Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 222

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 222

New from OTPbooks.com: Back again this week with more from Coach Al Miller and Jeremy Hall, Part Three on how to scale The System’s periodization programming.

I started my morning shoveling snow again. The climate in Utah has shifted in the past few decades with the snow season sliding over to this time of year. Snow on Christmas is lovely and worthy of song.
I’m not singing so much this morning.
But there is an interesting thing: I keep the news on the television when it snows. If something happens like an accident or road closure, I find it helps to know before you go.
Here is my point: with the TV on, I find it hard to work. Well, obviously. Since I rarely have the TV on, I am much more “attune” to the things that the shows do to catch my attention. In fact, it is stunning. As a kid, I would be glued to Saturday morning cartoons and now I realize the power of this medium.
It took me about five minutes to type something I would usually do in seconds as I kept shifting my attention to the TV and the local ads and the fact that a chimp escaped a zoo.
Good for him.
But I need to work.
I’m convinced that there are dozens of reasons for the obesity epidemic. I am fine with the biome of the belly discussion, the industrial food complex, plastics in the water and food, lack of appropriate physical education programs and the loss of traditional meal experiences but circling around these issues has to be the lack of focus due to the onslaught of constant news, noise, glitz and glamor pouring from the various machines in the house.
I’m sorry…what was I talking about?
My journey through the internet this week found some interesting things about coaching and training. This first article gives us some insight on one path to developing coaches: the concept of padding. Basically, it is a review, a chart, of everything everyone does on every play in American football. It’s a task.


When padding games, assistants are required to watch tape of a given game and — on every single play — draw the offense and defense on a sheet of paper, and map out the movement and assignment of each player on the field. They’re also asked to note everything from receiver and offensive-line splits to tendencies and protections, along with deeper observations about what players on each side are trying to accomplish on the play.
And when you consider that young assistants can be tasked with padding four or five games of an upcoming opponent — and NFL games average well over 100 total plays — it’s a task that is as intensive and difficult as it sounds, especially when Belichick’s famous predilection toward attention to detail is factored in.
For instance, all five Patriots assistants polled by Yahoo Sports this week said the task of padding a single game — especially in the early learning process — can easily last anywhere from seven hours to even a couple days.
“[You better] get a lot of sharpened pencils, with some caffeine and patience,” joked special teams coach Joe Judge, who joined the Patriots as a special teams assistant in 2012. “When you’re young in it and you’re getting used to the hours, it pushes you to the brink.”

End quote
One final thing about the recent victory for the Patriots. If you are searching for excellence, don’t forget the key to this article.


Let’s talk a bit about that word: love.
Some of us are afraid of it. Others probably use it too quickly, maybe too often. But we all know it’s probably the most powerful feeling.
As I saw Brady telling player after player (and an owner) that he loved them, I thought of an Army officer I interviewed in Iraq back in 2007. He had a family back home, and the separation of multiple combat tours was taking its toll.
He was starting to wonder whether he should get out of the military — but every time he thought of it, he stopped. Why did he stay?
“I love Joe,” he told me. (“Joe” being slang for soldiers).
To hear Brady saying that word over and over: “Love you.” “Love you dude.” “I love you.”
It was striking. It’s part of the key to true leadership. I know of course that after winning a sixth Super Bowl, it was an emotional time for everyone on that field.
But even so, it was notable. How often do you profess love for your work colleagues? For the people who work for you?

End quote
This article reminds us of something I literally can’t tell my people enough: You HAVE to sleep.


Perhaps you have also noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you will still want to eat more. It’s a recipe linked to weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike.
Worse, should you try to diet but don’t get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since up to 70% of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat. Turn these facts around and you realise that plentiful sleep is powerful tool for controlling your appetite, your weight and keeping your body trim.

End quote
I thought this whole article was excellent. I recently bought the author’s new book, but I first heard this particular information at a discus ring in Granville, Ohio. Tom Fahey summed basically a million articles on nutrition by simply telling me that low “doses” of protein taken at the right time was the key to athletic performance. You get the basics here.


There are a bunch of subtleties here, like the optimal dose of protein. In healthy adults, a dose of about 0.25 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight seems to max out the protein synthesis signal from a given meal. That’s about 20 grams of protein if you weigh 175 pounds. So it makes sense to hit that target three or four or even five times a day.
That’s why van Loon and his team decided to experiment with a pre-bedtime dose of protein to see if they could boost muscle synthesis as you sleep. Their initial proof-of-principle study involved snaking a tube down the nose and into the stomachs of their subjects and flushing in 40 grams of protein while they slept. It worked—and van Loon, to his bemusement, soon started getting calls from sports coaches asking where they could get nasogastric tubes. (You can just eat the protein before you go to sleep, he explained to them.)
But the best way to augment protein’s muscle-signaling capacity is simple: Exercise before you eat, and your muscles become more sensitive to protein’s signals. “You can’t study food without exercise, and you can’t study exercise without food,” van Loon says. “There’s a synergy between them.”

End quote
When I saw this article, I chuckled a little as everything here is also the basics of modern fitness training. I still like the basic concept of fasting and I worry a bit when we add “intermittent” to the word as “magically” it seems like we need to hire an expert. One of the great lessons of my life is that hunger and starvation and fasting are all radically different things.


