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Archery as an Alternative to Weightlifting

By Charles Moffat - Archery Instructor in Toronto

One of the comments I hear regularly from archery students is how much harder archery is physically than they were expecting.

They were apparently expecting a sport which required very little muscles and was more about aim (like darts, gun marksmanship or even golf) than your ability to pull the bow and hold it steady.

Sadly this is a very common misconception amongst non-archers who make the assumption that archery is easy and anyone can do it. But they forget that in order to aim you first have to be able to pull the bow and most importantly hold it steady.

Let me put it this way... I can lift 300 lbs. But I have to struggle to string a bow that has a 40 lb draw. The bow may say it has a 40 lb draw, but that number is confusing for non-archers because they think 40 lbs isn't a lot.

Olympic recurve archers typically use 40 lb to 50 lb bows when they're in their prime. Some more extreme archers shoot 60 or even 75 lb bows, but those are exceptionally rare.

The trick about archery it is essentially weightlifting, but you are often using some of your weakest muscles to pull the bow. In my experience the average woman can only manage a 20 to 25 lb bow with ease. The average man a 25 to 30 lb bow. Anything higher and they start to struggle or had better be above average with their back, shoulder and arm muscles.

The next trick is holding the bow steady. A lot of people have underdeveloped forearm muscles and struggle to hold the bow steady with their bow arm, and their arrow arm may be strong enough to pull back the arrow, but lacks the endurance to hold it steady long enough so they can aim.

Lastly, there is the matter of repetition. If you shoot 200 arrows with a bow you can barely pull in a 4 hour period you will have a sore back guaranteed. Possibly sore arms too. It really is like weightlifting.

If you're into mythology just look at the legends about famous archers.

Hercules left his bow to the Scythian brothers and only 1 of three brothers could string his bow, thus making him the one who should be king. A different bow belonging to Hercules went to the Trojan War and was the same bow which shot Paris (and he later died from hydra poison).

Other strongmen who used the bow in history, folklore and mythology include: Abhimanyu, Apollo, Arash, Arjuna, Feng Meng, Hayk, Houyi, Jumong, Karna, Marduk, Osoosi, Palnetoke, Rama, Robin Hood, Shiva, William Tell, Zhou Tong.

If you watch all the recent movies featuring archery (The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Brave and even the recent Rambo film) and TV shows (Smallville, Game of Thrones) you might be led to believe that archery is easy.

It can be, but you need to develop the muscles by training. Its true that archery has a steep learning curve. (My students are typically hitting the target after 2 hours of lessons, wherein in comparison their first 10 or so shots were probably complete misses.)

Given lots of time, and lots of helpful tips from an archery instructor, they can learn to hit the target consistently even when distracted, tired, stressed, in poor weather conditions... but they aren't going to reach that pinnacle unless they also build up some muscle strength.

CROSS-TRAINING FOR ARCHERY

#1. Pushups - This is #1 for a reason. Pushups use your triceps and your back muscles which are the two most important muscle groups when doing archery. Pushups also develops your core muscles in your back which helps your balance. I recommend doing 100 to 200 pushups daily.

#2. Chinups - If you have a chinup bar you will want to use it daily. I recommend 100 to 200 chinups per day. It will build up your bicep and shoulder muscles, also good for archery but less important that the triceps and back.

#3. Cardio - This is to build up your endurance. Doesn't matter whether you run, swim or cycle. You need to be building up your endurance so you can shoot 200 arrows per day.

#4. Weightlifting - If you access to weights use them. Lie on your back and lift the weights above you. Stand up and do arm curls. Stand upright and lift to the side using your shoulder muscles. Do all three 50 to 100 times each.

Need more advice on how to train for archery? Hire a personal trainer to create a series of cross-training exercises specially for you!

Archery Advice for Parents of Little Kids

Q

"Hello!

I was wondering if you would be interested in teaching a child as young as 5? He is very interested in learning the sport. Also, any advice you have with respect to buying archery equipment, where to practice, etc would be very helpful."

- Larry S.

A

Hello Larry!

Its a tricky matter.

I don't have any bows suitable for his size because he wouldn't be strong enough to pull even my smallest / lightest poundage bow. So no, I wouldn't have the equipment to teach someone so young.

My first piece of advice would be to get a children's practice bow from either Canadian Tire (you may need to shop around since not all Canadian Tire stores sell archery equipment) or a slightly more powerful children's bow from an archery equipment store. Approx. price will be between $30 to $100, depending on the brand and type. Remember to buy extra arrows as they break or get lost easily.

My second piece of advice is that you will need to supervise him at all times when they have a bow. Because boys will be boys and you don't want to be paying for your neighbour's new windows. When not in use you will want to store in a secure location.

