Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 170

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 170

NEW ARTICLE: Thirty seconds on? I can do that. Thirty seconds off? Definitely. For thirty minutes? Say what? Dan has some ideas that may convince you to add classic circuit training to your program design. [CONTINUE READING]


I watched the Olympics last night with my whole family. We had the kids and grandkids and I had just returned from LAX and the Perform Better event. I struggled sleeping in Los Angeles because of the constant, extremely loud music outside my window. I survived, of course, and I was made “all better” with a Sunday dinner and some time with my family.

I travel a lot. I keep learning new things and shockingly keep forgetting others. I finally figured out how to NOT forget power cords for trips:

Buy extras and leave them in the suitcase.


I travel with just one bag, but I keep swimming gear, training equipment (long stretch bands for lifting, mini-bands for walks, and another band for doing t-spine work), winter wear, coffees, teas, medicines, and an assortment of basic life stuff. I never use more than one bag, although I did have to pop out my travel-sized backpack to carry home some of the new gear I bought.

I was telling my group at PB that there is more information and equipment available now than, obviously, any time in history. But, you have to have some method to discern whether or not they have value. I like to test and touch everything. Sometimes, the new stuff can be life-changing and sometimes it ends up in a corner covered in dust.

Sometimes, I think my extensive traveling with just one carry-on makes me a better coach. I learn to “decide” and make decisions. It’s a good practice for life.

Cruising around the internet this week, I found this article which I thought was just “spot on” about the importance of exercise…but NOT for fat loss.


I had visions of a self-help book empire based on this insight, but alas, it turns out I wasn’t the first to have it. Yoni Freedhoff, a family physician and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, has spent years pushing for “detaching exercise from weight loss and reattaching it to health.” As he likes to say, regular exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health. Evidence suggests that it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce deaths from heart disease, prevent and treat Type 2 diabetes, improve respiratory fitness in people with asthma, and help with depression, among other things. As many experts have observed, if exercise were a pill, it would be the most beneficial medication on the market.

Yet despite all its health benefits, exercise is not a particularly effective tool for weight loss. One review from 2014 found that unless you’re doing an awful lot of aerobic exercise, you’re not likely to lose a lot of weight. Without caloric restriction, most people who are overweight and obese can expect to lose up to about 4 pounds with exercise, the authors wrote. That’s not the same as saying it’s totally useless — it isn’t. It appears to help, albeit modestly, lessen weight gain over the long term. And it seems to reduce the chances that lost weight will creep back.

But we actually don’t burn a ton of calories when we exercise, Freedhoff said. If we did, we wouldn’t have survived as a species during the majority of human history when calories were scarce. That’s especially true in relation to the food we eat. For example, a 155-pound person burns 298 calories in 30 minutes of running at a 12-minute-mile pace. But the same person burns 42 calories in a half-hour of sitting around reading a book, so the net burn is closer to 256. That barely covers a half-cup of Ben & Jerry’s, depending on the flavor.

End quote

This article follows up well here…we suffer from “diseases of excess.”


The developed world no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency. Instead we get the diseases of excess. This century has seen an explosion of obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, hypertension, and even a resurgence of gout. Millions of people suffer from autoimmune ailments—from arthritis to allergies, and from lupus to Crohn’s and Parkinson’s disease—where the body literally attacks itself. It is almost as if there are so few external threats to contend with that all our stored energy instead wreaks havoc on our insides.

There is a growing consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for eternal and effortless homeostasis. Evolution made us seek comfort because comfort was never the norm. Human biology needs stress—not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques, but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorate our nervous systems.

End quote

Dick Notmeyer told me this. Tom Fahey told me this. Most people tell you the opposite. This article reminds us to eat more protein!


“We think that, for the purposes of maximizing muscular strength and mass with resistance training, most people need more protein” than is advised in the recommendations, says Rob Morton, a doctoral student at McMaster who led the study.

That advice holds especially true for middle-aged and older weight trainers, he says, almost none of whom were getting the ideal amount of protein in these studies and who, presumably in consequence, tended to show much smaller gains in strength and muscle size than younger people.

End quote

This nice piece reminds us that maybe the “excess” starts right away.


For example, when Sophia starts first grade, school administrators remind parents that under no circumstances should they drop children off in an automobile. Could you imagine? I can’t. In the contemporary United States, even in larger cities (with New York being the only notable exception), school is so synonymous with the interminable “drop-off line” that its vicissitudes are the subject of bestselling mom-book rants.

