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Monthly Archives: January 2022

Today’s Lesson in Journalism: The Headline! How Not To Write One in 1,005 Words (Ish).

Don’t do it this way.

How to Up Your Bowling Game From 100 to 150 Part Two: The Hook Shot

In my first post I covered the equipment we’ll need to go from a below average to average bowler. Balls, shoes, accessories, the works. In this post, we’re going to put fingers in holes and get this party started!

For the most part, we’re going to be dealing with a typical “house” oil pattern, which is simple enough.

You’re dry on the edges, heavy in the center with plenty of room for the ball to bite after the oil runs out. There are two ways to throw your ball that will impart decent spin for a hook, assuming you’ve picked a fingertip or hybrid drilling of the ball. Up the back for higher revolutions, or you can rotate your hand up the side as the ball hits the bottom and your hand starts up for the follow through for a little more hook. Your thumb comes out first followed by the two fingers in both shots.

The “up the back” approach is a difficult shot to master. It actually involves rolling the ball with a motion that feels like throwing a yo-yo. It’s completely counterintuitive and entirely awesome and very difficult to get the timing down. Done correctly though, you put huge revs on the ball and, once you learn to control that, you can really dial it in and do some damage down the lane. The second is “around the side” like the old way they teach you to bowl mixed with a little “up the back”. If you simply want to improve from 100 to 150, as we are discussing right now, stick with the latter. In the end, bowling is all about repeatability, anyway, and we don’t want to make repeatability harder than it needs to be. Yet.

Right handers will have it harder right out of the gate because there are vastly more righthanded bowlers than left. You’ll have more traffic on your side of the lane so you’ll have to move around a little bit to find a line that works for you and you’ll have to move sooner to find oil when the lane starts getting worked in. The ball removes a little oil every time one is thrown down the lane so the lane dries out as lines wear the oil out. To find oil so your ball will slide, you simply move left (for righties) or right (for lefties) and change your aim arrow a little bit. Don’t trouble yourself with that yet, though.

We want to start looking at the release of the ball first so we don’t pick up any bad habits. I would start by subscribing to Brad and Kyle’s YouTube channel. They’re not the best instructional videos out there but they’re simple to understand and they speak like normal people so we can translate that into, you know, actual bowling skill.

Watch some videos on how to roll the ball, then look at a few on targeting. That’s a fantastic starting point. For me, I throw a reactive urethane hybrid ball that hooks up quite a bit on everything but heavy oil. With the dry (light blue) on the left side of the lane (I’m lefthanded), if I start to the left, with my target board midway between the first and second arrow, I’ll start hooking across the headpin after about ten to fifteen shots, assuming I’m the only lefty on the lane. As my game goes on, I wear the oil out so I have to change my line to get into some oil so the ball slides down the lane before it bites and comes into the target zone. I’ll move right three or four boards and move my target board one or two boards to the right of my arrow. As the games go on, I have to continue to move right to find more oil. This is the nature of the game. Or, if I have a third ball, something that hooks less when the lane dries, I can switch balls as the lane gets worked in. Now, this movement has a counterbalance. If I move too far right I get into too much oil and my ball won’t hook as much, so I have to watch that as well. I want my ball into then out of the oil so it’ll slide, then hook up and hit between the 1 & 2 pins where it belongs (1 & 3 for righthanders).

For my starting shots in warm-up I want to find out how far left I can go to still hit the pocket and how far right I can go before my ball won’t hook up. That paints the picture of where I want to start and where I’ll likely end the night.

Now for the tricky part: If you’re a righty, you’re definitely going to have to get used to throwing the ball at the gutter so it’ll come back into the pocket. With all of the traffic your side of the lane gets in a league, moving left as the oil dries up goes with the territory. For me, I get a little bit of a break because there are fewer lefthanders out there. I move as a reaction to my line drying up, not several bowlers on competing lines using the oil up.

Finally, after watching a few videos, you should be able release a ball and start to use the dots, boards and arrows to line your shot up, so your hook comes into the pocket. All you have to do is practice and dial that in. With that practice, you’ll learn exactly how much your ball hooks and you’ll be able to shape your shots around that hook. Your score will improve, likely very quickly.

