Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 210

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 210

Jeremy Hall: “Only grasping maybe 2% of what I was getting into, I accepted Coach Parker’s offer and assumed that even if nothing came of it, I would get a graduate-level education in strength and conditioning just by going through the process.” 
[CONTINUE READING Jeremy Hall, as he tells the story of how he came to be the editing author of The System]

I watched a lot of college football on Saturday. If you like the game, this is the time of the year to watch. My Aggies (Utah State) won on a last play that went the Aggies way and my wife’s Utes (Utah) won big. So, we watched two games at once:

Utah State over Colorado State
Utah over Colorado

For one week, we own the border.

We are coming in to, by far, my favorite day or so of the year. I love Thanksgiving. I absolutely love it. We have a fair number of events we do on this day and we probably spend twelve or so hours between all the meals and fun. Thanksgiving is such a simple tradition.

We added one thing last year that we will continue: we put up a big piece of paper and had people sign what they were thankful for this year. I kept last years and I have this idea of maybe keeping them to show annually.

I certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am especially thankful for the friends and family I have spread out all over the world.

This week, Stan Lee died. My favorite comic was the “Legion of Superheroes,” but I really liked Stan Lee’s vision of the hero. This little reading, for me, tied together why I liked him so much.


“Excelsior” has long been Lee’s catchphrase. In the mid-1960s, not long after Atlas Comics rebranded as Marvel, Lee wrote a monthly column for the comics publisher in which he’d sign off with “Excelsior!”—a Latin word meaning “ever upward.” He told io9 in 2007 that he wanted a unique word to himself that his rivals at the time wouldn’t be tempted to copy:

I used to have a lot of expressions that I would end my comic book columns with: Hang Loose, Face Front, ‘Nuff Said, and I found that the competition was always imitating them and using them. So, I said I’m going to get one expression that they’re not going to know what it means, and they won’t know how to spell it. And that’s where excelsior came from, and they never did take up on it, thank goodness.

But what started as a clever sign-off to thwart his competition in the 1960s quickly became an optimistic mantra the writer would exhibit throughout his life and career for many decades after. Or maybe it was part of him all along.

End quote

This article reminds us that the great ones LITERALLY see things differently.


“In Search of Greatness,” a new documentary about athletic genius and creativity, features a memorable scene in which Wayne Gretzky describes his habit, as a four-year-old, of watching hockey games on television with a pen and paper in hand. On the paper, he would draw a rink: the ice surface, as viewed from above. Then, while staring at the action on the screen, and without diverting his eyes to the paper, he would trace the movement of the puck. When play stopped, he would look down at his scrawls and observe what he recalls, in retrospect, as patterns: areas of the ice where the flow seemed to concentrate, and others that his pencil scarcely touched. The image resonates as a kind of eureka moment, a founding mythology for a boy who, though never particularly strong or fast, would grow up to become the Great One, rewriting the record books by exploiting an uncanny spatial awareness—skating to where the puck is going, not where it has been, as the business-school cliché has it.

A boy who saw “In Search of Greatness” recently was inspired to replicate the Gretzky method while watching a Premier League soccer game between West Ham and Tottenham. He used an orange marker. His father took a picture of the end result and sent it to Gabe Polsky, the film’s director, who in turn forwarded the flow chart to some other sports fans. One replied, “Proves . . . you wanna be on the field.” The drawing is charming but also a tangled mass of lines that covers nearly every inch of the diagrammed pitch. The lesson I might take from it, as an amateur observer, is: you’d better be prepared to run, because the ball really travels.

End quote

I enjoyed this article. Even now, I’m not sure why I like it so much, but as someone who traveled quite a bit with Fulbright money, I laughed out loud when I read the line on “bottom fishing.”


Don’t waste your time with the tedious prescribed curriculum. Come up with your own major with a flashy name. Gellin’s was “The Intellectual Foundations of Globalization.” He explained that having “global” in the title is key.
Travel to a developing country and expose yourself to extreme discomfort. Gellin went to Kenya, but “everyone has this idea Kenya’s too civilized. I taught English in a village out in the re-mote, out in the bush about four hours west of Nairobi by pickup truck.” he bragged.

