Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 141

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 141

Great coaches are great at communication. In this week’s new OTPbooks.com article, Chris Holder breaks down the art of communication for coaching…and life.

I had a busy social calendar this week with weddings, parties and events. This week, I pick up on my travel schedule again and head out to Chicago for Perform Better. I have enjoyed the few weeks without travel, but this is what I do.

It’s that time of year when some people revisit New Year’s Resolutions. I decided to work on my teaching this year, especially in the kettlebell movements. My bent press and snatch instruction were just not up to par, so I have been training on these and reading up and striving to get better.

I am not necessarily a big fan of the bent press, but the movements leading up to it with various stretches, windmills and Turkish getup work seem to make me move better, feel better and probably look better.

Summer also gives me time to read more. One of my young friends, Chloe, has got me reading Rick Riordan books. I have finished the Percy Jackson series and now I am reading “The Lost Hero.” I will come back to this in a moment, but some of the best reading in the past half century is this odd subcategory of Young Adult Fiction. Certainly, Harry Potter comes to mind, but this is a field that seems to be better than the title “Young Adult Fiction.” “Divergent” and “Hunger Games” were solid books and movies and I really enjoy Riordan’s books.

I really ranged far and wide on the web this week, but the same themes kept showing up. The Obesity Crisis is really getting a wide range of articles and it is not hard to see the dots connecting.

This first article raises a point I think about a lot: you are NOT better than me (use the New Jersey accent from “How I Met Your Mother”) if you eat clean or vegan or whatever.


Scott-Dixon agrees: “With the concept of clean eating, there’s so many moralistic, judgmental associations.” So few people can afford to make every meal ‘clean’ that it can lead to a skewed relationship with food. “Now every choice you make has this incredible baggage; you can’t just make a choice? With clients, the way we see this manifest is that every eating choice becomes this opportunity to be paranoid, anxious, worried, punishing, or critical,” she says.

And if you do have the dough to eat 100 percent clean, you hold the moral high ground. “Clean proponents need to realize that not everyone has the resources to go out and buy a grass-fed steak that costs four times as much as the conventional steak, which most research shows is probably nutritionally equivalent,” says Anothony D’Orazio, an adjunct professor of biology and nutrition at Ohio State University. “And that doesn’t make anyone any less of a person.”

End quote

This article sums fasting very well. Honestly, for as simple as fasting is…um, don’t eat…there are a lot of ways to explain it.

“Fasting can be one of the critical keys to unleashing fantastic athletic performance, and it is a certain route to enhancing recovery and overall cellular efficiency. Fasting is, however, a stopgap measure, an intervention, and will not make up for a lack of healthful living practices. If people fast for improved performance and afterward go back to eating those same foods that resulted in the need for a fast, they are simply wasting their time.

“The true key to optimum health and performance is a persistent and consistent dedication to efficient and effective training, coupled with the healthiest of all possible lifestyle choices, including eating foods from which one does not need to recover. The committed athlete will choose to take up the onus of responsibility to live in such a fashion that (repeated) fasting is not required.”

I just like the candor and honesty of this article. It got a lot of pings on Facebook and I think it is worth a read.


Yusuf also raised questions about fundamental recommendations that are almost never subject to critical scrutiny. “Where on earth did the concept that we should eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables come from?” asked Yusuf.

“Why not 4, why not 3, why not 6, why not 7? Is it all fruits, is it all vegetables, is it what kinds of fruits, what kinds of vegetables?”

He reported that the PURE data found a neutral effect for vegetables, and that the literature is “really inconsistent.” More importantly, he dismissed the idea that foods need to be judged based on their effect on health. “But I have to tell you, when it’s regarding diet, neutral is good. You have to eat something. If you like it eat it. Not every food has to be good or bad.”

Yusuf then pointed out that it is almost impossible for a large portion of the world to follow these fruit and vegetable recommendations. “Why are fruits and vegetables not consumed? All the guidelines are written by people sitting in Geneva or Dallas who are white, rich, and male. They are male, and so they don’t know the cost of foods, they don’t go do the grocery shopping. They’re white and they only think of what happens in their countries.” In high income countries like Canada and Sweden people spend only about 10% of their income on food. But in lower income countries like Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe, 65% of income is spent on food. It is then “no wonder that they’re going to buy the cheapest food,” he said. The cost of buying 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables, as recommended by WHO, is completely unaffordable for many.

End quote

This article shifts the diet paradox for me. I found the basic concept interesting: the role of “everybody else” on your eating.

“Eating is not just a physical act; it’s sensual, cultural, and communal. Does the stomach respond similarly in people who truly love food versus those who see it as just fuel? How are we influenced by the attitudes of the people we eat with? Some of the newest placebo research suggests that placebos can be enhanced by peer pressure. (In one experiment, just knowing people experienced pain relief from a drug correlated with other people feeling unusually high placebo effects.)

“Lately, I’ve had the chance to see this in my own life. Recently, at the behest of several family members, I cut gluten out of my diet. It’s my first real diet, and yes, I am aware that gluten is not necessarily bad. But I’ve also felt a little like I’m joining not just my family, but a tribe of gluten-free people across the world, and I’ve dropped about 15 pounds. I have to say that the science is pretty strong that I am just experiencing a placebo effect.

“But in the end, do I really care? Sometimes belief is as good as the real thing.”

I have an article coming out next week on OTPbooks.com covering the idea of game-changers. Meanwhile, this little piece gives you 40 other ideas.

I thought this article was brilliant, especially for football coaches and anyone in a team setting.


1. Dependability.

Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

2. Structure and clarity.

High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles within the group.

3. Meaning.

The work has personal significance to each member.

4. Impact.

The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.

Yes, that’s four, not five. The last one stood out from the rest:

5. Psychological Safety.

We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.

