Developing Cardiovascular fitness for archery - Basics Back to Training index
On this page:
General principles, including typical recommendations, heart rate targets and measurement.
Progression - moving on.
Monitoring - keeping track.
 Types of exercise
Suggestions for exercise to develop cardio fitness, with pros and cons.

Some pointers to staying safe. Remember this isn't claiming to be comprehensive.
i) It's prudent to get a fitness adviser or health professional check to make sure you can train safely, even if you think you're fit and healthy. It's essential if there's any known history of respiratory or circulatory disorder, or any other medical condition that increases your risks (and only a medic really knows them). Few conditions stop you exercising - but plenty add risks and imply a need for specialist advice on training.
ii) During exercise, watch for dizziness, light-headedness, chest pain, faintness or other adverse signs and SLOW DOWN if they occur. Then seek pro advice immediately.
iii) If you've been unwell, reduce exercise intensity to what you can really cope with.
iv) Warm up and cool down progressively; never start or stop training abruptly.

General principles Top
This section generally assumes a light introduction to get from huffing and puffing after two arrows, to steady breathing after six. That is not really heavy endurance, so the material on this page is quite light and basic. Real endurance training can be much more sophisticated, as well as tailored to specific sports. That's all written down in loads of books, though, so find one of those if you want to know more! There are a couple mentioned on the  training books page.

Typical recommendation
The typical prescription to improve aerobic fitness (which is what we're after) for a normal, healthy individual is pretty simple; exercise at between 60% and 70% of your maximum safe heart rate for at least 20 minutes, 2-3 times a week.

Another rule-of-thumb guide to exercise intensity is the "talk test" - while you can talk nearly normally, you're still operating aerobically. The idea for initial aerobic training is to be somewhat out of breath, but not so much you can't talk coherently. For basic fitness, starting from nowhere, that's as far as you should go for a few weeks.


Maximum safe heart rate
A rough guide for max safe heart rate for healthy adults is 220-(your age). The widget below calculates 60 and 70% of that to give you a rough idea.

Your age:
Estimated max safe rate (per min) :
Aerobic range
Lower (per min)
Upper (per min)
For this purpose, it doesn't matter much which exercise you pick, because all that is needed is good basic fitness. Of course, if you do other sports, you need to check out the requirements for that sport (20 minutes won't make you a marathon runner).   Measuring heart rate
Manually, find a pulse (yours) at wrist or throat. I find the throat one is easiest to find on myself, just under the angle of the jaw on either side. Count the beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
Of course, you can get one of those neat heart rate monitors now, usually with cardio exercise instructions.

So the initial exercise duration is 20min, frequency is 2-3 sessions a week, and intensity is estimated by heart rate at 60-70% of max safe rate, or by talk testing. But the training principles include progression; what does that mean here?
Frequency can't move up much. 2-3 times a week is about as much as is sensible for any given training. You could go from 2 to 3 times a week, but not much further.
Duration is extendable. 20 minutes is really a minimum for aerobic training; that can usefully progress up to any figure you like. Much over 40 mins is probably unnecessary for archery.
Intensity can increase, from the 60% to 70%. Also, you should find that as fitness increases, your input gets higher. For example, initially you might be jogging 5 minutes and walking five; with six months of that, you could be jogging five and sprinting a bit. But unless you want to shift the effect of the training (you might, but not particularly for archery), going up in intensity beyond the aerobic region is not necessary. There are reasons to do that for archery-specific muscles, but that's elsewhere.

No fitness regime is complete without monitoring progress. There are several ways of working out how well it's working. For example:
Look at how your capacity changes, for example by looking at how long you can exercise without large heart rate increases.
Monitor resting heart rate (ie heart rate after sitting or lying still for at least ten minutes; without training, 80-90 is quite possible, for a highly trained endurance athlete, 40-45 is not uncommon. Somewhere around 60 is fair for archers with no other demands.
Monitor the return to resting heart rate after exercise. A simple way to do that is to check your rate as you finish the session (should be in the aerobic range calculated above), and then check it after two minutes. The better the cardio fitness, the lower it'll be.