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Stay in Shape for the Winter with Weightlifting

Winter is Coming...

And many people don't exercise as much during the winter, as not everyone is into winter sports like skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, Archery Biathlon and more.

Or even if they are into such sports, keep reading, because weightlifting can also be used to cross-train in other sports.

Speaking for myself, every winter I come up with a series of weightlifting exercises using dumbbells that I can do 4 to 5 days per week, and I usually toss in some bodyweight exercises too.

Doing these exercises largely target the upper body, but if the individual desires they can also do squats and other exercises which focus on the legs.

Sample Dumbbell Exercises

#1. Bicep Curls

#2. Overhead Tricep Lifts

#3. Deltoid Lifts - Front Deltoids, Side Deltoids, Back Deltoids

#4. Oblique Twists

#5. Oblique Lifts

#6. Forearm Twist and Shuffle - Holding the dumbbell, twist your forearm and pass the dumbbell to your left hand. Twist the dumbbell in your left hand and pass it back. Repeat. Cue the disco music.

#7. Dumbbell Rowing - You will need a sturdy rope, a chin-up bar, and a dumbbell to do this exercise. A handle for the rope helps too. Tie one end to the dumbbell, lift the rope over the chin-up bar, tie the other end to handle. Sit down and brace your feet against the sides of the door. Proceed to row. This exercise will target your back muscles (eg. rhomboids), your back deltoids, and your triceps.

#8. One Arm Dumbbell Rowing - No chin up bar or rope? Do an one arm dumbbell row instead.




Sample Body Weight Exercises

A. Chin Ups - Biceps and shoulders. Helps to have a chin-up bar.

B. Push Ups - Triceps, shoulders and pectorals. For extra challenge try decline pushups.

C. Sit Ups - Abdominals. For extra challenge try decline sit ups.

D. Squats - Legs. For extra challenge hold dumbbells in your hand or wear a heavy backpack while doing the squats.

E. Jumping Jacks - Yes, also a cardio, but any form of jumping is technically also a body weight exercise.

Variety

For best results, try to do a variety of different exercises so you get a full body workout. The more variety, the better the workout is.


Weightlifting Tips

  1. Do the exercises slowly. Don't rush through them.
  2. Focus on proper form so you don't hurt yourself.
  3. Make a checklist of which exercises you want to do every workout.
  4. Keep a journal of which exercises you did and the size of the dumbbells so you can see your progression over time.
  5. You don't need lots of expensive exercise equipment. Start with some 10 or 15 lb dumbbells and work your way up. When you are ready, go buy some 20s. When you get bored of those, 25s.
  6. Use lightweight dumbbells at the beginning of the workout. Don't use the heavy dumbbells until the end.
  7. Pace yourself. Take a 30 second breather between exercises.
  8. Don't drink excessively while weightlifting. Have a good drink of water after you complete your workout.
  9. Set a schedule so you have a set time each day that you do your workout.
  10. Do the workout even if tired or stressed. Weightlifting helps reduce stress, and you will sleep better after your workout.
  11. Doing your workout in the morning before shower/breakfast helps wake you up faster than coffee.
  12. Doing your workout in the evening, right before an evening snack and sleeping, helps tire you out and improves your sleep.
  13. Yes, you can do two or more workouts per day. What is stopping you? Are your legs broken?
  14. Excuses and procrastination are for lazy people who never accomplish anything.
  15. Start today. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow.
  16. If you fall off the horse, don't despair. Just get right back on the horse. Remember Tip #11.
  17. Play music or watch TV while exercising. Make it part of your routine to listen to your favourite songs or watch your favourite shows while exercising.
  18. If recuperating from an injury focus on other exercises that don't utilize the body part that is injured. eg. Shoulder injury? Time to focus on leg exercises and the other arm.

Weightlifting Tips for Parents

  • If you have small children you can involve your baby or toddler in your weightlifting exercise. A 20 lb baby can be quite the workout. Think of it as quality time with your baby. Don't drop the baby or do anything common sense would say is a bad idea.
  • If you have older kids and they want to join you in your workouts, get smaller dumbbells that are just for them to use. eg. 3 lb or 5 lb. Such a small amount will be more than enough for their needs.



Archery Biathlon Lessons in Toronto

Q


"Hi I came across an old post about archery ski instruction out of Toronto.
Wondering if you’re still coaching or if you can point me in the direction of someone who is in the Toronto area (or somewhere within a drive ).
Thanks



E. M."


A


Hello E!

