Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 145

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 145

If you don’t already have Dan’s newest book, Now What?, click here to grab the first chapter PDF so you can check it out. The rest of you can save the click for later.


The grandkids spent the weekend. I had just finished a three-day RKC and my daughter called. She stayed with us as her husband, Andrew, traveled north to see the eclipse.

Even though they are the “wired in” generation, I noticed that a water hose, a small plastic swimming pool and some plastic glasses entertained them far more than watching shows or playing games on the little computers. When they played, they laughed, ran, hid, and scampered about my backyard and home.

I noticed that hard playing led to better eating and sleeping, too. This is just an observation, but when they start watching shows, they also want sugary junk and always argue and bargain for another show before sleep or napping.

After playing for a few hours in water, they eat a turkey sandwich and take a two-hour nap!

This week, I am off to Perform Better in Long Beach, then I go to Norway for a workshop. I will be gone for eight days and I am planning to lift in meets in October and December, so I need to get more training in. I take advice from Taylor Lewis on this now: I plan a ten-week cycle to last about twelve weeks. The more I travel, the less perfect my training becomes.

And, I think “less perfect” is probably the best way to train.

This week on the web, we continue to be bombarded by diet information that swings left to right to left like a schoolyard swing. This article should have been obvious to any of us who have ever come home hungry and ate potato chips first.

“The study says that the sweetness in the diet drinks, combined with the lack of calories, confuses the brain and triggers a chemical reaction that can actually make you eat more and put on more weight.

“It sends the metabolism haywire, which is bad news for anyone wanting to shed the pounds.

“That’s because in this situation, ‘a calorie is not a calorie’.”

I have been looking for “My Mother’s” recipe for minestrone soup for years. My cousin told me it was the Weight Watchers recipe, so I will be trying this out this week. I’m a big fan of soups, as many know, so here we go.

From the Weight Watchers recipe:


4 cup(s) canned chicken broth

14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes, with basil, garlic and oregano

1 pound(s) uncooked Yukon gold potato(es), peeled, diced

1 medium uncooked zucchini, quartered lengthwise, sliced 3/4-in thick

19 oz canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cup(s) uncooked string beans, cut in 1-in lengths

1 medium uncooked leek(s), chopped (light green and white part only)

1 large uncooked carrot(s), diced

1 rib(s), medium uncooked celery, diced

1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (or more to taste)

2 Tbsp olive oil, extra-virgin

1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste

3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano suggested


Combine broth, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, cannellini beans, string beans, leek, carrot, celery and pepper in a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW setting until vegetables are tender, about 6 hours. Stir in oil and salt; sprinkle with cheese just before serving. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

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So many people sent me this article this week that I felt I should comment on it. Yes, it is a tragedy. Having said that, I am struggling to see why the companies that make protein powders are to blame.


Unknown to the mother-of-two, she had a rare genetic disorder that stopped her body from properly breaking down the protein.

Urea cycle disorder, which affects one in 8000 people, caused a build-up of ammonia in her blood and accumulation of fluid in her brain.

Her family is calling for tighter restrictions on the dietary supplements industry and for warnings about high- protein diets.

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Josh and I had a very nice talk. If you like podcasts, Josh does very good work. Enjoy.

I had a chance years ago to talk and interview Dick Smith. He spoke glowingly of Doctor Ziegler and told me how misunderstood his work has always been. This article opened my eyes about his isotron machine.


Perhaps it would be prudent to step back and establish Dr. Ziegler’s  path to this penetrating medical focus. Prior to opening up his practice in Olney, MD in 1954, part of his extensive medical training included a two year residency in neurological medicine at Tulane University. This particular medical specialty centers on the diagnosis and treatment ( surgical and nonsurgical) of over 600 diseases, conditions and disorders involving the central and peripheral nervous systems, including the coverings, blood vessels and “effector” tissues (muscles).