Now, I’ve only slightly covered this previously, but if you really want to improve, you’re going to have to learn how to pick up spares. Sure, the game’s a lot easier when you get all ten in the first shot, but we’re not quite there yet – and the difference between a spare and an open is up to ten pins on your score. For this reason, picking up spares is huge for someone trying to improve. This is where a spare ball comes in very handy. I love mine. A good spare ball will make the game and higher scores easier for someone who hooks their ball. The spare ball is a plastic covered ball that simply won’t hook much even though you’ll throw it exactly like your strike ball. Your spare ball should be exactly the same weight and drilling as your strike ball so it feels the same leaving your hand. I use my spare ball for anything on the left of the lane and, once I learned how to shape the minimal hook, absolutely cleaned up most of my messes. My spare ball is almost as important as my strike ball when talking about score.

With decent equipment and a good release, you’ll jump from that 100 to a 150 easily with minimal practice.

The hard part is next; going from 150 to 185. That’s next Friday.

The Time to Get Ready for the Spring Cycling Season Is Upon Us: And That Time Is Every Day! Only FASTER! Edition

This post is for you, Jeff.

In one of the most inspiring moments ever, and in one of the greatest lines ever uttered by a Vice President of the United States, right next to Dan Quayle instructing a child to misspell the word “potato”, Kamal Harris inspired me to kick it into high gear for spring when she stated, “It is time for us to do what we’ve been doing. And that time is every day.”

Now, if you haven’t seen the clip (shame on you), you have to get the picture in your head right for this too, as she started shaking her head slowly when as she said, “And that time is every day” with the most serious, straight face I’ve seen from the VP. It was moving. Something.

SO! The time is upon us to get ready for springtime. We’ve just got a month and a handful of days before we’re outside again. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to start pushing the big gears – well, actually big up front and little in the back, but you catch my drift! That bike ain’t gonna pedal itself into the wind once all of this ice thaws, baby. We need to start pushing those hard gears now so when spring does roll around, we’re not the one trying to throw a lasso around one of the other riders for a tow, we’re with the lead group, dishing out the pain!

Can you feel it?! Spring is coming!

Well, that might be going a little far. It’s going to be 22 today. That’s -5.5 C in Moose Latin. But let’s not get lost in the weeds, baby! It’s time to get motivated! It’s time to eat some freaking salads and lose that Christmas cookie fat! It’s time to get those legs used to pedaling hard into the spring wind! Our legs are the change we’ve been waiting for!

So here’s the “And that time is every day” workout schedule:

  1. We don’t take more than two days off per week. Go with a Tuesday and Friday or something.
  2. So, technically, the time is not really every day, it’s kinda “most days”. Still, “And that time is every day” would make a good t-shirt… or jersey.
  3. Monday is an easy day. Tuesday off. Wednesday is “grind a hard gear” day. Thursday is a moderate day. Friday off. Saturday intervals followed by an easy to moderate spin after the interval workout. Sunday is a moderate to hard day, hammering the bigger gears.
  4. Do some push-ups and sit-ups three or four days a week.
  5. This will get your ass in gear so when it really comes time to hit the road hard when the snow and ice melts, you’re not trying to grab onto someone else’s pocket when the pace gets a little hectic.

Let’s get it done, my friends! Ride hard!

WOOOOH!

Somebody pass the cucumbers and carrots!

A Fantastic Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad in 500 Calories Or Less

The hardest part of being an aging athlete is getting the fuel right so we don’t bonk, but also not eating our way to being too heavy for a 16-pound (7kg) race bike. Finding the right balance isn’t easy.

On one hand, I ride a bicycle (one of my five) around 8,000 miles a year. That’s a low-side average. When you’re pushing out 300 miles in a week, it’s easy to not pass on that most excellent double pulled pork barbecue bacon burger with fried onion straws. With fries. Ahem. Therein lies my problem.

