Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 214

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 214

New on OTPbooks.com this week: As we look at Coaches Johnny Parker, Al Miller and Rob Panariello’s ideas of systematic program design, we first consider their training cycle principles. Here, have a look.


I always send these Wandering Weights to Laree (Laree Draper: my vote for one of the best people in the universe) on Monday mornings. Every so often, she will send a reminder to me to press “Send.”

Then, I look at my drafts…and, like a good Sherlock and Watson moment… the problem is solved.

By the time they come out on Wednesday, I have already added a few new pieces for the upcoming week. So, when I get an email about an article, I sometimes have to look back at what I wrote “last week.”

As I type this, I am in the middle of some serious preparation. By the time you read this, ideally, there will be nothing but good news. Tuesday (yesterday for most of you as you read this), I go in for a Total Hip Replacement for my right leg.

I had the left done seven years ago and the doctor was candid that the right one needed to be done, too.

The day I was born, with what my doctor describes as “hips worthy of a medical school picture,” I was destined for this surgery. Thankfully, I live at a time where this can be addressed, as I can’t imagine life with the pain of just walking as I do now. I have the “Pistol Grip” sockets and, as I have discovered, this is an issue.

Before you ask: it has nothing to do with training or load. My niece has the same condition and I’m sure others in my family have something along the same lines. Many people in my family have THRs.

My doctor has a great name for this…and a few other surgeries: God Surgery. It makes the lame walk. I’ve been in lots of pain for a few years and it’s beyond time to deal with it.

Being proactive to a fault, I also will be sending Laree my next book this morning. It reflects my forty years as a coach. It’s all new material (except for adding “Do it or Diet” from OTP and, of course, appendix materials).

Well, until that book comes out, let’s keep climbing around the internet to see if we can find some new information. This article probably is old news for WW readers, but I liked the point here.


Although the study was relatively small, the findings, which were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August, suggest a dramatic benefit of lifelong exercise for both muscle health and the cardiovascular system.

“Lifelong exercisers had a cardiovascular system that looked 30 years younger,” says Trappe. This is noteworthy because, for the average adult, the ability to process oxygen declines by about 10 percent per decade after age 30.

“It’s kind of a slow decay over time that’s probably not so noticeable in your 30s or 40s,” says Trappe, but eventually as years go on, becomes apparent. People can get out of breath more easily and may have difficulty pushing themselves physically.

The age-related reduction in VO2 max is directly associated with an increasing risk of multiple chronic diseases, mortality and loss of independence. Maintaining a strong heart and lung system has been shown to decrease these health risks.

As for muscle health, the findings were even more significant, says Trappe. Trappe says researchers were surprised to find the 75-year-old muscles of lifelong exercisers were about the same as the muscles of the 25-year-olds. “If I showed you the muscle data that we have, you wouldn’t know it was from an older individual. You would think it’s from somebody that’s a young exerciser,” he says.

End quote

This time of year, American football dominates my TV screen. My Aggies just won their bowl game and never really had to punt. This article goes into great detail about this quiet art form.


This is a golden age of punting. The numbers make the case. Though punting stats are largely unfair to punters, according to the best simple measure of quality — net punting average — the last three seasons of punting have been blisteringly good. In 2003, a generation ago, two punters averaged at least 40 net yards per punt. In 2017, 22 players topped 40 yards. 2003’s net yards leader Mitch Berger would have finished in the bottom half of the league in 2016, and several atmospheric layers below Hekker, who averaged 46 net yards per punt that year in perhaps the greatest season a punter has ever had.

A punter’s job is no longer simply to kick the ball high and far while fans hold their collective breath that this time isn’t the time when the ball flies sideways into the stands. No, punters are now neutralizing and terrorizing the most electric return men in the NFL with kicks that spin and move and bounce and flip in all sorts of unpredictable, terror-inducing ways. In 2017, a New York Times headline suggested, in all earnestness, that Hekker might even be the league MVP.