A subset of neurology is neuromuscular medicine, which junctures at the cross roads of other specialties involving physical medicine and rehabilitation. Some of the more notorious and potentially catastrophic maladies in this category would be ALS, Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy or similar conditions which devastate the function of the brain and spinal cord. The aim of treatment for those afflicted with the aforementioned  is to broadly reduce symptoms, provide as much improvement or relief as possible and optimize quality of life.  So, the former Marine, who had some personal experience with a broken body, brought his considerable talents and tenacity to bear on these progressively debilitating scourges plaguing mankind.

Additionally, focusing on the rejuvenation of handicapped, seriously injured and structurally or biochemically impaired persons  was also a good career move for Ziegler when he began practicing as outbreaks of poliomyelitis–also known as infantile paralysis–were happening worldwide. Typically, this infectious disease attacked the legs, head, neck and diaphragm muscles, frequently resulting in paralysis, which could be either temporary or permanent. And even among those in whom the symptoms abated in their youth, there was also a substantial risk that symptoms would return with a vengeance between the ages of 35-60. This condition was referred to as post-polio syndrome. Characteristically, sufferers experienced extreme muscular weakness, pain and fatigue, which slowly and progressively worsened until “treatment” was coping with the decline in the form of leg braces and power wheelchairs.

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I really enjoyed this article by Pat Flynn. I’m still a believer in the classical concept of a Liberal Education (and some of you should look up what that means before you get angry) and one of the great tools of Liberal Education is teaching you how to learn. I found this article to be very much in the column with my Great Books education of my youth.


My new book is about generalism, or how to be better at almost everything. My argument is you’ll have more fun in life, and an easier time getting ahead, if you focus on breadth, rather than depth, of skill. Great at many things, even if you’re not the best at any one.

This means you should acquire a series of many skills, not just one, and combine them to form a competitive advantage and creative spirit. Some skills you learn to advance your business or career–fitness, writing, marketing, networking, etc. Others you learn for shits and gigs. For me, that’d be music, martial arts, drawing, and so on.

But it wouldn’t be enough to wrote a book about doing all these many things and being *supposedly* good at them. Because all that is, is talk. And anybody can talk.

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Tim Anderson joined us for our RKC and led several “resets” throughout the days. This article highlights a key point to his method.


Your tongue is meant to rest on the roof of your mouth, behind your front teeth. This “resting” position is a powerful neurological switch for your body. Without going into too much detail, it simply just makes your body perform better. Yes, tongue position is a performance enhancer, just ask Michael Jordan. It can help you breathe better, stand taller, jump higher, and sleep better. I know it seems crazy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’ll tell you what I tell everyone in a workshop: Learn to keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth. It can change your life. It is THE RESET underneath all the other resets. It’s the foundation of the foundation. And, it is powerful.

Holding your tongue on the roof of your mouth can help restore your body and help you maintain your health, which means it can help you live your life better; on many levels.

Holding your tongue on the roof of your mouth can also restore and improve your relationship with others. For example, Let’s say you and your spouse get in an argument about the trash. Tempers can easily rise over the most trivial (stupid) things, but egos are blinding. Anyway, in such “conversations” it is really easy to say something to put your spouse in their place and “win” the conversation. But the truth is, if you win, you lose. And, is the trash really worth hurling an arrow at your spouse, the person you love? What good can will come from that?

What if instead, in such a situation, you kept sight of the big picture and simply held your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and took the trash out with optimal posture and solid reflexive strength?

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I’m a big fan of DNA testing. I thought this article underlines one of the great “opportunities” of DNA testing: you might be wrong about what you think!


It is astonishing what DNA testing can do. The same technology can cleave families apart or knit them together. It can prompt painful revelations, and it can bring distantly related members of the human family together on a quest, connecting first cousins who look like sisters, and solving a century-old mystery that could have been solved no other way. It can bring to light a split-second mistake committed by someone long dead, in a city across the country, in a building that no longer exists. It can change the future and it can change the past.

It can change our understanding of who we are.

Plebuch says she and her siblings decided as a family “we were not going to be bitter.” It is a complex feat, made necessary by old-fashioned error and modern-day technology, to grasp that a terrible thing happened, and that you are grateful for it. Nor does Plebuch regret what she’s learned. She does not regard DNA testing as a Pandora’s box better left closed, though this thing she undertook casually turned out, she says, to be “the biggest deal in the world.”

