This post originally appeared on my friend Joouna’s blog, In Shadows. I’ve reblogged it here in case you missed it! You can also check out her guest post on my blog, Fitness Tips for Archers, to get a total mind and body fitness regimen to improve your archery performance.
We’re always looking for ways to improve our accuracy as archers, different ways to perfect our form and adapt to different shooting conditions. But how often have you asked how you can improve your performance from the inside out? Your nutrient intake can improve—or sabotage—your accuracy and grouping.
Certain foods and beverages can improve your performance by providing nutrients that your brain and muscles need. Likewise, there are certain foods and beverages that will work against you.
Improve Vision It’s pretty hard to hit a target that you can’t see so it is essential for archers to take care of our vision. Crunch on carrots as a healthy snack. They’re good for your vision because they have beta-carotene, which prevents cell damage that can destroy your vision. There are other foods that can improve your vision as well, such as salmon and tuna. Both are rich in omega-3s which prevent macular degeneration and minimize your risk of developing cataracts.
Improve Physical Stability If you suffer from muscle spasms or cramps after long days at the range, there could be a few causes. It’s likely that you’re dehydrated. That’s the easiest one to fix with consistent fluid intake. Water is the obvious choice but you can also try coconut water, which offers superior hydration because it offers a smidgen of salt and potassium. If you aren’t dehydrated, your muscle cramps may be due to a nutrient or mineral deficiency. Potassium chimes in again! Potassium helps your muscles develop soundly as you get stronger, so seek out foods that are high in the metal such as bananas and yogurt. Foods that are high in Vitamin B6 also improve muscle function, so stock up on your apricots, avocadoes, and green beans.
Improve Joint Health We can’t overlook what helps all of those muscles and tendons work in sync—your joints! The Omega 3s found in cold-water fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts promote joint health. You may also want to feast on cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower. They release sulforaphane, which blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction. Overtime, cruciferous veggies can prevent the development of arthritis.
Improve Concentration In the heat of competition, you must stay focused and calm. Foods that improve concentration are often high in antioxidants such as dark chocolate and blueberries. Beets, which are high in nitrates, encourage increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain to fight off feeling groggy or frustrated. Lastly, don’t forget your dark leafy greens like kale and spinach because they’re packed with lutein and folate, which promote brain health.
A lot of people hit up caffeine when they want to feel focused and alert. The verdict is still out on caffeine’s benefits, though. The original line of thought is that caffeine may make you more alert but it can also make you jittery, which is no good for archers who need a steady hand. Recent studies suggest that caffeine can improve memory and concentration without the adverse side effects. It seems like the results vary by person. Try a few weeks with regular caffeine intake and a few weeks without. Compare your performance and decide what works best for you.
Achieve Mental Clarity In yoga, we often call mental clutter “monkeys swinging through the trees.” There is nothing wrong with the thoughts that come in and out of our minds. But there is a benefit to being able to temporarily clear our mental database and focus on the task at hand, whether it’s archery practice or a competition.
Nothing you can eat or take gives you the ability to control the clearing of your mind—not even narcotics. There are things you can eat, drink, or take that will alter your mental state but then you’re no longer in control, so what’s the point in that?
Across various disciplines, though, one practice has proven to improve mental clarity and it is meditation with controlled breathing.
If you’re new to meditation, you’ve probably got a lot of prejudices like, “Meditation is only for certain types of people,” or “It’s only done a certain type of way.” Meditation can be spiritual or not. You can hum and add mantras, or not. To try out meditation, try starting here:
- Find a comfortable seat in a place that is as quiet as possible.
- Start with hyperawareness: What sounds do you hear? What is going on around you? How do you feel? Where are you holding tension in your body? Take note of these things without judgment.
- Acknowledge that most of the things that irritate or worry you will not be improved by being irritated or worrying. Set those negative thoughts aside.
- Focus on your breathing. Try to balance the time it takes to inhale and exhale. Breathe deeply through your belly rather than trapping air in your chest.
- Focus on your breathing for five minutes on the first day, and then increase the time gradually throughout the week.
I recommend breathing exercises and meditation because they’re free, simple, legal, and mobile ways to take control of your thoughts without your thoughts controlling you.