Mental Preparation and Mental Shot Routines

Mental Preparation is built around the “6As” and “Visualization”. Visualisation is simply a mental rehearsal about your archery success – adn the key word here is “success”. So is effective sleep!

Visualisation is a key tool in shooting success

For all of us, sleep is an important part of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. When it comes to athletic performance, sleep plays a part in:

• Reaction times
• Motor function
• Motivation
• Focus
• Stress regulation
• Muscle recovery
• Sprint performance
• Muscle glycogen
• Glucose metabolism
• Memory and learning
• Injury risk
• Illness rates
• Unwanted weight gain

Physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance, but sleep plays an equally important role. In recent years, research has identified that both the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on competition-day.

You create images in your mind of the successful shot and rehearse it repeatedly over and over again, dozens or hundreds of times a day, when you imagine yourself shooting successfully. The key to visualizing is to always visualize that you already achieving and always successful shooting. This is a mental trick. Rather than hoping you will achieve it, or building confidence that one day it will happen, visualization allows you to live and feel it as if it is happening to you now.

At one level, it is just a mental trick, but research has shown that he subconscious mind cannot easily distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Your subconscious will act upon the images you create within, and miniscule messages will be sent to the relevant muscles creating an autonomous muscle preparation readiness state and reprogramme the brain to achieve that which you are imagining.

The power of visualisation is proven. A study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago was done where he split basketball players into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make.
Group 1: To practice free throws every day for an hour.
Group 2: To visualized themselves making free throws for an hour every day.
Group 3: Do nothing.
After 30 days, he tested them again. The first group (as expected) improved (by 24%) and the third group did not improve (as expected) but what was not expected was that the visualization group improved by 23% without touching a basketball!!!!

Visualisation won’t work if you picture yourself shooting arrows in third person as if it was a movie, you need to visualize everything out of your eyes (in the 1st person). You have to be there at the shooting line feeling the bow, feeling the arrow, feeling your muscles in the right posture, hearing the clicker, feeling the backtension and releasing the arrow, feeling, hearing and seeing the arrow fly off the bow, Seeing it fly into the X ring, feeling the bow come down. Hearing the noise of the arrow hitting the boss.

Don’t visualize failure! If you do, you’re practising to fail. Some sports have taken visualisation to extreme levels, you will see high-jump athletes running through their techniques using visualisation and they’re preparing their bodies, running through the use of each muscle in order.

Visualisation in any sport is key

If you watch F1, you will see the drivers visualizing themselves driving the track and if another driver gets a better speed through a corner, this is then available to drivers to study as part of their visualisation. It is no co-incidence that the cameras are right by the head giving the exact view that the driver sees. Drivers who create lines never driven before that are faster, or doing the seemingly impossible overtake, have visualised that manoeuvre many many times before trying it. Even the analysis only focusses on the better drive of the day.

Anyone who wants to improve their shooting can learn from watching the world’s best archers succeed, they are the ones who take mental training seriously. Elite archers know archery is mostly a mental game. It’s all about focusing, ignoring distractions and calming your nerves. They sharpen these skills by exercising their brain with drills and mental practice so that when it comes to the competition, their drills, shot routine and muscle structure and posture is so well practiced that it is inherent, automatonized and doesn’t need thinking about so that the entire shot routine is smooth and uninterrupted.

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