Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 195

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 195

Dan on OTPbooks.com: “I’m the coach and I’m always right.” What’s he talking about?
The air is bad today. We live downwind from the big California fires and the sun is basically blocked out today.

Fires plague my family. My brother lost his house in the Oakland fires years ago and nearly lost his home last week. My dad got caught in a home fire and he never really was the same after that incident. My brother, Philip, has really been inspiring with his vigilance in the communities of Northern California. He has a secret identity I shouldn’t reveal, but he spends hours teaching fire safety.

And, no one pays attention. People don’t do the little things, like bringing outdoor cushions in (which host embers for a long time) or clear the brush around the house.

In so many areas of life, the little things are often more important than the big things. My wife told me that Geoff Hemingway is now finishing his training sessions by giving everyone in the group a floss stick and they floss as a group. Flossing is miles more important than most of things people do for health. Wear your seat belt. Wear a helmet when appropriate. Buy a fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector. Drink water. Eat veggies.

I think I do well as a coach, and athlete, by taking mindful care of the details. I show up on time, I have extra shoelaces, and I always pack extra stuff. Rarely is it the rep scheme or rest period that makes a difference in performance: it’s attention to detail.

Today, I will train and we will all notice the air quality. I understand this fire was caused by a flat tire that lead to a spark from the hub that lead to…

You can see where this is heading:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost;
and for want of a horse the rider was lost;
being overtaken and slain by the enemy,
all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.
~ Benjamin Franklin

This was on the wall of my kindergarten class.

It’s still true today.

I found some things on the web this week that got me thinking. As readers know, sometimes the non-lifting materials I find give me far more clarity than all the “five sets of three” arguments on forums. This article, well…it turned ugly fast.

Frank and his colleagues at the Museum of Bad Art don’t collect the kind of significant ugly paintings that the New York Times might write about or the Met might display. Instead, Frank uses his aesthetic judgment to choose works that feel compelling. “I reject anything that is uninteresting,” he says. “Uninteresting work is unacceptable. If something is silly or if it was made cynically in an attempt to get into the Museum of Bad Art, then I’m not interested.” He’s also not interested in kitschy pieces or commercial art, like black velvet paintings or taxidermy sculptures.

There’s a sense of brazenness to unintentionally bad art—it embodies desire gone awry. And being able to enjoy ugly art isn’t simply about making fun of it. It’s also about being able to sit in discomfort and recognize mistakes. Ugly art demands a sense of looseness; it asks you to dip into a slippery state of mind where you can hold multiple beliefs simultaneously. The piece can be both ugly and unappealing, and it can also delight and appeal for those very reasons. It can pull you closer—you want to know why this ugly art was made, what it means, and what the artists were thinking. And if you let yourself get unbalanced enough, you might just find yourself a little bit in love. “If you go on social media, you’ll see the most common comment I get,” Frank says. “People are always posting, I like it. Or even, I like this painting—it shouldn’t be here.”

Frank often responds, “I like it too. That’s why I collect this art. I like it.”

End quote

I can’t stand watching myself on video. I, far too often, say “you know.” You know? This article gives some ideas to get this annoying habit on hold.


Next, once you’ve become cognizant of your filler words as they try to escape your lips, begin forcing yourself to be silent. To practice, set up a video to record, and talk about what you did from the beginning to the end of the day. Practice using pauses instead of filler words as you recall the events.

Finally, I can’t stress the importance of preparation enough. Nerves are one of the biggest reasons people overuse vocal fillers. The less prepared you are, the more nervous you’ll be, which will likely cause you to speak too quickly, trip over your words, and forget what’s next. So practice. On average, the optimal ratio of preparation to performance is one hour of practice for every minute of presentation, but at the very least, Dr. Trey Guinn, one of our communication experts, recommends speakers get in at least three full runs before stepping in front of an audience.

End quote

I often talk about “falling in love with the plateau,” knowing there is a great leap coming in the future. This article explains this very well.


Allow yourself adequate time on each plateau. It is very important to allow yourself enough time to “get comfortable” at each new step. Don’t push too hard or move too quickly to the next step.  Habits take time to consolidate, both physiologically and psychologically. In the case of weight loss, what is really happening is that your hormones, enzymes, and other modulators of metabolism need time to re-balance, to provide the same level of homeostatic control of key energetic variables such blood glucose and fats as they did on the previous plateau.  If you are using intermittent fasting to lose weight, you must allow time to up-regulate the catabolic hormones and enzymes so that they can more readily mobilize fatty acids and glucose from storage, keeping your cells and your brain happy. This adaptation can take weeks, and you might be wise to stay on the new plateau for a few months!  Similarly, if you are adapting to lifting heavier weights or running faster miles, your body needs time to grow muscle tissue or increase aerobic capacity in response to the newly added stress. These changes are often imperceptible to you, but they are going on “behind the scenes”. To use the river-crossing analogy, allow time to catch your balance before you make the jump to the next boulder!  But don’t stay there forever…keep your ultimate goal in mind and make the next move when you feel ready.

