Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 147

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 147

Last week on the OTPbooks.com site, we had barefoot training expert Emily Splichal writing about stabilization—not just stability as we commonly discuss, but speed of stabilization for optimal energy transfer. Check it out.
I’m sitting in Oslo, Norway getting ready to board my flight to go home. It has been a great week. I listened to a lot of nutritionists this week and I came away with an important insight about obesity:

We have too many choices!

Every time we get visitors from Europe, they always marvel at the dozens of choices of milk, eggs and coffee. Then, when they get to the junk food aisle, they nearly pass out. Not to mention the ads, the fast food places and all the rest, there is an overload of choices blasting the brain to submit.

Fewer choices means leaner. So, Tiffini and I recommitted to our shopping list and weekly menu. I always follow John Berardi’s advice about trying to eat eight different veggies a day, but I also need to make sure I minimize “all of the other noise,” too.

Fascinating stuff. This week on the internet, I thought this was a great primer about training. The point on jumping jacks made me laugh, too.


General Warm-Up

A general warm-up should start with a few minutes of aerobic activity—for example, jogging, shadowboxing, or any exercise or game having a similar effect on the cardiovascular system. The one exception: Don’t do jumping jacks.

Why not jumping jacks? Because there is no technique in sports that is similar to and can be improved by doing jumping jacks, but what is more important jumping jacks can neurologically disorganize a person (Diamond 1979). Jumping jacks, even for normal persons, can cause regression to an out-of-sync, homolateral pattern of locomotion (left arm swings forward with the left leg, right arm with right leg) and “a vague feeling of confusion” (Diamond 1979).* An instructor who makes athletes do jumping jacks shows ignorance of exercise physiology, proper methods of training, and pedagogy. Jumping jacks raise the blood level of lactate before the main part of the workout and they are not a lead-up exercise for any technique.

Flexibility improves with an increased blood flow in the muscles, so after your aerobic activity, you can follow with dynamic stretches—for example, leg raises to the front, sides, and back, and arm swings. Leg raises are to be done in sets of ten to twelve repetitions per leg. Arm swings are to be done in sets of five to eight repetitions. The athlete should do as many sets as it takes to reach his or her maximum range of motion in any given direction. Usually, for properly conditioned athletes, one set in each direction is enough.

Doing static stretches before a workout that consists of dynamic actions is counterproductive. The goal of the warm-up, which is to improve coordination, elasticity and contractibility of muscles, and breathing efficiency, cannot be achieved by doing static stretches, isometric or relaxed. Isometric tensions will only make the athlete tired and decrease coordination. Passive, relaxed stretches, on the other hand, have a calming effect and can even make an athlete sleepy.

Static stretches reduce maximal strength (Kokkonen et al. 1998) and impair activity of the tendon reflexes (Rosenbaum and Hennig 1995). By making fast dynamic movements immediately after a static stretch, an athlete may injure the stretched muscle.

The more intensive the effort to come and the lower the temperature, the more an athlete has to warm up the muscles (but an excessively intense warm-up that some athletes do on cold days is counterproductive).

A higher temperature of the environment does not make warming up unnecessary. It only requires a lowering of the intensity of exercises in the general warm-up (Sozanski 1981b). Warming up should involve a gradual increase in the intensity of the exercises so by the end of the warm-up, the exercises reach the target intensity planned for the beginning of the main part of the workout.

End quote

Men’s Health can sometimes offer some odd advice, but I applaud this article.


After catching myself having not moved anything but my fingers for about two and a half hours one day, I realized I needed to come up with a way to force myself to get up and moving on a semi-regular basis. What if I committed to taking one-minute plank breaks every working hour? Sure that only totals to eight measly minutes of core engagement every day, but it’s better than sitting for those eight minutes.

I consider myself to be fairly in-shape, meaning, I’m fairly confident I could outrun a lot of people if a rabid, starving bear were chasing us. (A solid barometer for physical fitness, no?) I run and actually enjoy it, I teach bootcamp classes, take spin classes, lift weights and I take the stairs instead of the escalator more often than not.

All of which is why I thought plank breaks wouldn’t actually be too physically challenging. I saw it more as a something that would take minimal time and wouldn’t cause me to sweat through my work pants, as opposed to my first idea of speed-walking a lap around the office every hour. Or doing a few push-ups. I have a low sweat threshold and not a lot of work slacks, okay?

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I watch this show on Netflix and I love/hate it. This article was the genesis, I think. Fascinating stuff…


Koonz is from upstate New York, where he spent more than a decade as a guard inside a locked-down psychiatric center for the criminally insane. He’s been shivved and had chairs broken over his head. One inmate dove over a desk and tried to rip his face off.

