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Family Fitness

Things to do in 2016

Spend more time with family...

Lose weight...

Why not do both at the same time?

The Pet Project, Part Six - The Bouncy Mousey

If you have not been following along, "The Pet Project" is my humourous yet somewhat serious project to help our cat, Victoria, to lose weight through a combination of exercise and diet. You can catch up on this by reading the posts in order:

Part One - "Our Cat is Fat"
Part Two - "Kitty is on a new Diet"
Part Three - "Cat Walking"
Part Four - "Conquering Failures"
Part Five - "The Scaredy Cat"

During this past Christmas we received a new toy for Victoria - which works surprisingly well at allowing her to exercise when we are not home to play with her, and unfortunately also means she can play with it late at night, making all sorts of racket as she scampers about batting at it.

I call the toy "the Bouncy Mousey". Basically all it is is a fake mouse stuffed with catnip, on a stretchy cord from an attachment that meant to attach to the top of a door frame. However I have attached it to my chin-up bar instead. Due to the stretchy quality of the cord, it bounces and flies around easily when batted by Victoria, causing her to scamper after it, trying to snag it - which she does only rarely as it is set to a height which makes it necessary for her to either stand up on her hind legs or to jump in order to make contact with it.

Ultimately it means Victoria is getting more exercise. But how much is she weighing in at? Today she weighed in at 11.8 lbs. So a marginal improvement. We should check again a month from now and see if anything has changed.

Archery Christmas Ornament

Saw the Christmas ornament below while visiting relatives. Can you tell our family is really into archery?

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Five Rules for having a Merry Christmas from Cardio Trek

Below is Cardio Trek's Five Rules for having a Merry Christmas...

Rule #1. Eat lots of carrots. And veggies in general.

Rule #2. Enjoy the little things, no matter how small.

Rule #3. Reward yourself for all your hard work during the holiday season.

Rule #4. Pay attention to things that don't make sense. eg. Why does the reindeer in the image below look evil? You should avoid evil things during the holidays. Krampus for example.

Rule #5. Have a sense of humour. Because laughter is the best medicine.


Five Ways to do Weight Lifting Outdoors in the Winter

#1. Build your own outdoor gym equipment, including:

  • Bench Press
  • Bench with Free Weights 
  • Bulgarian Training Bag
  • Chin-Up Bar
  • Farmer's Walk Bars
  • Incline Bench
  • Kettlebells
  • Medicine Ball 
  • Obstacle Course (Strength Based) 
  • Parallel Bars (Gymnasts)
  • Rope Climbing / Rope Ladder
  • Rowing Machine
  • Stairs (for Leg exercises, or as an Incline)

eg. To build a rowing machine you will need: Rope, a wood or metal bar as a handle for pulling, a stationary metal bar that is elevated off the ground, a heavy weight attached to the far end of the rope, and something to brace your feet against.

#2. Shovel Snow out of the Driveway - and if you have extra energy, clear all the snow from the backyard and front yard too, so you have frozen grass to workout on.

#3. Fill sandbags with snow and build a wall of sandbags... Or a bench made out of sandbags, and use that bench as a bench press, an incline bench or for using free weights on.

#4. Build something out of the snow - snow man, snow fort, ice rink, hockey rink, ice sculpture. Does it really matter as long as you are exercising?

#5. Clean out the garage and turn your garage into a gym.


That old broken air conditioner? Use it as a weight for a rowing machine.

Old furniture / chairs? Add some wood and make a bench for using in combination with free weights.

Old scrap metal you aren't sure what to do with? Check out the dumbbells further below.

Old broken bicycle? Make a training bicycle for building leg muscle.

Old patio umbrella with metal pole? Get rid of the umbrella part and use the metal pole to make yourself a nice chin-up bar.

Old junk that you really are not sure what to do with? Take it to the curb for garbage collection. Clearly if you can't use it for weight lifting, then it probably isn't good for much else.

Winter Chin-Up Bar
Homemade Dumbbell
Scrap Metal Dumbbells

Shocking the Muscle with Arnold Schwarzenegger

The following video was produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger and and deals mostly with how to shock the muscles in the upper body: Chest, arms, shoulders, abs, etc, but also touches on the lower body: Thighs, etc.

Arnold also talks about eating 5 meals per day and how this allowed this allowed him to pack on the muscle in a hurry due to the amount of protein he was eating while training. During his training Arnold was fond of drinking 2 protein drinks per day, plus meals, plus supplements in order to maintain peak muscle growth efficiency.

For those people seeking to build muscle it is important that you stick with it and KEEP TRAINING and follow a strict diet. Quitting, slacking off on the dietary requirements, slacking off on workouts will cause the body to either plateau or go back to its old condition. You need to keep shocking the body with new challenges regularly in order to maintain muscle growth.

Arnold also routinely tried out other sports and activities in order to give his body new challenges - archery was just one of them.

The Pet Project, Part Five - The Scaredy Cat

If you have not been following along, "The Pet Project" is my humourous yet somewhat serious project to help our cat, Victoria, to lose weight through a combination of exercise and diet. You can catch up on this by reading the posts in order:

Part One - "Our Cat is Fat"
Part Two - "Kitty is on a new Diet"
Part Three - "Cat Walking"
Part Four - "Conquering Failures"

Last week I talked about how I got a laser pointer and how I was going to use the laser pointer to tempt the cat into going outside in the hallway for walks.

Today I finally got the cat outside in the hallway, although not due to the laser pointer. I had to physically carry her out there, and then she immediately bolted back to the safety of our apartment. She is utterly terrified with going outside apparently, which is at odds with the fact her favourite hobby (ignoring sleeping and eating) is sitting at the window and watching the world outside.

So she is utterly fascinated by the world out there... but terrified of it too.

Which might make sense when you consider she is a rescue. We never learned all the details of what happened to her before the Toronto Humane Society rescued her, but our understanding is that she might have been abandoned on the streets by her previous owner.

Thus me picking her up and setting her down in the hallway might have been a traumatic reminder of the day she was abandoned, even though the safety of the apartment was right there, she had a leash on (although she doesn't understand the purpose of it - she thinks it is something to play with and bite), and I had zero intention of abandoning her. She immediately bolted back into the apartment, trying to get away from the dreaded hallway.

