A really good question came in as part of a comment: “Any thoughts for practices that have been virtual for a while?”
So, if we do get allowed out on our ranges and have been practicing solo or just working out, is there a good way to get up to speed again? What is we have been idle for quite some time?
My suggestions apply to anytime you have had a forced or voluntary layoff.
The danger is in trying to get too far, too fast. Your mind remembers how you shot before and won’t accept anything less . . . if you allow it full rein. Here’s just one scenario.
The danger is in trying to get too far, too fast.
Compound Archer—Compound archers often crank down their draw weights or switch to a lighter drawing bow for indoor competition and practice. So, two things are going on: a lower draw weight and fewer repetitions, both of which need to be cranked back up slowly.
It should take more than a few days to crank your bow back up. Maybe a half turn or a full turn on the limbs every other practice day is the max.
Similarly, too many shots in a session is also a no-no. When you get fatigued, your form and execution tend to decay, which is what you do not want to happen. Actually, this is a primary principle:
While recovering from a layoff, you must focus on retaining or regaining your good form.
This is the ultimate guiding factor in this process.
Recurve Archers—It is not unusual for recurve archers to swap out their limbs to a lighter pair during indoor season or a layoff. Cranking back up is not easy. If the draw weight difference is very small, say 2-3 pounds, one can safely switch back to the heavier limbs, or outdoor bow, and just ramp up the number of shots slowly. But if there is a large difference, 5# or more, then more care is needed. This may be able to be done by adjusting the weaker pair to the highest draw weight and when comfortable with that, switch to the heavier limbs, backed off as much as they can be adjusted (assumes an adjustable limb pocket bow) and then crank up those limbs slowly with practice.
You also have to look at your frequency of practicing. If you were practicing in your basement two days a week and then, excited by being able to shoot outdoors, you practice four or five days a week, you are asking for trouble.
Focus on short practices, fairly often, with the goal of maintaining or recovering your former form and execution.
I recommend that recurve archers retain at least one set of limbs when they move up in draw weight. Having a weaker pair to switch to when injured or after a layoff can be very helpful.
Listen to your body! I use a Rule of Thumb: if you are sore the day after a workout, that isn’t unusual. If you are still sore a day later, you probably over did it. If you are still sore one more day later, you definitely over did it. If you exceed this standard, wait until you feel better before working out again and take it a bit easier. And, if you feel pain while shooting—stop! See if you can identify the source of the pain (blister on string fingers, string slap on bow arm, etc.). If you cannot and try again, but feel the pain again, you are done for the day. If you resolve the issue (properly place your arm guard so as to not get hit by the string, adjust your tab or tape your fingers, etc.) and you can shoot without pain, you may continue.
I hope this helps somewhat.
Oh, it really helps if your coach is there to video you shooting, to compare with pre-pandemic form, etc. Or they may be able to do this from memory if they know you well.
Oh, oh, oh, oh—you can get started on these process before the ranges become available.
When I originally wrote this is was thinking of a short layoff, but the pandemic may be responsible for year long layoffs. If this is the case, I suggest that you start very slowly . . . very. At first, no bow, no arrows, just a stretch band/tube. Use a mirror to check your form. If you have a number of stretch bands of different resistances, start with the lightest and work your way through, up to the stiffest over several sessions. Get to full draw position with the band/tube, and pause there. Flex the muscles you use to hold while there, then let down. This is a form of the Reversal Drill.
Give your body time to report back. So, light session after light session—paying attention as to whether you get sore and where. Always allow time between sessions to allow your muscle fibers to repair themselves.
Work your way out of the bands/tubes into a light drawing bow as above.
If you have a coach, now is a good time to consult them.