When I started cycling at 41, after running for the better part of a decade, I jumped my mileage up quickly and lost a massive amount of weight. I’m 6′ tall and went from 172 pounds down to the 150s. I was skinny. My wife finally said, look, mister, you better do something about this skinny thing you’ve got going on. I like you with a little more meat on those bones. Folks, there’s nothing quite like permission to eat. And eat I did. Now, at 51, I’m pushing 185 and I’m big enough that it’s time to do something to fix it. I used to eat at Subway regularly, but when you do the calorie math, I’m looking at a 1,000 calorie lunch and a 1,500 calorie dinner. Throw in a few muchies here and there, and all of a sudden, BAM! 185 stares back at you on the scale.

I started looking at salads from Wendy’s. The half-size Spicy Chicken Caesar was appealing so I gave it a go. With a piece of fried, spicy chicken. Looking up the calorie content, I’m right around 490 calories. I drink water with my lunch to save unneeded calories. I dropped three pounds in just shy of two weeks. My cardiologist probably wouldn’t be too happy with the “fried” part of the chicken, though. Then I got to thinking… that’s $35 a week just in salads at Wendy’s.

I started thinking about saving some money, because $7 for a freaking salad pissed me off a little, even if it was very tasty. Then, of course, fried

Now, if I butterfly chicken breasts, I can get at least four lunches out of a package of chicken, plus dressing and croutons… I’m looking at about $4 per lunch – and I don’t use the cheap, nutrient-void iceberg lettuce. I use the good stuff; baby spinach, spring mixed greens and a romaine heart here and there.

The key to making your own salad is getting the chicken right. Not enough seasoning and you’ve got a boring hunk of flavorless chicken. Too much and it tastes gross. Cook it too long and it’s dry. Raw will obviously get you sick (or worse).

The best seasoning for chicken is McCormick’s Montreal Chicken seasoning. Montreal Steak seasoning works, too – but go light on either. Also, if you’re really feeling adventurous and want fantastic tasting grilled chicken, is the Grill Mates Applewood Smoked seasoning, again from McCormick. Go with the applewood first, then a light dusting of Montreal. This is the easy part; lightly sprinkle your seasoning over the chicken. I find that too much is overpowering, so be judicious. While I love “heat”, as in spicy seasoning, I find too much salt off-putting.

Next is the actual cooking of the chicken, and this takes some patience and practice to get right. First, I like to butterfly boneless chicken breasts so they cook fast. The only thing worse than over-cooked chicken is under-cooked chicken. The key to juicy chicken is a properly pre-heated grill. We’re aiming for 500+ degrees F (260 C). So, immediately after you get the grill lit (or you get the charcoal going), clean the grill surface with a wire cleaning utensil. Inspect the grill to make sure no pieces of wire stuck to the grill, then wait till the you’re up to temp.

With the grill up to temp, place the chicken diagonally across the grill with the seasoned side down. I know, I know… it looks better. Shut the lid and let it go for about three or four minutes. Make sure the grill isn’t flaring up on you. When you come back, the top side of the chicken should be turning white, as though it’s starting to cook. Flip the chicken, diagonal again. and let it go for another three and check the meat. You don’t want it to be too rigid (over-cooked) or rubbery (under-cooked). The chicken will bend a little bit under it’s own weight if you grab it with tongs on either end of the chicken but not if you grab it in the middle.

Until you get the “feel” of what a cooked piece of chicken feels like in a pair of tongs, I’d cut a piece in half, the thickest piece, to make sure it’s cooked through. The chicken should be a consistent color throughout – no darker center (that’s good for steak, not chicken).

Once the chicken is done – but just done, because you’re going to reheat this, presumably in a microwave oven at work, I place them in a storage container and immediately in the fridge for the next few days.

Now, for the reheat, I like to place a damp to wet paper towel over the chicken when I reheat it. This helps keep the meat’s moisture locked in so it stays juicy. The goal is to get it just hot enough without hammering it to death in the nuker.

The rest is just building a salad. I like the aforementioned spring mix and baby spinach, a small handful of croutons, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some Caesar dressing. Now, for the dressing, I have two favorites. I like Newman’s Own because all profits go directly to charity. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar Dressing its props. That dressing is amazing.

