Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 185

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 185

Dan on OTPbooks.com: Much of Dan’s best work is hosted on OTPbooks.com… [CLICK FOR THE FULL LIST]


I’m writing this from my hotel room in Calgary. I am getting ready to go home. I will be heading off to San Francisco and then London where the bulk of my June will see me teaching in England. It’s a busy time.

I enjoyed the workshop this weekend. The people here are great; getting across the border is always an interesting issue (but…enough of that).

It’s been raining crazy in Utah. I have a new theory: with environmental change, the months have slid over. May is becoming rainy April. I could be wrong, of course, but my lawn is sure happy.

Training is going well for me. I enjoy the nicer weather and we are getting a lot of variation in. The Wednesday ruck has turned out to be a highlight of the week. I will miss my “normal” training for a while, but I do what I can on the road.

I am really proud of my friend, Anne. This is a great interview.


Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Drowning out the debbie downers, the naysayers and skeptics who thought it would be too difficult to train hearing clients.

“How are you going to communicate with them?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to try something else?”

“Maybe you should try for a smaller gym…”

I had to drown the doubt. It became white noise. Fuel for me to succeed. I found two advantages being a Deaf trainer:

1) We share the same language of vulnerability in fitness. Working out can be an extremely vulnerable state, showing our fears and shame and limitations. So, I want you to see it as a “chance to be vulnerable.” I repeatedly embrace this change to feel vulnerable and uncertain because growth happens, and the underlying humanity will connect me to clients who share the same desire to cultivate the resilience I was forced to accumulate since youth.

Fitness can be a space for everyone to move into uncertainty and learn to build resilience- that’s something literally everyone can do and embrace and recognize, and be grateful for the opportunity to let the body help lead the mind!

2) We won’t have time to get over wordy when I’m teaching you how to train. You have to focus on quality and accomplishing the workout. Clients internalize the mind and body connection, empowering them with the ability to stay committed to their wellness journey with and without me.

End quote

Well, “finally,” I rediscovered Mary Gallagher’s blog. I swear he hides from me. I was with him when he gave this workshop…it was a once in a lifetime event.


In about this same time, I recalled a famous phrase that Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest used to encapsulate his strategic philosophy. An illiterate idiot savant and tactical genius, Forrest pared his entire strategy down to an irreducible core essence: he reduced his cavalry mobility philosophy down to six words,

“Git thar furst-est with the most-est.”

This stimulated my thinking – could I boil my resistance training approach down to six words appropriate for Tier 1 Spec Ops and their unique requirements?

“Get the most-est for the least-est.”

Get the most results for the least amount of time investment. Military physical training is not athletic training, not even elite athletic training. Military goals and modes can and should be substantially different than those of the elite athlete. Athletes are adept at a single pie sliver – Tier 1 Spec Ops need to be adept at a vast array of interrelated tasks.

It occurred to me that for Tier 1 Spec Ops, time is their most precious commodity.

Tier 1 Spec Ops have to have time to run, jump, shoot, dive, parachute, study communications and tactics, engage in PT and deploy – they do not have the luxury of engaging in hours of leisurely gym time: being a Tier 1 Spec Op means every single undertaking must generate maximum results for a minimum time investment.

How simplistic can a system be made before it loses effectiveness?

My particular area of expertise is the attainment of brute power. The wonderful thing about acquiring raw strength is that it is not, and should not be, time intensive. Factually, too much gym time is counterproductive for the attainment of pure power.

There exists a simplistic system of strength, a minimalistic resistance training strategy of impeccable pedigree: this system is already pared down and reduced to its irreducible core essence. I felt this particular barebones strength system would be ideal for military use and would adhere perfectly to the idea of gaining the most power and strength in return for the least possible time investment.

End quote

This article from Marty made me laugh. I had the exact same experience.


“The Definition Diet, like most good things, is simple. It’s tasty, nutritious, easy to figure, easy to follow and the ideal adjunct for the hardcore weight trainee. The secret of the diet is this – eliminate carbohydrates. Not reduce them. Eliminate them. Eliminate them completely. You don’t cut calories. You don’t count them. You don’t restrict the amount of food you eat at all. You simply don’t eat any carbohydrates at all.”