“To the outside world it can seem like a useless position, like, ‘Aww man you don’t really need a punter,’” Hekker says. “But those who know, know. And the hidden yardage, if you can start someone inside the 10-yard line as opposed to getting a touchback and letting them start at the 20, just the percentages of them scoring on that drive change drastically.”

End quote

This discussion, grip strength, was so common when I first came on the internet. The importance of this seems to be ignored in the general population, but this article makes a strong point about being more concerned about grip strength.


It’s easy to be troubled by a nearly 20 percent decrease in grip strength, especially given that it happened in one generation, a blink of an eye compared to evolutionary time scales. But to denounce it as a sign of culture denigration is to try to fix culture as natural, when in reality it is as shifting as our bodies themselves. Should we decry the withering away of muscle, if our bodies prosper in the environment that surrounds them? The last 10 years have also seen a dramatic increase in myopia, most likely because we spend more time indoors and because of the type of work we do. But should we stop reading? Should we swing from the trees to get our grip strength back? Even if we got our paleo hands back, what good would they do us in the modern world?

And if a measure like grip strength were truly so robust a health indicator, shouldn’t life spans be declining as (and if) grip strength was? Bohannon warns me, “I would not interpret small declines in grip strength as indicative of decreasing health.” As he notes, you have to get pretty low in the statistical profile—“in the lowest quartile or tertile or below the median of a tested population”—before you start to get into increased mortality risk territory.

Another problem is to fixate (like those 19th-century explorers did) on grip strength itself as a flawless indicator of health (or anything else). After all, as the anthropologist Michael Gurven (who has measured grip strength among the Tsimane’ Amerindians of the Bolivian Amazon, among other groups) reminded me, “women have lower grip strength than men, yet live longer and have lower mortality than men at most ages.” He also advised me not to discount the motivational factor in grip strength testing: “Offering a prize to folks does increase their scores.” Perhaps I was so intent on proving that “I still had it” against my millennial counterparts that I simply tried harder.

End quote

“The right things done.” This article makes several great points about productivity and the need to have some time to yourself. 


“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”—Ernest Hemingway

In our pursuit of “getting more things done,” we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of productivity.

Productivity isn’t about getting more things done, rather it’s about getting the right things done, while doing less.

The best way to figure out the right things to focus on and the best ways to tackle them is to spend more time alone with your thoughts and embrace solitude.

And just like Einstein, you’ll achieve much more and unleash your potential.

End quote

I love articles about reading. This one is special.


Reading isn’t just a delightful hobby. If done well, it’s also a virtue. It teaches you more than just how to live and what to do; it teaches you how to see.

By diving into the minds of some of the greatest thinkers and storytellers, it moves us into realms of reality that would otherwise stay unknown to us. We often finish a good book with a new pair of eyes, and we can then use these eyes to create a better world around us, if we so choose.

That said, in order for a book to have this effect, we do also have to do our part. We have come in with the correct mindset, and we have to put ourselves in a perceptual state that is okay with fine-tuning itself.

Contrary to how most of us learn to read, the process isn’t limited to the two simple dimensions of extracting right and wrong. And every time we approach it with this mentality, we cheat ourselves out of a more nuanced lens of understanding; we limit retention.

Every word, every sentence, and every paragraph of a good piece of writing has the potential to teach you something. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be selective about what you read or that you can’t give up on something that isn’t speaking to you. What it means is that for something to move you, you have to be ready to be moved.

If you come in with an open mind, you might actually leave with something in it. If you filter for relevancy and understanding, that’s what you will find, and that’s when you will truly capture the joys of the written form.

Or as George R.R. Martin puts it in a A Dance with Dragons:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

End quote

Well, there you go. Another week of WW. Ideally, I will be back next week better and brighter than ever. Until then, let’s all keep on lifting and learning.