Enjoy! And remember, more lettuce than chicken!

Because It’s Easier to Keep a Train Rolling than to Start One from a Stop.

I got home from work, fully intending on riding on the trainer even though I’ve been taking Mondays off since November. I’ve had a nagging sense of “I don’t wanna” on Tuesday’s when I go to start the week again that’s been bugging me for a few weeks, now, and I got a little angry with it last Tuesday.

I get to Monday and think, “alright, a day off!” and all is well. I have a nice evening, sleep well, then get through Tuesday just fine at work until I get home and it’s time to ride and I start thinking, “maybe I should take another day off”… then I have to moderate an argument with the melon committee about getting on the bike or not. This is entirely unacceptable.

F-U-U-U-*-* THAT!

So, yesterday, rather than mess around with the argument, I just told the whole committee to sit down and shut up, “it’s easier to keep a train rolling that start one from a stop”, I explained and rolled my bike out of the bike room to set it up on the trainer.

I was rolling shortly after 5 and had one of my better trainer sessions of the new year. It was made slightly easier, of course, by watching Predator, the original Arnold movie.

And so it was. I had a sparkling dinner with Mrs. Bgddy and our daughter, watched the Rams and Matthew Stafford thrash the Cardinals and drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. It will be easier, tonight, when I get home to roll my Trek out of the bike room and hook it to the trainer. Whenever I try to embrace “days off”, I always come back to the same concept of keeping a train rolling.

Sure, it’s because it’s true, but mainly because I know me… and after 29 years in recovery, there’s one main concept I have no problem embracing: To Thine Own Self Be True.

Ride hard, my friends. Or pay your doctor to be one of your best buddies.

The Sunday Night “Easy Does It” Bowling League… Finally, A Breakthrough

Friday’s league night wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great, either… I’ve been languishing at or slightly below my 177 average – usually one or two good games and a bad game that drags everything down over the last few weeks. I’ve really had to grind to get the decent scores, too. To tell the truth, I expected the new bowling balls would “take” a little easier that they have. Never mind I completely changed everything about how I hold and throw a ball down the lane three weeks ago, I just thought things would fall into place. Not exactly so. Until Sunday night during recovery league.

That was my breakthrough night.

My first game was less than impressive but not atrocious. My wife was right on my heels and threw a really nice game and Jon, my sponsee, threw a great one to buoy us to a team win. I ended up with a 158 but had to grind just to get that. My new spare ball bailed me out a lot. I made several adjustments on starting board and target board but nothing really worked – I had to be right on the money to get the ball near the pocket.

On the first ball in the second of three games I made a slight two-board adjustment (two right in my feet and two right in my aim) and exploded the pins with a spectacular strike. It was like every pin pushed to the back collection area in an instant… the ball hit the pocket and BOOM! No messengers, just carnage. Sit down.

I spared the next two frames, missing my target board by an inch high, then went on a five strike tear. I could hit my target and the ball would tuck in perfectly to the pocket. If I missed too far left, I’d be in the dry and the ball would correct its line and hammer the pocket. If I missed a little right, I’d hit the heavy oil and the ball would slide all the way into the pocket… it was perfect. I finished that game with a strike/spare and a 213.

Then the third game.

With confidence from the second game (and a little hope that I’d finally figured the new ball out), I lit $#!+ up with three strikes in the first four frames. That last strike in the fourth was sketchy, though. Lucky. So I moved a couple of boards right and that definitely wasn’t the answer. Too much oil for the ball to get back to the pocket. I ended up with three spares in a row, but they were easy spares to pick up with my new plastic spare ball. I was sitting on a 126 heading into the 6th and had spared in the 7th. I stepped up for the eighth and took a deep breath and released it… relaxing, I started my approach deliberately slow, swinging back high, I let the ball do its thing. I struck in the 8th with a perfect, booming pocket hit. And another perfect shot in the 9th – a no-doubter from the second I released the ball.

