Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 142

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 142

What were the game-changing events in Dan life? One thing’s for sure: Dan’s game-changers are all about performance!


I am waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport here in Chicago. I had a great weekend with Perform Better and then doing the photoshoot for a book on kettlebells. I let myself all get tired and hot and sweaty, but it was a great weekend.

I sat in with Thom Plummer and his big questions at the end are worth the time to think about things. As those of us who have survived the Game of Thrones for the past seven years, plans don’t always go as planned. I ask people this: “Two decades from now, how do you want this training or diet to affect you?” Thom has a series of these and they are “free money” for your career.

I also got the updated version of FitRanx from Nick Rians. His testing system is one of the smartest things I have seen. Not everybody wants or needs to prove themselves on TV, but a lot of us want to “check in” to see what and how we are doing. I keep telling myself I can do Level 8.

That’s what I tell myself. It’s like when my mom told me girls didn’t like me because I was too pretty…

For whatever reason, this week on the web, diet became the number one topic….everywhere! Facebook was in a tizzy over some documentary, movies were reblogged and the topic exploded. I don’t like WW to wormhole too much. So, let’s “warm up” with something Brian Hassler shared in the forum.


Myth #1: The goal of a warmup is to get comfortable

Reality: Curry’s goal isn’t to get comfortable — it’s the opposite. He takes on a series of difficult tasks designed to test him, to put him on the learning edge, making mistakes and fixing them. By being uncomfortable now, he prepares himself to be comfortable later.

Myth #2: Keep intensity light, save your energy for the game

Reality: Everything is high intensity, high focus, and high energy. He dribbles hundreds of times. He takes 75 jumpers, for starters, far more than he’ll take in a game.  The energy can be restored. What is not restorable is the opportunity to pre-create game intensity.

Myth 3: Warmups are loose affairs. You don’t have to design them.

Reality: Every moment of Curry’s 20-minute warmup is designed within an inch of its life to target the key parts of his game. There’s flexibility and fun — notice how he progressively alters the arc of certain shots, and takes an insanely long shot at the end — but only within a larger structure that purposely built to expand his skillset.

End quote

This next article raises a great point, but I feel that the “trials” have happened:you can travel the globe and see what works and doesn’t work with food and obesity. This has been done a lot of times. Now, I also agree that those of us in the West have such mixed populations (I can show you my DNA) that “maybe” this would help, but I am out of my pay grade.


1) It’s not practical to run randomized trials for most big nutrition questions.

In medicine, the randomized controlled trial is considered the gold standard for evidence. Researchers will take test subjects and randomly assign them to one of two groups. One group gets a treatment; the other gets a placebo.

The idea is that because people were randomly assigned, the only real difference between the two groups (on average) was the treatment. So if there’s a difference in outcomes, it’s fair to say that the treatment was the cause. (This was how James Lind figured out that citrus fruits seemed to have an effect on scurvy.

The problem is that it’s just not practical to run these sorts of rigorous trials for most important nutrition questions. It’s too difficult to randomly assign different diets to different groups of people and have them stick with those diets for enough time to find clues about whether certain foods caused certain diseases.

“In an ideal world,” said the British physician and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, “I would take the next 1,000 children born in Oxford Hospital, randomize them into two different groups, and have half of them eat nothing but fresh fruit and vegetables for the rest of their lives, and half eat nothing but bacon and fried chicken. Then I’d measure who gets the most cancer, heart disease, who dies the soonest, who has the worst wrinkles, who’s the most clever, and so on.”

But, Goldacre adds, “I would have to imprison them all, because there’s no way I would be able to force 500 people to eat fruits and vegetables for a life.’”

It’s undeniably a good thing that scientists can’t imprison people and force them to stick to a particular diet. But it means that real-world clinical trials on diet tend to be messy and not so clear-cut.

Conversely, it is possible to conduct rigorous randomized control trials for very short-term questions. Some “feeding studies” keep people in a lab for a period of days or weeks and control everything they eat, for example.

End quote

And, then again, this article argues the obvious. In my life, “obvious” is always the best place to start.


Sleep well and keep stress levels low:  If you aren’t sleeping well, your metabolism takes a hit, along with your eating routine. You could be grappling with more cravings or even a loss of appetite.

Stress doesn’t help either. It comes with a hormone called cortisol, which is tied to higher levels of fat in the body. Aim for about seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Drink lots of water and green tea: Keep yourself hydrated. At times, you may be mistaking thirst with hunger pangs and a glass of water may be enough to tie you over.

White turns to green tea to help with metabolism, too. It’s low in calories and packed with antioxidants.

Keep a food journal: The very first step in Hopaluk’s weight loss journey was investing in a notebook to log what she was eating, when, and how she was feeling to try to find any patterns that needed to be broken.

Studies have suggested that people who use them lose twice as much weight as those who don’t, Freedhoff said.

