Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 172

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 172

NEW ARTICLE: Carrying on with the ruck training theme (excuse the not-so-clever pun), here’s part two from Mike Prevost, delivering on Dan’s request for more depth: [CONTINUE READING]

I’m home from a great time down in Tampa with Perform Better. I bought some new gear to try out in the gym and I’m looking forward to playing with my new toys.

I try out new equipment all the time. Sometimes, like the ab wheel and the kettlebell, I discover something that allows us to toss out a bunch of stuff that was “just fine” and add something “better.” My quotes here should indicate that it is subjective, but I gather enough evidence that I push it over into the area of “Hey, this is something not just new, but better.”

Sometimes, the new toy just ends up in the heap, too. In my workshops, I talk about this in every phase of life. I’m always striving to find new things that get my A Grade: these are things with low costs and high benefits. You still need other things, too, but the A Grades are fun to look at:

Food: Protein, Essential Fats, Water
Finance: Debt Free, Emergency Fund, Quality goods and services
Fitness: 8-9 hours sleep every night, daily walking, basics of movement
Friends: Worth the Name.

That last line comes from Jerome K. Jerome, one of the most quotable humans of all time:

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.”

This quote was the basis of my life turnaround in 1985. I was so sick and ill from my little parasite friend from Egypt. I lived in a basement and started listening to audiotapes…especially Earl Nightingale. I still have the “Lead the Field” folder I made from that year with this quote on it. I’ve been following this sage advice since that day.

Let your gym of life be light, packed with only what you need. Now, that is a good conversation.

Browsing the net this week, I found this great article on how we die…by country.There is value in studying this.


Compared with the global data, a larger share of deaths is caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — accounting for almost 90 percent of mortality — and much lower occurrence of preventable deaths such as diarrheal disease, undernutrition, and neonatal deaths. This is a common pattern across high-income countries: prosperity, high living standards, good healthcare systems (although there are large inequalities in healthcare access in the US when compared with other rich countries) have seen a successful decline in largely preventable mortality risks.

The majority of deaths in high-income countries therefore relate to to so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’, including NCDs, kidney, liver, and digestive diseases, or those which typically occur in older age (such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias). This major shift in causes of death towards NCDs represents the so-called Epidemiological Transition which marks the transition from infectious diseases towards more chronic conditions. We see this process in the United States by looking at the shift in mortality across the 20th century. Leading risk factors for death in the United States are therefore now strongly linked to lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity, blood sugar, dietary intake, and alcohol consumption.

Suicides in the United States rank highly on the list of mortality causes — above deaths from road accidents, and more than 2.5 times the number from homicides.

End quote

Oddly, as I read this, I wanted much more information. I am in a study that does DNA and diet work and I remained convinced that there is a lot more to be studied about this link. But, for now, we don’t have any proof. I am amazed by what I did get from one little thing: cutting out fast foods is a big deal in my group. I guess we all know that, but it is interesting to see. I like this part of the article as, once again, there is NOT going to be a magic wand.


DNA testing won’t guide dieters to the weight-loss regimen most likely to work for them, scientists reported on Tuesday. Despite some earlier studies claiming that genetic variants predict whether someone has a better chance of shedding pounds on a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet, and despite a growing industry premised on that notion, the most rigorous study so far found no difference in weight loss between overweight people on diets that “matched” their genotype and those on diets that didn’t.

The findings make it less likely that genetics might explain why only some people manage to lose weight on a low-carb diet like Atkins and why others succeed with a low-fat one (even though the vast majority of dieters don’t keep off whatever pounds they lose). Unlike cancer treatments, diets can’t be matched to genotype, the new study shows.

The results underline “how, for most people, knowing genetic risk information doesn’t have a big impact,” said Timothy Caulfield, of the University of Alberta, a critic of quackery. “We know weight loss is tough and sustained weight loss is even tougher. Genetics are relevant … [but] it seems highly unlikely that providing genetic risk information is going to be the magical formula that is going to fix this complex problem.”

End quote

One thing this article did NOT mention is that I visit Norway often. Joking aside, parents PLEASE read this!


“A huge amount of Norwegian kids are doing sports, so we have very broad recruiting base, and our top sports programs and our kids are very closely connected in our system,” Ovrebo said. “They can compete, but we don’t make like No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 before they’re in their 13th year. We think it’s better to be a child in this way because then they can concentrate on having fun and be with their friends and develop. We think the biggest motivation for the kids to do sports that they do it with their friends and they have fun while they’re doing it and we want to keep that feeling throughout their whole career.”