Going into the 10th, I was sitting on a good score but I pushed out any thoughts about potential score combinations to stay focused. Another deep breath and release, my deliberately slow approach, high backswing, perfect release and follow-through, and my Hammer Scorpion rolled perfectly over my target board. A perfect slide, grab and bend by the ball and it worked straight at the pocket as if it had eyes, and BOOM! No messengers, the pins exploded to the back. A turkey (three strikes in a row). And a fourth. This one was a little sketchy – the ball hung up on the release, just a split second and I missed my target board to the right, but only by two boards – I was right in the heavy oil so the ball slid all the way down the lane and still hammered the pocket. My final shot for a five in a row perfect tenth was another no-doubter. I even gave a little kick at the end as the pins exploded in a thunderous crack and fell into the collection area. A 236 and I finished the night with a 607 actual.

And that was the feel I was looking for when I decided to purchase new equipment a few weeks ago. It wasn’t that I couldn’t miss, it’s that if I did miss, I missed in the right places. The spares came easy and the strike shots were strong and consistent. Oh, was it spectacular.

And that wasn’t even the cherry on top!

I’ve been trying to get my wife to come back to the Sunday night team for years. My teammates wanted her back, my teammate’s wife (who was on the team for years) wanted her to come back… and she resisted. Partly, I’m sure, because I can get a little intense when I bowl. Well, we recently had one of the guys on our team quit and that left us with a vacant spot and my wife agreed to give it a try again. She’s been out each of the last two nights, bowled excellently (especially this last Sunday) and we had a lot of laughs. It’s been great to have her back, really. That I was able to bowl with my wife on the team again, that was the cherry on top of a great night.

Road Race Bikes vs. eBikes Part Two: How to Ride Fast Enough for Your Bike.

In a post the other day, I recommended caution about the danger in jumping onto a 20-mph e-assist bike for someone who is more used to the pace of a beach cruiser. In a post a while back, I also stated (humorously, of course) that nobody has ever whiskey throttled a race bike. People, lots of them, have whiskey throttled an eBike, though. I went on, in the first post, to suggest that part of the problem leading to an increase in bicycle accidents related to eBikes is that the speed of an eBike comes without a price (other than the cost of the bike itself).

The point is, if anyone can hop on an eBike and immediately ride 20+ mph (32 km/h), there are bound to be a lot of accidents as that kind of speed on a pedal bike takes quite a bit of knowledge to build up to. As I said, I had to bust my butt to be able to ride that fast unassisted.

Over the next couple of days I got to thinking about what I do to ride at that speed, both solo and in a group and thought it could be helpful to pass that on for new cyclists.

First things first, the greatest lesson I learned is to assume everyone in a motor vehicle is a complete idiot. This is the safest way to ride. If I expect someone to do something stupid, it’s easy to take evasive action when they do. I’ve had someone speed by me and make a right turn, literally 50′ in front of me and didn’t hit the car even though I was traveling at about 40′ per second at the time. And yes, that motorist got an earful.

This leads to the second point: as I wrote in my first post, widen your focus as the pace increases. Tunnel vision is bad. We have to ride accordingly as we widen that focus, too. I hear people say, after narrowly avoiding a crash (or not avoiding one), “but I had the right of way”. Folks, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way in a crash with a car. The cyclist loses. Every time. It doesn’t matter who had the right of way if you’re in a hospital. If we are going to ride fast, we have to know when to push it and when to back off to avoid trouble. Learn when to back off. Once you’ve crashed or been crashed into, there’s nothing you can do but hope and heal. Avoid both by riding smart.

Things are coming at you at 30 to 50’ per second. You have to learn to think 500’ up the road – and that’s what I mean about widening the focus.

Finally, speed on any kind of pedal bike is awesome fun. That speed has to be respected, though. And that part isn’t in the operators manual. Ride smart, ride fast, but be safe… and live to tell about it.

Fitness and Recovery from Addiction: I Could Have One But Not The Other…

I could have recovery without being as active as I am. It just wouldn’t be as fun.

I couldn’t have fitness without recovery, though. Without the recovery, I’d already be on the wrong side of the grass.

Thank God I found the path and chose to stay on it.

Two January Rides in a Row… And the Latest on My Mountain Bike!