Yes, I still coach that but only on weekends.

Would you like to book for January?

If you have any questions feel free to ask. Have a good day!

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat
CardioTrek.ca
Follow Up Comments
So yes, I still teach Archery Biathlon - but I rarely get requests for that. Not many people want archery lessons during the winter, and even less are interested in learning the sport of Archery Biathlon.
So E's email made me realize I should do a post that confirms, yes, I do still offer archery biathlon lessons (and winter archery lessons), and there has been a few changes and I do want to remind people of the following.
#1. I only teach Archery Biathlon during the weekends.
#2. Winter Archery Lessons are likewise only available on weekends.
#3. Winter lessons of either are one-on-one only. No pairs or groups of 3.
#4. You will need your own skis and ski gear. I do not provide those for you. I only provide the archery equipment, if you need it. If you have your own archery equipment and prefer to use it, that is fine too.

#5. Remember to dress for the weather, using multiple tight-fitting layers of warm clothing. Avoid bulky sleeves and bulky jackets.

#6. Definitely remember to bring a hot drink with you. Snacks are a good idea too.

#7. Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson 1 will include a Safety Lecture, Eye Dominance Test, Lecture on Aiming, Lecture on Proper Form, Archery Biathlon Practice combined with Field Archery Practice (aka "Field Archery Biathlon").
  • Lessons 2 will start with "Target Archery Biathlon", and include a lecture in the middle about arrowheads.
  • Lesson 3 will focus on "Long Distance Archery Biathlon", and include a lecture in the middle about arrow spine.
  • Lesson 4 will introduce how to use a Sight and Stabilizer and focus on "Target Archery Biathlon". At some point during the lesson we will be waxing the bowstring and waxing the skis.
  • Lesson 5 will focus on "Archery Biathlon Speed Shooting" - because it is fun, and why not do something fun for the final lesson?
How many lessons a person signs up for is up to them, but we should be able to schedule in 5 lessons during January / February when there is ample snow on the ground. If the snow starts melting too much towards the end of winter we may simply be doing "archery lessons" and skip the skiing aspect.

You notice also that E. asked about other locations where she could learn archery biathlon. Unfortunately I am unaware of anyone else in Toronto (or remotely near the GTA) who teaches archery biathlon.
To sign up for Winter Archery Lessons or Archery Biathlon send an email to

Why Recreational Archery Matters

Balloon Animal Field Archery
Recreational archery is the backbone of all archery endeavours.

Sport? The person had to get into recreational archery first.

Hunting? Our ancestors who first learned to hunt with a bow also first needed to practice with the bow to get good with it, and guaranteed they enjoyed doing it. It was no doubt a recreational activity before it was used for hunting. The same goes with modern bowhunters - they have to learn to shoot first, and practicing archery is quite enjoyable.

Based upon my own anecdotal experience, I would say less than 1% of archers compete in any archery sports. And less than 10% hunt. I cannot say what the exact numbers are, but this is my best guess based upon the people I have met over the past many years.

That means at least 89% of archers, probably more, do recreational archery. Just for the fun of it. It is primarily a recreational sport.

Now why does this matter?

It matters because archery as a sport and bowhunting would find it difficult to exist without recreational archery bringing in new archers constantly. If it wasn't enjoyable, people wouldn't bother to think "Hey, I could use to hunt or compete." If they got frustrated and gave up, then that is the death of the person's archery career. Probably never touch a bow again and when asked they might say something like "Archery is too hard. I suck at it."

But the beauty of recreational archery is that allows a person to practice, practice, practice while having fun (until it no longer feels hard and the person no longer sucks at it). Making archery fun is the surefire way to get people to keep practicing until they see improvement and realize they are getting better at this.

For me, as an archery instructor, making archery fun is also about a reward system for the student's brain.

It really comes down to the dopamine.
"dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior."
When an archery student is having fun and hits a target, the brain produces dopamine which spreads throughout their brain and body, acting as a drug reward for both the brain and muscles. You will often experience a flood of dopamine when watching an enjoyable film, while doing fun sports, during sex, when eating ice cream or chocolate, etc.

That flood of dopamine tells your body that you are doing something good, and that you should keep doing it because it is enjoyable for your brain and the rest of your body.

This reward drug then causes the archery student to pay more attention to their archery form in hopes of repeating a good shot. The more good shots the archer gets, the higher the dopamine output and the cycle continues.

