Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 148

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 148

In this week’s comprehensive OTP article, Zac Cupples describes his 75 continuing education workshop experiences and tells us how to get the most from our continuing education investments.
I am glad I survived the weekend. I had one of those fun weekends, where “fun” gets too fun.

I went to the Judge Memorial Catholic High School reunion on Friday and saw a bunch of my former students. Sunday, we went to Kyle and Kassandra’s engagement celebration. I thought I would have all day Saturday to just watch football. Tiffini kept insisting on doing something in the afternoon.

She wanted the house cleared out for a surprise birthday party for me. And…I was surprised!!! This year, I celebrated my birthday in Ohio, Norway and Utah. I think I might be done celebrating my 60th. I will be recovering for a while.

I also had time to play on the web this week.

I always love reading articles that I agree with entirely. This article is just logical.


The get up and the general population: There are 4 drills I personally believe every man and woman in the world should do. The Deadlift, The Get up, the KB swing, and the Goblet Squat. The Get up is the primary upper body drill in my opinion for 99% of people who are beginning a S&C program. A light weight bell such a 16kg will be all the resistance most men can handle for the first month of training. At Unbreakable Fitness it’s not an issue of “can you do 1 rep?” The issue is “can you do 1 rep perfectly 30 times non-stop?” If the answer is “no”, than you shall not even touch my heavier bells until you reach this goal.

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I really enjoyed the give and take with this article. A good thing to remember…always…is the “rich versus poor” issue that always needs to be part of the discussion.


All that said, I should end with something novel. There’s always something new and interesting in any study, and there were a few things in this one. For instance, eating vegetables in any state was associated with good health, but as compared to cooked vegetables, eating raw vegetables was more strongly linked to a lower risk of death (during the study) compared to cooked vegetable intake.

As researcher Victoria Miller of McMaster University put it, “Our results indicate that recommendations should emphasize raw vegetable intake over cooked.”

There is a novel idea. Dietary guidelines usually don’t encourage people to prioritize raw vegetables over cooked. Maybe they should. That could be a headline. “Cooking Your Vegetables? Welcome to Early Death.”

… Except that raw vegetables often don’t taste as good as cooked vegetables, and cooking is the basis for human social interaction and culture.

People are complex, and the ways we perceive and communicate and relate to one another are complex. But the basic agreement on what to eat for the health of people and the planet is not: diverse, naturally high-fiber, minimally processed foods, mostly plants. Eating based on macronutrient numbers isn’t likely useful and is easily distracting. Sufficient amounts of protein and fats come to most people in wealthy countries without thinking.

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I absolutely applaud any and all attempts to add fasting to the discussion of health and nutrition. There is absolutely nothing “trendy” or “new” about fasting and it goes back to all religious traditions, Hippocrates and any sick pet I have ever raised. This article seems to have missed the past decade or so in the fitness industry, but it is a good read.


Now the self-described “foodie” saves himself for gourmet dining rather than swiftly snaffled sandwiches. “I don’t have any boring meals any more. Every time I put food in my mouth it’s unique and special.”

So he’ll eat processed carbohydrates like bagels, but only in New York (“the bagels in San Francisco suck”) and ramen when he’s in Tokyo.

Since coming out as a faster earlier this year, Libin has been inundated with requests from people seeking his advice on how to get started, but he doesn’t think it will ever be mainstream in the way meditation has become.

“It seems way too extreme,” he said. “No-one grew up being told that meditation was super bad for you. Everyone grew up hearing fasting was dangerous and super-difficult.”

Furthermore, no one makes money when people don’t eat.

“In this society usually things that work against every entrenched economic interest are hard to take off.” said Libin.

“You need to be a weirdo like me to get into this.”

End quote

Eat like an adult? This big study found that you should eat more fruits and veggies. I know…shocking.


The PURE results provide strong support for evidence accumulating over the past decade on what makes a healthy diet, said Mozaffarian. “Cutting back on starch and sugar and adding more fat and more foods from plants, especially bioactive fruits and seeds, is where we should be headed,” he said.

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This next article is by one of my favorite authors!