End quote

I’m off to lift. Hopefully, next week I can breathe deeply again. Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


Shoulder and spine expert Sue Falsone explores the complicated musculoskeletal causes of headaches and neck pain in this full-body study.
Sue Falsone: Problems at the Head, Neck, Shoulders and Torso

The Sword in the Stone, Part 51


“Well!” said the Wart, as he woke up in his own bed next morning. “What a horrible, grand crew!”

Kay sat up in bed and began scolding like a squirrel. “Where were you last night?” he cried, “I believe you climbed out. I shall tell my father and get you tanned. You know we are not allowed out after curfew. What have you been doing? I looked for you everywhere. I know you climbed out.”

The boys had a way of sliding down a rain-water pipe into the moat, which they could swim on secret occasions when it was necessary to be out at night—to wait for a badger, for instance, or to catch tench, which can only be taken just before dawn.

“Oh, shut up,” said the Wart. “I’m sleepy.”

Kay said, “Wake up, wake up, you beast. Where have you been?”

“I shan’t tell you.”

He was sure that Kay would not believe the story, but only call him a liar and get angrier than ever.

“If you don’t tell me I shall kill you.”

“You will not, then.”

“I will.”

The Wart turned over on his other side.

End quote

Our next adventure begins basically with Wart and Kay arguing. Wart is tired; Kay is angry. For those of you with siblings, you know where this discussion is heading:

A black eye will be a major part of this reading.

This little fight sets up a series of events that will take us through the middle of the book. Chapters nine, ten, eleven, and twelve will have a far different kind of magic; this chapter will be filled with “old magic.”

White’s handling of the old traditions of religion is interesting. Most of us who travel to Ireland, and White spent much of his writing career living there, begin to get a sense of the unseen.

My neighbor has a hawthorn tree that encroaches into my backyard. In the tradition, the “huath” is the Fairy Tree. We do not cut down the Fairy Tree for fear of the wrath of the fairies. Christianity baptized the tree (that’s how we tend to say this in Religious Studies: when a new faith comes along and takes the old and makes it part of the new tradition, it is called “baptizing” the old tradition) and made it the source of the Crown of Thornes around the head of Jesus.

So, these next chapters will have famous names from history, characters introduced earlier in the book and a strange kind of magic.

White mentions the tench and the badger here. Both of these are key figures in Wart’s transformation stories; the tench was Merlyn’s fish form and the badger will be Wart’s last mentor as the special magic that Merlyn uses will have run out.

Not much will happen in Chapter Nine. We will be setting up the “Middle of the Book:” our next adventure.

As I lay out the whole book, it is interesting to see, in the original The Sword in the Stone from 1938 especially, the pattern of transformation stories and reality stories (if you understand what I mean by “reality” here):

Wart’s “quest:” He finds Merlyn (After Meeting King Pellinore chasing the Beast Glatisant)
Fish (Perch) Transformation
Madam Mim
Tilting Lesson (King Pellinore and Sir Grummore)
Hawk Transformation
Snake Transformation
Boar Hunt (King Pellinore finds the Beast Glatisant…again)
Owl Transformation
Galapas the Giant (King Pellinore is among the captured…all are saved by the Beast)
Badger Transformation

Wart becomes King Arthur (and receives gifts from all of his friends, (including Pellinore and the Beast)

What leaped out to me as I first set this down was the important role of King Pellinore and the Beast play in connecting the stories and driving the action along. Perhaps because of the Disney adaption, I have always seen Pellinore as a side character providing a bit of humor, but when I stand back, it is obvious that he might have an odd demeanor, he is certainly a key character. Being cursed from birth to chase a Beast in the wilderness might be enough to take the edge off of any of us.

The other thing that leaped out to me is that White might have built the story in what we call in Religious Studies a chiasmus or “crossing the X.” It is a method where the story builds up on “one side” then gets reflected, but not repeated on the other.

Here is a simple example to begin:

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”  ~ Shakespeare, Macbeth

The words repeat, but it shows the structure
A: Fair
B: Foul
B’: Foul
A’: Fair

The Gospel of Mark works amazingly well with this chiasmus. Simply, using locations, one discovers
A: Desert
B: Galilee
C: “The Way”
B’: Jerusalem
A’: Tomb

The desert and the tomb are alike in many ways with dangerous creatures and solitude. The stories of Galilee and Jerusalem contrast with everybody coming to Jesus in Galilee and abandoning Him in Jerusalem. The Way connects the story like a keystone in an arch: it holds the story together.

I’m going to develop this as we go along. Right now, I have one sticking point (the Owl Transformation doesn’t have an “X” in the first part), but I will find a “way” around this.

Until next time.


It’s all too easy for those of us in the fitness business to assume that most people think like we do . . . exercise like we do . . . share our goals. They do not.
Thom Plummer: The Future of the Fitness Business


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