Archery is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all body types. Whether you’re short or tall, muscular or delicate, a weightlifter or a TV binge-watcher, archery is for you. You don’t have to be conventionally athletic or have previous sports experience to enjoy archery. It is an activity that can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone, no matter what your physical abilities may be.
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Archery is largely a mental game. If you’re not focused, you won’t hit the mark, no matter how strong you are. As an archer, you have to be able to clear your mind and repeat the same shot process every time. If you’re not in the right headspace or you’re focused too much on how well you’re doing compared with everyone around you, you won’t perform as well as you could. Focus on the target and nothing else. That’s the biggest key to this sport: a calm mind and being able to control your movements.
“Mentally, archery is a unique sport,” Olympic archer Brady Ellison said in an interview for Olympics.com. “It is a body-control sport. And to be able to control your body to make the same shot every time means you have to control your mind. That’s one of the biggest things about this sport: Archery is 100 percent mental.”
To help your mental game, practice yoga. It will guide you into a meditative state of mind that you can take from the mat all the way to the line. Choose a few actions or phrases to repeat every time you’re setting up for your shot and establish a routine that will ground and center you on the line. Practicing calmness and clarity of mind, as well as going to the range, will be more valuable to your archery success than any gym session.
All About Repetition
While archery has a significant mental component, it still requires practice and technique. Your form will require some physical training, but not in the way you might think. It’s about repetition and using your muscles correctly and has virtually nothing to do with physical strength. As an archer, you can shoot a bow with as minimal of a draw weight as you’d like. There is a 60-pound maximum limit for compound bows, but there is no minimum draw weight requirement in any discipline. You could enter a competition with a 20-pound bow and be standing on the line next to someone with a 50-pound bow shooting at the same kind of target. It’s about the focus and the precision, not how strong you are.
Your muscles will be stretched and toned with practice, but there is no need to hit a certain draw weight. For archery, you’ll exercise to stretch, warm up and cool down, not to bulk up the muscles. Muscles like your deltoids, rhomboids and rotator cuffs should be stretched to make sure you’re not injuring them when you draw the bow. You can learn more about how to warm up and cool down your muscles in this article.
Bows are also made with different draw lengths. Someone with a smaller stature may need a draw length of as little as 23 inches; and a tall archer, one of over 30 inches. As long as you choose arrows made for a bow with your draw weight and length, your arrows will fly plenty fast enough to successfully compete. Talk to an archery technician at your archery range to be fitted for your draw weight, draw length and arrows.
Adapt However You Need
You can adapt your equipment in various ways to make yourself successful. Many para archers have achieved great success in archery simply by fitting themselves with the right equipment. Matt Stutzman, for example, holds his bow with his feet and releases the arrows from a mouth-triggered release. He was recently part of a record-breaking Para Championship final. This year’s final featured Stutzman and Aleksandr Gombozhapov, the first time two archers without arms have ever competed against each other in a final. Stutzman came away with a victory and a historic moment to remember. Lia Coryell, another renowned para archer, also made history at the Para Championships by winning the U.S.’s first ever women’s W1 World Para Championship title.
Archery Is for Everyone
You don’t need to have insanely defined pectoral muscles or six-pack abs to achieve success in archery. It’s a “come one, come all” sport. For those with “dad bods” and those with curves; for the ones who just had a baby and those who spent 90% of last year on the couch; for the kids who dread typical phys ed sports; and those looking for a new challenge: Archery is for you. Your body is capable of doing amazing things, whatever shape or size it is. So, consider hitting the archery range with a friend or befriending other archers at your local range. When you talk to other archers, you’ll find that archery is a community and that they’re there to help you on your journey and to welcome you into the sport.
In archery, everyone is truly on the same level playing field. It’s all about how well you can repeat your form, how well you can adjust to your environment and whether you can free your mind. If you can do these three things, you can practice archery. So, the next time you look in the mirror, know that the person you see staring back is perfectly capable of becoming an incredible archer.
Ready to see for yourself? Find an archery range near you and ask an archery technician to help you choose the right bow for you.