(It is also possible she smelled the scent of the neighbour's dog in the hallway, another cause for fear.)

Conquering fear isn't like conquering failures. You can't just solve it easily with ingenuity or some gadgetry.

For many people, not just cats, fear can be one of their biggest obstacles in life. Fear of failure. Fear of being embarrassed. It isn't so much the fear of death people are afraid of either.

Topping the list of phobias people have is the Fear of Public Speaking (glossophobia).

Many people would rather be operated on by a dentist while inside a pit of snakes that have to stand up and make a speech in front of lots of people.

Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes and serpents) are such common fears that many animals are likewise afraid of these creatures. Hence all the videos of cats jumping and running away at the sight of a cucumber - even cats that have never seen a snake (or cucumber) before still jump and run away at the sight of them because their DNA is wired to be afraid of snakes.

Many fears/phobias exist because they are for our own protection - fears of predators, fears of heights, fear of being trampled by large numbers of people, or fear of being trapped in a small space, fear of the unknown, etc.

However it is when those fears become irrational and interfere with our ability to live happy/normal lives that we have to start thinking of this on a therapeutic level.

A person who is afraid of open spaces (agoraphobia) is going to have issues with going jogging, cycling, mountain hiking, swimming and doing various sports. Treating that problem is the tricky problem...

Steps to Conquering Fear

#1. Get help from an anxiety coach - basically a specialist who helps people conquer their fears. However that isn't going to help Victoria, because she is a cat.

#2. Learn how to respond to a panic attack - basically learning to relax and realize you are not in any real danger. Breathing techniques that help you to relax is useful. Again, not useful for a cat. Learning to anticipate the panic attack and then not give into it is also part of this process.

#3. Increase exposure to the things which cause your panic attacks. This we can do with the cat fortunately, possibly by taking her to the vet, on car trips with us, outings, and eventually she will learn to relax after she is exposed to the Great Outdoors enough.

The purpose of exposure practice is not to enter into a feared situation, like a room full of snakes, and not have a panic attack. The point of the exposure is to have some experience with panic symptoms and learning how to control it slowly over time. You do it a step at a time, at a pace that's acceptable to you, but always aiming to practice with the panic. Thus a "room full of snakes" might be rather extreme. Looking at photos of snakes would be a better first step, followed by maybe seeing them in person, and slowly reaching a point where the person is no longer fainting at the sight of snakes.

#4. Don't just pretend to not be afraid. Learn to be completely unafraid. With enough exposure to something you eventually become utterly fearless of it. That doesn't mean you don't respect that the object of fear isn't dangerous however, you should still respect something that has the potential to harm you. That is basically how Steve Irwin died, he failed to properly respect the killing ability of a stingray. (This doesn't help our cat Victoria, but it may help people out there.)

#5. Understand and learn more about the nature of phobias. Learning how they work gives the person a better understanding of how best to treat themselves. As humans we grow up in a culture where people are taught not to be afraid of things, and chastised or mocked if we are afraid of such things, and as such nobody teaches us how to deal with panic attacks or anxiety.

The purpose of panic attacks is to ensure our survival, part of our "flight or fight" response that is coded into our DNA. However panic attacks are a bit like a fire alarm, warning us when there is danger, but the fire alarm itself is not actually dangerous. Having panic attacks over things that are not normally scary however is a bit like false alarms going off, it turns out to be harmless because there was no fire - but it is still psychologically damaging because it creates a sense of fear where there should not be... Which brings me to #6...

#6. Embrace other kinds of fear. Watch scary movies, try indoor rock climbing, take up public speaking, visit a snake farm or spider zoo, watch the movie "The Walk" (2015 film about a high wire walker who walks between the Twin Towers of the WTC), watch the classic film "Jaws", zombie movies, try skydiving, etc. How and what you do is up to the individual, but basically the idea here is to embrace new kinds of fear - and learn to fear them. How you handle your feelings of fear in those situations will allow your mind to better equip itself when dealing with your phobias.

In Victoria's case the solution for her is ultimately #3, Increased Exposure. I am confident that some day she will be able to go for walks outside. It will just take time and lots of effort on my part.

Note - Last week I forgot to weight Victoria. Today she weighed in at 11.9 lbs. Progress!

Classic Scene from Indiana Jones / Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Pet Project, Part Four - Conquering Failures

If you have not been following along, "The Pet Project" is my humourous yet somewhat serious project to help out cat, Victoria, to lose weight through a combination of exercise and diet. You can catch up on this by reading the posts in order:

"Our Cat is Fat"
"Kitty is on a new Diet"
"Cat Walking"

Today I tried again to take the cat outside into the hallway to get her some exercise. She apparently has no problems attacking packaging, but when you try to put a collar on her and take her for a walk her response is to attack you.

Proof that if you want to feel like a failure,
you should try herding cats.

But amusing thoughts aside here is the video of Victoria playing with me, with collar on, as I am attempting to pick her up and take her for a walk. Or at least herd her towards the foyer, which I failed at because she wanted to play instead so that is what we did.

No amount of tickling her feet, trying to get her to chase my fingers or anything else worked. She just wanted to lay there all day and sleep - or bat at my fingers if I tried to do anything with her.

Obviously there is a difference in priorities here. My priority is to get her to exercise more so she can be healthier, live longer and have a fuller, more active lifestyle. Victoria's priority is to lay around all day, and do nothing but eat, sleep, and stare out the window.

So motivating her to exercise is going to be a challenge because #1, She doesn't want to exercise; #2, Exercise really isn't on her list of priorities at all: Her priorities are sleep, prowl, eat, sleep, prowl, eat - the way cats are in nature.

Except she doesn't have anything to prowl for, it isn't like we have a huge infestation of mice for her to hunt. All she has is cat toys that she gets bored with easily.

Thus my attempts so far to get her to go for a walk have been utter failures. However the trick to succeeding is to never give up and keep trying, sometimes using new techniques to get the job done.