Athletes need:

Appropriate strength
Appropriate conditioning
Appropriate mobility and flexibility

Usually, I just say “Enough is enough; more is just more.” Athletes need to spend time on strategy, tactics, situations, skills, drills, recovery, and appropriate tension, arousal, and heart rate.

I also had a new interview here.

I really enjoyed this article. I love cultural pieces that make me laugh out loud.


Wyndham Lewis first mentions the poem, which he calls a bit of “scholarly ribaldry,” in 1915, but it was probably written in 1910. With its first three stanzas addressed to “Ladies,” and all four ending with “For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass,” the poem piles up line after rhyming line of archaic, Latinate words, undercutting their obscurantism with lowbrow crudeness. The third stanza becomes more direct, less laden with clever diction, as Eliot lays out the conflict:

Ladies who think me unduly vociferous
Amiable cabotin making a noise
That people may cry out “this stuff is too stiff for us” –
Ingenuous child with a box of new toys
Toy lions carnivorous, cannons fumiferous
Engines vaporous – all this will pass;
Quite innocent – “he only wants to make shiver us.”
For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass.

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This next piece should be a class…a course. This is just fantastic.


Action Steps:

Fast at least once a month for 24 hours.
Try writing with your non-dominant hand.
Close and put down a book when it’s getting very exciting and you want to keep going.
Learn how to manage your day-to-day stress.
Familiarize yourself with the warrior color code and learn how to manage stress from more serious threats.
Know how to use tactical breathing to calm yourself.
Meditate daily.
Use biofeedback apps to boost your resiliency and take control of your physiological response to stress.
Do exercises to strengthen your willpower.
Do exercises to increase your attention span.
Read a long book or article all the way through without stopping to surf around to other things.
Keep a strict diet 6 days a week. Make the 7th day a free day where you eat whatever you like.
Know your purpose and plan in life — as Nietzsche put it, “If you know the why, you can live any how.”
Understand the way your brain and body lie to you about how much push you actually have left when you think you can’t physically or emotionally go on — talk to yourself about this when you’re tempted to give up.

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That’s just a lot of good information. I look back over some of the old editions and maybe this one belongs on the All-Time list. The AofM article alone is well worth digging in with for a long time.

I will try to do better next week. Until then, let’s keep lifting and learning.


What’s the best way to get the most from your workshop and conference experiences? Zac Cupples describes his process. (No, he doesn’t sleep through them.)


Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone” (Part VI)


There was a clearing in the forest, a wide sward of moonlit grass, and the white rays shone full upon the tree trunks on the opposite side. These trees were beeches, whose trunks are always more beautiful in a pearly light, and among the beeches there was the smallest movement and a silvery clink. Before the clink there were just the beeches, but immediately afterward there was a knight in full armour, standing still and silent and unearthly, among the majestic trunks. He was mounted on an enormous white horse that stood as rapt as its master, and he carried in his right hand, with its butt resting on the stirrup, a high, smooth jousting lance, which stood up among the tree stumps, higher and higher, till it was outlined against the velvet sky. All was moon-lit, all silver, too beautiful to describe.

The Wart did not know what to do. He did not know whether it would be safe to go up to this knight, for there were so many terrible things in the forest that even the knight might be a ghost. Most ghostly he looked, too, as he hoved meditating on the confines of the gloom. Eventually the boy made up his mind that even if it were a ghost, it would be the ghost of a knight, and knights were bound by their vows to help people in distress.

“Excuse me,” he said, when he was right under the mysterious figure, “but can you tell me the way back to Sir Ector’s castle?”

At this the ghost jumped, so that it nearly fell off its horse, and gave out a muffled baaa through its visor, like a sheep.

“Excuse me,” began the Wart again, and stopped, terrified, in the middle of his speech.

For the ghost lifted up its visor, revealing two enormous eyes frosted like ice; exclaimed in an anxious voice, “What, what?”; took off its eyes—which turned out to be horn-rimmed spectacles, fogged by being inside the helmet; tried to wipe them on the horse’s mane—which only made them worse; lifted both hands above its head and tried to wipe them on its plume; dropped its lance; dropped the spectacles; got off the horse to search for them—the visor shutting in the process; lifted its visor; bent down for the spectacles; stood up again as the visor shut once more, and exclaimed in a plaintive voice, “Oh, dear!”

