Fitness and Nutrition For You, For Life

The problem with health, fitness, and nutrition is that there is so much information out there that we don’t know what to do – so many of us don’t do much of anything. Popular opinion is constantly changing, new diet strategies come and go, and it seems that even science refutes and contradicts itself. Those of us that do try to improve our health tend to start strong and commit for a while, but we fail to sustain our efforts for the long-term. The There are plenty of reasons that we revert back to our old ways. Maybe we chose one of the 10,000 diets that works for a while, but the effort, inconvenience, and extreme measures don’t enable us to sustain the diet and live a satisfying life. Maybe we workout hard, but get injured or become bored and exhausted. Maybe we didn’t get the quick results that we hoped for, so we simply gave up.

The Secret to Becoming (and Staying) Healthy & Fit

The secret is that there are no secrets. We need to stop looking for the magic diet, the “no pain and instant gain” workout, or even worse – the miracle pill.

The “secret” to health is smart choices (brain) and hard work (body).

But just because there are no shortcuts, it doesn’t mean that a healthy lifestyle has to be miserable. Balance is essential. My history with health and fitness is a varied one. I have gone through seasons where I have overweight and inactive, and I have gone through seasons where I was incredibly active and probably too thin.

In 2012 I published an article that talked about the journey that I went on from August 2011 to March 2012. In those seven months I lost 55 pounds!

One Year Later and 55 Pounds Lighter – 5 Keys to Success and 5 Lessons

Fast-forward two more years, to February of 2014, and I had gained some of the weight back. Over the last few months I have lost 15 pounds while gaining muscle, and I feel great. I still agree with the lessons that I shared in the article above, but I also feel like I have a more rounded perspective now (and I’ll probably feel that way again in another few years!).

How Do You Make Lasting Change?

Why did I put some of the weight back on? There are numerous reasons; but in the end I believe that one of the biggest assets to getting in shape and maintaining fitness (not just “losing weight”) is mindset. To make a lasting change you need to rethink, reprogram, and rehearse.

Rethink

The way that you think determines the way that you live. So, how do you think about health, fitness, and nutrition? I have realized that I can’t think in terms of diets, appearances, or even specific goals (running a race, wearing size XX pants, losing XXlbs, etc). Those things are fine – very good even – but they don’t necessarily lead to living a healthy life for the long-haul.

Think about your health and fitness in terms of your life. Being healthy isn’t about looking better at the pool (although that’s a nice side benefit), rather it is about ensuring you have taken care of yourself so that you can live your life, do the things you want to do, and be around to enjoy time with your loved ones. In an absolute must-read article author, Joshua Becker, sums it up like this…

“The key, I believe, is to understand our physical bodies are the instruments through which we accomplish our unique purpose in this world.”

When you have the right mindset, you’ll have the right motivation, you’ll want to make the right choices, and you’ll get great results.

Reprogram

After you change the way you think, you have to reprogram the way you live. This is where it is easy to get stuck. I think I am like a lot of people – I tend to get all pumped about making changes, so I set out to overhaul everything at once. That’s simply not sustainable.

Doing too much, too soon, is setting yourself up for failure.

Face the facts. You are not where you want to be, and you can’t get where you want to be overnight – no matter how hard you try. Remember, we aren’t looking for a quick fix; we are looking for lasting change. Set yourself up for little victories that will boost confidence and build momentum. Start making better choices in the small things.

For example, commit to eliminating liquid calories by ditching soda, sports drinks, and sugary juices. Once you’re doing good with that, then determine how you can eat a more fulfilling, more nutritious breakfast. Once you’re eating a solid breakfast, then start looking at the ways you snack between meals. Then, on to the next thing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by a particular diet plan, specific macronutrient ratios, getting enough “superfoods”, or somehow choosing and religiously following a particular exercise philosophy. Don’t worry about burdening yourself with these things until you have done everything you instinctively know to do to get healthier. There will be a time to learn more, and consider doing more, but it isn’t now.

Rehearse

After you change the way you think – and have a process or reprogramming the way you live – you have to act. You have to commit. To rehearse is, “to say or do (something) several times in order to practice.” People tend to struggle in this stage of the process because they are too focused on the end goal, and not focused on the process itself. We all need to have specific results in mind, but don’t limit your definition of success to achieving a specific (often vain) goal.

Success is committing to and trusting the process.

