Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 138

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 138

This has turned out to be a terrific week for reading; it’s a light work week for most of us and a good time to take the opportunity to catch up. Have you read all of Dan’s work? To discover what you’ve been missing, here’s a quick overview of his OTPbooks.com material, with links to his articles, books, videos and lectures.
The best part of being home a bit is enjoying my deck(s). When we bought this house, we inherited a lot of issues with the various yards. So, we put concrete and new fences in one dark area, added planter boxes in another, rebuilt our massive second-floor deck, then added three corner decks.

Yes, it sounds like a lot. And, it is. But, yesterday, the grandkids were hopping in and out of the wading pool and sprinting across the grass while my whole family enjoyed a delightful summer day here in Utah. I don’t travel for a few weeks and I am hoping my body will adjust to the lack of space on planes, weird hotel beds and jet lag. I love what I do, but these past few months have been crazy.

I also went to a Bee’s game the other night and something interesting happened: the Bees won! I’m not sure I have seen that as often as I should. My family and friends think I am our AAA affiliate’s curse.

The nice side of being home is that I can also read with a bit of leisure. I’m trying to catch up on a number of books. But I still have time to swim through the muddy waters of the web.

As many of you know, I basically wear the same thing every day. I have 18 of the exact same polo shirts, four sets of jeans and four of the exact same pairs of shoes. This article discusses this idea.


1. Reduce decision fatigue.

We cannot escape decisions. Even in our dreams, we’re thinking about what to do next. Every option drains us. Decisions with larger consequences take more of our energy, too. When tired, people make more short-term, instant-gratification decisions. Conspicuous consumption becomes more common amidst this fatigue. While it might seem small, adopting a more universal, uniform outfit might provide you greater decision-making power for the day.

End quote

Everybody who coaches knows this. This article is good, but the comment after is very good, too.

Here are Doug Carpenter’s comments on the story:

“Just my opinion. Let your child play all sports (football, basketball, soccer, etc.). It helps round out their overall athleticism. When the baseball season is over THROW the glove in the closet!  You will be amazed at the passion shown when baseball season rolls around again. Can you make them better? Yes. Can you push them too hard? YES! There is a fine line between the two and unfortunately, most parents don’t know where that line is. Major League Baseball players are very blessed athletes and there is more than just ‘ability’ involved. Makeup, instincts, fundamentals, and work ethics are just a few factors that also affect player upside/value. How many times do we hear, ‘Oh…that Bobby is gonna play in the Big Leagues.’ Reality check: there are only 750 Major League player jobs available during the season. And if Bobby is a shortstop he has to be one of the BEST 30 IN THE WORLD or he is not going to be a Major Leaguer. I think it’s less than .001 percent of kids playing youth baseball get the chance to be a Major League Baseball player. Yes…a lot of kids get the opportunity to play in the Minor Leagues (I did so for 7 years) but unless you got a big bonus, as the band Boston once sang, ‘you barely make enough to survive.’

“Bottom line: let your kids be kids. Let them enjoy all the sports. If they are meant to play pro ball…their natural ability will one day allow them the opportunity. I am a firm believer that Major League Baseball players aren’t made…they are born.”

End quote

Doug’s last sentence hit home for me and I hope it’s something that will also hit home for the thousands of moms and dads out there who are considering year-round travel sports!

Joseph Campbell was very well read. After you read this, you might realize why you haven’t kept up as much as he did.

“So during the years of the Depression I had arranged a schedule for myself. When you don’t have a job or anyone to tell you what to do, you’ve got to fix one for yourself. I divided the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four-hour periods, and free one of them.

“By getting up at eight o’clock in the morning, by nine I could sit down to read. That meant I used the first hour to prepare my own breakfast and take care of the house and put things together in whatever shack I happened to be living in at the time. Then three hours of that first four-hour period went to reading.

“Then came an hour break for lunch and another three-hour unit. And then comes the optional next section. It should normally be three hours of reading and then an hour out for dinner and then three hours free and an hour getting to bed so I’m in bed by twelve.

“On the other hand, if I were invited out for cocktails or something like that, then I would put the work hour in the evening and the play hour in the afternoon.

“It worked very well. I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight.”

This is one of the best articles I have ever read on any fitness/health related issue. It gives good advice, too.