My third piece of advice is that you find a good place to practice. The shortest range targets at the Toronto Public Archery Range is 20 yards. Having seen small children shoot there before their arrows typically can't even reach the 20 yard targets because they simply don't have the necessary strength, and this leads to disappointment which can feel very discouraging. Other archers also get nervous when kids are around because they tend to forget safety rules. What you really need is something closer to 10 yards and a private range. So if you have a backyard with tall fences or even a large basement this might work for you, otherwise you may want to visit relatives that live on a farm regularly / take camping trips etc to find large open spaces which he could safely practice.

My last piece of advice is to prepare for a little disappointment. It isn't really going to be as accurate as he hopes it will be. Accuracy with a bow mostly comes down to strength and your ability to hold the bow steady without your arm shaking, which simultaneously challenging your muscles so you get the most torque out of each shot in an effort to increase accuracy... and to learn how to manage all this requires a lot of practice and patience - and little kids aren't exactly known for their strength or patience. That doesn't mean he won't have fun doing it, I can pretty much guarantee he will have fun, but he will likely be disappointed by his inability to shoot a bull's eye during his first session unless he is extremely lucky. You will want to be very encouraging and supportive of the things he manages to accomplish and remember the following adage "Practice makes perfect, and patience makes for lots of practice."

When they get older, closer to 10 or 11, you might consider getting them an 18 lb recurve bow + 10 arrows plus all the necessary equipment. Total cost will be about $350. (Archery isn't cheap!) But if they are serious about the sport then that will be the start of a life-long love of the sport.

Best of luck!


Where to Shop for Children's Archery Equipment in Toronto?

Central Surplus on Yonge Street, north of Wellesley.

579 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z2, Canada
+1 416-964-8226

Not the greatest supply of archery equipment, but I know they carry children's bows. Warning, the old Greek guy who runs the place is very talkative.

Tent City in North York, near the corner of Steeles and Dufferin.

1600 Steeles W  Concord, ON L4K 4M2, Canada
+1 905-660-6885

Much more variety of archery equipment, but I am not sure if they carry children's bows. I recommend phoning to make sure and ask prices before going there.

CPR + Epilepsy

Today I saved the life of a drowning boy with epilepsy.

I was swimming near a dock on Lake Ontario and there was a family of 3 swimming near me. A father, his teenage daughter and his 7-year-old son. The daughter and father were swimming along the dock while the son was on a plastic raft normally used in pools. The father was keeping a careful eye on his son, but he and his daughter kept going further out along the dock and the boy was paddling around happily on his raft closer to the shore.

At the time it happened I was seated on the dock, my legs dangling in the water.

I heard a scream and looked up to see the boy had fallen off the raft and was flailing about wildly in the water, his face down in the water. Things happened pretty quickly after this.

I pushed myself off the dock and waded out to the boy, grabbing hold of him and raising his head up above the water. The water there wasn't actually that deep, it was only up to my chest, but still pretty deep for a 7-year-old. He kept thrashing about in my arms however and at the time I couldn't figure out why.

I struggled with him and carried him over to the dock, keeping his head above the water. By the time I reached the dock and laid him down on it there was an older woman there and she was saying he was having an epileptic seizure.

Now the problem was that I had never dealt with epilepsy before and had ZERO training in what to do, and simultaneously I was pretty sure the kid had swallowed a lot of water during the time that he was face down in the water and thrashing about. He did not appear to be breathing.

So what I had to do was perform CPR while simultaneously holding the kid down because he was thrashing about a lot. Not an easy task at all.

His seizure stopped part way through and then he just lay there still and for a moment I thought he was dead since he still was not breathing.

The old woman urged me to keep doing CPR however and within moments - very long heart breaking moments - he spat out some water and was breathing again. He was conscious again a minute later (response to CPR treatment is much slower in real life, the stuff on TV is sped up for dramatic effect).

Note: According to my research after the fact there is some debate about what to do first in the event of a seizure + drowning. Normally with a seizure victim you're not supposed to restrain them or perform CPR, you're just supposed to remove dangerous obstacles so they don't injure themselves. However with drowning + seizure they say you aren't supposed to perform CPR unless they aren't breathing - which he was not - but they don't say exactly HOW to perform CPR on a thrashing non-breathing drowning victim. I guess we're just supposed to do our best under the circumstances. Thankfully his seizure stopped part way through, otherwise I am not certain the CPR would have been successful.

At some point during all this the father and daughter had run down the dock and arrived at the boy's side. I was too busy to notice. Once he was breathing properly and conscious however he was the recipient of hugs and they kept thanking me repeatedly.