End quote

This piece pops up every so often but I like how it reinforces what every mom and coach from the last century would have told you.


Sleep is often overlooked when it comes to weight gain and obesity.

It is known that poor sleep has negative effects on various hormones that are related to weight gain, and can contribute to increased hunger and cravings (24, 25, 26).

In recent decades, average sleep duration has decreased by 1-2 hours per night. The reasons for this are numerous, but increased artificial lighting and electronics are likely contributors.

As it turns out, short sleep duration is one of the strongest individual risk factors for obesity. It is linked to an 89% increased risk in children, and a 55% increased risk in adults (27).

End quote

I can’t vouch for the science in this article, but I “think” this is more true than false.

“Currently 75% of healthcare dollars are spent treating chronic metabolic disease. Instead of funnelling billions to drug research and development, perhaps more of that money could be spent encouraging the implementation of policy directives that encourage population-wide behavioural change (similar to the efforts to combat tobacco and alcohol) to reverse insulin resistance. Even a 20% reduction in sugar consumption can evidence marked cost savings. Public health should work primarily to support the consumption of real food that help protect against neurohormonal and mitochondrial dysfunction, and not continue to promote calorie-directed messages that blame victims, and exacerbate these pandemics. Then, and only then, might we achieve the goal of attenuating the prevalence of CVD and the other chronic diseases of the metabolic syndrome.”

Maybe everything so far in WW is nonsense this week, but “this guy” seemed to get it right for me.


Worry less about eating well or getting more sleep, and have fun. “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”

If you want to live long, don’t be overweight. “For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk, and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”

Don’t blindly follow what your doctor says. “When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

To conquer pain, have fun. “Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.”

Always take the stairs and carry your own belongings. “I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.”

End quote

(For the full piece, read this.)

I should probably pull out those old WWs with the 97-year-old bodybuilder and link up what this Japanese doctor said. I think their truths work better for me.

Well, this week I have a talk on Now What? to a business and then I babysit the grandkids and I am sure I will learn more about exercise doing that than teaching another class.

My first installment of my look at T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone will begin below.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.

Chapter One, the first two paragraphs

“On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled with her astrolabe, and when she got specially muddled she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles. She did not rap Kay’s knuckles, because when Kay grew older he would be Sir Kay, the master of the estate. The Wart was called the Wart because it more or less rhymed with Art, which was short for his real name. Kay had given him the nickname. Kay was not called anything but Kay, as he was too dignified to have a nickname and would have flown into a passion if anybody had tried to give him one. The governess had red hair and some mysterious wound from which she derived a lot of prestige by showing it to all the women of the castle, behind closed doors. It was believed to be where she sat down, and to have been caused by sitting on some armour at a picnic by mistake. Eventually she offered to show it to Sir Ector, who was Kay’s father, had hysterics and was sent away. They found out afterwards that she had been in a lunatic hospital for three years.

In the afternoons the programme was: Mondays and Fridays, tilting and horsemanship; Tuesdays, hawking; Wednesdays, fencing; Thursdays, archery; Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette. If you did the wrong thing at the mort or the undoing, for instance, you were bent over the body of the dead beast and smacked with the flat side of a sword. This was called being bladed. It was horseplay, a sort of joke like being shaved when crossing the line. Kay was not bladed, although he often went wrong.”

In the opening two paragraphs of The Sword in the Stone, our author, T. H. White, opens up a great dynamic for the rest of this book. Wart, a less than dignified nickname (I’ve had worse from older brothers), obviously has some kind of backstory and we know nothing of it. His companion, Kay, is the son of a “Sir” and we can see already that Kay is going to be important someday somewhere. But, even the dimmest reader can make guesses about Art(hur).

White also foreshadows an issue here: the loss of the tutor/teacher will need to be addressed and that story becomes the backbone of this book. A “blading” will occur in the book in a scene that ties together a few loose ends and sets up a story line in the next segment of the larger story, “The Once and Future King.”

Even as an adult, I would enjoy the afternoon sessions. As The Sword in the Stone progresses, we will have a story about each of the afternoon classes and, oddly for a story about knights and knighthood, the best stories will involve archery. Historically, the longbow doomed armored knights and the first recorded victories of longbow over knight come not long after the Doomesday Book and the Norman Conquest…1066 to 1100 or so.

At the Battles of Crecy and Agincourt, just to name two, the longbow proved far more powerful and deadly than mounted knights…yet, armor was continually updated and made into just the past few centuries.

When I asked my professor about this issue, Norm Jones replied: “It’s like buying an expensive car. Is it better than a normal or cheap car?”

Um. Not necessarily.

“Right. But everyone knows you can afford an expensive car.”

Light bulb goes off: Ah…armor is expensive. I have armor. I am better than you.

Got it! How little things have changed…

White seems, as some level, to appreciate this and we will enjoy the archery stories that lead us to the tutor and Robin Wood (Wood! “Pronounce it right,” argue the characters.)

