Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 206

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 206

The data, the books and your experience all tell you that periodization works to maximize the performance of your athletes. But are you using the most effective model of periodization for your program?

I spent some of the weekend in Lahinche in County Clare with Paul Dunne. Paul trains people at a gym right on the famous surfing beach and he is an all-around great guy. The Cliffs of Mohar are one of the most amazing sites on the planet and, of course, Paul “knows a guy” so we had the extra special visit for locals only.

I’m still averaging about six miles of walking a day and a daily swim in the ocean. It’s colder than I can remember every time I jump in. Jumping in: that’s the right way to do it. That slow walk-in method is madness to me.

It’s easy to meet people in Ireland. The Irish are easy going and delightful to engage. I have noticed how loving fathers are to their children here; it just stuns me when I see dads and the kids just having a great time together. It’s inspiring.

I am working on my next book while I am here. I think I know what I want to do now, so that really helps. That sounded obvious, but to go from “here” as a concept to a bound volume is a fair amount of work. Technically, this is my fortieth year of coaching and I am reflecting on the lessons learned. I wrote ten pages on the road yesterday and that sparked a lot of memories in other directions.

There is a local A Cappella group here named the Blue Notes that we ran into at a bar called, no surprise here, The Blue Note. We heard them rehearsing, sat down and enjoyed a great show. Last night at the start of the comedy festival, they opened and were marvelous.

If I have learned one thing, always say “yes” to the adventure. My trips are always filled with odd twists and turns because, well, we say yes.

The internet seems to have become more of a resource again to me. I liked this article on brain health and exercise.


At the same time, there have been traces of evidence for exercise playing a preventative role in Alzheimer’s disease, but exactly how this occurs and how to take advantage of it therapeutically has remained elusive. Exercise has been shown to create biochemical changes that fertilize the brain’s environment to mend nerve cell health. Additionally, exercise induces restorative changes relevant to Alzheimer’s disease pathology with improved nerve cell growth and connectivity in the hippocampus, a process called adult hippocampal neurogenesis. For these reasons, the authors Choi et al. explored whether exercise-induced effects and hippocampal nerve cell growth could be utilized for therapeutic purposes in Alzheimer’s disease to restore brain function.

The researchers found that exercised animals from a mouse model of Alzheimer’s had greatly enhanced memory compared to sedentary ones due to improved adult hippocampal neurogenesis and a rise in amounts of a specific molecule that promotes brain cell growth called BDNF.  Importantly, they could recover brain function, specifically memory, in mice with Alzheimer’s disease but without exercise by increasing hippocampal cell growth and BDNF levels using a combination of genetic—injecting a virus—and pharmacological means. On the other hand, blocking hippocampal neurogenesis early in Alzheimer’s worsened nerve cell health later in stages, leading to degeneration of the hippocampus and, subsequently, memory function. This provides preclinical proof of concept that a combination of drugs that increase adult hippocampal neurogenesis and BDNF levels could be disease-modifying or prevent Alzheimer’s disease altogether.

End quote

As a follow-up, maybe a few other things will help with brain function, too. This article doesn’t give any exotic ideas, but it is always worth remembering that the basics work.


Mid-life obesity increases the risk of late-life dementia, but portion control and exercise can help people avoid obesity. Obese people who lose weight experience significant, lasting memory improvements after just 12 weeks. Omega-3 fats from fish or nuts fight inflammation associated with neurodegeneration. Fruit and vegetables combat age-related oxidative stress that causes wear and tear on brain cells.

People can protect their brains by avoiding crisps, biscuits and other processed foods that increase the risk of diabetes, which doubles the risk of dementia.

End quote

As much as I like my doctor, he occasionally has brought up statins. My blood profiles have always been very good, and I won’t take them. It’s articles like this that keep me worried about the role of Big Pharma.


The study, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, centers on statins, a class of drugs used to lower levels of LDL-C, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, in the human body. According to the study, statins are pointless for most people.

“No evidence exists to prove that having high levels of bad cholesterol causes heart disease, leading physicians have claimed” in the study, reports the Daily Mail. The Express likewise says the new study finds “no evidence that high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol cause heart disease.”

The study also reports that “heart attack patients were shown to have lower than normal cholesterol levels of LDL-C” and that older people with higher levels of bad cholesterol tend to live longer than those with lower levels.

This is probably news to many in government. But it’s not news to everyone.