In contrast, if someone feels frustrated their body starts making negative hormones that makes you want to quit what you are doing. But if you are doing a fun activity, this is less likely to happen as you are more likely to enjoy the process even if you are not achieving your goals as quickly as you would like.

Frustration therefore is the leading cause of new archers quitting archery, possibly because they have set their goals too high and they aren't doing an activity that is actually fun.


Example #1. The Frustrated Compound Shooter

Years ago I witnessed a compound shooter who clearly was a beginner. They arrived at the archery range and set up at the 95 yard targets (back when they were at 95 yards, before they were moved to 75). They got their compound bow set up, but it quickly became clear that didn't have a clue what they were doing.

He apparently assumed that because he had a cheap compound bow that he didn't need to shoot at the shorter distances. Or maybe he was just anti-social as the 20 and 30 yard targets are the most popular.

Every time the compound shooter shot, his arrows would go about halfway out into the field and hit the grass about 50 yards out. They weren't even making it near the 95 yard targets.

They would then spend several frustrated minutes searching for their lost arrow(s) in the grass, come back, adjust the sights on their bow HIGHER and repeat the process.

You will notice how I capitalized the word HIGHER. This is because when your arrow is going too low the answer is not to adjust the sight higher, but instead move the sight lower. But a beginner would not know that.

So every round the guy was moving his sight higher, his arrows would go lower, and he was no closer to hitting the 95 yard targets.

So eventually the guy was extremely frustrated, left, and I have never seen him again at the archery range. I am guessing he gave up on archery entirely.

Here is what he should have done:

  1. Go to the 20 yard targets first, because he is after all a beginner and thus he should start at an easier distance.
  2. Shoot his the top pin on his sight.
  3. Adjust the top pin on his sight so that it follows where his arrows are going.
  4. Socialize with the other archers so that you learn things from them.
  5. Find ways to make his practice more fun, so that he is enjoying the process more. Doing something difficult like shooting 95 yards on the first day is going to be extremely frustrating.

Being anti-social isn't going to help someone's shooting practice. A person who is social, and having fun doing a social activity, is going to be less frustrated than a person who wants to be a loner and avoid other people.

Archery is a very social sport and people should embrace the social aspect of the sport as a way of deriving more pleasure (and dopamine) from the activity, which ultimately helps their accuracy, their confidence, and their sense of self-worth.

Being anti-social is simply going to have the opposite effect, causing a person to get frustrated more easily, and they will feel like inadequate loser.


Example #2. The Prepared Parents

I have seen many parents bring their kids to the archery range over the years, but I would say only about one third of them are actually prepared to make the activity more fun for their child.

eg. The parents who are prepared typically brought balloons, make balloon animals, brought a paper zombie target, etc and/or they also thought up a game that their kids can do while shooting.

The unprepared parents in contrast bring their kid(s), bring the bow(s) and arrows, but they think nothing about what activities / games their kids should be playing while they practice archery, and they certainly didn't think to make the targets more fun for their kids to shoot at.

So what happens instead is that the kid ends up shooting at 20 (or sometimes 33 yard) targets, missing regularly, and ultimately spend more time looking for arrows than actually shooting arrows.

What they should be doing instead:
  1. Bring homemade DIY portable targets (or balloon animals works too) which they can put at a distance of 10 or 15 yards instead of the full 20 yards or further.
  2. Stuffed animals also make for fun archery targets. Cheap ones from the Dollar Store work nicely.
  3. If shooting at objects on the ground, using blunt arrowheads and wingnuts would be a wise move. It reduces damage to the DIY targets, but the wingnuts also act like anchors and dig into the grass - making it really easy to find the arrows.
  4. Come up with games the kids can play while they are shooting, so it is even more fun.
  5. Bring food that you would associate with a picnic. Watermelon, sandwiches, lots to drink. Parents often leave early because the kids get hungry, but if you bring lots of food for a picnic this is not a problem.
Seriously, just get some wingnuts from Canadian Tire, some Dollar Store stuffed animals, and the kids will have way more fun than trying to shoot at a target that is 60 feet (20 yards) away. Beginner adults have enough trouble shooting at that distance, for beginner kids it is logically way harder.

Teddy Bear Archery Target


Example #3. Gary Shooting at Zee Romans

I don't know how old Gary is, but I am guessing he is close to my dad's age. Possibly a bit younger. The beard makes him look older than he actually is.

