Archery: It’s awesome

For my birthday this year, I received a very unique gift. After enjoying a couple of rounds at my local archery range, I got my very own recurve bow. Archery is, for me, something in which I can find a piece of tranquility.  Your focus in aiming has to be so intense that you can think of nothing else, which is a wonderful gift for me.  It’s relaxing and rewarding to shoot an arrow and there is something nerdy and archaic about it too. I spent hours shooting arrow after arrow during my first time and it filled me with adrenaline and confidence. I look forward to the days when I can escape to the range and improve my shot!

For those that don’t know, this a modern recurve bow: 51+rUnXj8WL._SL1500_

As you can see, the ends of the bow curve outward, hence its name. There are a variety of different types of bows out there that can take you through many eras of history. For example, the long bow is the weapon that shaped England’s history as it was the weapon of military choice before firearms as well as the object of leisure for many men. The longbow is drawn with the use of 2 fingers as the center point of the bow when you draw back is directly in the middle, whereas with the recurve, you would use three fingers as the draw back point isn’t exactly center because of the way the bow curves. This feature however makes the bow more powerful.  The compound bow, one of the most popular bows, was created in the 1960’s. The compound bow consists of pulleys that allow the archer to have more power in their bow with an easier draw back.  Compound bows are easier to shoot and much easier to aim.

For myself, I prefer the challenge of a more traditional bow so I stuck with a basic wooden recurve. Olympic archers use recurve bows but they are made of metal and will have sights and counter weights attached to them in order to increase accuracy.  My bow has no accessories and I’ve even stuck with the more traditional archer glove (made of leather to protect your fingers from the burn of the string) instead of a tab (a piece of felt that rests over the fingers).

I’ve read two books to help me on my journey to improve as an archer:
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Both books covered a short history of the bow and go over the basics of form, aiming and releasing. While they were both helpful I definitely preferred the Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Archery. This book catered to my style and provided more tips on instinctive shooting, which is shooting without any assistance from sights. It discussed where you should be looking and what types of methods you could incorporate into your aiming as well as where you focus needs to be. Archery: Steps to Success covered a massive amount of exercises to practice and improve in every aspect of archery. What I found the most beneficial from this book was the emphasis it placed on having a routine and having a set of  steps to work through before aiming. The objective is that your form should be perfect before you shoot so that all of your focus can go into your aiming and nothing else.  Your focus should be so intense that you see nothing but the object you’re aiming for. If you have to think about your form and aiming at the same time chances are you’re not going to be as accurate.   These are the most important tips that I picked up:

1) Make sure that you have a bow that has an appropriate draw length for you size. A bow that is too heavy will create bad form habits. Ask a staff member at your local archery range for assistance with this.

2) The same goes with equipment: ensure that your arrows are the appropriate length for your draw length. Ask a staff member at your local archery range for assistance with this. This will help avoid injury and improve accuracy. Archery is all about the arrows. Most archers would pick a poorer quality bow over poor quality arrows.

3) Proper form and draw come from pinching and using your back muscles, not your arms! You will tire too quickly if you just rely on the strength of your arms and you won’t be keeping good form.

4) The point in which you draw back your string when the arrow is nocked and ready to be shot is imperative. You need a constant draw anchor. While there are a variety of types, picking on a being consistent is extremely important for accuracy and safety.

5) Don’t over grip the bow. Use just your thumb and forefinger to hold the bow. Your grip should be as light as possible as over-gripping will also effect your accuracy.

6) Use constant pressure on all three of your fingers.

7) Keep your shoulders lowered to avoid getting the upper part of your arm struck by the string upon release of the arrow.

8) Your shots should come naturally and not anticipated. A natural release ensures that you let your hands glide past your face and that you’re not over-stressing either of your hands on the shot.

9) Practice, practice, practice! Archery is all about consistency. Practicing with consistent form and practing consistently will produce accuracy.

Archery is an inexpensive recreation and I highly recommend it to anyone who has every had an interest or is looking for something different to do.