Your goal is to commit to the process. Make good choices today, then make more tomorrow. Repetition brings results; it’s true of shooting your bow, it’s true of mastering any other skill, and it’s true of the process of becoming a healthier, fitter you.

How Can I Help?

I will be documenting more specifics about what I do from a nutritional and fitness perspective, but if you have any specific questions or topics that you think would be helpful for me to address, please let me know.

Just as important, I would love to learn from you, too. How have you made lasting change?

The What, Why, and How of “Walkback Tuning” Your Bow

Anytime that I get new arrows, a new rest, or am setting up a bow for the first time, I go through the process of “walkback tuning”. This tuning method is incredibly simple, but it is of critical importance for good arrow flight. If you walkback tune before you try and “sight in” your bow fully, then you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Walkback tuning is also the precursor to broadhead tuning, which we will cover soon.

The last tuning method that we discussed was paper tuning. Paper tuning helps us set our nock height, centershot, and verify that our arrows are properly spined. If you are new to setting up your bow, or you are setting up a particular bow, rest, or arrow combination that you are not familiar with, then you should definitely paper tune before you walkback tune.

The “What” and “Why” of Walkback Tuning?

Walkback tuning is the process of shooting arrows at a single point on your target using one fixed sight pin from a range of distances. The reason that we walkback tune is to ensure that we have our bow’s centershot (What is that?) set properly, and that we are getting clean, consistent arrow flight.

Your arrows might be tearing through paper well at 3-5 yards, and appear to be flying straight at 20 yards, but what does horizontal impact look like from 40 yards and beyond? Are your arrows still flying straight at those distances? Walkback tuning will give you the answer.

What We're After When We Walkback Tune

How to Walkback Tune Your Bow

Walkback tuning is best performed with a larger target. Try to use one that is at least 20″ tall, and preferably just as wide.

Make a line down the center of your target, from top to bottom, ensuring that is is running straight and plumb. I use blue masking tape for this.

Create an aiming point at the top of your target by adding a horizontal line, which forms an intersection point to aim it.

Sight-in your bow at 20 yards, being sure to fine-tune the horizontal adjustment so that you are hitting perfectly and consistently inline.

Don’t touch your bow sight. If you are using a slider-style sight, leave it in a fixed position. If you are using a multiple-pin sight, don’t worry about sighting-in or using anything but your top pin.

Shoot, walk back, repeat. Start at 20 yards and shoot an arrow into the intersection point at the top of your target. Step back to 30 yards, and using the same pin and aiming point, shoot another arrow. Step back to 35 and repeat. Continue shooting an arrow from increased distances until the arrows begin to hit at the bottom of your target, or until you feel like you have reached your max effective shooting distance.

Walkback Tuning - Seeing and Correcting Flaws

Analyze and Adjust. Analyze the arrows in your target. Do they consistently move further left or right as you shoot from further distances? Ideally, your arrows will line up in a perfect vertical line ( | ). If your arrows fall to the right ( \ ), then you need to “bring the arrows back” by adjusting your rest to the left. If your arrows fall to the left ( / ), then you need to move your rest to the right. Make very small rest adjustments – a 1/32″ or 1/16″ at a time.

Sight and Shoot. Return to 20 yards and shoot again, adjusting your sight to compensate for the changes that you made to your rest’s centershot. Once you have your sight perfectly dialed-in, continue to repeat the process until you get the perfect vertical lineup of arrows when walking back and shooting from multiple distances.

That’s it! Let me know if you have any questions.

Ice Cream, Rain and Choices

I wouldn’t admit it – not even to myself, really – but deep down I was glad it started raining. The rain made it easy to justify sitting on the couch and relaxing.

And then I remembered what shirt I was wearing… “Only those who want it get it.” What do I want more? To sit and relax, or to improve myself, become more comfortable with discomfort, and prepare myself for the mountains?

My mind was saying, “take it easy.” My body was craving the ice cream sandwich in the freezer. (Chocolate mint – oh, the bliss!) But my heart was saying something else.

After Running In The Rain

My heart won, and 4 miles later my mind and body finally came to an agreement with it.

Feeling & Choice

This isn’t about chest thumping bravado, or exclaiming, “look how tough I am.” (The answer would be, “not very.”) The purpose of telling this story is because, as I was running through the pouring rain last night, I was reminded of two very important things. Two things that I believe you need to be reminded of…

  • Feelings are fickle.
  • Choice is power.