As Emeril would say, “BAM!” Is this not the primordial rationale behind all the low-carb/no-carb diet strategies? How did Mac know this back in 1965? How did he know that CARBS were the enemy? What gave him that insight? Please keep in mind that in 1965 there were no nutrient breakdown labels on foods and dieting and nutrition were in the stone age.  Yet John McCallum was recommending the best-selling Atkins Diet twenty years before it was invented. His food recommendations from back in the day would line up well with Weston A. Price and the Paleo people.  In the year 2018, what we know about dieting and shedding body fat is this…

Any food or foodstuff eaten that is not protein, fibrous carb or fat is undigested sugar
Natural carbs and refined carbs spikes insulin
No body fat can be burned if insulin is in the bloodstream

When carbs are eliminated, insulin subsides, body fat can be oxidized. No carbs, no more insulin problems: simple as that. Now add to an insulin-free body some hardcore training and the body is maneuvered into using body fat as fuel. In a no-carb environment, insulin receptor sites unclog and come back online, now fully functioning.  The human body is designed to routinely clear reasonable amounts of insulin, without problem.

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I have a new theory about coaching people: Go to their car and look in their back seat. If it is a cluttered disaster, don’t talk about goal setting: clean the car. This article gives some insights.


Cluttered Space

During their research, the UCLA anthropologists looked at how families used the space in their homes. Unsurprisingly (to me), the kitchen tends to be the hub, the command center of the household.

“Everything transpires in kitchens,” Graesch says. “Activities are organized, schedules are co-ordinated, plans are made for the next day, meals are cooked, kids are doing homework in kitchen spaces. It’s very, very intensively used. A lot of the material culture in kitchens speaks to this logistical center in everyday family lives.”

The refrigerator door is often a center for family artifacts. It’s a place for family history and culture and nostalgia. But, says Arnold, “There seems to be a kind of a correlation between how much Stuff is on the refrigerator panel door and how much stuff is in the broader home.”

Bathrooms, too, can become important places to plan and prepare for the day. They’re staging areas where we get ready to go out into the world.

With all of the chaos in other parts of the home, many parents work hard to make the master bedroom a sort of quiet retreat, a space isolated from the rest of the house. People value their master bedrooms so much, in fact, that they’ll spend to remodel them into the oasis they desire instead of funneling their funds to remove actual bottlenecks (like bathrooms) or to optimize the spaces where the family spends most of its time.

In some ways, the master bedroom has become a symbolic space. It’s a place of refuge.

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I’ve been saying this for years: “knitted people” live longer. “Fit” comes from the Old Nordic word “knitted,” as you know. This article gives some insights.


One of the most striking pieces of evidence for this, says Dunbar, is a meta-analysis of 148 epidemiological studies that looked for the best predictors that patients would survive for 12 months after a heart attack. “The best two predictors, by a long way, are the number and quality of friends you have and giving up smoking,” he says. “You can eat as much as you like, you can slob about, you can drink as much alcohol as you like – the effect is very modest compared with these other two factors.”

End quote

I enjoyed this week’s selections. I am so happy to have rediscovered Marty’s blog. I hope to spend a lot of time there in the future.

Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


Dan on OTPbooks.com: Dan’s OTPbooks.com author page, including all of his article links [CLICK FOR THE FULL LIST]


The Sword in the Stone, Part 42


“Good,” said Merlyn. “Now hop on my hand—ah, be careful and don’t gripe—and listen to what I have to tell you. I shall take you into the mews now that Hob has locked up for the night, and I shall put you loose and unhooded beside Balin and Balan. Now pay attention. Don’t go close to anybody without speaking first. You must remember that most of them are hooded and might be startled into doing something rash. You can trust Balin and Balan, also the kestrel and the spar-hawk. Don’t go within reach of the falcon unless she invites you to. On no account must you stand beside Cully’s special enclosure, for he is unhooded and will go for you through the mesh if he gets half a chance. He is not quite right in his brains, poor chap, and if he once grips you, you will never leave his grip alive. Remember that you are visiting a kind of Spartan military mess. These fellows are regulars. As the junior subaltern your only business is to keep your mouth shut, speak when you are spoken to, and not interrupt.”

“I bet I am more than a subaltern,” said the Wart, “if I am a merlin.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, you are. You will find that both the kestrel and the spar-hawk will be polite to you, but for all sake’s sake don’t interrupt the senior merlins or the falcon. She is the honorary colonel of the regiment. And as for Cully, well, he is a colonel too, even if he is infantry, so you must mind your p’s and q’s.”

“I will be careful,” said the Wart, who was beginning to feel rather scared.

