Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 223

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 223

New from OTPbooks.com: How can you balance the strength gains of traditional training with the mobility that comes with functional training? Chuck Wolf works through the layers of blending traditional training with integrated training.

I’m off to Poland this weekend for a two-day workshop. I’m still trying to figure out a few things, but the workshop is pretty good.

I’m in a fitness challenge, “New Year/New You,” with my gym, Epic Fitness here in SLC.
My teammates are very good. We meet every Saturday and I am teamed with two women. It’s been interesting hearing them balance life, family and lifting. I get a lot of good ideas, but one I especially like is adding Low Sodium V-8 to meals. Phil Maffetone recommended this back in 1987 in Fitness and in Health: Everyone Is an Athlete. I get an extra few doses of veggies a day, but it is like drinking Guiness: I am simply full after finishing a glass with a meal.
I’ve also added “Tabata” sprints on the Assault bike. With my leg still recovering, these have been great to toss in on my off days. Last week, I did two and I was amazed at how using my legs and arms together caused me to really struggle to get my breath back. It took a while frankly.
I enjoy this kind of thing. It’s not a crazy diet or exercise program; it’s the basics of sleep, food, exercise and linking things together. I am keeping a food journal and that, along with basic training, seems to be a key for me. I’m also back on drinking massive amounts of water and that really is something that helps me in all phases of my life. I feel good.
I’ve been in low levels of pain since, according my journal (!!), about 2007. The next year or so, I “popped” my left hip getting out of a car and wanted to vomit. From there, the left hip went straight downhill. Even as I was rehabbing, my doctor was clear that the right hip was coming up soon.
Being basically pain-free is an eye opener for me. It’s like what I tell people about diet: see a dentist first. If you have to get a crown and you have seven cavities and your mouth has infections, it’s going to be a chore to eat like a rabbit and chew those veggies. Being in pain stumps your enthusiasm about training…and all kinds of other things.
Honestly, it is a blessing to be able to afford the surgery and simply take care of years of pain in literally half a day.
I’m sure there is a lesson there.
On the web this week, I LOVED this article about dead whales.


We knew, broadly, what had happened in the preceding three years. For denizens of the seafloor, a whale fall is like a Las Vegas buffet—an improbable bounty in the middle of the desert. Rosebud had delivered about a thousand years’ worth of food in one fell swoop. The first animals to pounce had been scavengers, such as sleeper sharks and slimy, snake-like hagfish. In the course of about six months, they had eaten most of the skin and muscle. Inevitably, the scavengers had scattered pieces of flesh around the whale carcass, and native microbes had multiplied quickly around those scraps. Their feeding frenzy, in turn, had depleted oxygen in the seafloor’s top layers, creating niches for microbes that could make methane or breathe sulfate.
As Rosebud came into view, we saw colorful microbial carpets light up the screens—plush white, yellow, and orange mats, each a community of microbes precisely tuned to their chemical milieu. The whale’s towering rib cage had become a cathedral for worms, snails, and crabs, which grazed beneath its buttresses. A few hungry hagfish slithered through the skull’s eye sockets. When the cameras zoomed in, we saw that the bones were covered in red splotches. Rouse leapt from his chair and rushed to the monitors for a closer look: he suspected that the red tufts were colonies of remarkable bone-eating worms called Osedax, which had only just recently been described in a rigorous scientific study.

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Taylor Lewis has a nice piece here on strength and the heart. I love his work.


The researchers showed that low intensity, high frequency training can improve peak oxygen uptake and workload capacity. They improved their hearts strength and endurance.
This study has similarities to Dan John and Pavel’s “Easy Strength” program. To highly renown strength coaches. The program is built to improve your strength through low intensity, higher frequency training. The theory is training at a lower intensity allows you a faster recovery between workouts to increase overall strength over time.
This makes sense because research has shown that improved strength not only comes from the change in skeletal tissue but also from an increase in neural responses and innervations. There is the psychological factor that comes with training at a low intensity and everyone needs to pick something heavy up now and again. It is good for the soul but it doesn’t have to be every training session. Training at a lower intensity, with a higher frequency increases the time spent under the bar, allowing quality motor patterning. Motor patterning helps create and reestablish motor behavior. If you move better, you will feel better. This aids directly into the recovery, and due to the lower intensity of training, you allow your body to recover faster.

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The following, from Neil Gaiman, is just true for everything.


        Embrace the fact that you’re young. Accept that you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.
        If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.
        Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you’ll probably feel like a fraud. It’s normal.
        Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you’re out there doing and trying things.
        When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.
        Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.
        You get freelance work if your work is good, if you’re easy to get along with, and if you’re on deadline. Actually you don’t need all three. Just two.
        Enjoy the ride. Don’t fret it all away. (That one comes compliments of Stephen King.)
        Be wise and accomplish things in your career. If you have problems getting started, pretend you’re someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.
        Leave the world more interesting than it was before.

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This is probably the most important article I have read in a while in terms of the whole field I work in. Understanding metabolism opens the door to so many other things.