But imagine a different setting, a situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.

End quote

That last article linked to this one. I have used the concept of soups and stews to explain good training (you can never be sure of which ingredient made it “perfect;” moreover, the longer it simmers, the better it gets), so I like the insights on microwaves and crock pots.


2. Great feats need time to become a reality.

As Bezos states, “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon.”

Each of us has heard the phrase “patience is a virtue.” But practicing this is easier said than done.

It’s difficult to practice patience living in today’s microwave generation, where people expect instant results, and if they’re not here today, then it’s taken as a signal to quit.

Think of succeeding with your health and business as more of a Crock-Pot that takes hours to finish, as opposed to instant food in microwaves.

Patience is something you consciously develop. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes, while your results begin to expand. Patience leads to smart decision making that isn’t emotionally charged.

When you make solely emotionally-charged decisions, this leads to a short-term mentality which neglects your long term.

In wellness, this is choosing fad diets and crazy cleanses for immediately weight loss, despite the potential long-term implications it could have on your health. In business, this is opting for a get-rich-quick scheme that fills your bank account in the present but, coincidentally, will be the very reason your bank account is empty in the long term.

You’re here for the long term, not to be a flash in the pan and feel good for a brief moment.

End quote

Each week, I end with something like: Until then, let’s keep lifting and learning. I have held the book “The Sword in the Stone” as my favorite of all time. Today, it might be called Young Adult Fiction, but that misses the fact that it is one of those books that we learn more every time we read it.

What I love about T. H. White’s classic is that he unfold the love of learning. Merlyn is a tutor, and, yes, “Merlyn” is how the name is spelled. Some of the points of the book took me years to grasp.

Discussing this with Michael Warren Brown, he said I should discuss this “somehow.” The problem with “The Sword in the Stone” is that every page drips with the love of learning. So, I decided to start a brief weekly review of a few points of this book. I will use the 1938 version and please don’t ask me to geek out about the other inferior versions. What is wonderful about the 1938 version is the stories of learning later cut from other editions…which never made sense to me.

When Arthur (“Wart” in the book) pulls the sword from the stone, this section literally becomes a lifting lesson:

“”Come, sword,” he said. “I must cry your mercy and take you for a better cause.

“This is extraordinary,” said the Wart. “I feel strange when I have hold of this sword, and I notice everything much more clearly. Look at the beautiful gargoyles of the church, and of the monastery which it belongs to. See how splendidly all the famous banners in the aisle are waving. How nobly that yew holds up the red flakes of its timbers to worship God. How clean the snow is.

I can smell something like fetherfew and sweet briar-and is it music that I hear?”

It was music, whether of pan-pipes or of recorders, and the light in the churchyard was so clear, without being dazzling, that one could have picked a pin out twenty yards away.

“There is something in this place,” said the Wart. “There are people. Oh, people, what do you want?”

Nobody answered him, but the music was loud and the light beautiful.

“People,” cried the Wart, “I must take this sword. It is not for me, but for Kay. I will bring it back.”

There was still no answer, and Wart turned back to the anvil. He saw the golden letters, which he did not read, and the jewels on the pommel, flashing in the lovely light.

“Come, sword,” said the Wart.

He took hold of the handles with both hands, and strained against the stone. There was a melodious consort on the recorders, but nothing moved.

The Wart let go of the handles, when they were beginning to bite into the palms of his hands, and stepped back, seeing stars.

“It is well fixed,” he said.

He took hold of it again and pulled with all his might. The music played more strongly, and the light all about the churchyard glowed like amethysts; but the sword still stuck.

“Oh, Merlyn,” cried the Wart, “help me to get this weapon.”

There was a kind of rushing noise, and a long chord played along with it. All round the churchyard there were hundreds of old friends. They rose over the church wall all together, like the

Punch and Judy ghosts of remembered days, and there were badgers and nightingales and vulgar crows and hares and wild geese and falcons and fishes and dogs and dainty unicorns and solitary wasps and corkindrills and hedgehogs and griffins and the thousand other animals he had met. They loomed round the church wall, the lovers and helpers of the Wart, and they all spoke solemnly in turn. Some of them had come from the banners in the church, where they were painted in heraldry, some from the waters and the sky and the fields about-but all, down to the smallest shrew mouse, had come to help on account of love. Wart felt his power grow.

“Remember my biceps,” said the Oak, “which can stretch out horizontally against Gravity, when all the other trees go up or down.”

“Put your back into it,” said a Luce (or pike) off one of the heraldic banners, “as you once did when I was going to snap you up. Remember that power springs from the nape of the neck.”

“What about those forearms,” asked a Badger gravely, “that are held together by a chest? Come along, my dear embryo, and find your tool.”

A Merlin sitting at the top of the yew tree cried out, “Now then, Captain Wart, what is the first law of the foot? I thought I once heard something about never letting go ?”

“Don’t work like a stalling woodpecker,” urged a Tawny Owl affectionately. “Keep up a steady effort, my duck, and you will have it yet.”

“Cohere,” said a Stone in the church wall.

A Snake, slipping easily along the coping which bounded the holy earth, said, “Now then, Wart, if you were once able to walk with three hundred ribs at once, surely you can co-ordinate a few little muscles here and there? Make everything work together, as you have been learning to do ever since God let the amphibian crawl out of the sea. Fold your powers together, with the spirit of your mind, and it will come out like butter. Come along, homo sapiens, for we humble friends of yours are waiting here to cheer.”

The Wart walked up to the great sword for the third time. He put out his right hand softly and drew it out as gently as from a scabbard.

“Never Let Go.”

Hmmm. I can do something with that.

So, I had this idea of adding a few paragraphs here and there and discussing them at the “bottom” of the weekly WW.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.