Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 130

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 130

You probably know Joel Jamieson as one of the world’s best MMA and fighting sports coaches. But did you know he’s also a leading authority on heart rate variability? We asked him to give us an overview on how to use HRV for programming, and this was his response. 
Once again…Monday morning, Delta Sky Club.

Nick Lynch just dropped me off after a great RKC weekend. Nick is a VERY good coach here in Milwaukee and he has the ability to “be himself” as a coach.

This is underappreciated. Sometimes people try to paint on warpaint, strap up and strap on, and go rogue when it comes time to teach or coach. It looks fake and sounds fake. Nick has a deep meditation practice and it reflects in his work. Levi
Markwardt assisted and I learned another great lesson watching him work:

He did his job. When he had a moment, he organized, alphabetized and sanitized. He kept things moving forward. By the end, the paperwork was perfect and we could finish with little issue.

I have a course, “The Art of Coaching,” that I enjoy teaching. I have recently added three parts:


Ideally, to sum a talk, we want our client/athletes to tell YOU what’s needed, going on and where we need to go (Soliloquy). I warn young coaches and teachers to get away from phrases like “Are you with me?” and “Are you following this?” as you will always gets nods of agreement. Only when you hear the audience reflect and respond can one really discover if anyone is listening.

I got truly great feedback this weekend and I think it will help me down the line.
Be yourself
Do your job

It’s not unlike the advice I gave in 2002.

Before many of my readers could log in on the internet, I took my notes from my early 1990s catechetical workshops and summed this:

Show Up
Don’t Quit
Ask Questions

When people wonder how to “get things done,” it’s going to be this simple three part formula.

It’s always simple stuff that works in life, living and everything else.

Let’s drive around the web this week. I’m a big fan of Mark Sisson’s work. He made “Paleo” and evolutionary fitness easier to follow and understand for everybody. I have two articles that sum how you can train for 52 years (like me!).


So I’ll end with an ask. I want everyone to try something new and a little counterintuitive the next time they have a hard workout session:

Quit while you’re ahead. Cut it in half. Drop the weights. Don’t finish the WOD.

Keep up the intensity. Go hard. Just not for so long.

If you’re running hill sprints, don’t go till you puke. Leave a little in the tank.

If you’re mentally preparing for a CF WOD after you get off work, maybe Fran, maybe AMRAP clean-and-jerks of varying weights in 20 minutes, plan to cut the session in half.

If you’re doing a tempo run in preparation for a race, maintain the pace but cut the distance in half. Don’t run a facsimile of the race.

End quote

This kind of training looks “easy” to me!


Pick five movements to do every day:

A knee flexion exercise (squat, lunge, single leg squat, etc).

A hip hinge (deadlift, kettlebell swing, etc; this generally requires a weight so bodyweight may not work exclusively).

A press (overhead, pushup, dip, handstand pushup).

A pull (pullup, row).

A loaded carry (again, you need an external weight for this, but it doesn’t have to be a dedicated piece of exercise equipment; a heavy bag of books or a sack of sand work).

For each movement, assess your max reps. Go to failure on each, note how many reps you managed, and cut them in half for your work sets. So if you can only do 30 pushups in a row max, do 4-5 sets of 15 each day. If this rep scheme is still too hard to do every day, reduce by a third (15 reps becomes 10). Remember, it should be “easy,” not difficult. Your reps should “pop.”

As you progress, you can add weight by wearing a weighted vest or using weighted implements around the house. Load up a backpack with heavy books. Carry your kid or spouse.

End quote

I love Tim Anderson’s work, as you all know. I just realized that the following ties into something the paleo guys really push…keeping your eyes up as you walk to scan the environment.


6) Keep your head up.

I’ve written about this in the past, but we are made to keep our heads on the horizon both physically and mentally. When we drop our head, when we drop our thoughts, the body and mind follow. We slouch, we get depressed, we lose confidence and we “wilt.” Holding your gaze on the horizon helps keep your posture strong and your mind agile. When you can see the horizon, you have confidence and hope. In the physical, you also have awareness and peripheral vision – if threats and attacks are coming, you’re more likely to notice. People that slouch, or mope, look like victims. People that stand tall look like victory.

End quote

Ryan Leaf deserves a reset button. I thought this article was beautiful.

“Actually … there is one thing I think I would change.

“I would treat people better.

“That will be your one big regret, Ryan. It won’t be your failure to make it as an NFL quarterback. It won’t be your addiction to painkillers. It won’t even be your attempt to kill yourself.

“When all’s said and done, your biggest regret will be that you didn’t treat people well.

“So if I have just one piece of advice to leave you with, it would be … don’t be a dick, man. You’ll be amazed at how much you get back when you just treat other people with dignity and respect. And it feels pretty damn good.”

This short piece is a brilliant summary of throwing (kicking, striking, punching).

“Javelin is literally one moment. The whole of my run-up took 4.45 seconds, the throw itself took 18 hundredths of a second, 80% of my speed of release came from the last hundredth of a second.

“When your timing is right, and you’re mentally and physically at one with your javelin, time effectively stands still. Those moments become exaggerated. The whole world makes sense in that instant.

“If you’ve seen the film Limitless – where Bradley Cooper takes a pill and the whole world slows down, and he can problem solve and make things happen – that’s what javelin feels like when your timing is on.

“That’s what you miss: the flow through your body, everything separating and moving as one. I miss time standing still.”

John Strangeway’s article is illuminating.

“To get the most out of your training you must be able to honestly critique your performance in as much of your training as possible. We all have workouts where we are not in the correct mindset and basically are going through the motions. It is these workouts that we should be conscious of and try to find the triggers that turns a workout into a less productive training session.

“If you look back and find you have had many workouts where you were not concentrating at the task at hand, you need to figure out why. The fewer wasted workouts you have, the better progress you can make. If you are not focused while training movements, or application of those movements, be it a defensive martial movement or the barbell squat, the execution will be flawed and any possible improvements you can gain from it will be reduced. In the martial realm this could make your offensive and defensive movements less effective or even ineffective. Lack of focus during a squat may cause you to move slightly out of position making the lift more difficult and/or dangerous.

“In order to address an issue, you first must know one exists. Looking back at past workouts and honestly grading your performance is a worthwhile exercise to find trends or issues you do not notice while training. Understandably, during a training session our effort may diminish unknowingly for many reasons. We may start to go on autopilot and just go through the motions because we are distracted, even let concentration lapse on technical execution because we are tired. Occurrences like these are what you should concentrate on removing to make your training sessions more productive.”

I just realized as I skimmed this collection, that this might be the most “Do This” of any WWs. There is a lot here, yes, but it is a template on how to “do it.” Whatever “it” may be…

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


How important is breathing strategy in functional movement? Do you test it? In this article, Gray Cook and Stuart McGill discuss breathing assessments.