Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 190

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 190

Dan on OTPbooks.com: Training Longevity — Life in the Weight Room, in which Dan breaks down age-appropriate training, covering everything from finances to fall prevention.


I was at the Perform Better Summit this weekend in Rhode Island. I keep revamping my lecture and I think I finally got the timing right. I work and rework lectures every time I speak. As a teacher, I learned that every lecture “gets better” IF, and only if, you take just a few minutes to review, resort and refine the new layers that appear as you speak.

I look at my history and theology lecture notes and I can see literally years of additional insights and refinements. I have multiple pen colors adding little bits and, occasionally, massively better ways to teach and instruct. My professor had this joke that “research” comes from the concept of “re-search: you lost it the first time you saw it and then spend years trying to refind what you lost the first time you saw it.”

That’s true for my first Masters, but it is also true with any insight or correction: I’m fine with the fact that I make mistakes; I don’t like making the same ones over and over.

I’ve noticed that one recurring error with me is that I get “sucked in” to things. I believed the Nautilus and CrossFit hype, for example, but my own measuring tool, the distance of the discus, was telling me that, for all the glitz, glamor and macho posturing, this stuff wasn’t working. I hope I didn’t do too much permanent damage to any of my athletes.

It’s double thinking for me, like we read in David Denby’s Great Books: I can’t get sucked in but I also think it is important to try all the new ideas. Rarely, in full candor, in the field of performance does anything new truly work better than what the greats of the past have done.

That’s why it’s so important for me to go to things like Perform Better: I can mine the experiences of other people striving for the same basic goals and use their insights to save me a lot of time and more than enough effort. You should go, too.

Popping around the internet, I found this fun little test to help figure out how large your vocabulary is in English. Enjoy.


To quote a well-known internet meme “ain’t nobody got time for that”. What we needed was a mathematical cheat. Fortunately for us somebody beat us to it.

Linguists Paul Nation and John Read (who doesn’t love a bit of nominative determinism?), along with their colleague Robin Goulden, came up with a test involving only 50 words.

Their theory is that if you count up how many of the 50 words you understand and multiply the total by 500 you are able to estimate your total English vocabulary.

Words start off simply enough; dog, editor, immense but they quickly become more obscure, for example would you know how to use “oleaginous” or “cowsucker” in a sentence? (Hint: the latter doesn’t have anything to do with cows…. or sucking).

And now Paul’s free English vocabulary size test, using 100 words, is available online..

So how many words do we know?

End quote

Coffee, red wine, Vitamin D, a bit of fasting and a bit of walking do wonders for longevity. This article gives us the effective dose for coffee!


“When you drink four to five cups of espresso,” Altschmied told Business Insider, “that seems to improve the function of the powerhouses of our cells, and therefore seems to be protective.”

Scientists have for years noticed that people who drink coffee seem to be less likely to die from all sorts of causes, including heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.

Perhaps the best evidence yet for this comes from two massive studies: one of more than 400,000 people in the US by the National Institutes of Health, and another of more than 500,000 Europeans.

Both studies found that regular coffee drinkers were less likely to die from any cause than people who don’t sip a daily brew.

Coffee is also associated with a whole host of other health benefits, including a lower risk of liver disease (cirrhosis), a lower risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, lower rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and a reduced risk of depression.

End quote

My brother, Gary, got me on this combination years ago when a friend of his, a famous nutritionist, told him that “this” was something to try. I like the ALA/ALC combo for how it seems to help me when I write (as well as Brain.FM’s “Focus” setting and lots of heart-saving coffee).


Hypertension remains the most prevalent form of cardiovascular disease, and there is a growing need for new and well-tolerated therapeutic approaches. The observed reduction in systolic blood pressure during alpha-lipoic acid/acetyl-L-carnitine treatment (9 mmHg in subjects with higher blood pressure) could potentially have a major effect on cardiovascular risk.Clearly, additional prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and define the mechanism of benefit. However, our results appear to be consistent with the possibility that mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to the pathogenesis of hypertension, particularly in the setting of insulin resistance, and that therapy designed to restore mitochondrial function might prove useful for patient management.