Afterwards they kept asking if I wanted anything, money, if they could take me out to a restaurant, give me a ride home... and I said they should take their son to an emergency room right away. The father apparently thought the worst was over and everything was safe now. This discussion turned out to be moot however as the older woman had called an ambulance on her cell phone... and then a fire truck showed up first (first response tactics) and then followed by an ambulance and a police squad car...

What disturbed me is that the father insisted that this was the first time the son had had an epileptic seizure, but the kid had a medical alert bracelet on his arm. I didn't get time to check it so it might have been for something else, but I have a hunch this was not the boy's first seizure. The daughter was too quiet and looked away a lot which makes me think the father had allowed the boy to go swimming even though people with epilepsy aren't even supposed to take baths because they could have a seizure and drown. Swimming for epileptic people is a big no-no.

I must say I am extremely thankful for my St John's Ambulance training I took years ago.

Which is why I would like to take this moment to encourage people to take some courses either in life guard training, St John Ambulance or both. Certainly doesn't hurt to have the training should it ever be needed.

I just wish they told you what to do in the event of a drowning person with epilepsy. I don't recall it being mentioned in the training, but according to my research later today what I did was in the correct order. Drowning takes precedence because you have to ensure the person can breathe first.



10 Swimming Tips

Want to learn to be a better swimmer? Here is 10 tips for becoming a stronger / smarter swimmer.

#1. Swim Daily - Daily swimming builds muscles on the whole body, creating a better swimming form naturally with added time.

#2. Learn Proper Technique - Maintain the best possible technique at all speeds during a workout. If you try to go fast with bad technique, you are wasting energy; it might still be a good physical workout, you are still burning plenty of calories and you are getting your heart rate up, but you are not helping yourself to become a better swimmer. If you can teach yourself to go fast while using good technique, you will make bigger and better strides towards making yourself a better swimmer.

#3. Variety Drills - Do different swim exercises to build up your knowledge of different swim styles and build different muscle groups.

#4. Challenge Yourself - Try to make small improvements to your swim exercise routine every week.

#5. Remember to Have Fun - Sometimes its a good idea to just relax and have a fun swim workout. Don't worry about challenging yourself constantly. Just learn to have fun once in awhile.

#6. Practice and Perfect the Little Things - Even the little things like learning the proper technique for pushing off from a wall or making a really good dive are good things to perfect.

#7. Invest in Quality Swimwear - Baggy beach shorts with a fancy logo won't make you a better swimmer, but quality swimwear at least won't slow you down.

#8. Swim with Friends - Sometimes swimming with friends will cause you to be more competitive and really challenge yourself, but it will also make you enjoy the act of swimming more.

#9. Take Up Snorkeling / Do Breathing Exercises - Learning how to breathe / hold your breath while under water is essential. Especially if you decide to take up snorkeling and give yourself an extra challenge.

#10. Hire a Swim Instructor - An instructor can see what you are doing wrong and give you pointers for how to fix your mistakes.

Motivating yourself for Summer Exercises

Thanks to global warming it's becoming so warm here in Toronto that sometimes it may be difficult finding your motivation to go outside an exercise. You might even be nostalgic for winter and the freezing cold.

However the good news is the summer keeps us feeling more active and energetic (thanks to Vitamin D from the the extra daylight) so let's use that to our advantage to get revved up for summer training!

#1. Get Excited by Planning Bike, Walk or Run Routes

When it is raining outside (a rarity in the summer) it's a great time to plan for a day when the weather will be more stable in a couple of weeks. Check out bicycle trail and hiking maps of Toronto and visit a place that you have never been to before. Even if you have to drive or take the public transit to get there, it will be worth it for a day of activity. Remember to bring your camera, picnic basket/picnic blanket and a cute friend!

#2. Get Motivated for the Summer Though Visualization

A lot of personal trainers advocate the power of visualization and meditation. Imagine your summer fitness goal, whether it's looking great in a Victoria Secret catalogue or imagining yourself running for an hour every Sunday morning. Always keep your eye on the prize, and the goal will seem more achievable!

Avoid negativity and visualize the positive benefits of achieving your exercise goals.


#3. Get Excited about Swimming

Check out local Toronto outdoor pools (many of them are free!) and if you don't know how to swim book yourself some swimming lessons in Toronto.


#4. Get Motivated with Summer Recipes

And I don't mean beer BBQd chicken. Although I admit that is fun to make.

A lot of summer recipes are healthy, refreshing and delicious. In the summer we stop making hot soups, stews and chili and start experimenting with fruit, vegetables, salads, beans and legumes. Plan your new weekly menu and start your summer fitness regimen with a whole new and exciting diet which will take advantage of what is available.
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing cardiotrek@gmail.com and lets talk fitness!

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