What I do know is that Gary likes to draw Roman soldiers on cardboard and then shoot at them. He loves killing some cardboard Romans. He must have figured out a long time ago that archery is so much more fun when you actually set out to make it more fun.

Sometimes he doesn't always bother to draw Romans on there, like in this photo on the right. But he does like to pose for photos sometimes, which is also fun.

One of these days I will get some photos of Gary shooting at some Romans.

Gary also runs an archery shop at 940 Queen Street East (2nd floor), and is available by appointment only. Check out his website at http://www.basicallybowsarchery.com


Concluding Thoughts

In my opinion anyone who competes or bowhunts should also be actively doing recreational archery so that they are mentally and emotionally encouraged to practice more often. More dopamine = more practicing.

For parents with kids, recreational archery can be a great sport to do again and again, and is worth the investment. The trick is to make it more fun so that the kids keep asking to do it again. And again. And again. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Making it more fun (and social) has numerous benefits for a person's mental health too. It keeps your mind active and forces the mind to be calculating things like distance and where to aim. The physical benefits are likewise there, as archery is possibly best described as an exercise combining resistance training with lots of walking to fetch arrows.

Have fun! Keep shooting!


To sign up archery lessons in Toronto for 2019, just email cardiotrek@gmail.com to ask about available days and time slots.


Older Posts about Recreational Archery

Recreational Archery: 5 Ways to have Fun Shooting
Balloon Animal Field Archery
Whistling and Howling Arrowheads (for Fun and Amusement)
Recreational Archery as a Sport

Google Fit, Pros and Cons

DISCLAIMER - This post is not sponsored by Google. I am writing this of my own free will. As such I can also say negative things about Google Fit...


Okay so last week I downloaded and installed Google Fit app on to my phone. This was done very easily and the app is free.

Using GPS tracking, the app tracks how much I move and how quickly I move. It also uses the phones sensors to track movement, even if your GPS doesn't move very much.

Con - My wife complains about the idea that Google is therefore tracking my whereabouts all the time. So I had to listen to that.

My retort: If your phone is turned on and you have ANY apps that track your GPS on there, then chances are quite likely that Google, Apple and other corporations are ALREADY tracking your location. It is already there. You already agreed to it just by having your phone turned on and various apps installed.

So yes, the app tracks your speed of movement and then records it in two ways.

1. "Move Minutes" - This is basically a measurement of how much time in the day you spend actively walking about. Regular walking to the bathroom, going to the kitchen etc doesn't really count. eg. On Sunday I did 104 "Move Minutes". Doesn't seem like much, does it?

2. "Heart Points" - This is a representation of how quickly you were moving for part of that time. You accumulate heart points faster if you are walking briskly, jogging, cycling, etc. If you go too fast however, you get nothing because the app then thinks you are in a bus, car, etc - so you cannot cheat doing this.

Pro - Having the app is a good way to keep track of how much activity you are doing in terms of walking, jogging, etc. People who are into jogging, running, cycling, etc for exercise should consider using an app like Google Fit to track their fitness levels.

Pro - The app sets goals for how many daily Move Minutes and Heart Points. Thus it encourages you to reach those every day and surpass them. Or at least reach weekly or monthly goals.

So for example my current Heart Points goal is 10 per day, but that could translate into 70 per week. Since I got 22 on Sunday alone, 5 on Monday, 0 on Tuesday, and 10 so far today (Wednesday) I am already up to 37 points. To reach 70 I only need to get 33 more points during the rest of today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So I should be able to reach that 70 goal and surpass it easily.

You can also do the same thing with respect to the Move Minutes. My daily goal is 60 minutes, which is 420 per week. I have already reached 211, mostly due to getting 109 Move Minutes on Sunday, 57 on Monday, 13 on Tuesday, and 32 so far today (Wednesday). So I am just over halfway to my weekly goal.

I know I am taking a walk later this evening, I will be working outside Thursday, I will be going to an event Friday that involves walking, and I will be working outside again on Saturday. So I am pretty confident I will meet and beat both of my Move Minutes and Heart Points goals.

Once you meet those goals you can leave your goals as is, or you can increase them.

Pro - Being able to adjust your goals is very easy to do.

Con - You can only adjust them by 5 points or multiples of 5. You cannot pick unusual numbers like 111 or 12. They have to be rounded to the nearest 5.

So what about other kinds of exercises?

Well there is a problem.