The Laser Pointer.

She goes nuts for this thing. I got it while I was xmas shopping a few days ago and she gone bananas playing with it.

The one I purchased comes with 5 settings, Dot, Mouse, Star, Butterfly and Smiley Face - however she honestly doesn't care what shape it is. She chases it regardless and gets super excited and runs around like crazy trying to catch it.

Thus I have determined that even when the cat doesn't want to exercise, you just get out the laser pointer and suddenly she is all into it. (This is like shouting ICE CREAM in a room full of children, suddenly you have them excited.)

So how do you conquer a failure? Ingenuity and try something new/exciting.

As a metaphor for humans, I would point to the idea of using sports or other fun activities to get a person outside and having fun. Doesn't matter whether your sport is archery biathlon or mountain biking, if you are outside and having fun (and exercising by accident), then who cares what sport it is? You are not trapped doing team sports like baseball, hockey, football, soccer, etc. Go fishing if that is what makes you happy. Go scuba diving. Take a martial arts class. Learn fencing.

It seriously does not matter as long as you having fun doing your sport of choice.

Although I do admit, my long term goal with the laser pointer is to get her to go for walks outside, chasing the laser pointer. I shall endeavour to make a video of that in the future.

Archery Testimonial + 10 Pointers at 100 Feet

Above: Bryn shows off two 10 pointers she got on the first time shooting at a distance of 100 feet.
On a somewhat cold and windy day in December.

"Charles is a great teacher! I have been taking classes with him since the summer, starting out as an absolute beginner. With Charles’ guidance I have progressed quickly, and now I shoot with confidence and accuracy. Charles is very knowledgeable about archery and intertwines lessons about theory and equipment into the practical, hands-on sessions. He has a good eye for trouble areas, and helps you quickly correct mistakes you’re making. Taking lessons with Charles has been a great experience and I can’t wait to return again in the spring!"

- Bryn J.


I typically start students off shooting at relatively short distances of 30 to 60 feet (10 to 20 yards) and then as they get better I start giving them longer distance challenges. In the above testimonial it was Bryn's first time shooting at a distance of roughly 100 feet. The first couple rounds was really more about figuring out where to aim, but after she figured out where to aim the quality of her clusters tightened up and she was scoring lots of yellows and reds.

Long range accuracy is challenging, but by practicing attention to detail with respect to form and learning how to adjust for wind conditions it is possible to get better and better. Earlier this year one of my students "Robin Hooded" and broke one of my arrows at a distance of 60 yards (180 feet).

For more information on this topic read Long Range Archery Tips or for people into compound bows, check out Shooting Compound Long Distances.

Archery Lessons Testimonial + Christmas Shopping List

"Thanks again for the archery lessons you gave our son during the Summer. You were a really great instructor.

We will be getting him his own equipment for Christmas. Can you recommend what equipment we should get him for Christmas and where to go shopping?

Have a great Christmas!
Maggie and Tobias H."

Samick Sage
Hey Maggie and Tobias!

You are welcome. Always happy to help.

Since your son is in his late teens I recommend getting him the following from Tent City in North York:

  • Samick Sage, 25 lbs, right hand pull.* $150.
  • 12 arrows, preferably 600 spine. Beman Junior Hunters or Easton 600s would work. $7 to $10 per arrow depending on the manufacturer or whether you have custom fletched arrows.
  • Finger glove, size large. Approx. $14.
  • Arm bracer. Approx. $20 or more for a good one.
  • Bowstringer. Approx. $12.
  • Bow string wax. Approx. $10.
  • Spare bow string for future use. Approx. $15.
  • Arrow rest. $7 to to $36 for a decent one. Do NOT get the plastic sticker arrow rests.
  • Quiver. Optional, prices vary.
* There are other bows I could recommend for your son, but the Samick Sage is a very good starter recurve bow. Samick also has a good warranty. Other brands / models I recommend include the Samick Red Stag, Jandao, Bear Grizzly, Martin Jaguar/Saber/Panther. All of these brands have a good or very good warranty. I recommend avoiding any company that doesn't have a warranty.

I also recommend avoiding any counterfeit / knock-off bows. A growing problem in the industry is disreputable companies selling counterfeit archery equipment made overseas in China/etc. Not only is there no warranty, but they break easily.

Best of luck and happy shooting!

Follow up email:

"Thanks for the list! Your advice is invaluable. See you next year!"

Using Exercises to Keep Warm

Winter is coming.

Which for Toronto means we are usually in for 3-4 months of miserable cold weather. But it doesn't have to be miserable if you don't want it to be.

Winter should not be an excuse to not exercise either. After all, exercising keeps you warm.

We have all seen the crazy joggers out there in the harshest of weather, apparently unaffected by the extreme cold.

HOWEVER, jogging is not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is actually on the topic of KEEPING WARM for survival purposes - or at very least comfort levels. It has been my experience that the simple act of "rubbing your hands together" really only works for your hands, and if you want to stay warm and comfortable sometimes it is necessary to do more full body exercises.

For example one of the things that I sometimes do is I miscalculate how cold it is outside and I don't wear enough clothing. Thus I end up freezing my proverbial behind off, but I do have a trick to prevent it...

I do 100 jumping jacks. Takes about 2 minutes to do, but 100 jumping jacks later and I am cozy warm because my blood is now pumping energy from my fat stores and invigorating my body. Burning the fat off in such an aggressive manner warms the muscles, warms the blood, and ultimately warms the whole body.

Jumping jacks are not the only exercise you can use to keep warm however...

Five Ways to Keep Warm using Exercises

#1. Weightlifting

You don't need the ghetto weightlifting set like the guy below, any weights will do. Backpack, suitcase, whatever you have handy.

#2. Body Weight Exercises or Calisthenics

Pushups, chin-ups, wall push-ups, situps, it doesn't matter. Any old school body weight exercise will do. Even the simple act of climbing something, such as stairs, can keep your body warm. If you are athletic enough you could even do hand-stand push-ups.

The trick with some of these exercises, eg. chin-ups, is that you need something stable that isn't going to break under your body weight. Pick something big and stable.