End quote

I’m not sure this is the final answer to plantar fasciitis, a crappy little condition that I probably had three times, but this article and PDF are a pretty good start.


How To Treat Your Plantar Fasciitis Naturally” is the collaborative work of five health experts, including Dr. Phil Maffetone. It offers a holistic and conservative approach for healing without the use of expensive orthotic devices, drugs or surgery.

As Dr. Maffetone notes in the book’s introduction, plantar fasciitis is a relatively common condition in those who spend considerable time on their feet, including runners and walkers. It is characterized by pain at the bottom of the foot in front of the heel, and is typically worse with the first steps in the morning or after a long period off the feet, prolonged standing, or following hard exercise.

The condition accounts for about a half-billion dollars in healthcare visits annually.

End quote

This article, I believe, needs to be read and discussed a bit. I’m anti-drug, but I thought the leap from getting into shape to steroids hard to follow. I always find the bodybuilding death stories interesting: Art De Vany used to keep a “dead pool” list on his old site about runners dying in races and training. Maybe the body simply isn’t a fan of excess.


Why is it that we condemn women’s magazines for including weight-loss tips, but men’s magazines escape our censure? Both say: you are not OK as you are. You should change. Both perpetuate body ideals that, despite what they may claim, are not practicably achievable by everyone.

“There’s no set manual that every man can use to get the same results,” says Thomas. “Not every man can get the desired result within six weeks. You can do the same workout as other men and you won’t get the same result.” Some may feel cheated and go to extreme lengths to get the result they were “promised”. These measures can be harmless: protein bars or creatine shakes. But not always.

As it is very difficult to have an abnormally pumped, low-body-fat physique without chemical help, experts link today’s cosmetic muscularity to substance abuse.

“I was definitely tempted by steroids,” says Sikdar. He is not alone. Steroid abuse is on the rise, with an estimated 1 million users in the UK. In 2015, reality star Spencer Matthews admitted to a secret steroid addiction fuelled by “vanity”. Matthews is one of the lucky ones: many do not survive steroid addiction. Dean Wharmby, a bodybuilder from Rochdale, died of liver cancer induced by his misuse of anabolic steroids in 2015. Cult Australian bodybuilder Aziz Shavershian, known as Zyzz, was the poster boy for a muscularity-oriented lifestyle, posting his workouts online to thousands of followers. In 2011, he died in a sauna in Thailand at the age of 22. After his death, it emerged that Shavershian had been taking clenbuterol, which can induce cardiac arrhythmia.

What makes men die pursuing a cosmetic goal? “Being big was what everyone knew Dean for,” Wharmby’s partner Charlotte Rigby said after his death.

End quote

Not a great way to finish a week, so let’s have a bonus article on preparing fish.


A 2016 study funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that tested consumer preferences for fresh black cod and coho salmon vs. frozen (both bought at retail) found that the frozen fish, simply baked, were both rated superior or equal to their fresh counterparts. The study also measured the quality of those frozen and fresh fish, based on the conductivity of cell structure, and found that the overall score of the frozen fish was at least three times higher than the fresh fish.

So, you need to learn about frozen fish to maximize its potential. In return, you get to sample species that come from the Antarctic, such as Chilean sea bass, and enjoy it anytime. And by that I mean you don’t even have to defrost it before you cook it.

End quote

Until next week, keep on lifting and learning.


Dan on OTPbooks.com: What were the game-changing events in Dan John’s life? One thing’s for sure: Dan’s game changers are all about performance. My Game Changers

The Sword in the Stone, Part 46, Tirings


“Ninety per cent,” said the spar-hawk after a quick sum. “That is, if you give him a half for the talons.”

“The devil damn me black!”

“Colonel, please!”

Balan whispered to the Wart, “Colonel Cully is not quite right in his wits. It is his liver, we believe, but the kestrel says it is the constant strain of living up to her ladyship’s standard. He says that her ladyship spoke to him from her full social station once, cavalry to infantry, you know, and that he just closed his eyes and got the vertigo. He has never been the same since.”