Con - Google Fit doesn't really track exercises like weightlifting, helping a friend carry a sofa up 10 flights of stairs, doing yoga, jumping jacks, etc - because all of these actions are effectively in the same location in terms of GPS so it cannot track the intensity of those activities.




In the app it does say that it can track short strolls, dancing and yoga - but I am going to call bogus on the claim that it tracks yoga, as the person doing yoga isn't really moving their GPS much. Now the sensors in the phone can detect motions like squatting and standing up, but this kind of movement doesn't always register perfectly - and it assumes that the person is keeping their phone in their yoga pants without it falling out constantly. So yes, unless the individual has some fancy yoga pants with a pocket that never drops cellphones, that claim is utterly bogus.

For example, today I carried my 16-month-old son (who currently weighs approx. 25.5 lbs) and his baby-stroller (weight unknown) up and down two sets of stairs 6 times, while also carrying boxes of breakables (weight unknown). This was an exhausting experience.


Now while Google Fit did recognize that I was moving, effectively going for a walk during that time period, it didn't know that I was carrying any boxes or baby-strollers, carrying things up and down stairs, or pushing a baby-stroller.

Next lets talk about the Journal...

So yes, Google Fit has a Journal function which allows you to add extra notes. It automatically records your "Morning walk", "Lunch walk", "Afternoon walk", etc.

But if you want to add other activities as notes, you can do so. During which you can even add notes about your blood pressure, any changes to your weight, specific activities you did, and track your workout.

So for example I want to add "carrying boxes, baby, etc up and down stairs". Clearly that is not part of the standard list of activities, which includes things like Aerobics, Boxing, Dancing, Martial Arts, Other, Rowing, Skiing, Yoga and other activities.

So since carrying boxes/baby clearly counts as "Other" I am going to click that one. I then select the time, from 10:30 to roughly 11 AM. I give it an Activity Title of "Carrying Stuff on Stairs"...

It then asks me to mark in Notes, Calories, Steps, Kilometers - which I frankly don't know the answer to those questions. So I leave them blank.

I then save the entry.

Now I check to see what has changed.

Well for starters my Move Minutes for today is now 73 (up from 32) and my Heart Points is now 62 (up from 10).

So how did it calculate that my "Other" activity was worth an extra 41 Move Minutes and an extra 52 Heart Points? I have no freaking clue.

So...

Pro - It is possible to record extra activities on the app.

Con - You have to do it manually using the Journal, and I have no idea how accurate that is.

Also...

Con - People could cheat and just add extra activities then didn't actually do. I can see people doing this, but it is really dishonest to yourself to do it.

A person could even add mundane activities that they do daily anyway, like handwashing the dishes or giving the dog a bath. Is there some exercise involved in those activities? Yes. But it is very light exercise, and should you really be counting them? Google Fit clearly gives the user the benefit of the doubt when calculating the amount of Move Minutes and Heart Points.

52 extra heart points for adding that one activity? Yes, it was exhausting and I probably deserve it, but how did it calculate 52 as the specific number?

And because of that one activity, I have already beat my Heart Points goal for the week - it is now 89 and I only needed 70.

My Move Minutes total is now 252, so I am now well on my way to getting my 420 weekly goal.

If I added other activities I did Sunday and Monday, I could probably reach the goal today just by adding more things to the journal.

The Profile...

The Profile page allows you to edit your daily Move Minute / Heart Point goals, as well as record your sex, birthday, weight and height.

If your weight changes over time, you can go to the Home page, scroll down to Weight and click to see the chart of how your weight has fluctuated the past week, past month, past 3 months and past year.

Back to the profile page, it doesn't really do much beyond setting your goals and recording your weight changes.

Pro - Yes, you can track your weight over time.

Con - It doesn't have a clue whether you are gaining/losing fat or gaining/losing muscle weight.

Fun Fact - In terms of volume, muscle weighs more than fat. Fat takes up lots of space, whereas muscle takes up little space. So a lb of fat will take up more volume than 1 lb of muscle.

When exercising, beginners to a new activity will often gain weight (as muscle) first before losing any noticeable fat. This is confusing because they might think they are getting fatter, when in reality they are just becoming more muscular.

App Syncing

It is possible to sync Google Fit with other apps.

So for example, a recent app that was added is Pokemon Go - which encourages people to go for walks, find virtual Pokemon, go to parks / other real life locations to battle Pokemon in virtual Poke-Gyms. Essentially the game rewards players for walking, jogging, cycling, etc. Allowing the game to sync means that players can hatch eggs and accomplish walking goals without having their Pokemon Go game even turned on.