And fun remains a key tent of the Norwegian experience even when they grow up, which is important since, as Ovrebo acknowledges, “it’s not a very competitive society from the start.” In other words, Norway doesn’t look at sports as an avenue to fame and fortune, nor is it an escape from their troubles. Because most Norwegians, it turns out, don’t have many troubles given the universal health care, free college education and high employment rates.

“We have quite a high level of life quality for a very high percentage of the people and that puts them in a position where they can actually choose sports as a kind of self-realization and development arena,” Ovrebo said. “They’re not struggling for their lives, so they’re quite free and quite educated and have good health state. That means many of the youth are actually in a position where they can choose sports.”

And if that isn’t utopia-ish enough for you, get this: Even when the athletes grow up and start competing for big trophies, they remain friends. Not made-for-TV-and-Twitter friends, but, like, real friends. Among the other things Norway encourages is for the sports and coaches to get out of their silos and talk to each other and learn from each other.

End quote

I’m going to stop right here this week. Usually, I have a lot more articles but I like the global dimension of these three pieces: How we die, the role of DNA and obesity, and raising good kids to be good athletes just has me thinking.

I hope you do too. I will have more next week, of course, and, until then, keep on lifting and learning.


If you missed it last week, here’s part one of Mike Prevost’s rucking series[CONTINUE READING]


The Sword in the Stone


Madame Mim Eight


Madame Mim put the Wart down without looking at him, rose from her chair, and drew herself to her full magnificent height. Her glorious hair began to crackle, and sparks shot out of her flashing eyes. She and Merlyn stood facing each other for fully sixty seconds, without a word spoken, and then Madame Mim swept a royal curtsey and Merlyn bowed a frigid bow. He stood aside to let her go first out of the doorway and then followed her into the garden.

It ought perhaps to be explained, before we go any further, that in those far-off days, when there was actually a college for Witches and Warlocks under the sea at Dom-Daniel and when all wizards were either black or white, there was a good deal of ill-feeling between the different creeds. Quarrels between white and black were settled ceremonially, by means of duels. A wizard’s duel was run like this. The two principals would stand opposite each other in some large space free from obstructions, and await the signal to begin. When the signal was given they were at liberty to turn themselves into things. It was rather like the game that can be played by two people with their fists. They say One, Two, Three, and at Three they either stick out two fingers for scissors, or the flat palm for paper, or the clenched fist for stone. If your hand becomes paper when your opponent’s becomes scissors, then he cuts you and wins: but if yours had turned into stone, his scissors are blunted, and the win is yours. The object of the wizard in the duel was, to turn himself into some kind of animal, vegetable or mineral which would destroy the particular animal, vegetable or mineral which had been selected by his opponent. Sometimes it went on for hours.

Merlyn had Archimedes for his second, Madame Mim had the gore-crow for hers, while Hecate, who always had to be present at these affairs in order to keep them regular, sat on the top of a step-ladder in the middle to umpire. She was a cold, shining, muscular lady, the colour of moonlight. Merlyn and Madame Mim rolled up their sleeves, gave their surcoats to Hecate to hold and the latter put on a celluloid eye-shade to watch the battle.

At the first gong Madame Mim immediately turned herself into a dragon. The was the accepted opening move and Merlyn ought to have replied by being a thunderstorm or something like that. Instead he caused a great deal of preliminary confusion by becoming a field mouse, which was quite invisible in the grass, and nibbled Madame Mim’s tail, as she started about in all directions, for about five minutes before she noticed him. But when she did notice the nibbling, she was a furious cat in two flicks.

Wart held his breath to see what the mouse would become next-he thought perhaps a tiger which could kill the cat-but Merlyn merely became another cat. He stood opposite her and made faces. This most irregular procedure put Madame Mim quite out of her stride, and it took her more than a minute to regain her bearings and become a dog. Even as she became it, Merlyn was another dog standing opposite her, of the same sort.
“Oh, well played, sir!” cried the Wart, beginning to see the plan.

Madame Mim was furious. She felt herself out of her depth against these unusual stone-walling tactics and experienced an internal struggle not to lose her temper. She knew that if she did lose it she would lose her judgement, and the battle as well. She did some quick thinking. If whatever she turned herself into a menacing animal, Merlyn was merely going to turn into the same kind, the thing would become either a dog-fight or stalemate. She had better alter her own tactics and give Merlyn a surprise.

At this moment the gong went for the end of the first round. The combatants retired into the respective corners and their seconds cooled them by flapping their wings, while Archimedes gave Merlyn a little message by nibbling with his beak.