“Captain Balan,” said the peregrine, “it is rude to whisper. We will proceed to swear the new officer in. Now, padre, if you please.”

The poor spar-hawk, who had been getting more and more nervous for some time, blushed deeply and began faltering out a complicated oath about varvels, jesses and hoods. “With this varvel,” the Wart heard, “I thee endow … love, honour and obey … till jess us do part.”

But before the padre had got to the end of it, he broke down altogether and sobbed out, “Oh, please your ladyship. I beg your pardon, but I have forgotten to keep my tirings.”

(“Tirings are bones and things,” explained Balan, “and of course you have to swear on bones.”)

“Forgotten to keep any tirings? But it is your duty to keep tirings.”

“I—I know.”

“What have you done with them?”

The spar-hawk’s voice broke at the enormity of his confession. “I—I ate ’em,” wept the unfortunate priest.

Nobody said anything. The dereliction of duty was too terrible for words. All stood on two feet and turned their blind heads toward the culprit. Not a word of reproach was spoken. Only, during an utter silence of five minutes, they could hear the incontinent priest snivelling and hiccoughing to himself.

End quote

T. H. White’s command of falconry is obvious throughout this chapter. Varvels are little rings put on the bird’s jesses, those strips of leather around the talons, with the coat of arms of the owner printed upon them. This particular moment in the story seems to carry us back to medieval times more than some of the other stories.

I was trying to find information on “tirings,” but the moment I started looking for swearing, I soon found that “swearing an oath” is one of the rarer uses of the word “swear.” At one time, By God’s Bones, would get your mouth washed out with soap and “sard” was an earlier stand-in for our current “F Bomb.”

It was fun to read up on all of this, but I was getting away from digging into our story deeper. Yes, I am, at heart, a 14-year-old boy when it comes to cussing: it makes me giggle.

Cully’s problems keep being explained away by different characters. We first met Cully on our quest to find a tutor:

“Right down the length of the room, with the afternoon sun shining full on them, there ran the screen perches to which the birds were tied. There were two little merlins which had only just been taking up from hacking, an old peregrine who was not much use in this wooded country but who was kept for appearances, a kestrel on which the boys had learned the rudiments of falconry, a spar-hawk which Sir Ector was kind enough to keep for the parish priest, and, caged off in a special apartment of his own at the far end, there was the tiercel goshawk Cully.”

Cully was not in a good mood, as Wart tells us: “he is deep in the molt.”

Merlyn warns Wart before this adventure: “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.”

And then Merlyn explains the pecking order (literally) of the roost: “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.”

As Wart enters the area, White points out: “Only, in the far corner of the room, which had been netted off for Cully—loose there, unhooded and deep in moult—they could hear a faint muttering from the choleric infantry colonel.”

And, now, this line:

“Balan whispered to the Wart, ‘Colonel Cully is not quite right in his wits. It is his liver, we believe, but the kestrel says it is the constant strain of living up to her ladyship’s standard. He says that her ladyship spoke to him from her full social station once, cavalry to infantry, you know, and that he just closed his eyes and got the vertigo. He has never been the same since.'”

Molt, madness, choleric, and social station all seem to impact our infantry Colonel.

He seems to molt a lot. He is also very dangerous.

Padre, the Spar-Hawk, reminds us of Merlyn’s explanation of this band of warriors: they are always hungry. The Padre’s little meal of the tirings brings one of the most powerful condemnations I have ever read:

“Nobody said anything. The dereliction of duty was too terrible for words. All stood on two feet and turned their blind heads toward the culprit. Not a word of reproach was spoken. Only, during an utter silence of five minutes…”

Five minutes of silence! Ouch. I have used silence as a father a few times to let the weight of something set in. But, I am not sure I could handle five minutes.

Next time, Wart literally faces death in the eyes and talons of Cully.


Dan on OTPbooks.com: Whatever your goal, there comes a time for the ‘big push.’ Ramping Up — Training Rules for the Big Push


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.