Tag Archives: subconscious

Ow, Ow, Ow, My Neck Hurts!

QandA logoI had an Olympic Recurve student complain about her neck being sore after even a short practice session and she asked me what she could do.

Here is my response.

Be aware that the Olympic Recurve style puts considerable stress on one’s neck. To make sure you are putting no more than the minimum required stress on those muscles, you need to include in your awareness as you shoot whether you are adding to additional stress to that minimum. (It is not unusual for us to subconsciously flex muscles receiving attention; this is a normal response.) If you detect you are subconsciously doing that, you need to “train” it out. Training your subconscious is a lot like training a dog. Your dog doesn’t understand the words “bad dog” but it does understand your tone of voice. If you say “bad dog” while smiling and laughing and petting your dog, its tail will wag like crazy. If you say “good dog” in a scolding tone while frowning it will behave submissively. Training your subconscious mind is similar.

If you find your subconscious overusing your neck muscles, you need to stop what you are doing, i.e. you must let down. Corrections must be made in real time, just as is required to train a dog, because if you do not, the dog and your subconscious will have moved on and the correction will not be connected with the act it is supposed to address. So, let down and correct. The correction is in the form of mild disapproval, with maybe a rubbing of the offending muscle to get it to relax. You are saying, gently, “no, not ‘tense,’ but ‘relaxed.’” The emotional state of mild disapproval is sufficient. You do not want to rant and rave and throw your bow, that would not be a proportional response. Basically, if you don’t think your dog would understand, neither would your subconscious mind.

I did check your ability to turn your head toward the target, you have plenty of flexibility, but in Olympic Recurve (not so much in compound styles) one’s head position is near the end of the range of motion for turning your head on your neck, so realize that this strain is there and must be managed. Stretching, turning your head both ways, massaging your neck muscles, all seem to work. (By the way, having a helper for neck stretching is a good idea. By sitting in a chair and having someone gently turn your head, you do not have to flex the neck muscles to do that. You can focus on relaxing the muscles involved.) Even so, many OR competitors report neck strain, probably exacerbated by competition stress (when your focus is elsewhere, e.g. on scoring, other aspects of your awareness dim and drift a little from the norm).

I hope this helps!




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