The opportunity to follow your feelings is a luxury. What was once a seldom occurrence is now the de facto modus operandi of our modern, convenient lives of endless options. The ability to choose pleasure – that is, to go with our feelings – was once a temporary reprieve from the inescapable demands of life. But now, most of us have the ability to choose what we want, how we want it, and when we expect to have it. (And if it doesn’t happen quick enough, then we throw a fit.)

And in many ways, we’re worse off for it.

Blindly following our feelings will leave us unchallenged and unsatisfied. Our whole being will atrophy.

When presented with an opportunity we need to ask ourselves a bigger question than, “What do I feel like?” We should ask ourselves much more.

“What is right?”
“What is best for me?”
“What is best for those around me?”
“What will enable me to achieve the greater desires that I have?”

These questions, and many others, are more important than subconsciously caving to our fickle feelings.

And – (and this is a BIG, “and”!) – you have the power to choose something other than what you feel like doing.

Choose to face Something Awful. Choose to do the right thing, even when it isn’t easy. Choose to make yourself better, instead of just more comfortable. Choose to have the hard conversation that, though difficult, will make your relationship better in the long run. Choose to confront that thing you fear.  Choose to pursue your weakness instead of pretending its not there.

Choice is powerful.

After running in the rain I felt better. I felt more alive. I even felt more relaxed.

What I initially wanted isn’t what I needed. But by pursuing what I needed, I gained what I wanted.  Life is funny like that. And that’s why these things are worth thinking about.

Bow Setup & Tuning – Everything You Need to Know About Paper Tuning

What Is Paper Tuning?

“Paper tuning” is the process of shooting an arrow from your bow through a piece of paper. The tear created by the impact and travel path of the arrow can reveal key factors about how your bow and arrow combination are shooting.

By shooting an arrow through paper you will be able to see where the arrow’s point makes initial impact with the paper, how the arrow shaft continues to tear the paper as it flies, and is torn further by your arrow’s vanes or feathers making a final tear. What you want to see is one hole – which happens when the front of the arrow tears at impact, and then the rest of the shaft passes through so straight that there is no additional tear through the paper. Everything You Need To Know About Paper Tuning

Why You Should You Paper Tune Your Bow (and Arrows!)

The process of paper tuning will help ensure that your bow and arrows are setup properly and complement one another for forgiveness and accuracy downrange. If you can get good paper tears, then you will save time sighting in, making adjustments, and broadhead tuning later.

Some people mistakenly believe that paper tuning is only something you do when you get a new bow. But more than that, paper tuning should be done when you make any changes to your rest, nocking point, and most importantly – your arrows.

What Do You Need To Paper Tune At Home?

There are numerous ways to build or buy a stand that’s single purpose is to allow you to paper tune. I’ve never found the investment of time or money worthwhile, so I have come up with a simple paper-tuning rig of my own – a box. Paper Tuning Box Cut a hole in the front of the box slightly smaller than a standard sheet of paper, then cover this hole with a sheet of paper. Cut a larger hole in the opposite end of the box (there’s no reason to shoot your arrow through the cardboard on the backside and risk damaging your fletching). Place the box in front of your bow target, leaving enough room in-between the two so that your arrow passes completely through the paper before it impacts the target.

Stupid easy, right?

What Distance Should You Paper Tune From?

There are many opinions on this topic, and there’s no one right answer. I typically start paper tuning in the 5-7 yard range, but will often move closer/further once I think I have my bow and arrows tuned the way that I want. If you shoot too close to the paper, then the arrow may not have time to stabilize out of the bow; if you shoot too far, then the fletching can correct flight flaws that you would otherwise see as tears through the paper.

Before You Begin

You’ll pull your hair out trying to paper tune if you’re not attempting to tune your bow with the right arrows.  Arrow selection is critical to paper tuning, and even more important for forgiveness and accuracy downrange – especially with broadheads.

If you want to verify that you have the right arrows, then refer to this article: Understanding Arrow Spine – What Arrow Do You Need For Your Bow? You also want to make sure that you have set your bow up so that the center-shot is in spec and the nocking point is level.  If you need to learn more about that, then refer to this post: Bow Setup & Tuning – Rest Install, Center-Shot, and Nocking Point

Next you want to make sure that your newly created Super Paper Tuner 2000™ – aka, “the box” – and target are high enough off the ground so that you can shoot parallel with the ground. I often set my target on a shelf in my garage and set my box on a sawhorse in front of that.

