Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 198

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 198

New this week on OTPbooks.com — If fat loss happens in the kitchen, what’s the point of all that exercise? Follow Dan on a journey into diet, exercise and, most important, habits.


I just walked in from a nice four-mile hike throughout Geilo, Norway. We had a delightful morning rain and we were able to get our walk in before the next set of showers arrive. I’m here to talk at the AFPT Conference and I spent a lot of time prepping my workshop. I wrote an article for OTP on the topic, Do It or Diet, and I am a little nervous.

I woke up last night worried about my presentations. I get nervous before every talk…I always have, by the way. I still think it is a good sign, and I think we all worry about public speaking, but dealing with jet lag and nervousness is simply not fair.

This trip includes a workshop, a wedding and a visit. My parish priest is in Thurles, Ireland, and I am going to visit the home of GAA (Gaelic/Irish sports). Semple Stadium is named after the father of our old parish priest, so this will be a fun trip. Sandwiched between the workshops and Thurles is an Irish wedding.

There is NOTHING like an Irish wedding in Ireland. I thought we had some fun in South San Francisco, but these are the real deal. When Adrian Cradock got married, I tapped out at 4:00 am and the groomsmen dropped by at 7:00 am to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is endurance work!

Maybe it is me, but the articles on the internet lately have been shorter and shorter. I did find some things, but so many articles have “click bait” and these odd videos that pop up on my screen as I try to read them.

It’s not me! This article shows us a glimpse of the future.


Increasing reports from educators and from researchers in psychology and the humanities bear this out. English literature scholar and teacher Mark Edmundson describes how many college students actively avoid the classic literature of the 19th and 20th centuries because they no longer have the patience to read longer, denser, more difficult texts. We should be less concerned with students’ “cognitive impatience,” however, than by what may underlie it: the potential inability of large numbers of students to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts, whether in literature and science in college, or in wills, contracts and the deliberately confusing public referendum questions citizens encounter in the voting booth.

Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students. In Stavanger, Norway, psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied how high school students comprehend the same material in different mediums. Mangen’s group asked subjects questions about a short story whose plot had universal student appeal (a lust-filled, love story); half of the students read Jenny, Mon Amour on a Kindle, the other half in paperback. Results indicated that students who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.

End quote

I liked this article and study, but I feel like I missed a paragraph or something as I tried to understand the “habit-breaking group.” The list of ten habits is logical and truly no surprise. I think that Coach Maughan had it right when he told us: “Make yourself a slave to good habits.”


Imagine each time a person goes home in the evening, they eat a snack. When they first eat the snack, a mental link is formed between the context (getting home) and their response to that context (eating a snack). Every time they subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens, to the point that getting home prompts them to eat a snack automatically. This is how a habit forms.

New research has found weight-loss interventions that are founded on habit-change, (forming new habits or breaking old habits) may be effective at helping people lose weight and keep it off.

We recruited 75 volunteers from the community (aged 18-75) with excess weight or obesity and randomised them into three groups. One program promoted breaking old habits, one promoted forming new habits, and one group was a control (no intervention).

The habit-breaking group was sent a text message with a different task to perform every day. These tasks were focused on breaking usual routines and included things such as “drive a different way to work today”, “listen to a new genre of music” or “write a short story”.

The habit-forming group was asked to follow a program that focused on forming habits centred around healthy lifestyle changes. The group was encouraged to incorporate ten healthy tips into their daily routine, so they became second-nature.

End quote

I saw BikeJames last week in Long Beach. I am trying out his new isometric program. As I was following his video, I saw this article. All too often, people discount and miss the key to the One Lift a Day program. Oh…what is that? Work hard on the basics!


I really like to use it as an “in-season” workout. I do this by limiting the workouts to 15 minutes or less and, like Dan also suggests, I don’t go anywhere near failure. This approach accomplished two things…

First, it saves a lot of time. Since you are only working out for 15 minutes (or less) it is much easier to fit the workouts into your schedule. Worst case scenario is that you get up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later – either way, if you can’t find 15 minutes to devote to your overall strength and wellbeing, I don’t know what to say.

Second, since you can only do one exercise at each workout you have to choose very wisely. You don’t get to add in exercises just because you liked them or saw them on the internet the day before – you have to focus on the exercises that will, rep for rep, will deliver the most results.

End quote

Well, I have to get a quick workout in and perhaps a swim before I speak. I could probably use a nap, but they are doing construction outside my window.

The joys of travel.

Until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


New this week on OTPbooks.com — If fat loss happens in the kitchen, what’s the point of all that exercise? Follow Dan on a journey into diet, exercise and, most important, habits.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 54


“I will keep the foul thing for Balan,” thought the Wart, resuming his search for his tutor.

He found him without trouble in the tower room which he had chosen when he arrived. All philosophers prefer to live in towers, as may be seen by visiting the room which Erasmus chose in his college at Cambridge, but Merlyn’s tower was even more beautiful than this. It was the highest room in the castle, directly below the look-out of the great keep, and from its window you could gaze across the open field—with its rights of warren—across the park, and the chase, until your eye finally wandered out over the distant blue tree-tops of the Forest Sauvage. This sea of leafy timber rolled away and away in knobs like the surface of porridge, until it was finally lost in remote mountains which nobody had ever visited, and the cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces of heaven.

Merlyn’s comments upon the black eye were of a medical nature.

“The discoloration,” he said, “is caused by haemorrhage into the tissues (ecchymosis) and passes from dark purple through green to yellow before it disappears.”

There seemed to be no sensible reply to this.

“I suppose you had it,” continued Merlyn, “fighting with Kay?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Ah, well, there it is.”

“I came to ask you about Kay.”

“Speak. Demand. I’ll answer.”

“Well, Kay thinks it is unfair that you are always turning me into things and not him. I have not told him about it but I think he guesses. I think it is unfair too.”

“It is unfair.”

End quote

The idea of the philosopher or scholar living in an “Ivory Tower” has become a cliché in our modern speech. The roots of the term come from the Song of Solomon 7:4:

“Your neck is like a tower of ivory, Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon By the gate of Bath-rabbim; Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, Which faces toward Damascus.” (New American Standard Bible)

The Song of Solomon has been considered “scandalous” by some due to lines like:
“Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle

Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.”

I think it is well worth reading with some of the best love poetry in history. But, let’s get back to Merlyn is his tower.

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (died 1536) was one of the first “humanists.” A Catholic, he was critical of the Catholic Church and called for reforms, but did not leave the church. He emphasized “Via Media,” the middle road, respecting much of the work of the Reformers but also holding on to the Tradition. As always, the middle way seems to anger everyone.

Wart and Merlyn’s conversation includes many “unsaid” things. I find this particular interaction to highlight Wart’s maturation and Merlyn’s ability to see it, too. As I type this, my daughter has just had her ten-year reunion and I still worry about her riding her bike alone on the street.

“It is unfair.”

I’m not sure there are three better words to respond to injustice in this world. If Merlyn contradicts Wart here or gets enraged about “seeing the Big Picture” or whatever, he ignores Wart’s great insight:

“Well, Kay thinks it is unfair that you are always turning me into things and not him. I have not told him about it but I think he guesses. I think it is unfair too.”

Merlyn’s response is perfect: “It is unfair.”

Let’s just leave this here. Let’s let the unfairness of the situation sit for a moment.

“It is unfair.”

And sometimes, that is all we can do: admit it.


New this week on OTPbooks.com — If fat loss happens in the kitchen, what’s the point of all that exercise? Follow Dan on a journey into diet, exercise and, most important, habits.

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