The Wart found the spectacles, wiped them, and gave them to the ghost, who immediately put them on (the visor shut at once) and began scrambling back on its horse for dear life. When it was there it held out its hand for the lance, which the Wart handed up, and, feeling all secure, opened the visor with its left hand, and held it open. It peered at the boy with one hand up—like a lost mariner searching for land—and exclaimed, “Ah-hah! Whom have we here, what?”

“Please,” said the Wart, “I am a boy whose guardian is Sir Ector.”

“Charming fellah,” said the Knight. “Never met him in me life.”

“Can you tell me the way back to his castle?”

“Faintest idea. Stranger in these parts meself.”

“I am lost,” said the Wart.

“Funny thing that. Now I have been lost for seventeen years.

“Name of King Pellinore,” continued the Knight. “May have heard of me, what?” The visor shut with a pop, like an echo to the What, but was opened again immediately. “Seventeen years ago, come Michaelmas, and been after the Questing Beast ever since. Boring, very.”

“I should think it would be,” said the Wart, who had never heard of King Pellinore, nor of the Questing Beast, but he felt that this was the safest thing to say in the circumstances.

“It is the Burden of the Pellinores,” said the King proudly. “Only a Pellinore can catch it—that is, of course, or his next of kin. Train all the Pellinores with that idea in mind. Limited eddication, rather. Fewmets, and all that.”

“I know what fewmets are,” said the boy with interest. “They are the droppings of the beast pursued. The harborer keeps them in his horn, to show to his master, and can tell by them whether it is a warrantable beast or otherwise, and what state it is in.”

“Intelligent child,” remarked the King. “Very. Now I carry fewmets about with me practically all the time.

“Insanitary habit,” he added, beginning to look dejected, “and quite pointless. Only one Questing Beast, you know, so there can’t be any question whether she is warrantable or not.”

Here his visor began to droop so much that the Wart decided he had better forget his own troubles and try to cheer his companion, by asking questions on the one subject about which he seemed qualified to speak. Even talking to a lost royalty was better than being alone in the wood.

“What does the Questing Beast look like?”

“Ah, we call it the Beast Glatisant, you know,” replied the monarch, assuming a learned air and beginning to speak quite volubly. “Now the Beast Glatisant, or, as we say in English, the Questing Beast—you may call it either,” he added graciously—”this Beast has the head of a serpent, ah, and the body of a libbard, the haunches of a lion, and he is footed like a hart. Wherever this beast goes he makes a noise in his belly as it had been the noise of thirty couple of hounds questing.

“Except when he is drinking, of course,” added the King.

“It must be a dreadful kind of monster,” said the Wart, looking about him anxiously.

“A dreadful monster,” repeated the King. “It is the Beast Glatisant.”

“And how do you follow it?”

This seemed to be the wrong question, for Pellinore began to look even more depressed.

“I have a brachet,” he said sadly. “There she is, over there.”

The Wart looked in the direction which had been indicated with a despondent thumb, and saw a lot of rope wound round a tree. The other end of the rope was tied to King Pellinore’s saddle.

“I do not see her very well.”

“Wound herself round the other side, I dare say. She always goes the opposite way from me.”

The Wart went over to the tree and found a large white dog scratching herself for fleas. As soon as she saw the Wart, she began wagging her whole body, grinning vacuously, and panting in her efforts to lick his face, in spite of the cord. She was too tangled up to move.

“It’s quite a good brachet,” said King Pellinore, “only it pants so, and gets wound round things, and goes the opposite way. What with that and the visor, what, I sometimes don’t know which way to turn.”

“Why don’t you let her loose?” asked the Wart. “She would follow the Beast just as well like that.”

“She goes right away then, you see, and I don’t see her sometimes for a week.

“Gets a bit lonely without her,” added the King, “following the Beast about, and never knowing where one is. Makes a bit of company, you know.”

