Characteristics of the Sport
Archery is a skill-based sport which involves shooting arrows from a bow in an effort to score the most points by hitting the centre of a target. Although there are different forms of archery (including field, indoor and clout), target archery remains the most common discipline as it is competed at the Summer Olympic Games. Two main styles of bow can be used; classic recurve, or the more technically sophisticated compound. AIS archers train with recurve bows as this is the discipline competed at the Summer Olympics. A recurve bow is able to launch an arrow about 70 metres per second.
Archery involves long hours of training and competition, but the aerobic requirements of the sport are quite low. Therefore, typical nutrition research and recommendations that can be applied to endurance or intermittent sports need to be interpreted with care for archers.
The majority of archery training is skill-based and focuses on perfecting technique. Archers are required to consistently and accurately shoot over various distances for long periods of time. This skill takes a long time to improve and maintain. Developing and elite archers train between three and six hours each day, five days a week. This is usually completed in two sessions over the day and may involve shooting over 250 arrows.
There is a focus on core strength training for archers, with at least two sessions per week spent in the gym. Aerobic fitness is also encouraged to ensure athletes are able to perform at their best both physically and mentally.
Domestic and international archery competitions are held all year round. Local, state and national tournaments are typically held early in the year with major international competition occurring over the European Summer.
The major international competitions are:
• World Cups: five events held each year
• World Championships: held every two years
• Youth World Championships: held every two years, on alternate years to the World Championships
• Summer Olympic Games: held every four years
Major international competitions are held over five days. This begins with one or two ‘ranking days’, followed by a day of ‘matchplay’ in which archers compete one-on-one in knock-out rounds. There are seven rounds to be competed with about 30-60 minutes between matches. A day of team events is completed before the individual and team finals on the last day.
The major differences between various competitions are the distances that they are competed over and the number of arrows shot. For example, the World Championships are held over 90, 70, 50 and 30 metres (144 arrows), whereas the Olympics is competed over 70 metres only (72 arrows).
Since the sport is largely skill-based, it is logical that it does not select for a particular body type. Strength, concentration, accuracy and consistency are far more important virtues for an archer than aerobic endurance capacity. Athlete ages also range considerably.
Common Nutrition Issues
o Energy balance. Whilst archers spend long periods of time training, energy demands are not high. It can be a challenge for archers to support, but not over support skill-based training sessions. Nutrient dense, but not energy dense foods are ideal for snacking during archery training. Sustaining blood glucose levels and fuelling the brain is the key.
o Fluid intake. Fluid losses during archery specific training are generally not high. Sipping fluid during sessions should be adequate to replace losses. Archers should make sure they carry a water bottle with them to training, with sips between rounds encouraged. Good hydration strategies are important on a daily basis to ensure archers start each training session in a hydrated state. Sports drinks may be beneficial as part of a strategic fluid plan. However, inappropriate intake may simply mean a ‘blow out’ of an archer’s energy balance.
o Strength training. An archer’s strength training aims could be to increase or maintain strength and lean muscle mass. See fact sheet on increasing muscle mass for nutrition goals around this type of training.
o Food and fluid intake. As with archery specific training, during competition the main nutrition goals are based on sustaining energy supply and concentration, and ensuring physical comfort. As in training, small sips of fluid consumed regularly should help meet an archer’s fluid losses.
o Food and fluid availability at the venue. Appropriate, nutrient dense snacks may be difficult to find at some competition venues. Archers should become used to packing their own snacks and fluids for competition. This will ensure appropriate snacks are available to the archer and are ones they feel comfortable and confident consuming during competition.
Competition takes place all over the world, exposing athletes to a range of different climates, often within a short period of time. Play is only stopped in the event of hail or an electrical storm, but continues in all other weather conditions including snow, rain, heat, humidity and wind. Although environmental conditions may not be a major limiting factor for archery performance, comfort is important for an athlete to compete at their best. Using items such as ice blocks and cold fluids may form part of an archers nutrition strategies in hot and or humid climates. On the other hand, soup and warm drinks may provide comfort in cooler conditions.
This fact sheet is based on AIS / National team athletes and is therefore specific to these athletes. Written by AIS Sports Nutrition, last updated March 2009. © Australian Sports Commission.