“Second round,” commanded Hecate. “Seconds out of the ring…Time!”

Clang went the gong, and the two desperate wizards stood face to face.

Madame Mim had gone on plotting during her rest. She had decided to try a new tack by leaving the offensive to Merlyn, beginning by assuming a defensive shape herself. She turned into a spreading oak.

Merlyn stood baffled under the oak for a few seconds. Then he most cheekily-and, as it turned out, rashly- became a powdery little blue-tit, which flew up and sat perkily on Madame Mim’s branches. You could see the oak boiling with indignation for a moment; but then its rage became icy cold, and the poor little blue-tit was sitting, not on an oak, but on a snake. The snake’s mouth was open, and the bird was actually perching on its jaws. The jaws clashed together, but only in the nick of time, the bird whizzed off as a gnat into the safe air. Madame Mim had got it on the run, however, and the speed of the contest became bewildering. The quicker the attacker could assume a form, the less time the fugitive had to think of a form which would elude it, and now the changes were as quick as thought. The gnat was scarcely in the air when the snake had turned into a toad whose curious tongue, rooted at the front instead of the back of the jaw, was already unrolling in the flick which would snap it in. The gnat, flustered by the sore pursuit, was bounced into an offensive role, and the hard-pressed Merlyn now stood before the toad in the shape of a mollern which could attack it. But Madame Mim was in her element. The games was going according to the normal rules now, and in less than an eye’s blink the toad had turned into a peregrine falcon which was diving at two hundred and fifty miles an hour upon the heron’s back. Poor Merlyn, beginning to lose his nerve, turned wildly into an elephant-this move usually won a little breathing space-but Madame Mim, relentless, changed from the falcon into an aullay on the instant. An aullay was as much bigger than an elephant as an elephant is larger than a sheep. It was a sort of horse with an elephant’s trunk. Madame Mim raised this trunk into the air, gave a shriek like a railway engine, and rushed upon her panting foe. In a flick, Merlyn had disappeared.

“One,” said Hecate. “Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine-“

But before the fatal Ten which would have counted him out, Merlyn reappeared in a bed of nettles, mopping his brow. He had been standing among them as a nettle.

The aullay saw no reason to change its shape. It rushed upon the man before it with another piercing scream. Merlyn vanished again just as the thrashing trunk descended, and all stood still a moment, looking about them, wondering where he would step out next.

“One,” began Hecate again, but even as she proceeded with her counting, strange things began to happen. The aullay got hiccoughs, turned red, swelled visibly, began whooping, come out in spots, staggered three times, rolled its eyes, fell rumbling to the ground. It groaned, kicked and said Farewell. The Wart cheered, Archimedes hooted till her cried, the gore-crow fell down dead, and Hecate, on the top of her ladder, clapped so much that she nearly tumbled off. It was a master stroke.

The ingenious magician had turned himself successively into the microbes, not yet discovered, of hiccoughs, scarlet fever, mumps, whooping cough, measles and heat spots and from a complication of all of these complaints the infamous Madame Mim had immediately expired.

End quote

I really enjoy how White steps in and clarifies things for his readers several times in this text. The “Slap Game” explanation, scissors, paper and rock, brings me back to my youth. I also find Merlyn’s tactics to be worth careful study.

Really, only one criticism from me: no real explanation of Hecate. Hecate is the Greek goddess of magic, sorcery, witchcraft, crossroads, trivial knowledge, necromancy, and ghosts. Her appearance here as the official is interesting and White doesn’t really include a description of her.

I don’t know why, or course, but maybe he is trying to keep us focused on the duel. In other versions, Mim doesn’t die, but here, I give you the original. Well, she “expires,” but that is still far better than that terrible scene in the Disney movie where Merlyn is checking Mim’s temperature as she recovers in bed. If this is serious business, eating boys for meals seems like something we need to deal with seriously, then the stakes must be high.

Sometimes The Sword in the Stone is tossed into that pile called “Children’s Books.” We keep reading chapter after chapter here where people face death, people die and violence is common. And, good books deal with these issues whether or not they are for kids or adults.

We are about to move into a chapter that is considered White’s funniest work. As we bury Mim, we probably need a collective breath. A little light comedy might be the best antidote.

Until next time…


NEW ARTICLE: Does your training business have an exit plan? Thom Plummer explains. [CONTINUE READING]


Click here to get this each Wednesday in your email box.

Click here to see the Wandering Weights archive.



Subscribe below and we'll send great articles to your email box. Includes FREE access to our OTP Vault of material from experts in the field.