“He thought his uncle’s Cadillac was in my mouth,” Koonz says. “That was the clientele.”

The day Koonz left to take a job coaching football was the happiest day of his professional life.

“I can make a difference,” he says. “In thirteen years there, I didn’t help a single inmate. It was strictly custodial.”

End quote

This article “slices” up my work in a very nice way. Enjoy.

Things are “back to normal” this week. I’m looking forward to getting back to my Olympic lifting and seeing my dog. Oh, and my kids…

Until next week, let’s keep lifting and learning.


Take your understanding of stability work a step further: Here’s Emily Splichal on time to stabilization and injury risk.

Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone”


A good while later, when they had been whistling and luring and following the disturbed and sulky hawk from tree to tree, Kay lost his temper.

“Let him go, then,” he said. “He is no use anyway.”

“Oh, we could not leave him,” cried the Wart. “What would Hob say?”

“It is my hawk, not Hob’s,” exclaimed Kay furiously. “What does it matter what Hob says? He is a servant.”

“But Hob made Cully. It is all right for us to lose him, because we did not have to sit up with him three nights and carry him all day and all that. But we can’t lose Hob’s hawk. It would be beastly.”

“Serve him right, then. He is a fool and it is a rotten hawk. Who wants a rotten stupid hawk? You had better stay yourself, if you are so keen on it. I am going home.”

“I will stay,” said the Wart sadly, “if you will send Hob when you get there.”

Kay began walking off in the wrong direction, raging in his heart because he knew that he had flown the bird when he was not properly in yarak, and the Wart had to shout after him the right way. Then the latter sat down under the tree and looked up at Cully like a cat watching a sparrow, with his heart beating fast.

It was well enough for Kay, who was not really keen on hawking except in so far as it was the proper occupation for a boy in his station of life, but the Wart had some of the falconer’s feelings and knew that a lost hawk was the greatest possible calamity. He knew that Hob had worked on Cully for fourteen hours a day to teach him his trade, and that his work had been like Jacob’s struggle with the angel. When Cully was lost a part of Hob would be lost too. The Wart did not dare to face the look of reproach which would be in the falconer’s eye, after all that he had tried to teach them.

What was he to do? He had better sit still, leaving the lure on the ground, so that Cully could settle down and come in his own time. But Cully had no intention of doing this. He had been given a generous gorge the night before, and he was not hungry. The hot day had put him in a bad temper. The waving and whistling of the boys below, and their pursuit of him from tree to tree, had disturbed his never powerful brains. Now he did not quite know what he wanted to do, but it was not what anybody else wanted. He thought perhaps it would be nice to kill something, from spite.

A long time after that, the Wart was on the verge of the true forest, and Cully was inside it. In a series of infuriating removes they had come nearer and nearer, till they were further from the castle than the boy had ever been, and now they had reached it quite.

Wart would not have been frightened of an English forest nowadays, but the great jungle of Old England was a different matter. It was not only that there were wild boars in it, whose sounders would at this season be furiously rooting about, nor that one of the surviving wolves might be slinking behind any tree, with pale eyes and slavering chops. The mad and wicked animals were not the only inhabitants of the crowded gloom. When men themselves became wicked they took refuge there, outlaws cunning and bloody as the gore-crow, and as persecuted. The Wart thought particularly of a man named Wat, whose name the cottagers used to frighten their children with. He had once lived in Sir Ector’s village and the Wart could remember him. He squinted, had no nose, and was weak in his wits. The children threw stones at him. One day he turned on the children and caught one and made a snarly noise and bit off his nose too. Then he ran into the forest. They threw stones at the child with no nose, now, but Wat was supposed to be in the forest still, running on all fours and dressed in skins.

There were magicians in the forest also in those legendary days, as well as strange animals not known to modern works of natural history. There were regular bands of Saxon outlaws—not like Wat—who lived together and wore green and shot with arrows which never missed. There were even a few dragons, though these were small ones, which lived under stones and could hiss like a kettle.

Added to this, there was the fact that it was getting dark. The forest was trackless and nobody in the village knew what was on the other side. The evening hush had fallen, and the high trees stood looking at the Wart without a sound.

He felt that it would be safer to go home, while he still knew where he was—but he had a stout heart, and did not want to give in. He understood that once Cully had slept in freedom for a whole night he would be wild again and irreclaimable. Cully was a passager. But if the poor Wart could only mark him to roost, and if Hob would only arrive then with a dark lantern, they might still take him that night by climbing the tree, while he was sleepy and muddled with the light. The boy could see more or less where the hawk had perched, about a hundred yards within the thick trees, because the home-going rooks of evening were mobbing that place.