The young woman on the right for example chose the underside of a bridge to exercise on, but the basic concept is there. Something large, heavy, durable, won't tip over / rock back and forth. It also shouldn't have sharp edges, spikes or anything dangerous like that in the vicinity.

The video below shows a young woman demonstrating a number of different body weight exercises outdoors.

#3. Yoga

You don't even need a mat to do winter yoga, the snow is your nice soft mat. But in the event you are surrounding by cold harsh ice, a blanket would also do. Helps if you are already familiar with yoga, but if you are not please read my posts on the topic or check out the thousands of free videos on YouTube.

#4. Squats or Squat Jumps

Squats are not hard. You just squat down part way, keep your back aligned straight up and down, and then stand back up again. Do 20 of those and your legs will be warmed up significantly.

For extra challenge, do the squats while carrying a weight (perhaps a backpack full of books), or try squat jumps - wherein you squat down and then stand up so fast that you jump into the air.

#5. Stretching and Scratching

Sometimes the simple act of stretching, touching your toes, flexing various muscles, can also warm you up. It doesn't take much, and it is far less obvious what you are doing if you have a crowd of people staring at you. If you are standing on a cold train platform with lots of people around, they may get weirded out by someone who suddenly decides to do 100 jumping jacks - but someone who is just stretching won't get a second glance.

The second part is this last tip is that you can also warm your skin by scratching it. Scratch your back, your arms, your chest, your legs - it might look you have a rash to a passerby, or it might look like you just have an itchy arm and that is no big deal.

If it truly is a survival situation then embarrassment isn't a factor any more.

Have a great winter and stay warm!

The Pet Project, Part Three - Cat Walking

If you are familiar with my "The Pet Project" then you know that "Our Cat is Fat" and that "Kitty is on a new Diet". It is all part of my Pet Project to get our cat Victoria to lose weight, because she put on a few extra pounds while she was trapped in a cage at the pet store.

Part of Victoria's new diet and exercise regime is that I play with her every day, often two or three times per day, trying to get her running, jumping and exercising like normal outdoor cats would be. Having her chase feathers on a string for endless hours does get boring eventually so I embarked on a quest to get Victoria into "cat walking".

On Saturday it took two people just to get the collar on her, along with her identification tags which she really should keep on her anyway. It took one person feeding her kitty treats and another person trying to put the collar on her without getting bitten to get the job done.

I have also tried getting a harness on her, which is specifically made for cat walking, but she wouldn't have that and instead would attack the harness, thinking it was a new toy to play / bite / claw. I am still hoping to get her into a harness someday, but it may take more effort.

Earlier today (less than 30 minutes ago, really) I managed to get the leash on her collar. Her response was to attack the leash. 10 minutes of biting and attacking the leash later, and kitty treats no longer doing their job to coax her, I managed to get her into our foyer hallway using the ol' feathers on a string trick.

Once in the foyer I closed the door, and then opened the door into the apartment building hallway - a place which she has never been before, except for the day she came home with us in a box from the pet store.

Victoria walked up to the doorway, to the threshold and looked around, she then backed away frightened. Moments later she walked back out there again and stuck her head into the hallway, heard a noise coming from outside, freaked out and ran back inside the foyer and started pushing at the foyer door, trying to climb the foyer door, and managed to open the door by headbutting it (she routinely pushes the bedroom door open with her head so she can wake us up in the morning). Once inside the apartment she scampered, reaching the end of her leash, which I dropped because it was self-evident that she didn't want to explore the apartment building hallway.

The world beyond our apartment is big and scary apparently, to the mind of a timid housecat. She spends endless hours sitting at various window sills watching the world outside, but the moment she gets a chance to go outside and explore a little bit she gets scared, freaks out and runs back to the safety of her home.

Oh to have a smart cat - a really smart cat, who understands what the leash is for. And that the world beyond our home isn't so scary.

The cat in the above photo clearly knows what a leash is for.

In related news:

Weighed Victoria again today, she is currently 12.0 lbs, a more reasonable weight. Exercise and new diet is clearly working. She had "Fancy Feast" on Sunday, which she really enjoyed, but otherwise it is the new Whiskas cat food that I mentioned in Part Two of the "The Pet Project".

The Culture of Gym Music in Toronto

I have only ever gone to gyms in Toronto so I don't know if they differ around the world, but I assume that what passes for "gym music" at Toronto gyms is probably pretty homogenous across most of Canada and the USA.

Which is to say it is "upbeat dance music", which in Toronto means you would normally hear this kind of music at a dance club downtown and not anywhere else - except for apparently, Toronto gyms.

Listening to the same dance music over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over can get pretty annoying however.

Gyms however simply don't care about the quality of their music, their primary goal is to make your credit card bill bigger by overbilling you multiple times per month, charging for extra services, and charging you one extra month on the day you cancel your gym membership*.

* That actually happened to me with Extreme Fitness. I cancelled my credit card because I had heard they overcharge people for months and months after your membership was cancelled because they CAN and then claim that the person never cancelled their membership / claim it was a billing error / refuse to refund the monies owed to the customer. So after cancelling my card I called them up and cancelled my membership, and the woman on the phone tried to charge my credit card for an extra month while I was on the phone - and was very rude to me after she discovered I had cancelled my credit card and thwarted her attempt to deliberately overcharge me. Also I should note that according to CBC's Marketplace, Extreme Fitness is not the only company that routinely does these things. The whole gym industry does it, which is why the last time I got a gym membership it was for Ryerson University - which is non-profit and has no goal to overcharge people. I still paid with cash however, so word to the wise - if you get a gym membership in Toronto, always pay with cash.

Anyway, back to my primary topic - gym music.

Because gym music is so appalling many people end up bringing their smart phone or mp3 player and listening to their own music instead. Which begs the question, if the music is so bad and people are listening to their own, why not just get rid of the music and replace it with relative peace and quiet? Would it be because then we would have to listen to people grunting on the machines, chatting to each other, gulping down water, idiots dispensing health advice, the one vegan guy who is always trying to convince people to become vegans, etc...?

