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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!"
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