Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 143

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 143

In this short Q&A from an audience member of their Perform Better lecture, Dan and Gray Cook look at the self-limiting value of using holds in the tall-kneeling position. It’s amazing how quickly asymmetries appear.


My road trips pick up again this weekend. I don’t mind the travel as it does give me a chance to read and work. This past weekend, I watched my grandchildren, Danny and Josephine. I realized about halfway through Saturday that I am not in the kind of shape I used to be in.

Kids have amazing energy resources! It also seems that both of them will be lawyers as their ability to hone in an argument is amazing: no matter what they do, the correct answer is that ice cream will be consumed.

I’m also beginning to train for an upcoming Olympic lifting meet. My team is folding up as the national governing body doesn’t seem to like teams that are nearly 40 years old. The costs and requirements go up yearly. I always find it interesting when an organization now demands coaches pay for certifications after volunteer coaching for four or five decades like my coach, Dave Turner.

So, Dave asked me to join him as our team “goes out with a bang” (think the sound of dropping weights). In 1980, I won best lifter at our first State Meet and I met Dave and we have been friends, training partners and trusted helpers ever since.

I enjoy O lifting. I can’t lift what I used to warm up with, but there is no sport like it. It’s “you and the bar.”

That might also describe some of my weekends, too.

The internet continues to buzz about diet. This article was sent to me by my wife, Tiffini, with a “you are right” ping.

“Why is it that the normal diet is three meals a day plus snacks? It isn’t that it’s the healthiest eating pattern, now that’s my opinion but I think there is a lot of evidence to support that. There are a lot of pressures to have that eating pattern, there’s a lot of money involved. The food industry — are they going to make money from skipping breakfast like I did today? No, they’re going to lose money. If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people?”

The TedTalk that follows the same line of thinking can be found here.

Another one on “Fast Five” is here.

This article got me thinking about a lot of things. I have always hated committee work and, sadly, most of my career was in systems that believed in collaboration and committee work. Everything in this article is “true,” in my experience.


Rather than improving their own performance, mediocre employees socially isolate top performers, spread nasty rumors about them, and either sabotage, or attempt to steal credit for, the top performers’ work. As the study put it: “Cooperative contexts proved socially disadvantageous for high performers.”

This social isolation creates special difficulties for introverted employees who work in open-plan offices. While some extroverts seem to draw energy from a chaotic environment, introverts find such environments draining.

Sometimes the only way that introverts can get their work completed is to work from home, creating even more potential social isolation. Indeed, top performers who work from home are natural and easy target for workplace gossip and backbiting.

Unless checked, this tendency can result in an exodus of top talent. As a recent Inc.com column pointed out: “The No. 1 reason high performers leave organizations in which they are otherwise happy is because of the tolerance of mediocrity.”

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One of my favorite movies is Baby Boom. Sam Shepard’s death came as a surprise to me and, oddly, I really seemed bothered by it. This article from his friend moved me.

“Awake. Prepare for the day. Have coffee, a little grub. Set to work, writing. Then a break, outside, to sit in the Adirondack chairs and look at the land. We didn’t have to talk then, and that is real friendship. Never uncomfortable with silence, which, in its welcome form, is yet an extension of conversation. We knew each other for such a long time. Our ways could not be defined or dismissed with a few words describing a careless youth. We were friends; good or bad, we were just ourselves. The passing of time did nothing but strengthen that. Challenges escalated, but we kept going and he finished his work on the manuscript. It was sitting on the table. Nothing was left unsaid. When I departed, Sam was reading Proust.”

I liked this article on generational titles. Perhaps it is overstated, but anytime we can get a sense of how other people think and act, I’m in favor of it.


Birth Year      Archetype      Generational Name
1901-1924       Hero                   G.I.
1925-1942       Artist                   Silent
1943-1960       Prophet               Baby Boom
1961-1981       Nomad                Generation X
1982-2004       Hero                    Millennial
2005-?             Artist                    Homeland

The characteristics of each archetype aren’t neatly divided by the calendar; they are better seen as evolving along a continuum. (This is a very important point. It’s why we get trends and changes, not abrupt turnarounds. Thankfully.) People born toward the beginning or end of a generation share some aspects of the previous or following one.

Hero generations are usually raised by protective parents. Heroes come of age during a time of great crisis. Howe calls them heroes because they resolve that crisis, an accomplishment that then defines the rest of their lives.

Following the crisis, heroes become institutionally powerful in midlife and remain focused on meeting great challenges. In old age, they tend to have a spiritual awakening as they watch younger generations work through cultural upheaval.

The G.I. Generation that fought World War II is the most recent example of the hero archetype. They built the US into an economic powerhouse in the postwar years and then confronted youthful rebellion in the 1960s.

Further back, the generation of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, heroes of the American Revolution, experienced the religious “Great Awakening” in their twilight years.

Artists are the children of heroes, born before and during the crisis. They are, however, not old enough to be an active part of the solution. Highly protected during childhood, Artists are risk-averse young adults in the post-crisis years.