“Good. I shall come for you in the morning, before Hob is up.”

All the hawks were silent as Merlyn carried their new companion into the mews, and silent for some time afterward when they had been left in the dark. The rain had given place to a full August moonlight, so clear that you could see a woolly bear caterpillar fifteen yards away out of doors, as it climbed up and up the knobbly sandstone of the great keep, and it took the Wart only a few moments for his eyes to become accustomed to the diffused brightness inside the mews. The darkness became watered with light, with silver radiance, and then it was an eerie sight which dawned upon his vision. Each hawk or falcon stood in the silver upon one leg, the other tucked up inside the apron of its panel, and each was a motionless statue of a knight in armour. They stood gravely in their plumed helmets, spurred and armed. The canvas or sacking screens of their perches moved heavily in a breath of wind, like banners in a chapel, and the rapt nobility of the air kept their knight’s vigil in knightly patience. In those days they used to hood everything they could, even the goshawk and the merlin, which are no longer hooded according to modern practice.

End quote

Before I begin, my good friend and occasional training partner, Patrick Riedl, sent me an interesting thing. He has the German translation of The Sword in the Stone and he copied the line that inspired my catchphrase, Never Let Go:

“Welches ist das erste Gesetz des Fangs?” („Überlegen Sie“, sagte der freundliche kleine Balan hinter vorgehaltenem befiederten Fang.) Wart überlegte und kam auf die richtige Antwort.

„Niemals loslassen“, sagte er.

(We haven’t arrived here yet, but this is the selection in English:

“What is the first law of the foot?”

(“Think,” said friendly little Balan, behind his false primary.)

The Wart thought, and thought right.

“Never to let go,” he said.”)

The German translation of my book, Never Let Go, has the title “Gib niemals auf” which, I have been told, means something a little different. I cut “Never to let go” to “Never let go” as I always thought the “to” was too much extra work. I’m kidding, of course.

Anyone who has taught theology quickly learns that the “end times” and the hawks share a root word: Raptor. It simply means to grab (or seize). Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gives us the usual apocalyptic meaning (Chapter Four):

“16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

I point out something to my students: Paul says “we.” To the early Christian Church, the return of Jesus was imminent. In other words, let’s eat lunch now, but don’t worry about dinner. The second point is that the phrase “shall be caught up,” often translated today as “Rapture” is a fun discussion for another time and place.

So, the word “raptor” is a splendid word with lots of associations.

The Raptor Family of birds, well, that starts a debate. I won’t get involved in the arguments, but in the world of hawking, this seems to be a big deal. Generally, though, Birds of Prey are ordered like this:

Accipitridae: hawks, eagles, buzzards, harriers, kites, and European (Old World) vultures
Pandionidae: the osprey
Sagittariidae: the secretarybird
Falconidae: falcons, caracaras, and forest falcons
Cathartidae: vultures of the Americas (New World)

Generally, these are birds with magnificent vision and talons. The “talons.” Remember, the talons.

So, Wart is joining a band of flying birds with great eyesight. This group strangles its prey. Both of these two points are crucial in understanding this story.

The birds, except Cully and Wart, will be hooded. Much of the questions directed at Wart will concern the talons (wrong answer, as we shall see) or “feet,” as the troop uses the term. Deprived of the use of their vision, the story actually becomes deeper and more dangerous for our young hero.

On no account must you stand beside Cully’s special enclosure, for he is unhooded and will go for you through the mesh if he gets half a chance.

This, of course, is exactly what is about to happen. Wart is again placed near the mouth of the Pike and, like the Pike story, Wart’s brand of courage and cleverness keeps him alive. There are certainly parallels between the Pike and Hawk stories; Wart will learn lessons about power, strength and bravery.

We will have much happier transformation stories coming up, but these two tend to draw me in.

For Lord of the Rings fans, the names might ring a bell; Balan and Balin sound like the names from a troop of dwarves. Yes, Balin is one of the group in The Hobbit, but the names probably come from The Ballad of Balin and Balan, Book II in Malory’s Le Morté d’ Arthur.

White’s powers of description are evident here: “The darkness became watered with light, with silver radiance, and then it was an eerie sight which dawned upon his vision.” I find this lovely.

Next time, “here we go!”


Dan on OTPbooks.com: Dan’s OTPbooks.com author page, including all of his article links [CLICK FOR THE FULL LIST]


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