In open defiance of this custom, I ride my daughter the 4½ miles to preschool on a bike—she gets pulled along the mean streets of St. Louis in a Burley trailer—only to get yelled at by moms in idling SUVs outside the school. A few weeks ago, all of us parents even got a sternly worded email from the director, chastising the few who do pick up their children on foot for blocking the valet-style “carpool line” with “pedestrian traffic.” This is unsurprising; most children in the U.S. do not walk to school, even if they live close enough to do so—to the detriment of their physical fitness, independence and joy, and of course also the environment. (Zaske experiences this culture shock in reverse when her family moves back to the U.S. and she makes the unheard-of suggestion of a solitary “walk to school day” at Sophia’s new San Francisco elementary.)

End quote

This article has me using my day planner (a simple tiny notebook) as also my reading journal.


But in the rush to do everything in less time, you might be missing a crazily simple way to commit more content to memory:

Just go back and give yourself a little time to reflect on what you just read.

Now, when I say “reflect,” I don’t mean sit there pondering for an hour. I mean sitting just long enough to

·      Mentally identify the main points or concepts
·      Jot down some notes (you can’t write everything, so this forces your brain to choose what’s most important)
·      Consider the ramifications or implications of the content
·      Think about how the content connects to your personal preferences, personality, and experiences

End quote

I get a lot of pushback when I tell people they are too weak to really be great as athletes. If you are speedskater, you tend to also be a fairly good lifting machine as this article shows us:


A lot, relatively speaking: Dabrowski says that ideally, his male athletes can squat 2.5 times their bodyweight, and he prescribes plenty of accessory movements as well.

“We will do hip thrusts, sometimes single leg hip thrusts, especially when the athletes hit a plateau,” he says. “We’ll often do the same exercises for three to four weeks and then change it up, but we have numbers on athletes: what’s their back squat, their trap bar deadlift, their conventional deadlift.”

And what’s the ideal deadlift? For a male athlete he’ll aim for 2.7 times bodyweight and for females 2.5 times, though Dabrowski emphasizes that this is for his most elite category, his ideal athlete — and of course, an athlete’s strength shouldn’t interfere with their speed.

“We’ve had cases where the strongest and most powerful athlete in the weight room have tested off the charts in the gym but they’re not making the Olympic team, so in cases like that we may back off on the weights and work on skating technique” he says. “It’s not always the strongest and most powerful in the weight room, but we still try and raise that bar as much as possible.”

End quote

After reviewing this week’s offerings, I realize that most of the good information I learned as an athlete continues to be true all these decades later.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


NEW ARTICLE: Thirty seconds on? I can do that. Thirty seconds off? Definitely. For thirty minutes? Say what? Dan has some ideas that may convince you to add classic circuit training to your program design. [CONTINUE READING]


The Sword in the Stone


Madame Mim Six


“Oh, tell me then.”

“You will be safe then, and so would I and the cock be too, if you stayed long enough to let us out. But would you be brave enough to stay, or would you run at once? And what about your friend and the wittol and the old owl?”

“I should run for Merlyn at once,” said the Wart. “Oh, at once, and he would come back and kill this old witch in two twos and then we should all be out.”

The goat looked at him deeply, his tired old eyes seeming to ask their way kindly into the bottom of his heart.

“I shall tell you only the words for you own lock, said the goat at last. “The cock and I will stay here with your friend, as hostages for you return.”

“Oh, goat,” whispered the Wart. “You could have made me say the words to get you out first and then gone your way. Or you could have got the three of us out, starting with yourself to make sure, and left Kay to be eaten. But you are staying with Kay. Oh, goat, I will never forget you, and if I do not get back in time shall not be able to bear my life.”

“We shall have to wait till dark. It will only be a few minutes now.”

As the goat spoke, they could see Madame Mim lighting the oil lamp in the parlour. It had a pink glass shade with patterns on it. The crow, which could not see in the dark, came quietly closer, so that at least he ought to be able to hear.

“Goat,” said the Wart, in whose heart something strange and terrible had been going on in the dangerous twilight, “put your head closer still. Please, goat, I am not trying to be better than you are, but I have a plan. I think it is I who had better stay as hostage and you had better go. You are black and will not be seen in the night. You have four legs and can run much faster than I. Let you go with a message for Merlyn. I will whisper you out, and I will stay.”

He was hardly able to say the last sentence, for he knew that Madame Mim might come for him at any moment now, and if she came before Merlyn it would be his death warrant. But he did say it, pushing the words as if he were breathing against water, for he knew that if he himself were gone when Madame came for him, she would certainly eat Kay at once.”

“Master,” said the goat without further words, and it put one leg out and laid its double-knobbed forehead on the ground in the salute which is given to royalty. Then it kissed his hand as a friend.

“Quick,” said the Wart, “give me one of your hoofs through the bars and I will scratch a message on it with one of my arrows.”

It was difficult to know what message to write on such a small space with such a clumsy implement. In the end he just wrote Kay; He did not use his own name because he thought Kay more important, and that they would come quicker for him.

“Do you know the way?” he asked.

“My grandam used to live at the castle.”

“What are the words?”