Back to reality…vacation is over…

Sorry for the delay in posts, I was on vacation! This is me, in paradise, going into the ocean, where I spent most of my time while I was away:

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I couldn’t have picked a better time to get away. My home was hit by a massive snow storm in which a large portion of the city’s older trees were demolished by the weight of the heavy snow. Thankfully by the time I got back the weather had turned around completely. I mean, it wasn’t beach weather but it was still nice in terms of where I’m from.

New reviews are on their way soon! Thanks for everyone’s continued support!

Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald

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4/5 stars.
ebook, 336 pages.
Read from May 11 to July 19, 2014.

This book reaffirms many of my beliefs in regards to food and was, in a way, a relief to read for this reason. I am a very active person but my eating habits are far from clean ( I just love beer too much) but through moderation I’ve managed to find a balance between food and exercise that keeps me healthy. Diet Cults explores a variety of diet fads and discusses why they work for some people, why they are hard to maintain and how they have shaped how we feel about the food we eat. Fitzgerald then delicately discusses each of the fads and explains their fallacies (while never fully discounting all of them either) as people are constantly searching for the ‘one true way’ to eat. Fitzgerald then lays down the science with how adaptable the human stomach is and provides a variety of  diets from cultures all over the world to show just how diverse they are in terms of their nutritional content.  As Fitzgerald concludes, to the dismay of some diet-faders, there is no ‘one true way’ to eat and advocates for more agnostic eating.

Fitzgerald is an athlete and sports nutritionist and has written numerous pieces on running and fitness. As he discusses in this book he wasn’t always fit and trim either and had to work hard to get back on track. One thing that Fitzgerald notes is that athletes are by far the best and most agnostic eaters, which may sounds really obvious but that is because athletes eat for optimal performance, but this doesn’t just mean physically. Food has a powerful way of shaping our moods; we like to eat for pleasure, and it is this aspect that athletes and agnostic eating really advocates. As many diet fads have endorsed, most of us believe that if something is tastes good then it must be inherently bad for us which isn’t necessarily the case. While that Big Mac is never going to be good for you, Fitzgerald discusses the benefits of coffee, potatoes, wine and chocolate and breaks through some of the myths surrounding them (hooray)! He also goes to explain that through moderation,  items like a Big Mac can still be something you indulge in from time to time. There is no food that is off-limits in this book.

As someone who has never been overweight, I can’t imagine what it must be like for so many people who are wanting to lose weight as the amount of information that’s floating around on the internet alone is enough to overwhelm anyone. Fitzgerald truly makes food simple; his writing is down to earth and simple to read but still provides you with all the nitty-gritty and well-researched details.

Fitzgerald breaks down all the groups of food as such:

Food table

There are only two essential types of foods that we require to live healthy: fruits and vegetables. Get enough of these and you’re good to go but for the average person, especially an active one, we often require a bit more which is where the recommended foods come in. Fitzgerald gives a good break down of what types of foods are included in each group but for example, in the nuts and seeds section, he includes items like olive oil and all-natural peanut butter, where as commercial peanut butters are not included as they contain way too much sugar and unhealthy oils. Within high quality meats, he includes almost any part of a chicken, while bacon and hot-dogs are classified in the low quality meats area under acceptable foods. Other foods, include things like alcohol and anything else that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

The idea of moderation is that you eat more of the essential and recommended items than the acceptable ones. While this is such a simple concept that almost seems too obvious, nothing is off limits in terms of food choices. Fitzgerald just wants to reestablish a healthy and pleasurable relationship with food again and it’s easy to forget sometimes with many people’s busy lifestyles. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not rushed or rammed down our throats just out of pure necessity and by following some basic moderation, getting some exercise and stepping away from the crazy calorie counting it’s simpler than we think to be healthy.

Fitzgerald effectively questions the madness of dieting with this book and brings nutrition back to its simple basics. Now what are you waiting for?! Shed some food-guilt and read this book!