My riding buddy, Chuck just bought a new Salsa fatty a couple of weeks ago. It’s a full carbon race rig with many of the bells and whistles… and tires fat enough they sound like a mudbogging truck going down the road. He just got the tubeless setup sorted out at the shop and he wanted to ride it Thursday night. We’ve got some unbearably cold weather coming up so he was itching to get it outside before we were relegated to the trainers for the next week or more.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t as enthusiastic.

Even though everything in my melon screamed trainer, I prepped my mountain bike for duty when I got home. Oh, how I wanted to skip that ride, but I knew Chuck’s usual test ride average worked out to about 9-mph so I figured it would be a nice, easy jaunt around our normal paved road loop. Even the sketchy couple of miles didn’t seem like they would be a big deal with my 2″ mtb tires.

And so, begrudgingly, I met Chuck at the end of my driveway and we rolled out into the wind, what little breeze there was. Please keep in mind here, I was planning on an easy ride, maybe 10 to 12-mph because Chuck’s on a fat bike for God’s sake. His tires are something like three inches wider than mine… I expected to be able to hammer him into the ground.

Well, to keep it simple, what I expected and what I got were two very different things. Chuck had maxed out the tire pressure and was riding like somebody (other than me) was chasing him. Within the first three miles we were knocking on a 15-mph average and we were still there after the first mile of sketchy subdivision. After the sub we headed north, into the wind again for a half-mile before turning west, Chuck was absolutely hammering it into the wind and just before we were about to turn I ran out of want to and said, “Alright, that’s about enough of that”. I had to check to make sure we didn’t have a herd of buffalo trying to run us down or something. One mile West and a quick northerly section and we were cruising into the second section of sketchy road – that my mountain bike tires handled excellently – not even a sway in the slush.

Chuck asked if I wanted to do a second lap of the subdivision, adding another 2 miles or so. I flipped him the bird. But laughed and agreed to the extra miles. We took it fairly easy through the subdivision, but once out on a surface road, the pace heated up again. Anything south was fast. And we kept the gas on all the way home.

After I cleaned up, I checked out the stats for the ride and saw my estimated average power… an unbelievable 181 watts for more than an hour-twenty and just shy of 20 miles.

I wore a smile the rest of the evening, and it was good.

No such luck this weekend. We’re currently sitting about ten degrees below my cutoff of 20 F (or -HOLYSHIT in Celsius) for a temperature. I’ll be, unquestionably, on the trainer… well, there’s a chance for a ride tomorrow afternoon but I’m going to need a big change in “want to” to get out there.

How To Up Your Bowling Game from a 100 Average to a 150. Part One of Several: The Equipment.

So, I’m going to run a new Friday series for a few weeks that’s going to center on bowling, mainly because I’ve been stepping up my game a little bit and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

So, we’re going to start easy and work our way up. This is all going to be fairly simple, an easy progression to get from below average to above average as quickly and painlessly as possible. The operative two words in that last sentence are “as possible”.

The first thing we have to look at in terms of improving is giving up the straight ball. Many sub-par bowlers are stuck on the straight ball because it’s easy, but I can show you very simply why a hook is so important to improvement. You can get good with a straight ball, but it’s hard. Let’s look at a typical layout of pins that you’ll see looking down the lane:

Now, we all know if you want to score a strike with regularity, you’ve got to hit between the 1 & 3 or the 1 & 2, right? Well, let’s look at the same layout from above and you’ll see why the hook is so important:

It’s very simple to see how, with a hook as shown on the left, your margin for error increases by about three times. This is why we throw a hook, it increases the margin for error in a bowling shot.