Evidence shows that calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and time-restricted eating encourage neurogenesis in humans. In rodent studies, intermittent fasting has been found to improve cognitive function and brain structure, and reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Reducing refined sugar will help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells, too, and we know that increased oxidative damage has been linked with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-four hour water-only fasts have also been proven to increase longevity and encourage neurogenesis.
Try any of the following, after checking with your doctor:
    24-hour water-only fast once a month
     Reducing your calorie intake by 50%-60% on two non-consecutive days of the week for two to three months or on an ongoing basis
    Reducing calories by 20% every day for two weeks. You can do this three to four times a year
    Eating only between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. as a general rule
3. Prioritize sleep
Sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system, which flushes out the build-up of age-related toxins in the brain (the tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques mentioned above). When people are sleep-deprived, we see evidence of memory deficits, and if you miss a whole night of sleep, research proves that it impacts IQ. Aim for seven to nine hours, and nap if it suits you. Our need to sleep decreases as we age.
Of course, there are individual exceptions, but having consistent sleep times and making sure you’re getting sufficient quality and length of sleep supports brain resilience over time. So how do you know if you’re getting enough? If you naturally wake up at the same time on weekends that you have to during the week, you probably are. If you need to lie-in or take long naps, you’re probably not. Try practicing mindfulness or yoga nidra before bed at night, a guided breath-based meditation that has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality. There are plenty of recordings online if you want to experience it.
Pick any of the above that work for you and build it up until it becomes a habit, then move onto the next one and so on. You might find that by the end of the year, you’ll feel even healthier, more energized, and motivated than you do now, even as you turn another year older.

End quote
I’ve got to get going. I have a workout in a bit and I need to leave early to get there today. So, until next time, keep on lifting and learning.

In the second article of this series on scaling a system of Russian periodization to fit your needs, Jeremy Hall and Al Miller cover a few basic changes you can make that will make a significant impact on your training.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 78

“There is one more thing. The most important is to hold your iron, but the next most important is not to eat. Anybody who eats in a you-know-what stronghold has to stay there for ever, so, for all sake’s sake, don’t eat anything whatever inside the castle, however tempting it may look. Will you remember?”
“We will.”
After the staff lecture, Robin went to give his orders to the men. He made them a long speech, explaining about the griffin and the stalk and what the boys were going to do.
When he had finished his speech, which was listened to in perfect silence, an odd thing happened. He began it again at the beginning and spoke it from start to finish in the same words. On finishing it for the second time, he said, “Now, captains,” and the hundred men split into groups of twenty which went to different parts of the clearing and stood round Marian, Little John, Much, Scarlett and Robin. From each of these groups a humming noise rose to the sky.
“What on earth are they doing?”
“Listen,” said the Wart.
They were repeating the speech, word for word. Probably none of them could read or write, but they had learned to listen and remember. This was the way in which Robin kept touch with his night raiders, by knowing that each man knew by heart all that the leader himself knew, and why he was able to trust them, when necessary, each man to move by himself.
When the men had repeated their instructions, and everyone was word perfect in the speech, there was an issue of war arrows, a dozen to each. These arrows had bigger heads, ground to razor sharpness, and they were heavily feathered in a square cut. There was a bow inspection, and two or three men were issued with new strings. Then all fell silent.
“Now then,” cried Robin cheerfully.
He waved his arm, and the men, smiling, raised their bows in salute. Then there was a sigh, a rustle, a snap of one incautious twig, and the clearing of the giant lime tree was as empty as it had been before the days of man.
“Come with me,” said Marian, touching the boys on the shoulder. Behind them the bees hummed in the leaves.

End quote
Reading this takes me back to 1970 when I first read the book cover to cover. This section probably influenced me as a teacher, coach and athlete more than I ever realized.

We are in the editing process of Forty Years with a Whistle, my next book. I discuss my life as a coach and the life lessons that I learned from my mentors.
Throughout my career, good coaches emphasized the importance of ME knowing the situations. As a coach, I strived to teach my athletes what to do in every situation we could imagine. Sometimes, what we did was funny, like making an athlete sit in a chair for a long time, then pop up and do a task. Funny…but that is how we often get “called” to compete.
It doesn’t matter what the coach knows during competition; it’s what the athlete knows. Robin’s method remains one of the best things I have ever read on teaching.
Memorization is a skill that seems to be diminishing. I know, I know: Why memorize something when you can find it with a touch of a few buttons? My daughters were lucky; their school insisted on monthly poetry challenges and they needed to spend a full month mastering and memorizing a poem. Memory, like lifting, is a skill. And, like lifting, the more you do, the more you can handle.
Every one of Robin and Marian’s band know the plan. If something comes up, they have the information to adapt and continue on the mission. My little coaching tool…
“The goal is to keep the goal the goal”
…is adapted from a military application: “The Mission is to keep The Mission The Mission!”
We all know stories of people who set off on a task, get sidetracked by this or that, and end up years later complaining at the dinner table that they never got their goal. I have learned to keep my mouth shut.
If you go off to college and get a dog or cat, you can’t stay in the dorms, you need another place. There are rarely places near campuses that allow dogs, so now you need a car to get to school. To afford the car, you have to get a job. The job interferes with school. You drop out of school.
I no longer point out the obvious here. It reminds me of the poem that was on the wall in my kindergarten class (insert usual joke: “The best three years of my life”):

“For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For the want of a 
shoe, the horse was lost,
For the want of a 
horse, the rider was lost,
For the want of a 
rider, the battle was lost,
For the want of a 
battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a 
            (Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but its roots go back to at least 1230 CE)
The bowstring inspection reflects this simple truth: One broken bowstring could cost lives…or the mission.
Marian, as we shall see, will be a great choice to lead Wart and Kay. They will learn woodcraft from her very quickly.
Finally, I love this last line as we move to the next section:
Behind them the bees hummed in the leaves.
After Robin and his men “hummed” the battle plan, our friends, the bees, continue the noise. I think it is a lovely line.
Until next time, hold on to your iron and don’t eat anything.


How would you scale down the Parker/Miller/Panariello periodization system for weekend warriors or keen amateurs in their 30s, 40s and 50s, with lots of experience, but also full-time jobs and families . . . you know, most of us. This is Part One.


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