Now there are many other apps that also sync with Google Fit, including...
  • Nike+ Running
  • Adidas Train and Run
  • Strava
  • Runkeeper
  • Runtastic
  • Noom Coach
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Lifesum
  • Lose It
  • Polar
  • Basis
  • Sleep as Android
  • Withings
  • Android Wear
  • Xiaomi activity trackers
And many more. Over 80 different apps. I myself like playing Pokemon Go because it rewards you for exercising and going for walks. True, it is just virtual rewards. But that is still better than rewarding yourself with calorie rich food.

Google Fit can also sync with wearable tech, like smart watches and similar devices. In theory if there was such a device for weightlifters which measured arm / leg movement and heart rate, perhaps it could estimate how much weightlifting is actually being done. So for people into that sort of thing, perhaps there is a market for such devices.


CONCLUSIONS

Despite its downfalls, using Google Fit is still beneficial. True, you might have to spend a few minutes manually adding activities you did like weightlifting, yoga, etc, but it allows you to track how much you are walking and moving, and that alone can help you to set basic fitness goals for yourself so you can achieve specific goals.

Thus it works best for walkers, hikers, joggers and runners... but thanks to the Journal function you can still add other activities (as to the accuracy of how it calculates those activities...) so it is still usable for a variety of other activities.

eg. I won't be marking down "Teaching Archery" as an activity because that is mostly me walking back and forth with the student.

But I could add Archery whenever I do personal practice. Not sure how it will calculate that, but if all else fails I can just up my Move Minutes / Heart Points to higher goals so that it is all relative to whatever goals I set.

Thus the accuracy/inaccuracy of the minutes/points doesn't really matter. What matters more is setting the goals and then trying to achieve them.

Conscious vs Unconscious Archery

First lets start with some definitions so that people reading this understand what we are talking about today.

Conscious Archery - Doing actions (eg. archery form, aiming) in a deliberate manner to achieve a specific archery goal.

Unconscious Archery - Doing actions without completely realizing you are doing them, which causes a variety of archery results. The archer is still somewhat aware they are doing the action because they have practiced the action so that it becomes a habit, but they don't realize how much the habit will effect the arrow's flight. Note that this includes both good and bad habits.*

* Not to be confused with the Subconscious Mind, which is a person is completely unaware of. The Subconscious mind is thinking of all sorts of things that your active mind isn't even concerned with.

Next lets go through some examples, and I have chosen examples which beginner archers frequently have problems with.

Example 1: Unconscious Canting

The archer's shots are going further to the right than they would hope, so they consciously aim further to the left. However at the same time they might end up unconsciously canting the bow further to the right.

Thus even though they aimed further left, the rightward canting of the bow causes the arrow to go further to the right, possibly even further right than their previous shot depending on how much they were canting the bow.

The archer then stands there dumbfounded, struggling to make sense of how they managed to aim further left, but their arrow went further right.*

* This is one of those times it helps to have an archery instructor to tell you what you are really doing wrong so you aren't guessing as to what you did wrong.

Example 2: Unconsciously Aiming Too High

The archer's shots are going too low, but they are unaware that they have been using too little back power which causes their arrows to effectively "run out of steam" by the time they reach the target. Thus the arrows are frequently too low and the archer thinks they can fix the problem by aiming higher.

Thus the archer consciously aims higher, but unconsciously this causes them to give more back power to their next shot. The shot then goes too high because it had adequate power, but they are simply aiming too high now.

This is why I frequently tell my beginner archery students that when adjusting their aim they should only adjust by half or one third of the amount they think they should adjust. Thus if they miss the target by 6 inches, they should only adjust their aim by 2 or 3 inches. Otherwise what frequently will happen is that they unconsciously do something which effects the shot to go further in that one direction than they were intending. It isn't limited to a problem with back power either, it could be caused by canting, hand torque, shoulder jerks, plucking and a variety of other form mistakes.

Example 3: Unconscious Plucking of the Bowstring

Releasing the bowstring should feel natural and unconscious, and it comes with practice, practice, practice until the archer is releasing the bowstring properly as the result of habit and not because they are thinking about their release too much.

It has been my experience as an archery instructor that if a student is thinking about their release too much (consciously thinking about it) that they will often mess up their shot because they were thinking about it too much when they should have been concentrating on their form, their aim and other factors.