In which case maybe what gym goers really need is tranquil background noises, that aren't music at all. The sound of a thunderstorm for example. Or tranquil chirping of birds. Whatever. Just so its not the same upbeat dance music over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Because clearly that junk isn't helping anyone and everyone clearly prefers to listen to their own music anyway.

Everyone has different musical tastes. The percentage of people who actually enjoy listening to dance music all the time is probably a pretty small percentage of Toronto's diverse population.

Musical taste is often directly correlated between social status (meaning wealth) and socio-economic and ethnic background. At least according to a study published in 2015 in the Canadian Review of Sociology, and written by a professor from UBC. The study involved nearly 1,600 telephone interviews with adults in Vancouver and Toronto, who were asked about their likes and dislikes of 21 musical genres.

The study determined that poorer, less-educated people tended to like country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap. Meanwhile, their wealthier and often better-educated counterparts preferred genres such as classical, blues, jazz, opera, choral, pop, reggae, rock, world and musical theatre.

So a more specific genre like "dance pop", the kind of which is played in gyms really only appeals to one group of people - wealthy or well off young white people between the ages of 20 and 29. Which for a gym, really shows what their target audience is - young people with money.

And gym music targets women - specifically young white women with money, who are often single (but that doesn't mean you should talk to them!!!) and insecure about their bodies.

Men in contrast are less worried about their bodies. A man having a "little extra weight" is considered to be a cultural norm by society. Women with a beer gut however, that is considered to be outright scary.

There is also a solid argument that the culture of gym music is even racist, because it is so specifically geared towards white women who are insecure about their bodies, have money, and feel that they have to look attractive physically in order to attract a man (which should never happen at the gym by the way, because the man in question will likely be a horrible person who is only attracted to physical looks).

If you know of a gym in Toronto that DOES NOT play horrible dance pop music please post a comment about it in the comments below. With any luck it will be a boxing gym or something similar, as the sound of grunting and people hitting punching bags is normal there - music at such a location would be considered idiotic.

Also if you are one of those people who actually likes gym music I invite you to listen to the Flo Rida song "Right Round" 100 times or until you finally agree with me. (I heard that song roughly every 30 minutes whenever I was at Extreme Fitness. It is an abomination of an old 80s song.)


  • Bring your own music to the gym.
  • Better yet, skip the gym treadmill and go jogging outside.
  • Love your music, love yourself.
  • Try new genres of music sometimes. It won't hurt to broaden your horizons.
  • Try new exercises regularly. It doesn't hurt to try new things in general.
  • Try new sports that are outdoors. Extra fresh air never hurt you.

Personal Note - While writing this post I did a search of my mp3 collection for the word "love" and then made a playlist of songs with love in the title. The first song on the list is 10cc's "I'm not in love". YouTube video below if you are curious.

The Pet Project, Part Two - New Diet for the Kitty

Last week I started a new Pet Project - literally dubbed "The Pet Project".

The post from last week was titled "The Pet Project, Part One - Our Cat is Fat", and details how our cat - Victoria - is overweight and rather ungraceful as cats go.

Last week I also weighed her and she clocked in at 14.1 lbs - which is 2 lbs heavier than the normal 8 to 12 lbs a house cat should be. I think however that I must have made an error during the weighing process because today I weighed her (using the same method as last week) and she clocked in at 12.2 lbs. Perhaps the scale was off last week and wasn't calibrated correctly. I even double checked multiple times, and the correct weight is 12.2 lbs.

Thus I think we shall just ignore week 1's anomaly and start with the fresh number which appears to be more accurate.

I am having too much fun with these cat gifs.

During the past week Victoria has had daily exercise, often for 60 to 80 minutes each day, of chasing feathers on a string, gnawing feathers on a string, jumping in the air to attempt to catch feathers on a string, etc. She also has several new kitty toys to keep her occupied.

As of today we are also switching her cat food. So that it stays similar to her previous catfood we opted for chicken.

Previously her catfood was: "Authority: Adult, Real Chicken". 370 calories per cup.

Her new catfood is "Whiskas: Adult, Real Chicken". 357 calories per cup.

Now admittedly that is only 13 calories less. Approx. a 3.5% drop in calories.

However over the course of several months we should see results. 3500 calories = 1 lb of fat, so even a small drop in calories over course of 3 months would be a significant drop. Especially for a cat. Even a 1/2 lb of weight loss for her is 4% of her bodyweight.

Supplementing her dry cat food we will also be giving her a 85g small can of "Fancy Feast" once a week and "Whiskas Temptations" seafood kitty treats once every 2 to 3 days. The kitty treats are less than 2 calories per treat. [I haven't found the calories for the 85g Fancy Feast cans. If anyone knows how many calories are in 1 can please post in the comments.]

Thus the basic principles are there: Intake less calories as food; burn more calories through exercise.

Earlier today I tried to get Victoria to put on a harness so I could take her for a walk on a leash in the hallway - baby steps towards someday taking the cat for walks outside. However trying to get her into a harness resulted in her only wanting to scratch me, so no luck there. I will have to try again later when she is less playful / aggressive.

The principle of reducing your caloric intake by 3 to 5% is one way of dieting in order to gradually lose weight. One very effective way for humans to make this switch is to cut out the soda pop and switch to water or tea.

Is Wearable Tech really going to help people lose weight?

Wearable technology like the iWatch, smart watches and other similar devices designed to track how much you are exercising is one of the big new fitness trends of 2015.

However, most of them are basically junk.

And those that are good at what they do, won't actually help you lose weight unless you're willing to put in the effort.

Which is really coming back to the same issue people always have with exercise - sometimes people just don't want to put in the effort.

Take for example the issue of counting calories in a journal.

Counting calories is basically a guaranteed way of losing weight through diet. You reduce your caloric intake and as long as you stick to the limit of how many calories you can consume in a day, and the limit is both sufficient for your dietary needs, but low enough that you will end up burning fat for energy, the end result is you will lose weight. Guaranteed. Even people with glandular disorders can lose weight using the counting calories method.

However counting calories every meal and every snack is time consuming and BORING.

So why not have a device that does it for you?