He made a mark on one of the trees outside the forest, hoping that it might help him to find his way back, and then began to fight his way into the undergrowth as best he might. He heard by the rooks that Cully had immediately moved further off.

The night fell still as the small boy struggled with the brambles. But he went on doggedly, listening with all his ears, and Cully’s evasions became sleepier and shorter until at last, before the utter darkness fell, he could see the hunched shoulders in a tree above him against the sky. Wart sat down under the tree, so as not to disturb the bird any further as it went to sleep, and Cully, standing on one leg, ignored his existence.

“Perhaps,” said the Wart to himself, “even if Hob does not come, and I do not see how he can very well follow me in this trackless woodland now, I shall be able to climb up by myself at about midnight, and bring Cully down. He might stay there at about midnight because he ought to be asleep by then. I could speak to him softly by name, so that he thought it was just the usual person coming to take him up while hooded. I shall have to climb very quietly. Then, if I do get him, I shall have to find my way home, and the drawbridge will be up. But perhaps somebody will wait for me, for Kay will have told them I am out. I wonder which way it was? I wish Kay had not gone.”

He snuggled down between the roots of the tree, trying to find a comfortable place where the hard wood did not stick into his shoulder-blades.

“I think the way was behind that big spruce with the spike top. I ought to try to remember which side of me the sun is setting, so that when it rises I may keep it on the same side going home. Did something move under that spruce tree, I wonder? Oh, I wish I may not meet that old wild Wat and have my nose bitten off! How aggravating Cully looks, standing there on one leg as if there was nothing the matter.”

At this there was a quick whirr and a smack and the Wart found an arrow sticking in the tree between the fingers of his right hand. He snatched his hand away, thinking he had been stung by something, before he noticed it was an arrow. Then everything went slow. He had time to notice quite carefully what sort of an arrow it was, and how it had driven three inches into the solid wood. It was a black arrow with yellow bands round it, like a wasp, and its cock feather was yellow. The two others were black. They were dyed goose feathers.

The Wart found that, although he was frightened of the danger of the forest before it happened, once he was in it he was not frightened any more. He got up quickly—but it seemed to him slowly—and went behind the other side of the tree. As he did this, another arrow came whirr and frump, but this one buried all except its feathers in the grass, and stayed still, as if it had never moved.

On the other side of the tree he found a waste of bracken, six foot high. This was splendid cover, but it betrayed his whereabouts by rustling. He heard another arrow hiss through the fronds, and what seemed to be a man’s voice cursing, but it was not very near. Then he heard the man, or whatever it was, running about in the bracken. It was reluctant to fire any more arrows because they were valuable things and would certainly get lost in the undergrowth. Wart went like a snake, like a coney, like a silent owl. He was small and the creature had no chance against him at this game. In five minutes he was safe.

The assassin searched for his arrows and went away grumbling—but the Wart realized that, even if he was safe from the archer, he had lost his way and his hawk. He had not the faintest idea where he was. He lay down for half an hour, pressed under the fallen tree where he had hidden, to give time for the thing to go right away and for his own heart to cease thundering. It had begun beating like this as soon as he knew that he had got away.

“Oh,” thought he, “now I am truly lost, and now there is almost no alternative except to have my nose bitten off, or to be pierced right through with one of those waspy arrows, or to be eaten by a hissing dragon or a wolf or a wild boar or a magician—if magicians do eat boys, which I expect they do. Now I may well wish that I had been good, and not angered the governess when she got muddled with her astrolabe, and had loved my dear guardian Sir Ector as much as he deserved.”

At these melancholy thoughts, and especially at the recollection of kind Sir Ector with his pitchfork and his red nose, the poor Wart’s eyes became full of tears and he lay most desolate beneath the tree.

The sun finished the last rays of its lingering good-bye, and the moon rose in awful majesty over the silver tree-tops, before he dared to stand. Then he got up, and dusted the twigs out of his jerkin, and wandered off forlorn, taking the easiest way and trusting himself to God. He had been walking like this for about half an hour, and sometimes feeling more cheerful—because it really was very cool and lovely in the summer forest by moonlight—when he came upon the most beautiful thing that he had seen in his short life so far.

End quote

We see in this reading the great qualities of Wart. In the other books of White’s series, one of these qualities will doom him, his best friend, his wife and Camelot. His kindness…his empathy…will constantly be at odds with his quest for justice. As I type this, I realize that much of modern theology is based on this insight.

