When most people think of bowling, they usually don’t think of fitness.
Some of the more common associations to bowling—beer, beer guts, smoking—actually fall on the opposite side of the health spectrum from fitness. That’s fine, but I’ll tell you right now that this past bowling season I just finished was a testament to what getting in shape can do for your game on the lanes.
Last week Tuesday was the last day of the season. My final season average rounded out to 165. I won’t come anywhere near close to making the PBA with that kind of number or anything, especially considering that number is well below my league’s average, but when I consider that my average the season before this past one was only 147, I’m pretty happy.
My first week of this past season set the tone for how I’d perform. I led the season off with an effort of 181/163 /189. Weeks like that ended up being more commonplace than the aberration it seemed to be that first week.
Aside from an 18-pin improvement in my average, a couple other highlights included leading my team in average (I tied for last the previous season), a total of seven 200+ games (I had only one the previous season), and I bowled my first ever 600 series in February (194/244 /202) — the middle game 244 that night I bowled was also a personal best.
At the beginning of the season, my teammates were asking me what I was doing differently. I didn’t really have any answers for them. I was sort of befuddled about it, actually. During the offseason, I went bowling twice for fun and bowled terribly both times. I think my high game during either of those outings was somewhere around 140.
I didn’t do anything to change my technique or my approach to the game itself. I was using the same ball. Wearing the same shoes. I was doing everything the exact same as I always have.
Then it hit me: I was in vastly better overall shape this past season than the previous one. My arms are stronger, my shoulders and chest are stronger, my legs are stronger, and my core is stronger.
I believe those things made me a lot more consistent of a bowler than I’ve ever been. This season I always felt balanced and strong in my follow-through. None of the muscles I use bowling ever felt fatigued. Never was my bowling arm sore the next day. Never was the glute on my balance leg sore, either.
I couldn’t always say the same the previous season, or even previously just bowling for fun.
Near the start of that previous season is when I started getting serious about working out. I was still figuring out some of the more basic things about running and exercising. I still have a lot to figure out, but I’ve come a decent way since then.
My Tuesdays during this past season were jam-packed from the moment I got off work until I went to bed. Immediately after work on Tuesdays I would go get changed to work out, go run my timed mile around 5:15-ish, go to the 30-minute ab/core class at my gym at 5:30, go home to shower, change, and eat before bowling at 7 p.m.
During the previous season, even after I’d started working out seriously—which, again, I was only just starting to figure things out—I always took Tuesdays off from working out. The most I ever did was eat dinner between work and bowling.
I’ve debated whether if this past season I was just loose following my Tuesday workouts or if I was just in some sort of workout haze that allowed me to bowl well?
Honestly, I’m not sure I’m likely to believe either of those things. There were definitely times I felt tired from working out, but still bowled well.
At the end of the day, I’m confident my overall improved strength and muscle conditioning played a major role in improving me as a bowler.
I don’t know if I have another 18-pin improvement in me next season, but one thing’s for sure: if I can do that, it’s going to have more to do with fixing the holes in my bowling game than with my fitness.