Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 211

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 211

New on OTPbooks.com this week: Here’s Thom Plummer with more wisdom on how to make it as a trainer.


It’s always a bit sad for me to put away the Thanksgiving stuff. I love this holiday. We basically have a five-day party at my house. It takes us a day or so just to set up the family room for thirty people…it’s a big event.

We start Thanksgiving with our Annual Fifth K Walk. My brother-in-law, Craig, lives a mile or so away, so we bundle up and walk over. Most years we have ten to fifteen people, and dogs, join us. The joke is that we finish a fifth on the way over, but, really, it is a lovely walk and Craig has a full brunch spread.

I cook a turkey and a ham. We ask everyone to bring a veggie dish so we end up with dozens of vegetable offerings. I have noticed that if I just try a little of everything, I am stuffed. The four days end up being a “Two Meal a Day” diet with a family brunch and dinner. We break down Thanksgiving and get some of the Christmas items up and my grandkids start on the tree.

You will notice, historically, that my trees always tend to have lots of ornaments on the lowest branches of the Christmas tree.

I leave a massive piece of paper hanging at our meal and ask people to note what they are thankful for this year. Two of our gathering barely survived the year with accidents and illness, so this Thanksgiving was especially thankful. Others are just happily humming along and I think that is pretty good, too.

One thing I tell people I am thankful about every year is the role Laree Draper plays in my life. Publisher, editor and friend, Laree simply doesn’t get enough credit for helping so many of us in the fitness community. So, Laree: Thank you!

It was an interesting contrast to see some of the nonsense on forums this week. I know a few people in “real life” that are simply horrible in Social Media. So, this week, I started looking for articles to help understand this issue. This first article seemed “spot on” from my experiences in life. Tiffini and I had a long conversation about one of my former bosses who thought “demeaning” was leadership.


Sean Illing: Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the book, which is about how to deal with assholes. So tell me, what’s your best asshole neutralization strategy?

Robert Sutton: First, it depends on how much power you have. And second, on how much time you’ve got. Those are the two questions that you have to answer before you can decide what to do. Assuming that you don’t have Dirty Harry power or you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire people you don’t like, I think you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

To begin with, you’ve got to build your case. You’ve also got to build a coalition. One of my mottos is that you have to know your assholes. We already talked about temporary versus certified assholes, but another distinction that’s really important is that some people, and you mentioned this at the outset, some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well.

In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line. This is simple persuasive work. But if it’s somebody who is one of those Machiavellian assholes who is treating you like shit because they believe that’s how to get ahead, in that case you’ve got to get the hell out of there if you can.

End quote

After reading this article, I continued to find more pieces by Sean Illing. This article is a tough one to read for me, considering my age. But, I found a lot to agree with here.


Sean Illing: What’s the most egregious thing the boomers have done in your opinion?

Bruce Gibney: I’ll give you something abstract and something concrete. On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they’ve done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it’s been replaced by a cult of individualism. It’s hard to overstate how damaging this is.

On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward. Because we failed to confront things like infrastructure decay and climate change early on, they’ve only grown into bigger and more expensive problems. When something breaks, it’s a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been to just maintain it all along.

End quote

Considering my last five days of life, I should tread carefully with this article, but I thought it is really worth a read.


When my book came out, dozens of Alcoholics Anonymous members said that because I had challenged AA’s claim of a 75 percent success rate, I would hurt or even kill people by discouraging attendance at meetings. A few insisted that I must be an “alcoholic in denial.” But most of the people I heard from were desperate to tell me about their experiences in the American treatment industry. Amy Lee Coy, the author of the memoir From Death Do I Part: How I Freed Myself From Addiction, told me about her eight trips to rehab, starting at age 13. “It’s like getting the same antibiotic for a resistant infection—eight times,” she told me. “Does that make sense?”

She and countless others had put their faith in a system they had been led to believe was effective—even though finding treatment centers’ success rates is next to impossible: facilities rarely publish their data or even track their patients after discharging them. “Many will tell you that those who complete the program have a ‘great success rate,’ meaning that most are abstaining from drugs and alcohol while enrolled there,” says Bankole Johnson, an alcohol researcher and the chair of the psychiatry department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Well, no kidding.”

Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 2 million members worldwide, and the structure and support it offers have helped many people. But it is not enough for everyone. The history of AA is the story of how one approach to treatment took root before other options existed, inscribing itself on the national consciousness and crowding out dozens of newer methods that have since been shown to work better.

A meticulous analysis of treatments, published more than a decade ago in The Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches but still considered one of the most comprehensive comparisons, ranks AA 38th out of 48 methods. At the top of the list are brief interventions by a medical professional; motivational enhancement, a form of counseling that aims to help people see the need to change; and acamprosate, a drug that eases cravings. (An oft-cited 1996 study found 12-step facilitation—a form of individual therapy that aims to get the patient to attend AA meetings—as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. But that study, called Project Match, was widely criticized for scientific failings, including the lack of a control group.)

End quote

T-nation has a good article on longevity and training. I was asked to include a few ideas. They edited it a bit, but I worry this miss the point about Mentor.