“In fact researchers have known for decades from nutrition studies that LDL-C is not strongly correlated with cardiac risk,” says Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist and author of The New York Times bestseller The Big Fat Surprise (along with a great recent Wall St. Journal op-ed highlighting ongoing flaws in federal dietary advice). In an email to me this week, she pointed out that “physicians continue focusing on LDL-C in part because they have drugs to lower it. Doctors are driven by incentives to prescribe pills for nutrition-related diseases rather than better nutrition—a far healthier and more natural approach.”

End quote

And, we were all told that coffee was bad for us. As I sip a cup now, I can feel my life extending. This article discusses this.


“We found that people who drank two to three cups per day had about a 12 per cent lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers,” said Erikka Loftfield, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute.

This population-based study, which includes people aged 38 to 73, draws an association between coffee and health.

A study published last year in The British Medical Journal looked at more than 200 previous studies and suggested drinking three to four cups of coffee a day can positively impact health more than cause harm.

Also last year, Spanish researchers reported people who drank at least four cups of coffee a day had a 64 per cent lower risk of death than those who never drank coffee.

End quote

If you just need a bunch of good news, go to this article and its 23 “good news” charts. 

So, as I review these suggestions this week, I seem to be seeing some “good news” again. I seem to have been missing positive in the news for a while.

And, until next week, keep lifting and learning.


The data, the books and your experience all tell you that periodization works to maximize the performance of your athletes. But are you using the most effective model of periodization for your program?

The Sword in the Stone, Chapter 10, Part 62


All right,” said Kay. “What is the adventure?”

“I don’t know.”

They went along the strip, and followed its imaginary line over the park and over the chase, keeping their eyes skinned for some miraculous happening. They wondered whether half a dozen young pheasants they started had anything curious about them, and Kay was ready to swear that one of them was white. If it had been white, and if a black eagle had suddenly swooped down upon it from the sky, they would have known quite well that wonders were afoot, and that all they had to do was to follow the pheasant—or the eagle—until they reached the maiden in the enchanted castle. However, the pheasant was not white.

At the edge of the forest Kay said, “I suppose we shall have to go into this?”

“Merlyn said to follow the line.”

“Well,” said Kay, “I am not afraid. If the adventure was for me, it is bound to be a good one.”

End quote

I think we can summarize Kay’s whole personality with this line: “If the adventure was for me, it is bound to be a good one.”

Wart certainly loves Kay, as we have seen and will see again. White has painted us lovely pictures of how people bond:

Merlyn and Hobs over falconry.
Gummerson and Ector over wine.
Gummerson and Pellinore over fighting.
Dog Boy and Wot over their shared experiences.
Pellinore and the Beast over whatever binds them.

Kay and Wart seem to be bound together by what seems to be a lack of any other boys “of their station.”

And, Kay thinks he is “better” by birth. We, and Kay, will discover (spoiler alert!) that Wart’s lineage is actually better.

But, for now, like all young boys, Kay has the upper hand. Growing up, the older boy tended to make plans, decisions and directions. I followed my brothers blindly into many adventures. And, later, as they moved off and away and along, the neighborhood kids followed me. It’s just the way of world.

Of course, Kay has to add his “Kay-ness.” If it’s for him, it has to be a good adventure. Kay is a sympathetic character for White. In the quest for the tutor, we finish the story with a classic moment of Kay-ness:

“I do not think much of it as a quest,” said Kay. “He only went after the hawk, after all.”

“And got the hawk, Master Kay,” said Hob reprovingly.

“Oh, well,” said Kay, “I bet the old man caught it for him.”

“Kay,” said Merlyn, suddenly terrible, “thou wast ever a proud and ill-tongued speaker, and a misfortunate one. Thy sorrow will come from thine own mouth.”

At this everybody felt uncomfortable, and Kay, instead of flying into his usual passion, hung his head. He was not at all an unpleasant person really, but clever, quick, proud, passionate and ambitious. He was one of those people who would be neither a follower nor a leader, but only an aspiring heart, impatient in the failing body which imprisoned it. Merlyn repented of his rudeness at once. He made a little silver hunting-knife come out of the air, which he gave him to put things right. The knob of the handle was made of the skull of a stoat, oiled and polished like ivory, and Kay loved it.

I’m not sure there is a more perfect short summary of a person’s personality in all of literature. As a child, I hated Kay, yet he has grown on me through the years. I know many Kays. Sorrow comes from thine own mouth…a truth.


Periodization for the Strength Coach: in The System, coaches Johnny Parker, Al Miller, Rob Panariello and Jeremy Hall lay the foundation for a scientifically based, field-tested, and effective system of training using periodization with sport athletes for both strength and conditioning.

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