The mornings are a bit drier. I do respect the importance of logic in the classroom. If you are not up to date on your medieval class work, here you go:

Court Hand: it’s a kind of handwriting used “back in the day” for legal proceedings. It was very formal…very upright. Probably no fun at all…

Summulae Logicales: This is the medieval study of Aristotelian Logic. This is the culmination of the work of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  The author, Peter of Spain, sums it as this:

“Dialectic logic is the art of arts, science of sciences, having the way to the principles of all methods; for in fact dialectic alone credibly argues about the principles of all other sciences, and therefore in acquisition of all other sciences dialectic must be prior.” In other words, learn logic first and everything else will be easier. It’s very much like I tell people to learn Geometry before studying lifting. (It’s all about your Givens!) (See handouts here and here for my intro for students)

Organon: the study of the six key books of Aristotle.

Repetition: “Repetition is a major rhetorical strategy for producing emphasis, clarity, amplification, or emotional effect. Within the history of rhetoric terms have been developed to name both general and very specific sorts of repetition.”

I can’t do better than this! Here.

Astrology: most of us know this as the twelve signs of the Zodiac. I don’t believe in it; as a Virgo, we tend to be skeptical of these kinds of things. But, in the time of the story, Astrology was major influence in areas such as medicine. Trying to use the past to predict the future is perhaps the most “human” thing we do…Astrology is an attempt to systematize this urge.

“Kay was not bladed, although he often went wrong.”

As a sixty-year-old, this line stands out to me more than when I was thirteen. I have seen the long-term issues with parents never carrying out their “threats.” If you assign a punishment to some behavioral issue, you need to carry it out. I learned this the hard way twenty years ago and wrote an article about it.

It is just the Arrows

The month of January is named after the ‘two headed’ Roman god, Janus. It isn’t a bad image to start a year, one set of eyes looking ahead to the future and the other set looking behind at the past. Many of us fill out sheets of paper with resolutions for the New Year, often based on the failings of last year. I like to also spend some time reviewing the best parts of the last year, as well as the minor tragedies of life that seem to pop up here and there on life’s journey.

January is also a month that has an interesting set of Memorial Days for such Saints as Basil the Great, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Anthony, Francis de Sales, John Bosco and Thomas Aquinas. An interesting and enlightening group of catechists, certainly, but one of my favorite Saints also makes our list this month: Saint Sebastian.

The image of Sebastian is misleading: yes, he was a Roman soldier who was mercilessly executed by Emperor Diocletian when Sebastian’s faith as a Christians was discovered. But, the statues and the paintings can be confusing. Yes, Sebastian was shot by a hail of arrows, but, you see, that is not what killed him. He survived the onslaught of arrows just to go back to tell Diocletian that the Emperor was in trouble with the Lord. Then, Diocletian had Sebastian clubbed to death. This time, he died.

Sebastian is the Patron Saint of athletes, but I would also argue that he provides an excellent role model for teachers and parents. Those of us who enter into catechetical ministry often find ourselves overwhelmed by the multiple duties which only are compounded by the occasional lapses of students, parents, and colleagues. Perhaps every teacher would understand that ‘it wasn’t the arrows that got me, it was the clubbing.’

Occasionally, though, it is in our moments of greatest weakness, after the clubbing if you will, that we teach the best. Years ago, I had a young man who had decided to change his life path and get involved in sports. The process of moving from one set of life’s choices to sports was occasionally difficult for him and he would occasionally get in trouble at school and receive detention.

To ‘encourage’ him to mend his school behaviors, I offered him a challenge. Next time he got detention, he would have to run six hills carrying small hand weights. Each time after that, we would double the number of hills and double the weight of what we carried. Oh, and one other thing: I had to do them with him. My logic, which I now realize was cloudy, was that he would fear to get into trouble as he would have to endure the hills.

He was better at school, truly, but things can happen. A few days later, we enjoyed our six hills together. A few weeks went by and we found ourselves with five-pound weights in each hand and twelve hills. These were not easy. At the time, I weighed a full fifty pounds more than I do now and my heart rate and breathing were getting dangerously fast after the first hill.

But, the fear of me dying seemed to change this boy. Unfortunately, things can happen and we found ourselves on the hill again. Ten pounds in each hand and twenty-four hills was the agreed upon goal. Around twenty, Mike looked at me and said: ‘No, Mr. John, you have to stop I’m worried about you.’

I can’t type my response as I didn’t really say anything. It was the clubbing not the arrows. For the record, long into the afternoon, we finished. Also, for the record, Mike never got in trouble again.

As I look back, it is the single best teaching moment of my career. I said nothing; instead I ‘walked with’ a young man who needed help. Oh, and I survived. It was just arrows, I guess.

In other words, Kay needed a good blading.


A relatively simple question came up on the Dan John Q and A forum: What were the “game-changing” events in your life?

It’s a great thread that led to Dan expanding on it into this outstanding recap.