I hate to go “all dictionary” on you, but I ALWAYS capitalize Mentor…as it is someone’s name: Mentor.


We acquired “mentor” from the literature of ancient Greece. In Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Odysseus was away from home fighting and journeying for 20 years. During that time, Telemachus, the son he left as a babe in arms, grew up under the supervision of Mentor, an old and trusted friend. When the goddess Athena decided it was time to complete the education of young Telemachus, she visited him disguised as Mentor and they set out together to learn about his father. Today, we use the word mentor for anyone who is a positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person’s life.

From the article:

I was lucky, in a way. As a teenager, I had a vision of maintaining my training my whole life. It was the influence of Strength and Health Magazine and my coach, Dick Notmeyer. Dick remains my Mentor (with a capital M) to this day. At age 87, he told me some sad news:

“Well, Danny, I can either lift OR ride my bike every day. I can’t seem to do both anymore.” So, Dick lifts three days a week, drinks his protein after the workout, and rides his bike the other four days. At 87, he’s allowed to cut back.

For me, I understood the importance of health, fitness, longevity, and performance at an early age. I try to pass along what was passed along to me.

End quote

This weekend, I hustle off to California for the Pac 12 Championship Game. My wife, and most of my family, are Utah Utes and she wisely bought tickets (and air and hotel) earlier this season. After this, I have another strength coach clinic and then…Christmas Season!

Until next week, keep 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 67


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

They fell in on either side of the enormous man, and had to run one step in three to keep up with him; for, although he talked very slowly, he walked on his bare feet very fast. The dog trotted at heel.

“Please,” asked the Wart, “where are you taking us?”

“Why, to Robin ‘ood, seemingly. An’t you sharp enough to guess that also, Measter Art?”

The giant gave him a sly peep out of the corner of his eye at this, for he knew that he had set the boys two problems at once—first, what was Robin’s real name, and second, how did Little John come to know the Wart’s?

The Wart fixed on the second question first.

“How did you know my name?”

“Ah,” said Little John. “Us knowed.”

“Does Robin ‘ood know we are coming?”

“Nay, my duck, a young scholard like thee should speak his name scholarly.”

“Well, what is his name?” cried the boy, between exasperation and being out of breath from running to keep up. “You said ‘ood.”

“So it is ‘ood, my duck. Robin ‘ood, like the ‘oods you’m running through. And a grand fine name it is.”

“Robin Wood!”

“Aye, Robin ‘ood. What else should un be, seeing as he rules ’em. They’m free pleaces, the ‘oods, and fine pleaces. Let thee sleep in ’em, come summer, come winter, and hunt in ’em for thy commons lest thee starve; and smell to ’em as they brings forward their comely bright leaves, according to order, or loses of ’em by the same order back’ards: let thee stand in ’em that thou be’st not seen, and move in ’em that thou be’st not heard, and warm thee with ’em as thou fall’st on sleep—ah, they’m proper fine pleaces, the ‘oods, for a free man of hands and heart.”

Kay said, “But I thought all Robin Wood’s men wore hose and jerkins of Lincoln green?”

“That us do in the winter like, when us needs ’em, or with leather leggings at ‘ood ‘ork: but here by summer ’tis more seasonable thus for the pickets, who have nought to do save watch.”

“Were you a sentry then?”

“Aye, and so were wold Much, as you spoke to by the felled tree.”

“And I think,” exclaimed Kay triumphantly, “that this next big tree which we are coming to will be the stronghold of Robin Wood!”

They were coming to the monarch of the forest.

End quote

“Much,” or Midge in some versions of Robin Hood, is probably the most forgotten of the Merry Men. Allen W. Wright does a great job explaining much in this internet feature.

Much is mentioned quite a bit in the earliest stories. Some stories call him Midge or even Nick the Miller’s Son. Sometimes Much and Midge are different people.

Originally, Much was strong enough to carry Little John. And he was violent enough to behead a monk’s page just to keep him quiet.

But nowadays, Much is seen as a young, innocent character who is not too bright. In one book, he’s only 12, the son of an Older Much the Miller who was murdered by Normans.

Many films show Much killing a deer — a severe offense against the forest laws. The Norman overlords are about to chop off his hand or burn out his eyes. That’s when Robin interferes and saves the young man. Much joins the Merry Men.

Another story makes Much (or Midge, as he was sometimes called) yet another tradesman who was stopped by Robin Hood. The young miller was carrying a great sack of flour, and Robin suspected that he might be holding gold in the sack. Much (or Midge) opened the sack and tossed flour in Robin’s face. Then, like so many people before him, Much beat the stuffing out of bold Robin. Of course, Robin asked Much to join the Merry Men.

Sadly, if there’s a Merry Man who is left out of the stories these days, it is Much. Even so, he still appears in some tales and is often the youthful mascot of the band. And perhaps, its soul.

I also enjoy this small section as White is probably writing this as Errol Flynn is making the classic version of the movie, Robin Hood. This movie is later parodied by none other than Bugs Bunny (“Rabbit Hood”) and probably is the image many people have when they think of Robin. So, Little John is, in a sense, explaining to his 1938 audience that things are a bit different than in the movie.


Next time, we meet Robin.


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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