It is the truth, after all.

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Just before I sent this in, Tim posted this blog about his approach to the RKC. I thought it was brilliant.


I enjoyed my RKC experience and I soared through its challenges, effortlessly. Without training with kettlebells, or weight lifting. Here is what I did.

EVERY DAY, because it is important to my number one guiding principle, I Press RESET. I breathe, I nod my head, I rock, I roll, and I crawl or march or walk. Every day. AND, every day, I perform some type of carry or loaded gait pattern. I may go for a 30 minute walk with my heavy backpack, or I may crawl backwards while I pull a sled. But the point is, I load my gait pattern every single day, if only for a few minutes. Well, Sunday is an exception. Sunday’s I typically just roll around on the floor for 10 minutes or take a walk. But every day, other than Sunday, I do these things. By the way, loading my gait pattern is where I learned to make the hard things easy. Carrying a heavy load for time and distance, or crawling across a football field dragging 100 pounds, hardens your mind and body. It quickly takes the breaks off your ability to perform difficult things – while it makes you ridiculously strong…

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I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer; school is starting here in Utah…and high school football. Here comes autumn.

Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


In case you missed the click at the top, here’s another chance: Click this if you don’t already have Dan’s new book, Now What?

Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone”


So it was decided. When Grummore Grummursum had gone home next day, Sir Ector tied a knot in his handkerchief to remember to start a quest for a tutor as soon as he had time to do so, and, as he was not sure how to set about it, he told the boys what Sir Grummore had suggested and warned them not to be hooligans meanwhile. Then they went hay-making.

It was July, and every able-bodied man and woman on the estate worked during that month in the field, under Sir Ector’s direction. In any case the boys would have been excused from being eddicated just then.

Sir Ector’s castle stood in an enormous clearing in a still more enormous forest. It had a courtyard and a moat with pike in it. The moat was crossed by a fortified stone bridge which ended half-way across it. The other half was covered by a wooden drawbridge which was wound up every night. As soon as you had crossed the drawbridge you were at the top of the village street—it had only one street—and this extended for about half a mile, with thatched houses of wattle and daub on either side of it. The street divided the clearing into two huge fields, that on the left being cultivated in hundreds of long narrow strips, while that on the right ran down to a river and was used as pasture. Half of the right-hand field was fenced off for hay.

It was July, and real July weather, such as they had in Old England. Everybody went bright brown, like Red Indians, with startling teeth and flashing eyes. The dogs moved about with their tongues hanging out, or lay panting in bits of shade, while the farm horses sweated through their coats and flicked their tails and tried to kick the horse-flies off their bellies with their great hind hoofs. In the pasture field the cows were on the gad, and could be seen galloping about with their tails in the air, which made Sir Ector angry.

Sir Ector stood on the top of a rick, whence he could see what everybody was doing, and shouted commands all over the two-hundred-acre field, and grew purple in the face. The best mowers mowed away in a line where the grass was still uncut, their scythes roaring in the strong sunlight. The women raked the dry hay together in long strips with wooden rakes, and the two boys with pitchforks followed up on either side of the strip, turning the hay inwards so that it lay well for picking up. Then the great carts followed, rumbling with their spiked wooden wheels, drawn by horses or slow white oxen. One man stood on top of the cart to receive the hay and direct operations, while one man walked on either side picking up what the boys had prepared and throwing it to him with a fork. The cart was led down the lane between two lines of hay, and was loaded in strict rotation from the front poles to the back, the man on top calling out in a stern voice where he wanted each fork to be pitched. The loaders grumbled at the boys for not having laid the hay properly and threatened to tan them when they caught them, if they got left behind.

When the wagon was loaded, it was drawn to Sir Ector’s rick and pitched to him. It came up easily because it had been loaded systematically—not like modern hay—and Sir Ector scrambled about on top, getting in the way of his assistants, who did the real work, and stamping and perspiring and scratching about with his fork and trying to make the rick grow straight and shouting that it would all fall down as soon as the west winds came.