2) Most of the energy you burn is from your resting metabolism
There are three main ways your body burns energy each day: 1) the basal metabolism — energy used for your body’s basic functioning while at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food (also known as the thermic effect of food); and 3) the energy used in physical activity.
As we explored in a feature, one very underappreciated fact about the body is that your resting metabolism accounts for a huge amount of the total calories you burn each day. Physical activity, on the other hand, accounts for a tiny part of your total energy expenditure — about 10 to 30 percent (unless you’re a professional athlete or have a highly physically demanding job). Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.
Components of total energy expenditure for an average young adult woman and man.
“It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure,” Alexxai Kravitz, a neuroscientist and obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health, told me.
“It’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly equal to food intake, which accounts for 100 percent of the energy intake of the body,” Kravitz added. “This is why it’s not so surprising that exercise leads to [statistically] significant, but small, changes in weight.”
3) Metabolism can vary a lot between people, and researchers don’t understand why
It’s true that two people with the same size and body composition can have different metabolic rates. One can consume a huge meal and gain no weight, while the other has to carefully count calories to not gain weight.
But why this is remains a “black box,” said Will Wong, a researcher and professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research. “We don’t understand the mechanism that controls a person’s metabolism.”
Researchers have found some predictors of how fast a person’s metabolism will be. These include: the amount of lean muscle and fat tissue in the body, age, and genetics (though researchers don’t know why some families have higher or lower metabolic rates).
Sex also matters, since women with any given body composition and age burn fewer calories than comparable men. For women, Jensen added, “There’s a bit of an effect of menstrual cycle: Some women have a higher metabolic rate during the last half of menstrual cycle (during the luteal phase) when the resting metabolic rate in some women is up to 10 percent higher.”
You can’t easily measure your resting metabolic rate in a precise way (there are some commercially available tests, but the best measurements come from research studies that use expensive equipment like a metabolic chamber). But you can get a rough estimate of your resting metabolic rate by plugging some basic variables into online calculators (like this one). It’ll tell you how many calories you’re expected to burn each day, and if you eat that many and your weight stays the same, it’s probably correct.

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Sleep. I am surprised how many people don’t appreciate the importance of sleep. This article shows us the cutting edge.


For the Team Sky’s Tour de France cyclists, Littlehales created “sleep kits” that replicated what he had previously specified for each rider at their home. First there’s a bedding “topper”, a thin layer of foam customised to the body shape and requirements of each athlete, which is either placed on top of the existing hotel mattress or, if it’s not suitable, on the floor. Each one can take up to 150kg without the user feeling the floor.
Endurance events such as the Tour are mentally taxing, so he also instructs team bosses to ensure each rider has seven sets of white linen, to be washed, dried and replaced each night to give the rider a greater sense of calm. Filters are placed over air-conditioning vents to remove allergens from the room and each athlete wears nasal strips to open their airways and avoid mouth-breathing. Nothing is left to chance.
And what about the age-old theory that eight hours of kip per day is what we need? Rubbish, says Littlehales. “Nobody gets it and nobody achieves it.” He says everyone has different physical and mental recovery times but that for elite athletes, five 90-minute sleep cycles a day is optimal, no matter what order they are in. Training schedules are now often tailored around that need and many club training facilities now equipped with sleeping pods – specially-designed bedrooms for strategic napping.
Punishing travel and playing schedules, public scrutiny and the pressures of maintaining such high-profile careers are what Littlehales believes lead to sportspeople taking risks with sleeping tablets and self-medicating to sleep. “They’re overstimulated to cope. That can be caffeine … sleeping tablets just get popped because they can’t sleep or they think they won’t be able to sleep.”
Routine is also vital. Each athlete has their own chronotype; they’re either morning people or night owls, a factor Littlehales says is genetic. “If you don’t identify what that chronotype is you become an in-betweener,” he says, adding that this discovery is of particular importance to footballers, limited-overs cricketers and tennis stars, whose job is to perform at their optimal capabilities at nighttime. Some are simply born with an ability to function at a high level well into the night, others need to adapt.
Compounding all these issues in the last decade has been the advent of smartphones and electronic tablets, which allow players to lie in bed reading everything that’s written about them online, a pitfall Australian tennis star Nick Kygrios admitted to during his recent Wimbledon campaign.
“Our exposure to artificial light has just gone through the roof,” he says of the dramatic shift from phones that were for talking and listening to bright screens that athletes often stare at until all hours of the night. “That light is so intense and combined with everything else like the TVs, it’s all about wake, not sleep … we’re just letting it infiltrate our lives without any control.”

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This series is just fun. And, this is my favorite line from the film.


Henry Vanger to Mikael Blomkvist, as he offers him the job of writing the family history and investigating his niece’s disappearance: “You will be investigating thieves, misers, bullies. The most detestable collection of people that you will ever meet—my family.”

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I think that is enough for one week! Until next time, keep lifting and learning.

