Disclaimer: nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. You should consult with your doctor before engaging in any form of exercise when you are pregnant for guidance on whether it’s in your and your baby’s best interest. Finally, if you’re reading this article and you’re expecting, congratulations!
I was at the archery range a couple weeks ago and I saw a woman that was - quite noticeably - pregnant. She didn’t seem to have any issues shooting, but it got me thinking if archery is something that is safe for a pregnant woman to do? When my wife was pregnant, her OB/GYN suggested that she keep exercising throughout the pregnancy. However, being the curious soul that I am, I decided to research opinions when I got home to see whether it’s safe and what you can do to make your time at the range more comfortable. While most of the information out there was lacking a medical opinion, what I found helped me understand some problems you may face while shooting and what you can do to address them.
Generally speaking, if you haven’t had complications with your pregnancy, it is considered safe to practice archery as long as you listen to your body, take breaks, and try to relax while you are at the range. If you’ve been practicing archery before you were pregnant, it is likely that you will be able to keep practicing as your little one grows. From what I’ve been able to find, many doctors encourage pregnant mothers to keep up physical activity as it can make the pregnancy and recovery process much easier to cope with. Although archery can build muscles from the amount of weight you are lifting, because you aren’t using your lifting muscles - legs, hips, and abs - it is generally considered safe.
The muscles that you work out when practicing archery are your arms, back and shoulder muscles. These are generally considered safe muscles to work, as long as you aren’t straining them to draw your bow. If it becomes uncomfortable to draw the bow it’s probably a good idea to stop. Address your concerns with your doctor and let him or her know how you felt when you were shooting and perhaps they will have some suggestions on how you can keep shooting throughout your pregnancy. Be sure to allow your muscles sufficient time to recover between sessions at the range
Concerns when shooting
When you’re shooting, you should make sure you are using the proper form when you go through your archery cycle. You need to make sure you are pulling by squeezing your back, not using your biceps or shoulder muscles, except to stabilize the bow. Keeping your core stable throughout the archery cycle can be a good way to workout your abs without putting too much of a strain on them. During pregnancy, the muscles connecting your abs will stretch and thin to allow room for the baby to grow, and having a strong core can help lessen this effect while aiding in recovery after giving birth. As much of a contradiction as it seems to general archery advice, you need to pay attention to your body and not be so focused on your form so you don’t cause any problems with you or your baby.
Also, as your little one grows - and your belly with it - you should try to keep track of how it affects your shooting form. If your form starts to suffer, trying to force yourself to keep practicing may stop you from being able to place arrows where you intend them to hit on the target. Since archery is about repetition and muscle memory, practicing your form incorrectly can make it more difficult for you to resume shooting after your pregnancy. If you find that your belly is getting in the way of your bow - or even your string - you may consider canting the bow to accommodate. I’ve tried shooting with my bow canted and shooting with it upright, and I found it much easier to transition from the angle of the bow than with other changes to my form.
How to stay comfortable at the range
When my wife was pregnant we tried to do things to keep her active, and it was all about trying to help her stay comfortable. While you’re practicing archery, there are some things you can to do help keep yourself comfortable, especially if you are shooting at an outdoor range. You know your body better than anyone else, so pay attention to what it is telling you and it will make your experience much more comfortable. If your muscles feel strained, you should immediately stop and consult with your doctor. Otherwise, try to take frequent breaks so you don’t over exert yourself.
Staying hydrated is especially important when you’re pregnant, so make sure you have water to drink periodically as you shoot. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have some kind of snack with you to help keep your blood sugar from dropping too low. Having low blood sugar is one common cause of nausea, and it will be pretty hard to enjoy the sport if you’re feeling sick. Make sure you don’t eat too much, though, as this can also cause you to become nauseated. It’s a delicate balance between eating too little and eating too much. My wife found it handy to pack snack bags that she could grab on her way out the door - which is also good practice for after the baby is born.
If you’re shooting at an outdoor range, you have environmental variables that you need to keep track of to avoid problems when you’re shooting. If it’s warm out, try keeping yourself in shade. If there is no shade available on the range, try having someone hold an umbrella to help keep you out of the sun. Shooting outside in cold weather can be as much of a threat, especially since you can’t wear the loose layers usually recommended for such conditions. Light clothing that is more form-fitting and can stretch will help protect you better while not getting in the way of you being able to shoot. You should also watch out for wearing socks or shoes that are too tight as they can cut off circulation to your feet. If you just can’t dress warm enough, it might be a good idea to find an indoor range or avoid the sport while you wait for warmer weather. If you’re concerned with the weather and your ability to keep yourself safe while being able to shoot, you might just need to stick to indoor ranges, if they’re available. If you’re able to handle the weather conditions, there shouldn’t be any reason to keep yourself off the range while your little one grows.
When you’re pregnant, you should check with your doctor before engaging in a physical activity, especially if it’s one that you haven’t done before. Generally, if you’re healthy and there are no complications with your pregnancy, shooting archery shouldn’t cause any problems. However, when you’re at the range, you need to make sure you keep yourself comfortable, take frequent breaks, keep yourself hydrated and keep your blood sugar up. Listen to your body and make sure you don’t overdo it at the range. As long as your doctor agrees, there shouldn’t be any reason you can’t enjoy archery throughout your pregnancy.
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