The Wart loved hay-making, and was good at it. Kay, who was two years older, generally stood on the edge of the bundle which he was trying to pick up, with the result that he worked twice as hard as the Wart for only half the result. But he hated to be beaten at anything, and used to fight away with the wretched hay—which he loathed like poison—until he was quite sick.

The day after Sir Grummore’s visit was sweltering for the men who toiled from milking to milking and then again till sunset in their battle with the sultry element. For the hay was an element to them, like sea or air, in which they bathed and plunged themselves and which they even breathed in. The seeds and small scraps stuck in their hair, their mouths, their nostrils, and worked, tickling, inside their clothes. They did not wear many clothes, and the shadows between their sliding muscles were blue on the nut-brown skins. Those who feared thunder had felt ill that morning.

In the afternoon the storm broke. Sir Ector kept them at it till the great flashes were right overhead, and then, with the sky as dark as night, the rain came hurling against them so that they were drenched at once and could not see a hundred yards. The boys lay crouched under the wagons, wrapped in hay to keep their wet bodies warm against the now cold wind, and all joked with one another while heaven fell. Kay was shivering, though not with cold, but he joked like the others because he would not show he was afraid. At the last and greatest thunderbolt every man startled involuntarily, and each saw the other startle, until they laughed away their shame.

But that was the end of the hay-making and the beginning of play. The boys were sent home to change their clothes. The old dame who had been their nurse fetched dry jerkins out of a press, and scolded them for catching their deaths, and denounced Sir Ector for keeping on so long. Then they slipped their heads into the laundered shirts, and ran out to the refreshed and sparkling court.

“I vote we take Cully and see if we can get some rabbits in the chase,” cried the Wart.

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First, let’s get this out of the way: “Red Indian.”

One of my foundational statements is: “Nothing is more unfair than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present.” (Denys Winstanley)

The book by Caleb Carr, “The Alienist,” has a very bad guy who uses the phrase “Red Injun.” And, yes, I wouldn’t use the term now. But, unlike those people who don’t want Huckleberry Finn taught in school because of a word, I think people can hold diverse concepts in their minds. As Oscar Wilde insisted:

“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

So, yes, don’t say “Red Indian.” But, you can still keep reading along. “The Alienist,” by the way, will be a network TV show this fall. If it sticks to the book, prepare yourself.

T. H. White’s gift as a storyteller will be illuminated in the transfiguration stories of The Sword in the Stone. These stories of fish, bird and beast are ideal for animated features and giving us a “moral to the story.” His skill in transitioning from story to story might be missed. This reading is a transition from a late night bender (two men sharing much too much thick wine) to the quest that brings us the tutor, Merlyn.

Merlyn, of course, will drive our story as he takes on young Sir Kay and Wart as his students. It will be obvious from the first that Wart(hur)  is the focus of Merlyn’s eddication methods, but Kay will join in occasionally.

In this section, we see an interesting transition. It’s the day after Grummore and Ector drink and decide upon a tutor. We know this because it is mentioned twice. It is also July…as that is mentioned twice, too.

By simply pulling out the opening words of each paragraph, I noted something that I learned back in college from the late, great Utah Poet Laureate, Ken Brewer. Brewer was also my professor and he and Professor Charles Johnson both took me aside in college and thanked me for caring as much about academics as I did about athletics.

I loved Brewer’s poetry class. He opened my eyes to the utility of words, brevity of writing and the beauty of a well-formed phrase. Professor Johnson, who specialized in Wittgenstein’s work, took the same path in the study of philosophy teaching me that words mean “what we decide words mean.”

That’s why when someone says: “goblet squats mixed with suitcase carries,” many of us will recognize the “Sparhawk” workout. Others will have NO idea what we are talking about!

This section of “The Sword in the Stone” is not unlike William Carlos Williams’ delightful poem, “The Dance.” Williams wrote a poem about a painting about a dance.  As Ken Brewer read it aloud, the words began to dance and it is hard still to read it aloud without hearing the beat of bagpipes, bugle, and fiddle.