“Mine,” said the goat, “are rather upsetting.”

“What are they?”

“Well,” said the goat. “You must say: Let Good Digestion Wait on Appetite.”

“Oh, goat,” said the Wart in a broken voice. “How horrible! But run quickly, goat, and come back safely, goat, and oh, goat, give me one more kiss for company before you go.” The goat refused to kiss him. It gave him the Emperor’s salute, of both feet, and bounded away into the darkness as soon as he had said the words.

Unfortunately, although he had whispered too carefully for the crow to hear their speech, the release words had had to be said rather loudly to reach the next-door keyhole, and the door had creaked.

“Mother, mother!” screamed the crow. “The rabbits are escaping.”

Instantly Madame Mim was framed in the lighted doorway of the kitchen.

“What is it, my Grizzle?” she cried. “What ails us, my halcyon tit?”

“The rabbits are escaping,” shrieked the crow again.

The witch ran out, but too late to catch the goat or even to see him, and began examining the locks at once by the light of her fingers. She held these up in the air and a blue flame burned at the tip of each.

“One little boy safe,” counted Madame Mim,” and sobbing for his dinner. Two little boys safe, and neither getting thinner. One mangy goat gone, and who cares a fiddle? For the owl and the cock are left, and the wittol in the middle.

“Still,” added Madame Mim, “it’s a caution how he got out, a proper caution, that it is.”

End quote

Things are not going to get better for Wart. In the original American version, the next scene will be cut out as Mim will be basically torturing Wart and pinching and prepping him for the pot. It is an uncomfortable scene reading Wart’s recipe.

The goat gives us a hint about Wart’s future: the goat gives him, twice, the Emperor’s bow. Now, why all the animals know about the pedigree of Wart and no human (save the Wizard Merlyn) has a clue is another interesting mystery.

Wart’s mind and bravery shine through in this reading. Plus, and this will carry through more and more through the readings, Wart is very bright…even under pressure.

I have seen the Shadow of Death twice, perhaps more, in my life. During my junior year at THE Utah State University, I walked over to Ferron Sondereggor between rounds to talk about my discus technique. I was leading by a long way at the University of Montana, but I couldn’t get that bomb throw that would qualify me for the Nationals.

He called me over…I remember that…then he stopped waving and started shouting. And, I remember looking up, tossing my hand up and deflecting a discus throw from about 145 feet away, enough so that when it crashed into my head, I only got a concussion that made me black out for six months.

I broke my thumb stopping the discus, but it flattened out enough to NOT hit me on the edge. I wouldn’t be writing this if it was on the edge. About six months later, I “woke.” No, I wasn’t in a coma, but as most people who have had major concussions will tell you, I didn’t make a good decision, good choice, for six months. My handwriting was a scrawl like a kindergarten student.

Years later, Professor Glatfelter told my wife, Tiffini, the story about how concerned the faculty was in Political Science (my major) as it was obvious I wasn’t the same person. As I have written before, he gave me an A in Russian Studies, not for my final, but for my work throughout the course.

When I took the final, he told Tiff, I looked up and said: “I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything.” I must have done a good job until that day.

And, I apologize to anyone for anything I did or said during that time. If I remembered, I would be clearer.

Years later, in 1985, I was in Medinet Habu as part of my studies in Egypt. It was July in the desert and I ran out of water. I was alone in temperatures sneaking up on 120 degrees and I had to make, as we would say in “Dune,” a “water decision.”

I did. I drank out of some water that was…well, you don’t want the details. I picked up a parasite and lost 40 pounds in two weeks. There were times I could barely stay awake long enough to run to the toilet. It wasn’t pretty.

In both cases, I survived. I think there was a reason I need to “be here.” I hope I will know someday, frankly.

Wart, though, in this scene is looking death in its murderous eye. Mim is coming to eat him. He has a choice: flee and maybe get help and save himself.

Or: Stay. Send the goat and hope.

I think this is a transformative moment in Wart’s life. As King, he will rethink fighting, “Might MAKES Right,” and save lives in the process. He, as White tells us, has a plan. He isn’t better than the goat, he simply sees more. He will continue to use his brain throughout our stories. If you continue to read the rest of the books White gives us, you will discover that his heart is going to let him down.

”He was hardly able to say the last sentence, for he knew that Madame Mim might come for him at any moment now, and if she came before Merlyn it would be his death warrant.”

Facing the knives and pots of Mim, Wart puts forward a plan. As Dumas writes as the last lines of the Count of Monte Cristo, Wart, like his audience must “wait and hope.”

Sadly, for Wart, it is about to get worse.

Until next time.


NEW ARTICLE: Thirty seconds on? I can do that. Thirty seconds off? Definitely. For thirty minutes? Say what? Dan has some ideas that may convince you to add classic circuit training to your program design. [CONTINUE READING]




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