Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 201

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 201

New this week on OTP:


I had a wonderful weekend. I started out going to the Judge Memorial reunion. I taught there a long time and I go to the annual Homecoming reunion. I enjoy seeing my former students and catching up. Often, I will meet a student that just makes me happy to be part of their lives and so many of them have gone on to do truly amazing things.

Saturday night, we went to the Utah football game. It was an odd night. I have no idea what “targeting” means after watching the game. These new safety rules in football need to be reassessed. Sunday, at the Green Bay game, the Packers were given a “roughing the passer” call that changed the game’s outcome and the call continues to be a total mystery to me. I had “no dog in the fight,” but I am lost after watching the games this weekend.

Finally, yesterday was my future son-in-law’s birthday. He BBQed us a feast. We welcomed a full house and the food and company were outstanding. The weather is finally that perfect combination of warm and cool and we sat on the decks for hours. I have these outdoor lights that are just bright enough to enjoy a late evening.

It’s a great time of year. We are not long from snow, but, for now, things are “just right.”

On the internet this week, I found a few things that made me think. This article brought up a lot of interesting points about life and training.


What am I doing getting up with the sun and pushing my body farther than I ever thought possible? That question has been at the heart of my journey and I’ve had to confront hard truths along the way.

What I’ve come to understand is that depression has always defined me, even if very few people knew it was there. When those moods take over, I wrapped myself in a protective shell to keep them at bay. More often than not, I simply retreated from view where I could be alone with my inner turmoil. It’s an exhausting way to live and ultrarunning has focused my intentions beyond simply managing my symptoms.

The routine keeps me balanced, and I have gradually expanded it to include better nutrition and smarter strength training, along with yoga and meditation practice. Outside of family and work responsibilities, my life revolves around my training schedule.

If any of that gets out of whack, I start to feel the pull of the abyss. When it all locks into place, I feel like a modern day warrior. Achieving a healthier balance is what training is all about and no matter how far I go, I’ve finally accepted that I can’t outrun my depression, and I can’t live passively with them. So, I’m making it my training partner. It keeps me motivated to avoid the lows and grounded when I get too high. It will be with me for the rest of my life. All I can do is keep moving.

End quote

I was watching a rerun of The Office and Warren Buffett was on. I think he is a fascinating guy and this article is a nice summary of his success formula.


Step #1: Put yourself in jobs, professions, companies, and industries where you are valued for your insight.

As life goes by, we are presented with choices about the people we collaborate with, the bosses and mentors we learn from, the projects we take on, and the professions and industries we join.

Each of these choices has a profound impact on our ultimate learning.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, someone stocking shelves at Wal*Mart is only going to be valued for their physical effort. Similarly, a white-collar worker who does the same thing over and over is primarily going to be valued for their effort and accuracy.

In the middle of the spectrum, a rapidly-evolving industry is more likely to appreciate new insights and innovations than one that is changing slowly.

At the other end of the spectrum, a long-term value investor like Warren Buffett can get an incredible return on investment by only making a handful of big investment decisions per year. Entrepreneurs must rapidly learn several disciplines in order to succeed and they live and die by their own decisions.

End quote

You may have seen this article before, but it is a nice summary of East Strength.


Success, honestly, is almost always the simple route. It might not be sexy to follow this approach, it might not have the gonzo, warrior, Spartan, or tactical title and tribal tats, but it works. It’s hard to sell boring, but it works.

So, in my mind, the tradition of strength training supports the vision of reasonableness that I train in the Easy Strength fashion.

What’s hard to understand is this: It is a system, not just an interesting history lesson.

End quote

I’m not sure we can sum up the key to life better than this article.


For the past 75 years, The Study of Adult Development, run out of Harvard, has been tracking the physical and emotional well-being of over 700 men who grew up in Boston in the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is one of the longest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies of its kind, closely following subjects from their late teens and early twenties all the way into their eighties and nineties.

Many of the findings are what you’d expect: don’t drink too much; don’t smoke; exercise often; eat a nutritious diet; maintain a healthy body weight; keep on learning. But according to George Vaillant, a psychiatrist and clinical therapist who directed the study for over three decades, the most important component to a good and long life is love.

Love isn’t easy. It needs to be cultivated. It is an ongoing practice.

“The 75 years and 20 million dollars spent on the Grant Study points to a straight forward five-word conclusion,” Vaillant writes. “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

The Study of Adult Development shows that the quality of one’s relationships has an enormous impact on the quality of one’s life. The more and deeper the love, the better.

The words “relationship” and “love” generally bring to mind a bond between two people. But perhaps that is too narrow. Can’t you also be in a loving relationship with a pursuit, with a community, or even with the natural world? Whatever it is you love, so long as the feeling is genuine, you’ll be better off for it.

“Happiness is love. Full stop.”

End quote

This article is amazing. It is a one-stop shop for the history of “what I do.”


Also like Muscle, Gorilla Suit is the fruit of a single author’s mind: It’s the only such ghostwriter-free memoir written by a competitor of Paris’s caliber. “He’s the only writer on bodybuilding who doesn’t lie for a living,” Fussell wrote in a review of Gorilla Suit, referencing the “kayfabe,” or willfully fictional, tone of much of the rags-to-riches motivational material that’s constituted the sport’s literature since Eugen Sandow, the first supposedly perfectly built man of the 20th century, sold impressionable boys on the benefits of a salubrious, abstemious lifestyle he not only didn’t follow but openly flouted.