If you can’t find a spot that’s high enough, then consider kneeling to shoot – just make sure that you aren’t leaning or shooting at an up/down angle, which will skew the angle that your arrow passes through the paper and give you false results. Also be sure that you’re using a proper grip on your bow, avoiding torque, and that your holding the bow level on the vertical plane. If you already have a sight on your bow, then keep an eye on the level bubble.

Time to Shoot (Again, and again…)

Alright, so you’ve done all of the above and you shoot your first arrow through the paper. You see a tear and you want to fix it, but don’t! At least not yet.

Be sure to shoot at least 3 arrows through your paper and verify that you’re getting repeatable tears. “False tears” might occur due to flaws in your shooting, so be sure you have consistent tears before you start messing with your bow or arrows. If you absolutely cannot get repeatable tears then have someone else try to shoot your bow and see how it responds.

Finally, mysterious or inconsistent tears can be signs of clearance/contact issues; be sure that your arrow is not touching the bow’s cables, rest, or riser at it is released. Double-check things like your cable/roller guard rod for cable clearance, and drop-down rest timing for launcher arm clearance.

Understanding Your Tear

Paper Tuning Tears Alright, so now we have a repeatable tear to work with. Consult the chart above for a quick overview of what each type of tear means. For a more in-depth look at understanding and resolving paper tuning tears, you should definitely check out Easton’s Tuning Guide (PDF). This guide is an essential resource if you want to understand bow and arrow tuning and setup.

Remember to correct any vertical tear before trying to resolve a horizontal tear.

A note to the left-handers (like myself): Much of the adjustments mentioned above are relevant for you, too, but in terms of weak spine indication you’ll likely see a tail-right tear, as opposed to a tail-left tear indicating a weak spine for right-handers.

Bow Adjustments

The adjustments that you make to your bow to resolve paper tears typically begin by adjusting your rest to the left/right. When doing so, remember that you want to “chase the point”. If your point is impacting left and your fletching is tearing off to the right, then you want to move your rest to the left. However, be sure that you don’t move your rest so far that you leave what the manufacturer recommends for center-shot settings.

Other bow-based adjustments might include adding/removing twists to bows equipped with a split-yolk harness system, or adjusting the cable guard or roller guard rod to increase or decrease tension on the cables at full draw.  (These advanced techniques are unique to specific bows and cannot be covered in this overview.)

If your left/right tear isn’t resolved while your rest’s center-shot is in spec, then address the spine of your arrow by increasing draw weight (to “weaken” an arrow), or decreasing draw weight (to “stiffen” an arrow that’s reacting too weak).

Arrow Adjustments

As we have discussed, tears can occur as a result of an arrow that has too weak or stiff of a spine for the bow’s setup.  In the video above I discussed this with a real world example as I was setting up my Elite Energy 35 to shoot an Easton Carbon Injexion.  I knew that the 330 spine was going to be on the weak side for my 30.5″ draw length and 70+lb. draw weight – and sure enough, no matter what I did to my center-shot or nocking point I was getting indications of a weak arrow.  I resolved this by decreasing my bow’s draw weight, but there are a couple of ways to change the arrow itself to account for a strong/weak spine.

  • Decreasing shaft length will stiffen an arrow, and shooting an arrow at a longer length will weaken it.
  • Decreasing point/insert weight will stiffen an arrow, and adding point/insert weight will weaken it.

Keep all of these things in mind when selecting arrows.  If you know, for example, that you are on the line between two different spine recommendations, then you might want to consider going with the stiff shaft and shooting a 125 point instead of a 100 grain point, or even shooting that stiffer staff at a longer length than what you would normally “need”.

Playing with different arrow spines, lengths and point weights while shooting through paper will tell you what your bow prefers.  Never get rid of those random extra arrows, and better yet, try to pick up “leftover” or one-off arrows from friends.  Always keep a variety of shafts on hand to shoot through paper and see how your bow responds.

Still Having Problems?

If you’ve followed all of the advice from above and are still having issues, then there could be several things going on.  If you’ve double-checked the recommended arrow spine for your setup, and know that your rest’s center-shot and nock height are set correctly, then it could be that your bow’s cams are out of time/sync (how to build a “draw board” to check cam timing and synchronization), your limbs aren’t evenly tightened/matched, your getting fletching or contact, or it could be your form, torque, or grip pressure.