How would you scale down a pro training system for weekend warriors or keen amateurs in our 30s, 40s and 50s, with lots of experience, but also full-time jobs and families? Jeremy Hall, the editing author of The System book on periodization, works this out for us.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 70


The song ended in laughter. Robin, who had been twisting his brown fingers in the silk-fine threads which fell about his face, gave them a shrewd tug and scrambled to his feet.

“Now, John,” he said, seeing them at once.

“Now, Measter,” said Little John.

“So you have brought the young squires?”

“They brought me.”

“Welcome either way,” said Robin. “I never heard ill spoken of Sir Ector, nor reason why his sounders should be pursued. How are you, Kay and Wart, and who put you into the forest at my glades, on this of all days?”

“Robin,” interrupted the lady, “you can’t take them!”

“Why not, sweet heart?”

“They are children.”

“Exactly what we want.”

“It is inhuman,” she said in a vexed way, and began to do her hair.

The outlaw evidently thought it would be safer not to argue, He turned to the boys and asked them a question instead.

“Can you shoot?”

“Trust me,” said the Wart.

“I can try,” said Kay, more reserved, as they laughed at the Wart’s assurance.

“Come, Marian, let them have one of your bows.”

She handed him a bow and half a dozen arrows twenty-eight inches long.

“Shoot the popinjay,” said Robin, giving them to the Wart.

He looked and saw a popinjay five-score paces away. He guessed that he had been a fool and said cheerfully, “I am sorry, Robin Wood, but I am afraid it is much too far for me.”

“Never mind,” said the outlaw. “Have a shot at it. I can tell by the way you shoot.”

The Wart fitted his arrow as quickly and neatly as he was able, set his feet wide in the same line that he wished his arrow to go, squared his shoulders, drew the bow to his chin, sighted on the mark, raised his point through an angle of about twenty degrees, aimed two yards to the right because he always pulled to the left in his loose, and sped his arrow. It missed, but not so badly.

“Now, Kay,” said Robin.

Kay went through the same motions and also made a good shot. Each of them had held the bow the right way up, had quickly found the cock feather and set it outward, each had taken hold of the string to draw the bow—most boys who have not been taught are inclined to catch hold of the nock of the arrow when they draw, between their finger and thumb, but a proper archer pulls back the string with his first two or three fingers and lets the arrow follow it—neither of them had allowed the point to fall away to the left as they drew, nor struck their left forearms with the bow-string—two common faults with people who do not know—and each had loosed evenly without a pluck.

“Good,” said the outlaw. “No lute-players here.”

End quote

Wart and Kay are about to go on a difficult adventure. Being tested for weapons prowess is something we don’t often do with today’s adolescents. There is a small edit here that I don’t like: Robin says in this translation:

“Welcome either way,”

In the 1938 version, it is this:

“Welcome whichever way,”

This version seems to fit Robin’s style of speech here. Robin has a rhythm to his speech that seems to be poetic and princely at the same time. The alliteration of “Welcome whichever way” seems to roll better with the woods and Woods here.

In many versions, there are several paragraphs missing. I will soon retype them from the original, but this next scene of Robin and John competing in shooting is dropped out in the 1958 versions. I have said this before about the deleted scenes from the Harry Potter movies: Why did they cut out those few minutes of information that tied so many events together?

The focus with this section for me has always been this wonderful line:

“Can you shoot?”

“Trust me,” said the Wart.

This is probably the true turning point in the book. Wart’s private eddication from Merlyn is beginning to bear its first fruits. He has survived some dangerous adventures and he is beginning to get his chest proud posture.

Sure, it is comic. But, it is nevertheless true: Wart is finding his voice. He will, as will all the characters, try to maintain his station (and the other characters will strive to keep him in his place), but we are seeing him transform.

And, as the youngest of six, I know perfectly well this feeling.

Until next week, when we discuss the deleted section:

Trust me.


What’s the difference between functional exercise and corrective exercise? Do you know? Stop right here for a sec and consider that. Can you give a confident answer?



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