The archer's goal is to reach a level of skill where they can release without thinking about the release too much. This is easier, in my opinion, with traditional archers as opposed to Olympic-style archers, as the Olympic archers are also contending with the additional problem of waiting for a click from their clicker device that tells them they have reached full draw. The added stress of waiting for a click makes the Olympic-style archer think about their release more consciously, and this in turn can result in a botched release. Sure, they benefit from having a more precise amount of power from their full draw, but they face the extra mental challenge of their mind becoming distracted and possibly consciously botching their release.

In the past when I encounter an archery student who has difficulties with their release, I find it is beneficial to have the student practice something that is more fun - so that their mental focus switches to the fun activity and they stop thinking about their release so much.

Example 4: Unconscious Rolling of the Release

Having uneven finger placement on the bowstring can cause the archer to roll their release. (It can also cause plucking, but that is another story.) Often the archer is not aware their fingers are unevenly placed (unaware both unconsciously and subconsciously), and thus when they release the bowstring unevenly there is a tendency to rotate or "roll" their drawing hand by accident, an action the archer is likely completely unaware of.

To fix this problem the archer needs to consciously get into the habit of placing their fingers properly on the bowstring, keeping the pressure even and the placement even, and to practice their releases as such. Then the further challenge is to eventually switch to releasing this way due to unconscious habit.

Thus the process here is to go from unconsciously making a mistake, to consciously fixing the mistake, to eventually unconsciously just following the good habit. Going from unconscious to conscious and back to unconscious again.

"An archer is looking for subconscious competence."
- Steve Ruis, American Archery Instructor.

Example 5: Unconscious Paralysis by Conscious Analysis

"Paralysis by Analysis" is an old phrase. It is unclear how old the term is, but possibly dates back to at least the 1950s. It is caused by people, in this case archers, overthinking a problem and then becoming paralyzed by anxiety. It doesn't have to be an archery problem. It could be an architect trying to decide how to finish the design of their new building, but they become bogged down by anxiety while overthinking the problem. The concept is applicable to many activities.

The phrase is also the title of a blog post by American archery instructor Steve Ruis, who is also the editor of "Archery Focus Magazine".

In his article Steve also says the above quote about how "An archer is looking for subconscious competence." Which I felt was a great quote and worth repeating. (It also gives me an excuse to add this post to the Exercise Quotes list.)

But if that is what the archer is looking for, then ergo there is also the reverse:

'The archer is not looking for conscious incompetence.'

Yep, definitely do not want that. That would mean the archer is taking actions deliberately, but all their actions are fruitless and not helping their accuracy.

Imagine for example a beginner archer who has very little concept of form and after every shot they change something. Every shot is different. No consistency of form whatsoever. Different power, different form, aiming differently, and over time they become more and more anxious and frustrated with their lack of improvement. Sure, they might hit the target a few times (due to luck), but they cannot repeat it because their form/power/aiming is so inconsistent, and thus their accuracy is completely inconsistent.

Thus to paraphrase Steve Ruis, what the archer is looking for is unconscious consistency, as consistent accuracy is effectively the definition of competence when it comes to archery.

Now Steve also used the word subconscious in there, which suggests the archer also strives for a loftier goal. It is not enough to be unconsciously following habits learned from practice, no, the archer truly strives to be able to shoot subconsciously and to be mentally unaware of their form. Like they are not even thinking about it.

To be able to shoot like that, well, that is probably something that only one archer in history has ever truly achieved. Awa Kenzo, the famed Japanese archery instructor.

Awa Kenzo also talked about conscious vs unconscious archery, although he certainly did not use those words. (For more on Awa Kenzo, I recommend reading the book "Zen Bow, Zen Arrow", which includes a lot of poetry Awa Kenzo wrote about the practice of archery. He uses the poetry as a way to teach his students various archery principles.)

Instead of teaching students how to perform a task by giving them hints, Awa would often let them deliberately fail so that they can learn from the experience. He understood that if a student was making unconscious mistakes, they needed to go through the learning process of learning how to consciously avoid the bad habit, learn a good habit to replace it, and eventually return to a state of shooting using unconscious good habits.

"And if I tried to give you a clue at the cost of your own experience, I should be the worst of teachers and should deserve to be sacked!"
- Awa Kenzo, Japanese Archery Instructor.

Example 6: Conscious Failure

Sometimes archers develop mental issues like Target Anxiety, Gold Shy and other problems. It can mess the archers up mentally because they don't know how to fix the problem. The problem is purely mental.

