Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 193

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 193

New this week on OTPbooks.com: The complexity of resistance training programming is best approached by breaking down the lift into its systems. How many reps with how much weight? The answer is probably simpler than you think, but it depends on the goal. Mike Prevost: Resistance Training Rep Schemes and Application

We celebrated my wife’s 50th birthday this weekend. I’m a decade older and I understand the importance of crossing that line. Oddly, some birthdays bother us and some don’t. It’s interesting to talk about this. My wife has an aunt who still tells us she is 49 and she is a couple of decades older than me (on paper!). For some, it is 30: “It’s the end of my youth,” I was told once.

For me, only one number ever bothered me: 26. I made fun of my relative, Paul, when I was young for turning 26. He had a wife, home, good job and three kids. Fourteen years later, I was 26.

I lived in a basement, my car was a rusted-out VW with the bumper held on by a weight belt, and I struggled to get up every day because of a parasite I had picked up in the Middle East.

I wasn’t a “failure,” but I didn’t have a very good birthday. And, yes, I thought of Paul that day.

For my birthday present, I bought the Great Books collection and began the Fifteen Minutes a Day Lifetime Reading plan. When I could, I started lifting weights and riding a bike. Soon, I was competing again.

Oddly, my throws in this period—this is the late 1980s—were very good. I was throwing almost as far as my lifetime bests on a fraction of my old training time. It’s when I first discovered how much time we waste in training. It would take another 20 years to really figure it out.

It would take some injuries and surgeries to get loaded carries as part of the center of my training. It would take deprivation (no rings or throwing fields) to figure out how to train the discus without the discus. It would take experience to realize that most of the stuff I read, especially in bodybuilding magazines, was pure fluff and nonsense.

Since 26, I wrap my arms around every birthday. I see them now as a road sign on this great journey of life.

I celebrate each and every day now. But sometimes, like when your wife turns 50, you stop and celebrate a lot more.

So, this article is for her.


Then, about 15 years ago, economists made an unexpected finding: the U-shaped happiness curve. Other things being equal – that is, once conditions such as income, employment, health and marriage are factored out of the equation – life satisfaction declines from our early 20s until we hit our 50s. Then it turns around and rises, right through late adulthood. This pattern has been found in countries and cultures around the world; a version of it has even been detected in chimpanzees and orangutans.

We assume that ageing, in and of itself, has either no effect on happiness, or that it simply makes us miserable. But instead, it fights happiness until midlife, then switches sides. Of course, ageing is never the only thing going on. How satisfied you feel at any given time will depend on many things; but the independent effect of ageing is more than enough to make a noticeable difference, especially if the rest of your life is stable and smooth.

Importantly, ageing’s effect is not sudden and dramatic. It is slow and cumulative. I was a textbook case. In my late 30s, I noticed restless and dissatisfaction, as if neither my life nor my accomplishments amounted to anything worthwhile. The malaise grew gradually but persistently. It was seriously dispiriting by my mid-40s. Then, at around 50, my malaise began to lift, as gradually as it had come. Now, at 58, it is mercifully behind me.

End quote

I am glad T-nation did this with this piece. They took a small entry I made for a collection and fleshed it out into a full article. It’s really a basic series of “truths” that I link together into a fat loss discussion.


I used to work with a guy, Phil, who did something interesting. During Lent, he gave up his health. He was one of those guys who combined yoga with meditative movements from every corner of the world, drank cocktails made of frog bile and various magic herbs and oils, and spent lots of time on his little rug balancing rocks.

But, every spring, he stopped all of it. He ate doughnuts, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes. He stopped doing everything healthy. When Easter came around, he told me he couldn’t wait to get back to his ascetic lifestyle.

It never made sense to me. But, like the Atkins Diet, spending a few weeks emphasizing one thing after years of doing the opposite seems to help. So, on some level, I understand it.

The only issue is that it goes against the thousands of years of Western tradition. Achilles’ search for “Arete,” striving for virtue that will last well beyond your lifetime, is based on understanding that “somewhere in the middle” of the extremes is the road we seek.