Well sadly having such a device is just as time consuming as using a pen and a journal. You aren't saving any time using an electronic device to count calories for you. If anything the operating system and the series of buttons to press is actually MORE time consuming as opposed to simply grabbing a pen and writing down "450" in the appropriate space in the journal.

On the exercise side of things smart watches can (sometimes) monitor heart rhythm and can attempt to calculate how many calories you are burning.

However a smart watch doesn't keep track of all of the following factors:

  • How much you weigh.
  • How much extra weight are you carrying.
  • Your speed / intensity while exercising.
  • Whether you have a heart condition which causes abnormally fast or slow heart rhythm.
  • Level of difficulty of the exercise which could effect caloric burn.
  • The Afterburn Effect.
  • Blood sugar levels - if you ate recently before exercising, you might be burning energy which was freshly consumed. Not stored energy in the form of fat.

It really comes down to the same problem devices and apps like these always have: They can never account for all the different factors, which ultimately means that such devices don't actually work as they claim they do. Furthermore when an app reminds you to go jogging/etc, you can always just turn it off - the exercise equivalent of a Snooze Button.

Years ago I experimented with an High Intensity Interval Training app. I later deleted it because I determined it was a pain to work with. You had to program in the number of intervals, how many breaks you wanted, and it was glitchy and annoying. There was no premade programs to choose from, no random HIIT workout. I was better off using an old fashioned stop watch...

Ultimately what I ended up using instead of the HIIT app was music. I would do one exercise until the song was over and the switch to either resting or a different exercise during the next song. The randomness of the music determined both whether it was an intense exercise, a relaxing exercise, or a break to catch my breath and drink some water.

Which begs the question, why bother with a smart watch when all you really need is a mp3 player? Or a record player if you prefer vinyl. Or a smart phone. Or a juke box.

What people really need is motivation. That is the true wrench that fixes the broken gears of exercise. If a person lacks the will to go exercise, no amount of new shoes, electronic gadgets, gym memberships or personal trainers* will matter.

* Ideally a good personal trainer should motivate a person to go exercise regularly - but trying and succeeding are two different things. The personal trainer can try to motivate the person, but if they are feeling unmotivated by other factors in their life the personal trainer is ultimately just another spoke in the gear. It is the other spokes which need to be unjammed in order to get the gears moving and the person exercising.


I came across the following list on a website, which dubbed the list "Top 10 fitness trends for 2016". However how can it be 2016 if we are still in 2015? Is this a list of predictions? Or is it based on a survey that happened in 2015? Or is it just a random list create by a fitness writer who is just making up what they THINK will be the trends in 2016? I think it is the last one.

So how much stock should you put in something written by some fitness writer who is making predictions? Not a lot if you analyze the list. See my notes in red.

Top 10 fitness trends during 2015 according to Joe Schmoe

"1. Wearable Technology: includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices. [We've had these before. I gave my sister a device that monitors foot steps 3 years ago for xmas. I am unsure if she ever used it.]

2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable.  ["Body Weight Training" has been a trend since the 1800s and likely earlier. It is not a "new trend" at all. It is old school exercises like push ups and chin ups.]

2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery. These exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes. [This isn't new. HIIT has been "trending" for over a decade.]

4. Strength Training: Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. [AKA, weight lifting. Also nothing new. When were dumbbells invented?]

5. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals: Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose ... bla bla bla. [Just another word for "Certified Personal Trainers" and "Coaches".]

6. Personal Training: More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields, such as personal training. [Wait. This is exactly the same as #5. Clearly the author had difficulty coming up with a list of 10.]

7. Functional Fitness: This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related. [The elderly have been doing these exercises in senior homes for decades now. Nothing new.]

8. Fitness Programs for Older Adults: As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active. [Isn't this just the same as #7 but more specifically about the elderly and general fitness? Yep, yes it is. That is not a trend. That is stating something that many elderly already try to do.]

9. Exercise and Weight Loss: Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients. [Wait, what? How is "exercise and weight loss" a new trend? Isn't that what people have been doing for decades? The writer clearly has a Masters in BS.]

10. Yoga: Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others." [Again, yoga is nothing new. It is literally thousands of years old. It is as old as Christian carpenters who build Arks.]

Aim Higher

Sometimes one of the best things you can do is give yourself a lofty goal. The act of "aiming higher", to give yourself a challenge not only boosts your confidence when you reach that goal, but it makes you realize that other lofty goals are also attainable.

The photo below is from a few days ago during which it was a windy day and I decided I wanted to hit the bottle cap on the bottle, which was dangling from a string and blowing in the wind. I have done this feat before, aiming and hitting a small moving target, but never before in such windy conditions. Hitting it was largely due to patience and timing - but lofty goals are like that. You need patience to keep trying despite failures (or in this case, misses) and with time, effort, patience and good timing you can succeed.

You can apply this to almost anything in your life, whether you are working your way through university, trying to lose weight, or trying to achieve excellence in a sport or discipline.

The Pet Project, Part One - Our Cat is Fat

A little over a month ago my girlfriend and I got a cat. Her name is Victoria.

We got her via Pet Smart and the Toronto Humane Society. She is a rescue cat, meaning her previous owner was either unfit to take care of her, she was abandoned on the streets, etc. It is unclear the origins of our cat.

What we do know is that she is between 2 and 2.5 years old, has spent a good chunk of time locked in cage and unable to run, jump and climb through much of her time at the Toronto Humane Society. My understanding is that they do let the pets out once per day to get some exercise, but a half hour or hour per day is clearly not enough exercise for a cat.

Thus, soon after getting her home we started to realize that our precious cat, Victoria, was fat and out of shape. She was certainly well fed, but she clearly lacked exercise. As cats go she doesn't always land on her feet, and she isn't particularly graceful.

Sometimes when playing and she fails to execute a jump properly she looks all embarrassed and takes a break to rest.

As a personal trainer I am accustomed to helping humans to lose weight, gain muscle, build endurance, etc. However I have never tried to apply those ideas to helping a fat cat lose weight and become more graceful. Thus it got me thinking. If our cat has a regimented diet which we can easily control, all she really needs is more exercise.