Here is a quote of my own:

"Sometimes the best thing an archery instructor can do is say nothing and let the student fail."
- Charles Moffat, Canadian Archery Instructor.
So with Target Anxiety what will happen sometimes is that their form will be okay, at least at the beginning, but while they are aiming they begin to feel anxious, and they will start to shake / cramp up more (sometimes only slightly) and then they release too soon when they weren't ready yet.

The arrow flies out there and misses.

The archer feels like a failure, but they are consciously aware of the anxiety and how it is effecting them.

The next shot they do the same thing. They pull back, their form is good, but then the anxiety hits them and it worse than last time. They shoot, miss and then feel frustrated.

Now Target Anxiety isn't just for people who shoot too soon (Premature Releasing???) as sometimes archers have the opposite problem. They pull back, aim, and then hold their shot for too long as the anxiety paralyzes them and they start shaking more as their muscles cramp up.

That is a good time to just let down, take a breather, and start over. It wasn't going to be a good shot anyway. I don't believe in luck helping in that situation.

Thus you see there are two basic types of Target Anxiety:

  1. Not-Quite-Ripe Target Anxiety - Wherein the archer shoots too soon due to anxiety.
  2. Overly Ripe Target Anxiety - One might even say Rotten, wherein the archer waits too long due to anxiety.
There are doubtlessly other ways people can get Target Anxiety, but these are two types I have encountered with students.

In both cases I find there is a solution that helps the student learn to relax and relieve their anxiety. Do something fun. Shooting at moving targets, shooting while kneeling or walking in motion, do some Field Archery, some long distance archery - something that is both challenging and fun, but also serves to get their mind off of the mental problem they are having. By distracting their brain with a fun activity, their anxiety dwindles and they are able to think properly again.

From the position of an instructor, you have to see the student fail in an action in order to help them to fix that problem.

If the student knows their form is really good and they are achieving results but not being mentally stimulated, then it is time to change things so that they are mentally stimulated. Shooting at the same thing constantly, every lesson, would certainly get boring, and this is why with my lessons every lesson is different. The student is learning something new every time.

Gold Shy is more rare but also problematic. Essentially an archer with Gold Shy deliberately misses the center of the target - the yellow center on standard targets, hence why this mental problem is called Gold Shy. This isn't so much an anxiety problem in my opinion, as it is a problem of the archer deciding "that will do" or "that is close enough". They have lost their perfectionist spirit. Now that doesn't mean that all archers with Gold Shy have the exact same loss of perfectionism, but they do all suffer from the problem of essentially missing on purpose.

The Gold Shy archer knows they can do better, knows they can achieve a higher level of perfection, but simply doesn't care enough to put that extra effort into their accuracy.

Myself, I do this sometimes when shooting more casually. It is a bad habit I admit, but I feel it is something I have started doing due to age. As I have gotten older I simply don't care any more whether I hit the target or not. I know I can shoot better when I want to, but sometimes I just want to relax and shoot, and not worry about the details of having complete accuracy. So does that mean I am consciously choosing to shoot unconsciously in a relaxed manner? That doesn't mean my form suddenly becomes sloppy, as I still will be shooting out of habit honed from 29.5 years of shooting. It simply means that when I pull back and aim, I am relying on my good habits to produce a good shot and I am less worried about it being a perfect shot.

Having "perfect habits" would doubtlessly produce better quality shots, but being 39 years old, having a wife and a son, I find my priorities aren't on attaining that perfect shot any more. My life is already very good. I am very happy. I don't need more broken Robin Hooded arrows to prove to myself that I can perform perfect shots. I have already done it many times (and replacing broken arrows gets expensive) and I am content with my life.

When I think of goals for myself, I think of things I have yet to do. Things I want to do, but have yet to find the time, money, materials or resources to do them.

Thus when it comes to my archery students, constantly challenging them is a way to prevent them from getting mental problems like Target Anxiety or Gold Shy in the first place. If they are always striving for something new and different that provides a mental and physical challenge, they will achieve greatness.

Myself, I have already done everything I can think of with respect to archery, with one major exception: Horseback Archery. And with that comes my goal of having a horse farm and teaching horseback archery. Hence why that is a goal I have to be patient about. Someday.

But to anyone reading this who is suffering from Target Anxiety or Gold Shy, I have one piece of advice: Try to attain perfection while having fun doing it. This will help you to stay focused and motivated.


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