The spring weather is coming out and that can mean only one thing, it’s time for shooting again in the great outdoors. Nothing beats the satisfaction of getting out there with a bow. It puts greater emphasis on being more active. Some take up running, some take up cycling while other choose archery. Now for some people like me that presents a problem if you are a non-driver and are probably still working on passing your test. Making it really difficult when the archery range is only accessible by car and there is no public transport other than a cab that sometimes doesn’t go down that way. So I have forced to rely on improvising my technique indoors in places where I don’t need a shooting range. This might sound hopeless but if you can work a way around it then you can get through it and be prepared for when you’ve got access to a shooting range.
A good idea to practice shooting is to not shoot at anything at all. By that I mean not shooting arrows, but practice shooting your bow. When I went up to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games I didn’t want to lose my technique and my shooting strength needed for my bow. So I got hold of a gadget called a Training Band which allowed me to practice and exercise my shooting muscles so that I didn’t lose my ability with executing a shot. It was very useful in gaining strength as well as preserving my muscle memory. There are quite a few of these exercise bands on the market but I would highly recommend one that can mimic the full tensile force and weight of a bow. The one I choose was made by Win & Win, it has two sets of bands. There is one which you can use to enhance your pulling weight to develop your muscles in the shoulder and another band which you use to improve your posture by stimulating the weight of the bow in your hands by anchoring it to your foot.
This has been a very useful tool to developing my style and shooting strength away from the target range. Thanks to stretch bands you can build up your muscle strength until you can pull on a much heavier bow, so they have a long term use as a development tool until you can shoot with a heavier bow. When I first took up archery in 2012 I could only manage a drawing weight of 22 pounds on a recurve bow. Six months after joining my first club I was able to switch to 24 pounds of drawing weight, and then after that I got a stretch band and I was exercising my shoulders and improving my technique until I could handle 28 – 32 pounds. After which I upgraded my bow and was now able to shoot arrows to the distances of the Olympic and Commonwealth archers.
Another exercise that can be useful in home-based shooting is using your own bow as an exercise device. I picked up a tip from Canadian archer Vanessa Lee on how to use your bow in the confines of a small room like my 4 metre squared bedroom. All you have to do is set up your bow as usual but for safety reasons DON’T load it with an arrow. All you have to is get a paper target and stick it up on a wall or draw a target on your wall if you prefer (like what I have done my wall, below). Now stand a firm distance from the target, pick up your bow, anchor and draw just like what you would normally do. Using you bow sight aim at the target and hold it for at least 3 – 5 seconds as if you were drawing it as normal. Then slowly release the tension by bringing your bow back to it’s normal shape. Repeat this routine 6 – 12 times taking a 3 – 5 minute break in-between each end. Just like what you would do at a competition. Always remember DON’T dry fire your bow, which means shooting without an arrow. It can damage the limbs, break the string(s), cause cracks and splinters to develop in the riser or the limbs and releasing it without an arrow can cause injury to yourself!
There are also some other exercises that you can do provided that you have enough room and plenty of space to practice with your bow in which you can load it with arrows. No one likes to shoot a bow without arrows, as it would be pointless to have a bow at all. Some archers have facilities like a garage or a shed which is sufficiently long enough to set up a small boss with a target. However these can only be done provided that you have enough room for a target to set up. A small shed with a shooting distance of about 2 metres is the minimum recommended distance so I could easily shoot that far in my bedroom with a boss target set up. This is ideal if you are shooting at home indoors during the autumn and winter when it’s indoor season. However if you think about shooting outdoors in your garden then you are likely to come under the full force of the law. Because the bow and arrow are recognised as weapons they are also likely to be considered ‘dangerous weapons’ in most countries that you are only allowed to use them on a proper archery range. Lots of people shoot in their own gardens and they are responsible for their own safety and other people within the boundaries of the garden, however there is a critical element in ensuring that your arrows don’t stray beyond the garden in an area where they can overshoot. In target archery you need to allow some extra space behind the targets where the arrows are likely to hit the ground towards an overshoot line. For that on the scale of a back garden you need to have a very long garden indeed. You would have to put up some kind of barrier to prevent the arrows from flying outwards from the garden.
For further archery practices without a range where you use your bow as an exercise device I would recommend the exercises of Kisik Lee. He is one of the world’s top archery coaches and has played a hand in nine of the 18 Olympic gold medals won since 1984. He is currently the National Head Coach for Team USA and his website KSL International Archery offers some very useful tips on honing your shooting skills. You can find them on his website here: http://www.kslinternationalarchery.com/Training/SPTs/SPTs.html