“She seems to have a friendly nature.”

“Too friendly. Sometimes I doubt whether she is really chasing the Beast at all.”

“What does she do when she sees it?”


“Oh, well,” said the Wart. “I dare say she will get to be interested in it after a time.”

“It is eight months, anyway, since we saw the Beast at all.”

The poor fellow’s voice had grown sadder and sadder since the beginning of the conversation, and now he definitely began to snuffle. “It is the curse of the Pellinores,” he exclaimed. “Always mollocking about after that beastly Beast. What on earth use is she, anyway? First you have to stop to unwind the brachet, then your visor falls down, then you can’t see through your spectacles. Nowhere to sleep, never know where you are. Rheumatism in the winter, sunstroke in the summer. All this horrid armour takes hours to put on. When it is on it’s either frying or freezing, and it gets rusty. You have to sit up all night polishing the stuff. Oh, how I do wish I had a nice house of my own to live in, a house with beds in it and real pillows and sheets. If I was rich that’s what I would buy. A nice bed with a nice pillow and a nice sheet that you could lie in, and then I would put this beastly horse in a meadow and tell that beastly brachet to run away and play, and throw all this beastly armour out of the window, and let the beastly Beast go and chase himself—that I would.”

“If you could show me the way home,” said the Wart craftily, “I am sure Sir Ector would put you up in a bed for the night.”

“Do you really mean it?” cried the King. “In a bed?”

“A feather bed.”

King Pellinore’s eyes grew round as saucers. “A feather bed!” he repeated slowly. “Would it have pillows?”

“Down pillows.”

“Down pillows!” whispered the King, holding his breath. And then, letting it out in one rush, “What a lovely house your gentleman must have!”

“I do not think it is more than two hours away,” said the Wart, following up his advantage.

“And did this gentleman really send you out to invite me in?” (He had forgotten about the Wart being lost.) “How nice of him, how very nice of him, I do think, what?”

“He will be pleased to see us,” said the Wart truthfully.

“Oh, how nice of him,” exclaimed the King again, beginning to bustle about with his various trappings. “And what a lovely gentleman he must be, to have a feather bed!

“I suppose I should have to share it with somebody?” he added doubtfully.

“You could have one of your own.”

“A feather bed of one’s very own, with sheets and a pillow—perhaps even two pillows, or a pillow and a bolster—and no need to get up in time for breakfast! Does your guardian get up in time for breakfast?”

“Never,” said the Wart.

“Fleas in the bed?”

“Not one.”

“Well!” said King Pellinore. “It does sound too nice for words, I must say. A feather bed and none of those fewmets for ever so long. How long did you say it would take us to get there?”

“Two hours,” said the Wart—but he had to shout the second of these words, for the sounds were drowned in his mouth by a noise which had that moment arisen close beside them.

“What was that?” exclaimed the Wart.

“Hark!” cried the King.


“It is the Beast!”

And immediately the loving huntsman had forgotten everything else, but was busied about his task. He wiped his spectacles upon the seat of his trousers, the only accessible piece of cloth about him, while the belling and bloody cry arose all round. He balanced them on the end of his long nose, just before the visor automatically clapped to. He clutched his jousting lance in his right hand, and galloped off in the direction of the noise. He was brought up short by the rope which was wound round the tree—the vacuous brachet meanwhile giving a melancholy yelp—and fell off his horse with a tremendous clang. In a second he was up again—the Wart was convinced that the spectacles must be broken—and hopping round the white horse with one foot in the stirrup. The girths stood the test and he was in the saddle somehow, with his jousting lance between his legs, and then he was galloping round and round the tree, in the opposite direction to the one in which the brachet had wound herself up. He went round three times too often, the brachet meanwhile running and yelping the other way, and then, after four or five back casts, they were both free of the obstruction. “Yoicks, what!” cried King Pellinore, waving his lance in the air, and swaying excitedly in the saddle. Then he disappeared into the gloom of the forest, with the unfortunate hound trailing behind him at the other end of the cord.”