After graduation:

Don’t do a PhD, “which to most people means some kind of geek or creep.”
Get a Rhodes scholarship, and if that does not work out a Fulbright or a Marshall (“but that’s a last resort. I mean that’s bottom fishing”).
Get a high ranking job in the government—if that does not work out, get a job at McKinsey.

End quote

Adrian Cradock, my intern from Galway, sent me this article. He is the person who got me into open water swimming. This article doesn’t really prepare you for the shock of Galway Bay in December, but it tries to describe it. It is mind numbing cold.


In the depths of winter, I won’t stay in long. Sea temperatures in Ireland will drop from the high teens in summer to 6°C in January/February. In winter, I’ll do a few strokes out and a few more to make it back in. The body tires quickly in cold water, so you don’t want to stay in too long. Some people say you can condition your body to cold. But I don’t know – it always feels shocking to me.

So why do it? Why put your body through the ringer of plunging it into cold water? Walkers on the beach look incredulous when I strip down to my bathing suit. Their eyes say: “You’re not seriously going in there”. Some may actually question my sanity.

But the truth is there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in the sea. That jolt of pure adrenaline when you plunge in, the fight or flight reflexes kicking in, the rush of feeling more alive than you’ve done all day. It’s like nothing else.

Living close to the sea, I set myself a challenge when I moved back to Donegal – where I grew up – to swim all year round. We know getting out in nature is good for us. So good for us that doctors in Scotland are even prescribing it. There can be no more total immersion in nature than getting into the sea.

End quote

There seems to be an upsurge in biome articles recently. I think this article does a nice job explaining some simple ideas about recharging your gut.


Years ago, impelled in part by their oldest daughter’s constipation problems, the Sonnenburg family revamped its diet. They threw out all processed food-stuffs, and began eating plenty of veggies and whole grains. They bought a dog. Justin Sonnenburg began hand-milling his own wheat berries for bread. He took up gardening. And when he compared his archived microbes from years ago with recent ones, he discovered that his microbial diversity had increased by half. “That’s a huge difference,” he told me, “as big as the difference between Americans and Amerindians.”

It remains to be seen what detailed analysis will reveal about this diversification—how many came from his dog, from soil, from the sourdough he handles; how many might have been there all along in depressed numbers, and bloomed on a fiber-rich diet. What it showed the Sonnenburgs, however, was that without fully understanding how the microbiome works, you can still push it in a healthier direction.

“If we wait to the point where we are beyond a shadow of a doubt, with double-blind studies translated to regulations, we’re going to be waiting decades,” Sonnenburg told me. “But right now, all the arrows are pointing in the same direction, toward fiber.”

End quote

I’m always a fan of time management materials, but this one point made me a better father and husband…I hope.


4. Bestow upon loved ones your full-beam attention in quarter-hour units

“Here is a revolutionary insight,” Morgenstern says. “It’s very important; it comes out of eight years of research. How much time and attention do kids need to feel loved and secure? The answer is this: short bursts of five to 15 minutes of truly undivided attention delivered consistently – not big blocks of time delivered erratically.”

When they wake up, when they come home from school, when they are going to bed, when they get back from work (turns out this is true of adults as well as children): stop what you are doing and concentrate on them, then leave them alone to do what they want. Constantly hovering over your children, while simultaneously trying to have a fight on Twitter and find a food recycling bag, frazzles everyone.

Ah, what a revolution. Finally, I could unleash my ceaseless questions – “How was your day?” “Who was annoying?” “Did anything happen that would amuse me?” “What did you have for lunch?” – and nobody minded because they knew it was time-limited and, at some point, there would be no followup.

At bedtime, I managed to start reading my favourite book to my son, after months of meaning to but getting derailed by homework and looking for things. It is The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, about people who become telepathic following a nuclear apocalypse and are persecuted for it. My son said: “This just sounds like a hard-left WhatsApp back channel.” I may have missed his wonder years.

End quote

It’s an interesting series of articles this week. I love the lifting and learning tagline that I finish the WW with every week, but this week’s offerings seem to be a nice group of positive articles. “Eat fiber, “ever upward,” and go jump in the ocean” could be a fun motto.

Well, until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


Want to last as a trainer? Thomas Plummer presents the Laws of Money and Coaching: Personal, ethical and business guidelines that it pays to heed.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 66


“He is it,” whispered Kay excitedly.