Many people I work with are actually just like Phil. They just live on another extreme. They focus on a thousand things at once, answer every ping from the phone, scroll through social media for hours, try every diet and supplement idea all at once and leave everything in life unfinished, cluttered, and messy. And that brings us to the next point.

End quote

This next article seems to knit all of what I wrote and our articles this week. I really enjoyed this piece:


It takes a lot of work, and even more courage, to look at yourself and decide that maybe it’s time you saw things from a different angle, with a different question, but it’s precisely this kind of work that is rewarded.

End quote

I will be enjoying this summer. I’m off to Chicago and Perform Better this weekend, until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


The complexity of resistance training programming is best approached by breaking down the lift into its systems. How many reps with how much weight? The answer is probably simpler than you think, but it depends on the goal. Mike Prevost: Resistance Training Rep Schemes and Application

The Sword in the Stone, Part 49


“There is a cat behind you,” said the Wart calmly, “or a pine-marten. Look.”

The Colonel turned, swift as a wasp’s sting, and menaced into the gloom. There was nothing. He swung his wild eyes again upon the Wart, guessing the trick. Then, in the cold voice of an adder, “The bell invites me. Hear it not, Merlin, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell.”

The third bells were indeed ringing as he spoke, and honour was allowed to move. The ordeal was over and the Wart might fly. But as he moved, but as he flew, quicker than any movement or flight in the world, the terrible sickles had shot from the Colonel’s plated legs—not flashed out, for they moved too quick for sight—and with a thump, with a clutch, with an apprehension, like being arrested by a big policeman, the great scimitars had fixed themselves in his retreating thumb.

They fixed themselves, and fixed irrevocably. Gripe, gripe, the enormous thigh muscles tautened in two convulsions. Then the Wart was two yards further down the screen, and Colonel Cully was standing on one foot with a few meshes of string netting and the Wart’s false primary, with its covert-feathers, vice-fisted in the other. Two or three minor feathers drifted softly in a moonbeam toward the floor.

“Well stood!” cried Balan, delighted.

“A very gentlemanly exhibition,” said the peregrine, not minding that Captain Balan had spoken before her.

“Amen!” said the spar-hawk.

“Brave heart!” said the kestrel.

End quote

As I have said before, Wart’s education is perilous. Cully eagerly struck a death blow towards Wart and ends up with a fistful of feathers. I’ve always been a bit confused by this line: “the great scimitars had fixed themselves in his retreating thumb.”

When we return to the transformation (“transmogrification” for Calvin and Hobbes fans), this might make more sense.


“First you go small,” said he, pressing him on the top of his head until he was a bit smaller than a pigeon. “Then you stand on the ball of your toes, bend at the knees, hold your elbows to your sides, lift your hands to the level of your shoulders, and press your first and second fingers together, as also your third and fourth. Look, it is like this.”

So, yes, Cully was fast, but not fast enough. He caught, as I just stood there in my office imitating the transformation, the far end of the wing, the thumb.

Cully was deep into Shakespeare again with his statements. In this quote, the importance of the stage direction from Macbeth, A bell rings, is very important to our story:

A bell rings.

I go, and it is done. The bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

End quote

Balan’s breech of etiquette is understandable. It is fun to reread this section and see how the comments of the hawks, “Amen” and “Brave heart,” for examples, reflect their various stations in life. White’s ability to create so many minor characters is amazing…as well as his ability to flesh them out. I think it is the secret to great writing…and great teaching.

I often use Shakespeare’s great quote from A Midsummer’s Night Dream to explain teaching:

“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name; such tricks hath strong imagination.”

The job of the teacher is to take “airy nothing” and turn it into something with a body. These stories from long ago or characters in a novel need to leap from the lecture and page. White is a master of this.

So, Wart is safe. Our chapter closes soon, but Wart will soon be in danger again.


A lot of people become disillusioned when they learn the Functional Movement Screen . . . Screens tell us when people need more investigation. It isn’t an evaluation or an assessment. For Gray Cook, movement screening is about taking a sample.



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