The principles of periodization need not be confined to programming an athlete’s training. Periodization can also be applied to the various stages of rehabilitation as Sue Falsone explains in this commentary.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 79

It was a long march. The artificial glades which led to the lime tree in the form of a cross were no longer of use after the first half-hour. After that they had to make their way through the virgin forest as best they might. It would not have been so bad if they had been able to kick and slash their way, but they were supposed to move in silence. Marian showed them how to go sideways, one side after the other; how to stop at once when a bramble caught them, and take it patiently out; how to put their feet down sensitively and roll their weight to that leg as soon as they were certain that no twig was under the foot; how to distinguish at a glance the places which gave most hope of an easy passage; and how a kind of rhythm in their movements would help them in spite of obstacles. Although there were a hundred invisible men on every side of them, moving toward the same goal, they heard no sounds but their own.
The boys had felt disgruntled at first, at being put in a woman’s band. They would have preferred to have gone with Robin, and thought that being put under Marian was like being trusted to a governess. They soon found their mistake. She had objected to their coming, but, now that their coming was ordered, she accepted them as companions. It was not easy to be a companion of hers. In the first place, it was impossible to keep up with her unless she waited for them—for she could move on all fours or even wriggle like a snake almost as quickly as they could walk—and in the second place she was an accomplished soldier, which they were not. She was a true Weyve—except for her long hair, which most of the female outlaws of those days used to clip. One of the bits of advice which she gave them before talking had to be stopped was this: Aim high when you shoot in battle, rather than low. A low arrow strikes the ground, a high one may kill in the second rank.
“If I am made to get married,” thought the Wart, who had doubts on the subject, “I will marry a girl like this: a kind of golden vixen.”
As a matter of fact, though the boys did not know it, Marian could hoot like an owl by blowing into her fists, or whistle a shrill blast between tongue and teeth with the fingers in the corner of the mouth; could bring all the birds to her by imitating their calls, and understand much of their small language—such as when the tits exclaim that a hawk is coming; could hit the popinjay twice for three times of Robin’s; and could turn cartwheels. But none of these accomplishments was necessary at the moment.
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“Weyve,” is such a great word. It is the female form of “outlaw.” Our author, T. H. White, gets his fair share of negative written about him recently for his cruelty (I won’t mention the book) with his hawks and some of his other life issues. I’ve read odd negative things about him in journals complaining about his sexism and other issues related to sex.
But, White’s description here of Marian should be emailed to these authors. Wart agrees; his thoughts here are certainly clear: “I will marry a girl like this: a kind of golden vixen.” So, this Weyve, this vixen, seems to have awakened something in our young hero. I love the subtext here, and I probably thought this when I first read the book: “If I am MADE to get married” and “(Wart) had doubts on the subject” still makes me smile.
I’m sure some will cast stones at White for using the term “vixen.” It is a female fox. I’m no fan of dictionaries, but, in this case, let’s let Merriam-Webster explain this better:

Vixen literally refers to a female fox, but it has two very distinctive extended meanings: “a shrew” and “a sexy woman.” How is it that the word took such semantically divergent paths?
The “combative, bad-tempered woman” sense has a very long history in our language, going back as far as the 16th century and extending well into the 20th. It may be found in Shakespeare and Swift as well as in latter-day descriptions of mothers-in-law and the names of gun boats. By mid-century, however, vixen begins to be used of glamorous and attractive women. Perhaps its application to female characters who combined combative and seductive qualities led to the word’s reinterpretation. Or perhaps it was influenced by “fox,” another term for an attractive young woman that made its appearance in English around this time.

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I read this out loud to my wife, Tiffini.
She said: “Thank you.”
Wart would have liked Tiffini.
Marian’s advice on shooting and her training on stealth remains one of my favorite parts of this book. She is an excellent instructor and both boys have learned a quick lesson about early judgment. White’s paragraph about her other skills:
“As a matter of fact, though the boys did not know it, Marian could hoot like an owl by blowing into her fists, or whistle a shrill blast between tongue and teeth with the fingers in the corner of the mouth; could bring all the birds to her by imitating their calls, and understand much of their small language—such as when the tits exclaim that a hawk is coming; could hit the popinjay twice for three times of Robin’s; and could turn cartwheels. But none of these accomplishments was necessary at the moment.”
…has brought me joy my entire life.

“Turn cartwheels:” I don’t know why, but this statement brings me back to Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain’s Becky Thatcher is a fine young heroine plus an on again/off again love interest for Tom. Tom tries to impress Becky with all kinds of acrobatics when they first meet, but the blonde-haired Becky ignores him. When you unpack Chapter Seven of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, you read something like what we see here in The Sword in the Stone:
“Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?”
“What’s that?”
“Why, engaged to be married.”
“Would you like to?”
“I reckon so. I don’t know. What is it like?”
“Like? Why it ain’t like anything. You only just tell a boy you won’t ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that’s all. Anybody can do it.
Tom and Wart both seem to be missing a few details about love and marriage (horse and carriage).
Until next time.


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


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