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With this reading, we finish the first two chapters of The Sword in the Stone. Frankly, I can see why many people would struggle with these first two chapters and maybe put the book down. But, like the Harry Potter books, we have met characters who will guide us throughout the rest of the series.

One thing about the first of the Potter books that still amazes me to this day is how J. K. Rowlings mentions Sirius Black simply in passing in Chapter One (he owns the flying motorcycle that Hagrid borrows). He, of course, is the focus of the third book, Harry’s Godfather, a wanted criminal, and a hero. This small mention gives us an insight into the depth of Rowling’s long-term narrative as she began this series…as an unemployed, single mom living in Edinburgh.

We will meet King Pellinore in this little side story; I think we are meeting White’s “go to” comic relief. Pellinore, of course, has to chase his questing beast. The beast, Glatisant, has a remarkable history. We learn much of it here from Pellinore, but Glatisant, or “Barking Beast,” is snake, leopard, lion (libbard) and deer (hart). It is the chore of the Pellinore family to seek him out.

The name “Barking Beast” refers to the roaring barking sound that the animal makes when the beast moves. Except, of course, when it drinks.

Wart doesn’t know this, and perhaps few do/did, but the beast also foretells the problems King Arthur will have in his future. In Mallory’s work, we meet the beast after Arthur’s incestuous moment with Morgause (bringing the child Mordred, “More Dread”). The beast has been formed when a women falls madly in love with her brother and makes a deal with the devil to “have him,” so the beast represent all things rape, incest and chaos.

The woman later accuses her brother of rape and the dad has his son torn apart by dogs. If you watch “The Game of Thrones,” you might be thinking “wait…I have seen some of this.”

You would be right.

In White’s book, Pellinore and his beast provide comic relief. We also see again the relationship between “Quest/Quarry” and the importance of knights (and all of us) to be actively “seeking,” the literal meaning of quest and quarry. So, Pellinore has much to teach of in humor and questing.

For those of us raised in BBC humor with Monty Python, Dame Edna and Benny Hill, we see the humor in such lines as:

•      “Charming fellah,” said the Knight. “Never met him in me life.”

•      “Insanitary habit,” he added, beginning to look dejected, “and quite pointless. Only one Questing Beast, you know, so there can’t be any question whether she is warrantable or not.” (He is referring to carrying fewmets, or quarry dung)

•      “Too friendly. Sometimes I doubt whether she is really chasing the Beast at all.” “What does she do when she sees it?” “Nothing.”

We will meet Pellinore again in this book. If you continue reading the series, we will find him in the other books, too. He will always be comic relief until he is killed by the “Orkney faction,” Sir Gawain and his brothers, for killing their father…probably by accident…in a joust. In some Arthurian tales, Pellinore is the father of Sir Parcifal, but White has other uses for him.

Pellinore brings up a worthy discussion I try to raise in my coaching and my workshops. When “seeking” a goal…will attaining it make you successful?

There is a cliché that I always think needs more exposure:

“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success, only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”

It is also sometimes written like this:

“It’s no fun to reach the top of the ladder only to discover it’s propped against the wrong wall.”

The great San Franciscan Herb Caen wrote it like this: “It is a funny thing—you work all your life toward a certain goal and then somebody moves the posts on you.”

You get the point. I know many people from my sports career who have achieved great goals and were miserable failures at life. I won’t mention names, but the failed former superstar is itself a cliché in the arts.

The Pellinore family is cursed with chasing this beast and a good question to ask after the capture (or kill): Now What?

That would make a great book title, by the way.

I’m all for goals, yes. But, achieving success might be different.

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal” Earl Nightingale taught us. So, again “yes,” goal setting and success are intertwined. But, Nightingale reminds us that it has to be “worthy.” He immediately noted that the most successful people in life are schoolteachers and parents who are trying to build a better future.

Success is progressive. Success means we are taking the steps towards the goal. I never achieved my long-term goals as a discus thrower, but I can tell you exactly how close (or far from) my journey brought me along.

Pellinore’s quest for the Questing Beast is humorous. We will bump into these two a few more times and the stories are always fun.

But, not successful!

Note: we won’t have any more LOOOOOOOOONG readings for a while.