They went to the man cautiously, for fear of the dog. But the dog only followed them with its eyes, keeping its chin pressed firmly to the chest of its beloved master, and giving them the least suspicion of a wag from its tail. It moved its tail without lifting it, two inches sideways in the grass. The man opened his eyes—obviously he had not been asleep at all—smiled at the boys, and jerked his thumb in a direction which pointed further up the glade. Then he stopped smiling and shut his eyes.

“Excuse me,” said Kay, “what happens up there?”

The man made no answer and kept his eyes closed, but he lifted his hand again and pointed onward with his thumb.

“He means us to go on,” said Kay.

“It certainly is an adventure,” said the Wart. “I wonder if that dumb woodman could have climbed up the big tree he was leaning against and sent a message to this tree that we were coming? He certainly seems to have been expecting us.”

At this the naked giant opened one eye and looked at Wart in some surprise. Then he opened both eyes, laughed all over his big twinkling face, sat up, patted the dog, picked up his bow, and rose to his feet.

“Very well, then, young measters,” he said, still laughing. “Us will come along of ‘ee arter all. Young heads still meake the sharpest, they do say.”

Kay looked at him in blank surprise. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Naylor,” said the giant, “John Naylor in the wide world it were, till us come to be a man of the ‘ood. Then ’twere John Little for some time, in the ‘ood like, but mostly folk does put it back’ard now, and calls us Little John.”

“Oh!” cried the Wart in delight. “I have heard of you, often, when they tell Saxon stories in the evening, of you and Robin Hood.”

“Not Hood,” said Little John reprovingly. “That bain’t the way to name ‘un, measter, not in the ‘ood.”

“But it is Robin Hood in the stories,” said Kay.

“Ah, them book-learning chaps. They don’t know all. How’m ever, ’tis time us do be stepping along.”

End quote

In 1955, the British television made a series called “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Richard Greene. As much as I love the Errol Flynn movie, and the Bugs Bunny version, my mind always comes back to this black and white show as my image of Robin Hood. The theme song is running through my head as I type this:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men
Feared by the bad, loved by the good
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood

He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green
They vowed to help the people of the king
They handled all the troubles on the English country scene
And still found plenty of time to sing

T. H. White does something fun, once again, with a classic character. He lives in the woods, this Robin Wood, but the stories from the “book-learning chaps” have it wrong again. White’s spelling of Merlyn and his nickname for Arthur (Wart) are two other quick examples on how our author takes ownership of these oft repeated stories and makes them his own.

Little John remains a popular character in every Robin Hood movie. In Bugs Bunny, he repeats the famous rhyme:

“Don’t you worry, never fear. Robin Hood will soon be here.”

Of course, finally in the end, Errol Flynn shows up with the famous “Welcome to Sherwood Forest” line. Flynn received a copy of the film as compensation. This cartoon also has some of the best puns in the history of punning. Bugs, pretending to be from the royal court, anoints the Sheriff with this famous scene:

Bugs: “In the name of my most Royal Majesty, I knight thee! (strikes Sheriff over the head with his sceptre) “Arise, Sir Loin of Beef!”
(strike) “Arise, Earl of Cloves!”
(strike) “Arise, Duke of Brittingham!”
(strike) “Arise, Baron of Munchausen!”
(strike) “Arise, Essence of Myrrh!”
(strike) “Milk of Magnesia”
(strike) “Water of Thames!”
Sheriff: (dazed, slurred, but still on his feet) “You are too kind, your majesty.”
Bugs: (to audience) “Got lots of stamina!”

In the Disney version, Little John is a bear that seems to be typecast from Baloo in The Jungle Book. Phil Harris voiced both characters, so it’s easy to link Little John and Baloo. Generally, we think of Little John with his legendary height, seven feet usually, and his battling relationship with Robin.

As I have noted before, young Wart seems to be out of character a bit here. He refers to the “dumb woodman” and generally Wart is more of a champion of the less than perfect. This still seems to be Kay’s adventure here and Wart will need a bit of a “comeuppance” to restore his usual manners.

He will.


Jeremy Hall: “Only grasping maybe 2% of what I was getting into, I accepted Coach Parker’s offer and assumed that even if nothing came of it, I would get a graduate-level education in strength and conditioning just by going through the process.” 
[CONTINUE READING Jeremy Hall, as he tells the story of how he came to be the editing author of The System]


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