The media has raised awareness about the hustlers of the back pain industrial complex before Crooked’s publication. Surgery has been outed as, for many patients, “useless.” When, in early 2017, the American College of Physicians issued new guidelines saying that strong opioids such as Vicodin and Oxycontin should only rarely be prescribed for nonspecific back pain, reporters helped get the word out, while calling out the back pain businesses for their role in the current opioid crisis.

Nonetheless, the prescriptions and surgeries continue, partly because patients want the pain to go away—now. To many it seems counterintuitive that exercise is doable or the right solution when someone is already suffering.

As Ramin also told CBC radio, the psychologists she spoke to for the book talk about a cognitive shift that’s needed to “understand that yes when you start exercising there will be pain. There definitely will be because you are just as out of shape as all get out. But in the right hands, in the hands of a back whisperer, you can get through that and you can get strong and you can get your back muscles and the rest of your body balanced and you can straighten out your gait and you can straighten out your posture.”

The second half of Crooked is a guide to finding those right hands. Ramin shares her tips for tracking down a back whisperer—such as a physiologist or a doctorate-level physical therapist who’s also an orthopedic clinical specialist—to coach you through recovery.

She introduces Stuart McGill, a professor of kinesiology at University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, and a globally recognized “back mechanic,” whose “big three” exercises she does daily:

End quote…and see the video in the article.

This is just a great article about the writing process, plus good advice for the rest of us just trying to remember things.

“Only connect, as E.M. Forster said, but you do need material to connect in the first place. Hence the second pillar of the process: carrying a notebook. To the Missouri Review Sedaris described himself as less funny than observant, adding that ‘everybody’s got an eye for something. The only difference is that I carry around a notebook in my front pocket. I write everything down, and it helps me recall things,’ especially for later inclusion in his diary. When he publicly opened his notebook at the request of a redditor while doing an AMA a few years ago, he found the words, ‘Illegal metal sharks… white skin classy… driver’s name is free Time… rats eat coconuts… beautiful place city, not beautiful…’

“These cryptic lines, he explained, were ‘notes I wrote in the Mekong delta a few weeks ago. A Vietnamese woman was giving me a little tour, and this is what I jotted down in my notebook.’ For instance, ‘I was asking about all the women whom I saw on motor scooters wearing opera gloves, and masks that covered everything but their eyes. And the driver told me they were trying to keep their skin white, because it’s just classier. Tan skin means you’re a farmer. So that’s something I remembered from our conversation, so when I transcribe my notebook into my diary, I added all of that.’ And one day his readers may well see this fragment of life that caught his attention appear again, but as part of a coherent, polished narrative whole.”

I’m not sure if this an article on fitness or an article on taking a journey, but it is lovely.


Spring came, and I canceled my gym membership. I had no desire to lift a weight ever again. I just wanted to do a proper pull-up. I found bars under the Brooklyn Bridge, beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and on the riverfront in Long Island City, where I practiced my pull-ups before a sunset-pink Manhattan skyline. Once, I ventured to Coney Island, where I did sets facing the Atlantic, surrounded by sea gulls. Sometimes I was alone, but more often than not, I was joined by a stranger.

None of the pull-up fiends I’ve met care about the maximum number of pull-ups you can do in a row. Nobody seems too impressed with muscle tone. What matters is form. The other day in Prospect Park, I watched a guy with slick sunglasses and biceps like lobster claws grip the bar. He did about 15 chin-ups; on every single one of them, his elbows never went below a 90-degree angle. Then I got on the bar and did five pull-ups. On each one, I did my best to go all the way down, until my elbows locked, and strained every fiber of my core to keep my legs straight as I went back up.

When I was finished, a pull-up guru I’ve long looked up to, a sinewy Rastafarian with a short, scraggly beard, sidled up to me and whispered, ‘‘Now that’s a pull-up.’’

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I found this whole article fascinating, but this particular part really made me think. Does “keeping up the Joneses” or whatever keep people from happiness? This article is well worth your time.

“If you define being in the closet as picking partners based on what society wants rather than what you want, many people are in the closet. For example, I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members.

“Porn featuring overweight women is surprisingly common among men. But the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends.”

This week, I will enjoy several great workouts and probably hear a lot of fireworks. Utah is very dry this year, but they allowed open fireworks again, so I can only hope that my neighbors are reasonable and we don’t burn up a bunch of our state again.

I can hope.

Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


According to Brett Jones, who talks a lot about power training, what may have been missed by many is laying the foundation for that power. In this article, he discusses power and the foundation for it, all gears around the push press.