There’s More…

We have  covered a TON of information on paper tuning, but be sure to reach out if you have any other questions or problems.  In the coming weeks we will also be talking about walkback tuning and broadhead tuning.  Stay tuned!

Hunting for Something Awful (As All Men Should)

The pace of my heart quickened as the tempo of my steps struggled to remain in rhythm. I reached the summit only to realize that it was a false beacon of hope; the trail curved to my right, revealing yet another climb before relief could be found. It had been many months since I last ran this hill in summer’s heat and tasted the potent mix of salt from sweat and bitterness of pain.

Several miles later, the pain quickly fades when I reach home and enter the conditioned air. Cold water washes the bitter saltiness from my mouth, and without warning the thought comes to mind…

“That sucked.”

Before my mind can complete that thought, another comes… “I wonder when I can do it again.”

Why is it that running, climbing, and fumbling over rocky trails make me feel alive? Why is it that leaving the security and comfort of modern living and choosing to make my home in the backcountry for a week is so reviving to my soul?  Why is it that waking in darkness, hiking in darkness, and spending hours in wait for a mere second to shoot is so satisfying?

Why is it that doing hard, sometimes even miserable things is so life-giving?

It should be that comfort, convenience, and security make me feel my best. But my daily life – which is overflowing with these great gifts of modern times – often leaves me restless.

Ease is seductive, but never satisfies.

Why is it that we – those of us reading this screen from comfortable conditions, on technological equipment that wasn’t even an object to be dreamt of a few decades ago, surrounded by toys and trinkets that costs thousands – why is it that we are not fulfilled?

Part of the reason is because we have spent our lives avoiding Something Awful. We medicate ourselves with busyness and noise, in an attempt to forget that he exists. Instead of facing him, this Something Awful, we hide in the darkness of comfort.

Something Awful?

In The Heroic Path, John Sowers recalls his earliest memories of Something Awful…

“Even if I pulled the covers over my head and pretended to be asleep, Something Awful was still there. Waiting. Breathing its hot, rancid breath on the back of my neck. As a boy, whenever I got out of bed, I never just stepped off. I leaped for dear life, trying to get several feet of distance. The last thing you want is some Creeper grabbing your ankle. Then you’re toast.”

Something Awful can take on many forms. Most assuredly, Sowers explains, “[Something Awful] growls at us and makes us wonder if we can take the next step. He makes us question if we’re even men at all.”

Something Awful is the thing the makes you doubt yourself; the thing that you fear. He is what convinces you that ease is better than the struggle. He is the thing that drives you to seek comfort, but continual comfort isn’t satisfying, it’s numbing.

Turning to face Something Awful head-on might be a risk, but what’s more fool hearted is turning our back and pretending that he’s not lurking.

To come alive is to face Something Awful. And if we do, we will realize that he is a liar. We learn that we are stronger than we thought. We see that life doesn’t exist in conditioned cubicles of comfort. We will recognize that, unless we have lived a life that exhausts our body, mind, and soul, relaxation doesn’t bring rest – only restlessness and boredom.

Confronting Something Awful may mean getting off the couch, putting down the beer, and running. Literally running. It might mean committing to pursue that dream you have, yet fear. Facing him might make you realize that you are wasting your life chasing trinkets to impress someone that doesn’t really care. (Because they, too, are just another hamster on the wheel.)

Waging war against Something Awful isn’t only about proving you to yourself; it is about displaying our value and strength for other’s benefit. To truly wage war against Something Awful we must fight for our family, friends, and neighbors.  Sometimes in my life it is simply having the courage to set aside what I want to do – what I “should be doing” – and wrestle with my son, or let my daughter paint my fingernails instead.  (True story.)

Let us not be men that watch movies of great struggles, but fail to lead lives that mirror the same story. Let us not sing songs of victory just because we make some money, purchase more toys, or lead lives of selfish adventure.  The hero – in story and in life – is the one that confronts Something Awful, discovers strength and courage, and cares for those around him.

Get off the couch. Ditch the excuses. Stop living your life as a surrogate of another man’s story that you’ve seen in the movies, watched on TV, or (God forbid!) followed on Facebook.

Do hard things. Do good things. Defeat Something Awful.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

- Henry David Thoreau