Archery has always been one of those things which interested me, but it took me a long time to finally get into it.
When I was a kid I had one of those Nerf bows from the 90’s which I absolutely adored! I’d fire that foam arrow everywhere - even though it was all bent and warped and never fired straight. I think I shot my first real recurve bow on a school trip when I was 11 or 12.
I didn’t touch a bow again until my first wedding anniversary. My husband and I were in Hastings, UK, and decided to sign up to a “have-a-go” target sports event. We got to try bore-rifle shooting, axe throwing, and archery! (Axe-throwing is actually a lot harder than it looks!!). It was after this trip we decided to finally sign-up to our local archery club.
One thing which struck me immediately was how tiring archery can be! It’s not just the physical strain of holding the bow in one hand whilst drawing your string with your back muscles, but also the mental strain of focusing on your target and calming your mind.
It’s that composure training which has really helped me concentrate as a developer. When you are staring down your sight, steadying your hand and calming your breath, you cannot let anything distract you. Your attention needs to be on your breathing and your target. Ignore the person behind you laughing, or what the archer beside you is doing. Everything is about being in control of what you are doing, and understanding how everything feels.
As developers, we do the same.
We need to ignore everything around us and focus on the piece of code we’re writing. We’re taking highly complex scenarios and breaking them down into manageable chunks, all whilst holding the map of where different functions are called within our heads. Any distraction can cause this complex route to disappear.
Naturally this can be very mentally draining, however archery is helping me to increase my mental stamina.
Being able to reach that state of focus and composure is in a way quite meditative. After a stressful day in the office, forcing yourself to breathe slowly and focus solely on the target offers a great relief. There is also the physical stress release benefits of walking back and forth to the target to retrieve your arrows (and often having to rummage around in the grass to find the arrows which have avoided the target…)