you might be curious about is what about non-archery training. Do archers cross train, and if so what do they do? Here again I would say it is very individualized. I don’t think there is one answer across the board. You could easily talk to 10 professional archers and get 10 different opinions. From my own quest for knowledge I will say that very few spend time in the weight room. Some, like myself, do Flexor (a strength/balance program), planks, pushups, and/or some type of core strengthening that will give you an advantage in windy conditions. In terms of cardio or aerobic exercise, I would guess its probably about 50/50, those that do and don’t. Many that don’t say it is a time issue with their travel schedule, but they will acknowledge they see benefit to it. Ultimately, I don’t think any one activity (swimming, running, skiing, etc) is the secret to becoming a better archer. It’s more about improving your overall health (less chance of getting sick with a crazy travel schedule), allowing you to have better breathe control (helps in pressure situations and when making a long shot), and helping you to avoid injuries and make it through an entire day of competing.
If you are interested in archery either as a sport (or just a hobby), I encourage you to reach out to me and/or your local range. Archery is very rewarding on so many levels, and my only regret is that I didn’t know about the sport earlier in life. And finally, as a female, I must say I enjoy getting to customize the colors of all my equipment. In fact, maybe you’ll want to go with the tough chik colors to represent if you decide to give archery a try.
If you want to follow Crystal’s journey, log on her archery website is http://crystalgauvin.com/ with a blog linked to the “journal” page. She also has a contact page, so you can get in touch with her directly for any questions!
Thank you Crystal for sharing your passion!