Once we understand that, we settle on one of three ways to hook a ball. The hard way is the old style, three finger holes with the holes relatively close to each other, close to an equilateral triangle. You throw the ball from the side, lifting up as you follow through which imparts spin on the ball, causing it to hook. If, and this is a big if, you’re using the right kind of ball. We’ll get into that in a minute. The second is the fingertip drilled ball. The thumb and two fingers are spread farther apart, though the two fingers are close together, to a point where you can barely reach the two holes with the tips of your middle and ring fingers when your thumb is in its hole. This requires a lot of wrist strength for your shot but you get the most torque for the hook if thrown properly. The third (other than two-handed which I won’t cover) is a hybrid of the standard drill and fingertip drill. It requires reach, but not as much as a full fingertip drill. This is what I throw. I can comfortably get my fingers into the middle and ring finger holes up to my first knuckle joint. With the fingers and thumb just a little closer together there’s less pressure on the wrist during the rolling of the ball and I still get great torque for lots of hook. The standard isn’t a great hooking ball drill pattern. The fingertip is fantastic for hook but lacks some versatility and requires a considerable amount of wrist strength. The hybrid lacks some torque and some rev rate potential, but it makes up for that deficiency with control. Having bowled with the standard drill for more than a decade, I highly recommend against that. There’s too much room for error in throwing the ball. That will leave either the fingertip or hybrid. You’ll have to choose if you want to improve. The last two add a lot of repeatability to a bowling shot.

Now let’s look at bowling balls. Unlike American citizens, all bowling balls are not all created equal.

Plastic house balls (left – Ebonite Maxim) do not hook very much, especially if you’re throwing with some pace. The plastic ball makes an awesome spare ball for that very reason. You can throw a hook shot and it’ll simply spin down the lane in a (relatively) straight line. Next is the polyurethane covered bowling balls. They have a moderate hook and are great for dry to medium oil. Reactive urethane hybrid covers (right – Scorpion) are good for moderate to heavy oil and resin reactive hook the most and are for heavy oil patterns.

Personally, I have three bowling balls, the same weight and all drilled identically so my release can be the same no matter what I’m throwing at, and under any conditions. Each ball will react differently, meaning I won’t have to. I’ve got a reactive urethane hybrid (Hammer Scorpion), a plastic spare ball, and a straight urethane cover that’s good for dry to medium oil. Technically, three is next level, though. Say, going from 150 to 185. You won’t need three to go from 100 to 150, easily. Two is a great idea, though. Maybe a hybrid reactive (for moderate to heavy oil) and a plastic spare ball.

The last piece in the bowling ball is its weight. I’ve thrown a 16-pound ball (max weight) for decades but recently dropped to a 14-pounder… and it’s not an age thing. The 16 hits like a truck but I can get a little more pace on a 14 and I don’t tire out midway through my last game and reach for a lighter ball. I would never go below 12 pounds, personally, because a lighter ball deflects more when it hits the pins but a 14 is a great compromise weight. However, if you can’t throw a 12-pounder, throw the heaviest you comfortably can. The heavier the ball, the harder the hit and we want to get those pins moving. Use a house bowling ball and check everything from 10 to 14 pounds. Once you choose a good weight for you, go into the pro shop and have a ball drilled for you.

For my Scorpion, my first new bowling ball ever, I walked into the pro shop and said, “I know just enough to be dangerous and stupid at the same time. I want a ball that’s going to hook a lot on a house (league) pattern but not too much.” Then I gave him my 16-pound Hammer Wheel that I was given decades ago and had filled and drilled for me, and asked him to match that drilling because it fits my hand pretty well. He watched me throw a few balls during the warm-up and I picked my ball up a week later. The drilling is close to that of the old Wheel, but it’s definitely slightly wider from thumb to fingers and a little off center. It is spectacular – I’ve never had such an easy time rolling a bowling ball down a lane. That’s what a good pro shop guy can do. I went to a pro shop because of that statement I made when I walked in – I wanted someone who could give me what I needed based on imperfect information. The internet can’t do that.

For shoes, you don’t need a $200 pair of pro shoes. Just make sure you get the slide foot correct (some shoes are right or left slide – the slide foot is the opposite you throw with). After that, a microfiber cloth to wipe the oil off your strike ball and a decent bag (preferably a roller – carrying a two ball bag on your shoulder gets a little old).

With the proper equipment, a decent strike ball and a good spare ball (preferably drilled and weighted the same), you’ll be well on your way to improving rapidly.

Next Friday I’ll cover the bowling shot. How to throw, where to stand, and aim (or lack thereof!).