They see conformity as the best path to success. They develop and refine the innovations forged in the crisis. Artists experience the same cultural awakening as heroes but from the perspective of mid-adulthood.

Today’s older retirees are mostly artists, part of the “Silent Generation” that may remember World War II but were too young to participate. They married early and moved into gleaming new 1950s suburbs.

The Silent Generation went through its own midlife crisis in the 1970s and 1980s before entering a historically affluent, active, gated-community retirement.

Prophet generations experience childhood in a period of post-crisis affluence. Having not seen a real crisis, they often create cultural upheaval during their young adult years. In midlife, they become moralistic, values-obsessed leaders and parents. As they enter old age, prophets lay the groundwork for the next crisis.

The postwar Baby Boomers are the latest prophet generation. They grew up in generally comfortable times with the US at the height of its global power. They expanded their consciousness when they came of age in the “Awakening” period of the 1960s. They defined the 1970s/1980s “yuppie” lifestyle and are now entering old age, having shaped the culture by virtue of sheer numbers.

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When I first came across Maffetone’s work in 1987, I loved his contrarian insights about most of the dogma of the day. I liked this article this week.


I first learned about the dangers of stretching in the mid 1970s, and by the early 1980s. As I gained more experience treating and training athletes, I developed an even better clinical perspective. By that time I had many hundreds of athletes to compare. The results were that in those who were injured a significant number were regular stretchers. Meanwhile, among athletes who did not stretch, injury rates were significantly lower.

While these were simply my own observations, many in sports medicine who recommended stretching often claimed they had the opposite perspective — stretching helped athletes.

Clinicians who evaluated muscle function in athletes observed one outstanding factor — stretching a muscle could make it longer (the reason it increases flexibility), and this resulted in a reduction in function from a loss of power. In other words, stretching caused abnormal inhibition — weakness. There was a consensus on this issue by many, although certainly not all, clinicians.

Despite these notions, the tradition of stretching became a difficult one to break for millions of athletes — it’s as ritualistic as reading the new running shoe reviews. It often starts in young athletes who are encouraged by coaches to stretch to reduce injuries.

Trying to rationalize against strong tradition was not easy. I often used a common example of the increased injury rate in stretchers versus non-stretchers regarding the hamstring muscles. It is both the most frequently injured muscle group and the most stretched. Studies now show that stretching does not make tight hamstrings less stiff.

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I guess this article came out a while ago, but I just found it searching for hill sprints. I think it is brilliant.

“As a kid, I grew up watching Walter Payton dominate the National Football League. He was an absolute beast on the field. I would always imitate him when I played tackle football with my friends. To no surprise, Walter Payton was also known for his hard work off the field. He is one of my early sources of inspiration for hill sprints. Walter Payton ran hills, so I wanted to run hills.

“Walter Payton also skipped rope, so I wanted to skip rope.”

Hey, I return my carts! This article pats me on the back for doing this noble service.


Cart Returners Put Others First

There are hundreds of excuses for someone to leave their cart propped up on a grassy median or left between parking spaces. Maybe they’re in a hurry or it’s raining. Maybe they’re trying to escape the dirty looks they’re getting because their oversized truck is parked across 2 spaces. Whatever the reason is, there is one thing all of these excuses have in common; it’s all about them.

When you take the time to return your cart to its receptacle, you’re showing that you care about the employees of the grocery store. You acknowledge that if you don’t put the cart away, someone else will have to do it for you. Basically it shows that you’re not a selfish person.

Why not take it a step further? If you see a disabled person with a cart, offer to return it for them. It’s all about helping our neighbor.

Successful people put others first. Instead of being wrapped up in things that benefit them, they look for ways to help and serve those around them. Zig Ziglar said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

When it comes to money, the more giving you are the more you’re likely to make. A hand that’s closed tightly around money ensures none leaves, but also ensures no more can come in. An open hand allows money to come and leave freely.

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Okay: fast, run hills and put your carts away. Let’s add one more thing from this article to make your life better: walking.

“Oppezzo and Schwartz speculate that ‘future studies would likely determine a complex pathway that extends from the physical act of walking to physiological changes to the cognitive control of imagination.’ They recognize that this discovery must also account for such variables as when one walks, and—as so many notable walkers have stressed—where. Researchers at the University of Michigan have approached the where question in a paper titled ‘The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature’ that documents a study in which, writes Jabr, ‘students who ambled through an arboretum improved their performance on a memory test more than students who walked along city streets.’

“One wonders what James Joyce—whose Ulysses is built almost entirely on a scaffolding of walks around Dublin—would make of this. Or Walter Benjamin, whose concept of the flâneur, an archetypal urban wanderer, derives directly from the insights of that most imaginative decadent poet, Charles Baudelaire. Classical walkers, Romantic walkers, Modernist walkers—all recognized the creative importance of this simple movement in time and space, one we work so hard to master in our first years, and sometimes lose in later life if we acquire it. Going for a walk, contemporary research confirms—a mundane activity far too easily taken for granted—may be one of the most salutary means of achieving states of enlightenment, literary, philosophical, or otherwise, whether we roam through ancient forests, over the Alps, or to the corner store.”

