Breathing, Thinking, And A Bow And Arrow

Being active is important. At least so I’m told. Activity and I haven’t always gotten along.

Sure, I grew up playing sports. I was a mediocre, at best. hockey player. And don’t even get me started on my very brief football career.

If you saw my size you would think, “Surely this man has played football look at him.”

I am here as a testament to the fact that looks can be deceiving. I know this because this current article is being written by quite possibly the worst player in the history of Michigan high school athletics.

It wasn’t until much later that I found something to keep me active other than walking my dog.

And that is archery.

I know what you’re thinking. Archery isn’t active. All you’re doing is standing still.

And while that might be true in theory. In practice, it’s anything but.

I discovered my love of archery when my grandmother gave me her father’s bow. This wasn’t just any bow. It’s a Bear Archery Kodiak from 1959. It’s a classic and heirloom quality bow. It was hand-built and finished. Its spring is potent and it’s condition immaculate.

And so my journey began.

It was not easy. When I first got I couldn’t even pull the bow back all the way. It took two weeks to build up the strength to even draw it. It took another month before I even knew where the arrow was going when I let it go (on a home archery range where it was completely safe and only a field behind the target, no people or houses.)

And yet I loved it. I loved drawing the bow. I loved letting the arrow fly. I loved it when it hit the target. I loved it, even more, when the arrow was close to where I aimed.

Two months later I was shooting a hundred arrows a day. I now have three bows and shoot them regularly.

And this is where I return to the activity point of view. It is very much activity.

Archery requires work. Real muscular work. This is especially true with traditional bows with no let off. Compound bows use cams and pulleys to take up the weight (which isn’t to say they aren’t work either. I shoot compound regularly and the initial draw is very heavy.”

You pull back the bow and nearly every muscle in your upper body is firing to keep the bow steady. When you first start out you’re arms and back will be sore and your hands numb.

Shooting my bow has made me far stronger than lifting weights ever has.

And muscles aren’t the only benefit.

Archery means a lot of walking. If you shoot a couple hundred arrows a day that means a lot of walking back and forth from the target to your shooting spot.

One day I checked my phone and I had walked 4.5 miles after a day of shooting.

On top of this, it’s a great excuse to get outside. Sometimes it’s hard to get outdoors without a reason.

The final benefit, at least for me, is that archery works as a form of meditation.

Breathing and concentration are paramount with the old stick and string. You have to keep control of your breath as it’s important not to let the arrow go when you exhale, as it could collapse your shoulders and throw off your aim.

And the concentration is like nothing else I’ve experienced.

When you shoot an arrow the whole world disappears. You think about your form, the arrow, and the target. Your vision narrows until your staring at a tiny dot on the target.




And then you let the arrow fly and sure enough, it hits home.

In addition to meditation, archery is something you can always work on. You can never be done. There’s always smaller targets and farther distances.

At first, I was happy to just hit the target, and now I hit the bull’s eye from 70 yards.

At close range, I was happy to hit a water bottle and now I hit bottle caps.

You can just keep going.

It lets your thoughts go blank for a while. It sharpens your concentration. It gets you outside.

It’s one of the best ways to keep you active.

Originally published at

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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