Now I should note we do play with the cat every day. Usually several times in the morning, several times in the afternoon, and once or twice in the evening. Mostly because our cat demands a lot of attention. eg. If we don't feed her at 6:30 AM she starts eating the cord for the lamp next to the bed until we finally feed her. One time I was awoken around 6 AM because she was licking my forehead. So not only does she demand attention, she knows how to demand food.

Before embarking on this "Pet Project" of personal training for our cat, I decided to weigh our cat... This actually took me several days to do... Our cat doesn't like to sit still for very long when she knows she has our attention.

In order to weigh her I first weighed a basket, then using a feather cat toy I managed to coax her into the basket, let her have the toy so she will lay down. Check the weight on the scales, subtract the weight of the basket, and voila, our cat weighs 14.1 lbs.

Now I am not a firm believer in BMI charts, because frankly they can be skewed by anyone with a higher than average muscle mass or bone density. Some of us, myself included, have more than our fair share of muscle and bone density. This is due to exercising a lot. Thus BMI is completely useless for anyone who is athletic and muscular.

Believe it or not however there is a whole field out there of people who specialize in animal health - they're called "veterinarians", which in theory should be complete with BMI charts designed for cats. Like the chart below which uses length of the cat vs the rib cage circumference... As if my cat would sit still long enough and not attack the tape measure while I am trying to measure her length and rib cage circumference.

I also found this "BFI Chart", measuring the cat by Body Fat Index. I would estimate based on this visual comparison that our cat is in the 30 to 40 range. So she isn't super over weight, but she is certainly not sleek, graceful and ready to pounce. Whether you do a detailed visual examination or just guess what category your cat looks like, it seems to amount to roughly the same thing: A vague estimate.

 Doing a rudimentary check of whether you can even feel your cats rib cage is one way to determine if your cat is overweight. If you can easily feel their ribs, your cat is likely a good weight and is low risk for health problems. If you have difficulty finding their ribs your cat is likely overweight. If you can't feel your cats ribs at all, they are probably obese. The same technique is also recommended by vets for checking if your dog is over weight.

Sadly I could not find a proper cat BMI chart. So I have very little to compare it to when considering that our cat weighs 14.1 lbs. Nobody it seems has invested any time or effort in researching weight vs length of cats. You would think there be at least one veterinarian out there who has decided to create a BMI chart for cats... but alas, none of them has.

And perhaps rightly so, since BMI is widely considered to be inaccurate due to muscle weight skewing the results.

However I do know this. The so-called "normal" weight for a cat is 8 to 12 lbs, with males weighing typically 2 to 4 lbs more than females. So our female cat is likely 2+ lbs over weight.

During my research I did find a form to fill out if you think your cat or dog is overweight. It is at, however the form refuses to work if you don't input an acceptable breed of cat. Our cat is a mix of Persian, Russian Blue and Calico - and their form wouldn't accept any of those breeds, and their website server crashed and gave a message that their server was being reset. Once it did reset, I tried the breed names over again, and again it refused to accept Persian, Russian Blue or Calico as breeds.

So what I learned from this is that PetMD's website both doesn't accept Persian Russian Blue or Calico to be breeds of cats, but apparently their website crashes easily. Not impressed.

Anyway, now that I know our cat is 14.1 lbs I can use that as a starting point. Once per week, for the duration of this "Pet Project", I am going to write another post about our cat's health, what exercises I have her doing, and any changes in her health, weight, gracefulness and ability to jump through the air and catch feather cat toys.

If you want to read a past project I did you may consider reading "30 Days as a Vegetarian". Which I determined does promote weight loss, but some of that weight loss apparently was a loss of muscle mass. I also determined that I really missed bacon, that being vegetarian is really hard to do and that it is not very practical in a world where many foods has meat in it. In the future I might do another 30 days on a specific diet, like maybe "30 Days on a Paleo Diet" or something like that.

Archery Seniors Discount x2 = 10%

I have decided to permanently increase my Seniors Discount from 5% to 10%, doubling the discount.

My Normal Weekday Rates

1 Student
$60 for 90 minutes; 3 Lessons - $170; 5 Lessons - $270; 10 Lessons - $520.

My Weekday Rates with Seniors Discount

1 Student
$54 for 90 minutes; 3 Lessons - $153; 5 Lessons - $243; 10 Lessons - $468.  

Also please note that I am also offering Archery Gift Vouchers, so for anyone not sure what to get Grandpa or Grandma or your favourite Aunt / Uncle this Xmas, but you know they have an active lifestyle, maybe archers lessons is the way to go.

For those people wishing to purchase Archery Gift Vouchers for friends, family, co-worker, etc simply contact to begin the process. When you are done, give the Gift Voucher to the lucky person and they can redeem it at their leisure.

Archery Gift Vouchers come with a Voucher Number that is redeemable for archery lessons. You don't need the card to redeem it, just the voucher number. Vouchers have an expiry of 18 months after the date of purchase. No refunds. Vouchers have no cash value, but are transferable.

Archery Biathlon Training

Looking for something new to try this winter in Toronto?

How about Archery Biathlon?

Similar to rifle biathlon, archery biathlon is actually an ancient Nordic sport which was done by Vikings in Scandinavia. It was so popular in fact that the Norse god "Ullr" was basically the god of the archery biathlon. (See the images of Ullr further below.)

For those who are thinking of trying something new that is really challenging archery biathlon might be the right sport for you.

The sport builds the following:

Cardiovascular Strength (Heart and Lungs)
Back and Upper Body Strength
Leg and Lower Body Strength
Aiming / Accuracy Skills

For more information about signing up for Archery Biathlon Training or Winter Archery Lessons, see my previous post on the topic of Winter Archery Lessons.

And as promised, images of the Norse god Ullr below:

Notice to Spammers - Bugger off! cannot go a week without someone leaving a Spammy comment in the comments section, usually generic bla bla bla with a link at the end of the comment.

Unfortunately for the spammers, all of the comments are moderated. By me personally.

Which means I delete all the spam. None of it ever gets so much as a brief appearance on the final product that the public sees.