It’s time for me to head to the gym. Until next week, keep on lifting and learning.

The Turkish getup is one of Gray’s Key Functional Exercises You Should Know from his video lecture of the same name—the other exercises he breaks down in the video are the chop & lift and the deadlift. At the end of the session, he offered a time for questions. A few that came up are common TGU questions, so we thought you might want to see the answers.

Picking up on The Sword in the Stone:

When they had got rid of the governess, Sir Ector said, “After all, damn it all, we can’t have the boys runnin’ about all day like hooligans—after all, damn it all? Ought to be havin’ a first-rate eddication, at their age. When I was their age I was doin’ all this Latin and stuff at five o’clock every mornin’. Happiest time of me life. Pass the port.”

Sir Grummore Grummursum, who was staying the night because he had been benighted out questin’ after a specially long run, said that when he was their age he was swished every mornin’ because he would go hawkin’ instead of learnin’. He attributed to this weakness the fact that he could never get beyond the Future Simple of Utor. It was a third of the way down the left-hand leaf, he said. He thought it was leaf ninety-seven. He passed the port.

Well, T. H. White, I think, is having some fun with us. “Utor” means “to use or employ” and I have always wondered if our questing friend, Sir Grummore Grummursum, is White’s mouthpiece for the real value of learning a dead language. I know the Art of Manliness had a fun article on Latin phrases we should all know, but the “usefulness” of mastering Latin would be my question.

“Utor” sticks with us in words like “utility” and words like useful, useless, and usable. For more than you will possibly ever need to know about “Utor,” see this.

Maybe now you will see my joke about the “usefulness” of mastering Latin.

When I came home from school one time with poor grades in Latin, my mother was angry with me.

I answered: “But, mom, it has changed so much since you were young!”

That was a joke, an attempt at humor. Latin is, ahem, a “Dead Language.” Doesn’t change. I will wait as you laugh.

And, since we will see my spellcheck alerts for every chapter of this book from the British English edition, let’s just say it was an attempt at humour.

And, of course, White could have chosen Utor because it is so similar to “Tutor.” Merlyn’s tutoring is going to be the core of the entire book. Once again, Tutor is a more recent word than the events of the story, but that is not going to be an issue with White’s work.

Hawking, by the way, continues to see its own rebirth. Near Galway, Ireland,Tiffini and I visited a Falconry and this is a hobby…a passion…that is worthy of further study. Not long ago, the best seller, H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, seemed to be required reading on planes. MacDonald based a lot of her work on the writings of White and his book, The Goshawk. White, too, attempted his hand in falconry and his book (The Goshawk) parallels much of the torture and pain in T. H.’s private life.

I read a very stern criticism of H is for Hawk where the critic basically attacked White. Among other things, White was called sadist and barbaric. As I reviewed the opening paragraphs, it did stand out that White mentions both blading and switching (a “switch” is a stick used for corporal punishment) as punishments for educational missteps.

The critic was using 2016/2017 standards for the critique of White and his life choices. I always find this habit troubling.

I always open my history courses with this quote:

“Nothing is more unfair than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present.” ~ Denys Winstanley

I’ve been always amazed by teenagers who race to school driving while texting as well as puffing on a doobie, but still can find so much fault in the people of history. As someone infinity more qualified than me once said: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

In other words, don’t pick on T. H. White.

This quote of Winstanley is one of my “commandments” of teaching history (especially…and generally everything else, too). Let me share a few others:

•      Never be so sure that something that “everybody knows” is correct.
•      You can be guaranteed that anything that has “always been done this way” has not been.
•      Obviously, if it could be done over again and everybody knew what was going to happen, it would be done different. However, none of this will ever happen.
•      We will never know the whole story.
•      “There is nothing sad-except history.” T. H. White. The Sword in the Stone
•      The “Twin Towers” of the Historical Method are Chronology and Geography.
•      “If they did it to Him, they will do it to us. It is something that we can expect.”

Blessed John XXIII

That last one is a good reminder for me about people who applaud my work and then stab me in the back. Hooligans, I say. By the way, the first known use of “Hooligan” is 1896, a bit later historically than the story of King Arthur. One online source mentions it might be taken from an Irish surname, but there is little evidence.

Oh, and on “Pass the port.” In a few paragraphs, White will tell us that it is NOT port, rather “Metheglyn” which is honey-wine or mead. White works fast and loose with history throughout his books, but think more of Beowulf here than medieval movies. Mead could be flavored a lot of different ways and White is trying to share with us the image of two English bachelors of probably the turn of the century around 1900…and, yes, Holmes and Watson would make a good “for example.”

Until next time, be useful and pass the port.


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