In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,

the dancers go round, they go round and

around, the squeal and the blare and the

tweedle of bagpipes, abugle and fiddles

tipping their bellies (round as the thick-

sided glasses whose wash they impound)

their hips and their bellies off balance

to turn them. Kicking and rolling about

the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those

shanks must be sound to bear up under such

rollicking measures, prance as they dance

in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess.

It begins and ends with the same great line,  “(I)n Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,” and as I read it again nearly forty years after my first visit, I can’t imagine a better poem about a painting about a dance.

With a nod to Brewer and Williams, I suggest looking at the opening lines of this section:

  • (So it was decided.) When Grummore Grummursum had gone home next day, (Sir Ector tied a knot in his handkerchief to remember to start a quest for a tutor as soon as he had time to do so, and, as he was not sure how to set about it, he told the boys what Sir Grummore had suggested and warned them not to be hooligans meanwhile. Then they went hay-making.)
  • It was July…
  • Sir Ector’s Castle…
  • It was July…
  • Sir Ector stood on the top of the rick…
  • When the wagon was loaded, it was drawn to Sir Ector’s rick…
  • The Wart loved hay-making, and was good at it. (Kay, who was two years older, generally stood on the edge of the bundle which he was trying to pick up, with the result that he worked twice as hard as the Wart for only half the result. But he hated to be beaten at anything, and used to fight away with the wretched hay—which he loathed like poison—until he was quite sick.)
  • The day after Sir Grummore’s visit…

White frames this short section of hay-making with the reminder that it is the day after Sir Grummore’s visit, reminding us it is July, giving us a quick tour of the castle and a primer on the hay-gathering system. And, yes, in one sentence he could have said much of this.

White, like Williams, is giving a whirl…a dance of hay-making and history.

White has shifted a bit here: In the previous evening, White mixes dates and history with a boozy flair. In this section, he is pinning down a date:

The day AFTER Grummore visited, in July, at Sir Ector’s castle, during the hay-making season, Wart “voted” to go hawking.  (Hint: the hawking will lead to a big discovery deep in the forest.)

The story is not “once upon a time:” It is not a fairy tale. These are events that happen to particular people at a particular time and particular place.

My years of teaching Scripture may have opened my eyes about this point. There is a line in the Gospel of Luke that many breeze over, but I have become convinced that it might Luke’s most insightful point:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3: 1-2)

This isn’t “once upon a time” in “Never Never Land,” this is a story about specific people, places and time.

A careful rereading of this section of “The Sword in the Stone” gives us a feel of the poetry of Williams and the insightfulness of Luke.

This section also prepares us for the actually “sword in the stone” moment:

The Wart loved hay-making, and was good at it. Kay, who was two years older, generally stood on the edge of the bundle which he was trying to pick up, with the result that he worked twice as hard as the Wart for only half the result. But he hated to be beaten at anything, and used to fight away with the wretched hay—which he loathed like poison—until he was quite sick.

Kay working “ twice as hard as the Wart for only half the result” is a delightful line for those of us in sports and fitness. I get many questions on a program we call “Easy Strength.” You may ask: “what’s the problem with the program?”

It’s easy.

No, that’s the problem: most people want to work twice as hard for half the results!

There is some universal truth here. My wife and I have often joke about getting engaged: the moment you decide to get married, it seems that every person you ever dated, wanted to date or would be a great date suddenly contacts you! When you stop trying, the magic doors seem to open.

I have heard many stories from people who finally figure out a problem while taking a shower. I always insist on writing things on napkins when we go out after certifications or workshops, because those ideas that float up while sitting around a meal are the best of the whole weekend. (People occasionally will send me pictures of the various scrawls I have made on a napkin and they keep them like a prized heirloom.)

Sir Ector and Kay, father and son, both seem “in the way” during hay-making, but it is their castle, their hay and, as we will find out next time, their hawk.

AND… one last chance for those of you who don’t already have Dan’s new book and made it this far without clicking the link. Click this link.