Sometimes, very rarely, a spammer actually tries to leave a comment that is meaningful and includes a link at the end of their comment. That is deleted too.

Basically, if it contains a link that is clearly meant as spam advertising, it gets deleted.

Now I do allow advertising on, but I charge DOUBLE of what normal market rates for such advertising is - and I refuse to advertise anything like casinos, diet pills, bogus nonsense. So they have to first jump through the hoops of both credibility and morality, and once they have done so they have to pay double of normal market rates.

And furthermore, I charge a fee for guest posts - because that is still technically advertising. And if you don't like it and/or think you are providing me with a service, then clearly you should read Wil Wheaton's post about "free exposure". "Free content" from people who just want advertising, I don't care about. Complete waste of my time to even post their junk writing - which guests posts need to be the following:

  • High Quality Writing
  • Moral and Ethical (eg. not advertising casinos or cigarettes)
  • Credible + Not Obviously Bogus (eg. diet pills, health gadgets that don't work, etc)

Don't like my rules? Take your diet pills / shoddy writing and peddle it somewhere else. The back of a tabloids newspaper seems like a good place.

And because no notice posts should be left hanging without something funny, I give you the following photo on the topic of Roller Derby. :)

Note to Self - Personal Trainers and Sell Outs

Note to Self

If I ever become a sell out personal trainer who becomes so focused on selling books and DVDs that I am no longer providing free advice on my website, will someone please leave a comment on this post and remind me to stop doing that nonsense.

I am speaking of course of the "personal trainers" who apparently spend more time writing books and making DVDs (that very few people actually read or watch and often collects dust) than they do actually training people.

Also I should note, yes, I am currently writing a how-to book for archery, however I should note one of the reasons I am writing that book is because I am so busy I cannot teach everyone who is asking for archery lessons, so my plan is for whenever people have schedules that don't match mine, I can simply point them towards the book instead.

So I am not doing it for the money. I am doing it because I genuinely want to help people learn archery.

Also it is nice being on the CBC, CityTV, TSN, etc for archery clips because I enjoy promoting the sport - but I don't want to be doing that stuff full time. A few days ago I was contacted by a journalist student from Ryerson who is making a documentary about archery. Unfortunately their schedule didn't mesh with mine, so I couldn't help them.

So it is a matter of priorities and scheduling in my opinion.

Less than a month ago I was contacted by a television producer looking for someone for a reality TV show. With some trepidation I put my name in the hat of candidates, even though I despise reality shows. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. But it also makes me realistic. The reality of the situation is that I would probably enjoy being on that show. If I don't enjoy it, I could go back to what I usually do.

Thus, note to future self: If I am not enjoying something, stop doing it and go back to what I do enjoy.

In other news, Happy Halloween! Below are some zombie archery targets, both 3D and 2D.

Pumping Iron, 1977 Documentary

Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger
"Pumping Iron" is a 1977 documentary about the 1975 IFBB Mr Olympia competition, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.

In bodybuilding circles this film is a classic. Harking back to the days before steroids becoming commonplace at bodybuilding competitions and bodybuilding was considered to be more like sculpture - an art form similar to figure skating or ballet.

Indeed the very first scene of the documentary is a scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger practices poses with a ballet dancer.

You can watch the trailer below:

And you can watch the full film in HD on Netflix.

Admittedly it only has 2 stars out of 5 on Netflix, mostly because people who are not into bodybuilding / weightlifting would probably find the film boring, but I personally enjoyed it and gave it 5 stars. Proof that bodybuilding truly is a subjective art form.

A nice long quote from the film:

"Let's say before a contest, if I get emotionally involved with a girl... that can have a negative effect on my mind... and therefore destroy my workout. So I have to cut my emotions off... and be kind of cold, in a way, before a competition. That's what you do with the rest of the things. If somebody steals my car outside of my door right now... I don't care. l can't be bothered with that. I would only have my secretary call the insurance agency and laugh about it. Because I cannot be bothered with it. I trained myself for that. To be totally cold and not have things go into my mind." - Arnold Schwarzenegger

How to Shoot a Tiny Moving Target (and catch it on video)

In archery it is comparatively easy to hit a tiny moving target, like a bottle cap dangling on a string, moving about in the wind.

Catching it on video, that is the tricky part.

Like in the video below.

Now in order to make that video what you don't see is the following:

  • The years (or decades in my case) of practicing archery.
  • The warm-up practice the day of the making of the video.
  • The rounds prior to the video that involved hitting the bottle or close to the bottle - and all the shots the missed completely because I was not paying attention and too busy talking to friends.
  • The amount of wind there was on that particular day, both in rounds prior and during the round shown in the video.
  • The archer taking a break to drink hot tea because it was also cold outside that day.

I can however give you some tips.

#1. Get archery lessons so you learn how to shoot properly and accurately. If you live in Toronto, contact me about getting archery lessons in Toronto.

#2. Practice, practice, practice. Just because you got lessons doesn't mean you shouldn't practice regularly. "A sharp blade is always sharpest when it is honed regularly."

#3. Challenge yourself with a new goals. How are you supposed to get better at something if you don't challenge yourself? Aim to do something amazing, and with practice and perseverance you will eventually get good at doing the goal you have set.

#4. Take your time! Don't rush your shots. Avoid getting frustrated just because you aren't achieving the goal you set right away - frustration will only push you further from the target, not closer.

The photos below are just a few of the previous times I have set a goal of shooting a tiny moving target.

In the above somewhat blurry photo the bottle cap went flying off.
I cannot take credit for these shots. These were done by a student of mine.
Bullseye. You can tell from the string angle how windy it was.
This is a larger moving target, but note the broken arrow. The arrow next to it snapped it.
Shooting at a broken tab from a pop can. Pinned it on 3 sides.
Arrow splitting string down the middle, AND it is a bullseye at the same time. Huzzah!
Ripped the bottle right off the bottle cap, and shot it a few more times for good measure.
Shooting at a bunny on Easter Sunday.
And many more photos in my collection, like the 3 photos below which are from the same demonstration as the above video.

Have a great day and happy shooting!
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!


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