Despite excelling in the classroom and on the football field in rural Indiana, Paris had an unhappy home life and a fraught relationship with his father. “I hated myself; that simple,” he wrote. “My limbs were all in the wrong places, my teeth were weird, the hair on my head from outer space, the hair sprouting on my chest embarrassing. And I was a fag.” Or as he explains to me, “What’s the old saying? ‘Show me a bodybuilder and I’ll show you a guy with dad issues.’”

If it’s men and women with “dad issues” that one is looking for, look no further than Alan Klein’s Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction (1993), which devotes an entire monograph-length treatment to their travails. Anthropologist Klein fashioned a composite study of life at a bodybuilding gym, studying the goings-on of lifters prostituting their likenesses and their actual bodies to pay for their steroid use. This venerable book is also starting to show its age, lumping all these people into the Susan Faludi-esque category of hyper-manly cartoon people responding to a crisis in masculinity, but many of the observations remain sound.

End quote

I’m going to take Tiffini to the airport now; here we go with another busy week.

Until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


What’s missing in strength training? Symmetry work, per Dan. Here, read the rest.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 57


“Turn me and Kay into snakes or something.”

Merlyn took off his spectacles, dashed them on the floor and jumped on them with both feet.

“Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!” he exclaimed, and immediately vanished with a frightful roar.

The Wart was still staring at his tutor’s chair in some perplexity, a few moments later, when Merlyn reappeared. He had lost his hat and his hair and beard were tangled up, as if by a hurricane. He sat down again, straightening his gown with trembling fingers.

“Why did you do that?” asked the Wart.

“I did not do it on purpose.”

“Do you mean to say that Castor and Pollux did blow you to Bermuda?”

“Let this be a lesson to you,” replied Merlyn, “not to swear. I think we had better change the subject.”

“We were talking about Kay.”

“Yes, and what I was going to say before my—ahem!—my visit to the still vexed Bermoothes, was this. I cannot change Kay into things. The power was not deputed to me when I was sent. Why this was so, neither you nor I am able to say, but such remains the fact. I have tried to hint at some of the reasons for the fact, but you will not take them, so you must just accept the fact in its naked reality. Now please stop talking until I have got my breath back, and my hat.”

End quote

The fact. Merlyn can NOT change Kay and that is that. But, of course, Wart, and we all have done this, won’t let “it” go. For those of you who have children, or taught or coached, know this line of thought. And, Wart needs to do the opposite of the First Law of the Foot: Let it Go!

This, I imagine, is also a great reason not to swear…if you are a magician. We are learning a lot about Merlyn’s magical abilities in this chapter. He has limits and he seems to know them well.

“I have tried to hint at some of the reasons for the fact, but you will not take them, so you must just accept the fact in its naked reality.”

As the reader, most would know that Merlyn is preparing Wart to become King Arthur (spoiler alert!). Merlyn, to his credit, has been trying to explain this to Wart all chapter nine:

·      “I am sorry,” said Merlyn, “that you should be the only one to get my extra tuition, but then, you see, I was only sent for that.”
·      Merlyn said gently, “Perhaps what is good for you might be bad for him. Besides, remember he has never asked to be turned into anything.”
·      “You still do not follow what I mean. Suppose he had gone as a merlin last night, and failed in the ordeal, and lost his nerve?”
·      I cannot change Kay into things. The power was not deputed to me when I was sent. Why this was so, neither you nor I am able to say, but such remains the fact. I have tried to hint at some of the reasons for the fact, but you will not take them, so you must just accept the fact in its naked reality.

Kay won’t be changed into things. Fact.

In the next few paragraphs, Merlyn will explain his “ordinary” magic of backsight and insight which allow him to “know” things. But, the transformation magic is something special, something just for Wart.

As for Merlyn’s quick trip, we dig deeply into western civilization for this particular funny little part of the story. This also becomes a very popular scene in the Disney movie.

Castor and Pollux were twins. I will oversimplify here, but they were the children (sort of) of Leda and the Swan. Helen, with the ship launching face, was their sister. Castor was a master of horses and Pollux was a boxer. They had many adventures together including saving their sister from Theseus and being part of the Argonauts. When Castor was slain, he was mortal, Pollux asked Zeus to give his (Pollux’s) immortality for his brother. Zeus allowed them to spend alternating days in Hades and Heaven. Gemini is their star cluster.

Christianity seems to have adopted (“baptized” is the phrase we use usually in the History of Christianity class) these brothers. They were the deities for travelers and Saints Peter and Paul inherited this role in Christianity. Some authors, notably Dennis McDonald, believe the twins are the basis for James (son of Zebedee) and John, who are identified as the “Sons of Thunder (Zeus).” Moreover, tying some of this together, the Bible does specifically mention them here:

“After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.” ~ Acts 28:11 New International Version (NIV)

His hat. Merlyn is missing his hat. Getting his hat back is going to give us some real insights into Merlyn’s magic.

Until next time.


Are you devoting enough attention toward breathing patterns? The breath influences our actions and emotions and is influenced by our actions and emotions . . . and chances are, it’s having a far greater physical effect than you think.




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