Often, at Religious Education seminars, we hear this story:

It seems that God created the earth three times. The first time, God gave humans Total Freedom and they messed up everything so badly, God destroyed the earth. The next time, God gave humans Total Justice, and soon no one was left and God started again.

The third time, God gave humans both Total Freedom and Total Justice, but God won’t tell us the percentages. And, we are still around.

The crowd always politely laughs. I don’t usually laugh as the story breaks the cardinal rules of theology (the ones I know and teach): God doesn’t know the results of God’s actions in this story. In other words, the story puts God IN time versus outside of time (the definition of eternal is “Outside of time”).

But, I get the point.  Sometimes, certain important things in life, like freedom and justice collide. In coaching and parenting, wants and needs often collide. In life, your need to get across town might conflict with the rest of us waiting at the red light.

And, in our stories, King Arthur, like God, will struggle with balancing empathy and kindness with the new kind of justice he is trying to forge:

Not might IS right, rather, might FOR right.

And, as any parent or teacher will tell you: being fair, being just, being kind and being empathetic all at the same time is nearly impossible.

This line gives us a good look into Arthur’s future:

“But Hob made Cully. It is all right for us to lose him, because we did not have to sit up with him three nights and carry him all day and all that. But we can’t lose Hob’s hawk. It would be beastly.”

I’m on the road (Norway), so I can’t check my edition, but I think we have a missing “not” here …it is not all right to let the hawk flee.

Wart’s concern is with Hob. Wart’s concerns are with the man who stayed up for three days and nights with Cully not for his (and Kay’s) issues.

I like this kid.
“Yarak,” by the way, is a GREAT word. It is the super alert state that falcon’s are in when just hungry enough to hunt. It’s a stare. Yarak is a great way to explain how I get work done when I fast. I make this deal with myself daily:

No food until all my chores, writings, and workouts are finished. When I finally eat, I have been in yarak for quite a while.

Having been fed well the day before and being handled poorly, Cully has no interest in making the boys happy.

The forest, as White explains, is NOT a safe place.  I have seen something like this in County Sligo (Ireland) where the bog water waterfalls mix in with deep ancient forest. I can imagine how frightening this forest could be without footpaths with warning signs. Add the wolves, beasts and other threats and this would make a perfect setting for a movie.

As we have seen before, White foreshadows much of the upcoming chapters.

•      “It was not only that there were wild boars in it,”
The Christmas boar hunt will reacquaint us later with King Pellinore and the Questing Beast.

•      “When men themselves became wicked they took refuge there, outlaws cunning and bloody as the gore-crow, and as persecuted. “
I’m not sure if White is referring to the anthropophagi (more later) or Robin Wood here, but both will be in one story.

•      “The Wart thought particularly of a man named Wat, whose name the cottagers used to frighten their children with.”
In every version Wat is returned to Sir Ector’s village and becomes friends with the Dog Boy.

•      “There were magicians in the forest also in those legendary days,”
We will meet one soon!

•      “There were regular bands of Saxon outlaws—not like Wat—who lived together and wore green and shot with arrows which never missed. “
This must be Robin Wood and his band. We will enjoy Wart’s crush on Maid Marian.

•      “There were even a few dragons, though these were small ones, which lived under stones and could hiss like a kettle.”
Dragons were real to the medieval audience. Da Vinci mentions them. And, just because YOU haven’t seen one, perhaps they might still be around. (See The Game of Thrones for proof!)

•      “Added to this, there was the fact that it was getting dark. The forest was trackless and nobody in the village knew what was on the other side.”
It’s late. He’s lost. And no one knows to find him. He thinks he is in danger….but just wait.

•      “He heard another arrow hiss through the fronds, and what seemed to be a man’s voice cursing, but it was not very near. Then he heard the man, or whatever it was, running about in the bracken. It was reluctant to fire any more arrows because they were valuable things and would certainly get lost in the undergrowth.”

In the original British version of 1938, we meet the anthropophagi later in the book. These are mythical cannibals that make fine (dangerous) creatures of the night in Greek and Medieval stories. We find this note in William Shakespeare’s Othello:

And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.

When we do meet the Anthropophagi in the 1938 edition, we will learn more about the poisonous arrows. We will also meet other forms of ancient evils. Later versions soften the stories and eventually eliminate much of the fun, frankly. The upside of this story is that Sir Kay is included in this adventure as a favor to Wart and, for once, Kay comes off well.

Kay is not a bad sort of person. But, as I noted earlier, he is rarely corrected for his behaviors and tries far too hard to remind everyone that he is special. He would make a fine internet expert.

Although I don’t want to get ahead of myself, in the next few lines of the story we will find what I consider the saddest line in literature.

Until next time…