Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 231

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 231

New from OTPbooks.com:Rehab and training are very similar entities. Rehab professionals and strength coaches seem to be at different ends of a continuum, but their work is often in the middle of those worlds. Here’s Jeremy Hall and Rob Panariello: The System and the Rehab/Performance Continuum

I was supposed to do a workshop in Fargo this past weekend, but the weather made the organizers cancel the event. Oddly, I tried to reschedule this a couple of times as this past weekend included some of the biggest events on the fitness calendar. But, it worked out as I had a wonderful lunch with Mike Boyle and many future legends in the strength game.
I stayed home and hung out with the grandkids. I taught them the joy of balsa wood gliders. They continue to be one of the great toys for kids as one can spend hours trying to get it to do the same thing twice.
It’s like trying to get my grandkids to do the same thing twice!
As you read this, I will be toward the end of five-day fast. My friend,Rick Stevens sent me Walter Longo’s book, The Longevity Diet. His TedTalk is very good and I am a fan of fasting for all kinds of reasons. Fasting not only has interesting health benefits, but it is also a simple way to teach the mind that hunger is just not that big a deal.
I wish I knew that lesson as a thrower!
I’m doing a prepacked plan, but I won’t need to do it next time. Basically, most of the days are this:
400 calories from veggies
400 calories from healthy fats (nuts, olive oil)
1 multivitamin and mineral supplement
Fish oil supplement (Omega 3/Omega 6)
Sugarless tea
Unlimited water
I was talking to Lindsay (my youngest daughter…State Champ in the shot put, academic superstar and general pain in my ….) and we were discussing this whole approach to food and fasting. My mom argued that veggies were the answer to obesity…and what got you there was “starches and sugars.” Honestly, we had a soup recipe as a kid that was delicious. I found something like it here.

    Cooking spray
    1 large  onion, chopped
    2 celery  stalks, chopped
    1½ medium  carrots, peeled and chopped
    8 ounces  rutabaga, chopped
    2 cubes  vegetable bouillon dissolved in 3½ cups  of hot water
    1 (14-ounce)  can chopped tomatoes
    2 teaspoons  oregano
    1 ounce  whole-wheat pasta shells
    dash kosher salt
    dash black pepper
1.     Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and place on medium-high heat.
2.     To the saucepan, add onion, celery, carrots and rutabaga and cook, stirring as needed, for 3 minutes.
3.     Add vegetable broth, canned tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
4.     Add pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.
5.     Add salt and pepper to taste.
6.     Serve immediately, or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
According to the Weight Watchers website, this recipe has only 1 point. As a veggie-heavy dish, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. On the new SmartPoints plan, fruits and veggies have 0 points. This new system is designed to encourage you to eat more of these low-calorie, nutrient-dense, filling foods.”

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With some fish oil capsules and herbal tea, most of us could make this fast work easily (with the soup at meals).
As for the nuts, that works out easily too. This article made a lot of sense.


 “According to the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pistachio Health Organization, a standard 1-ounce serving of pistachios is equivalent to 49 kernels and 158 calories. This means a reduced serving of 100 calories is equivalent to about 30 pistachio kernels. An equivalent 100-calorie snack might be 10 almonds, cashews or walnuts, or 16 peanuts.”

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And, if you decide to eat the olives, you might discover, as I did, that they are not as “bad” as I thought.


“Olives alone have only four to five calories each. “Low-calorie” foods contain 40 calories or less per serving, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling guidelines, and a serving of 10 green or black olives has only 40 calories. Removing the pits and stuffing them with other types of foods, such as garlic, peppers, or cheese can significantly increase the calorie content. Also, adding oil to olives as a dressing will increase the number of calories.”

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I’m not telling you to do it or recommending this, but, as you may know, I NEVER advise without doing something myself first. I was at a workshop years ago and a guy (at the time famous) asked me about the Velocity Diet. Before I could answer, he said: “It’s stupid.” I asked him if had tried it: “No.”  He then said something like it is simply a “protein sparing moderated loading fasting something…”
Ah, have you done those/that?
Yet, you are an expert!
One of the things I try to do is get my hands dirty and leap into the fray. Sometimes, I learn a lot and sometimes I waste my time, treasure and talents.
As I think about roasted chicken thighs, let’s look at what I discovered on the web this week.
This article raises a key point: when we discuss longevity are talking about living longer or actually truly living longer?
“Medicine does do some wonderful things,” Lieberman said. “We all know people who wouldn’t be alive if not for medicine.”
But doctors typically only help once a person is sick, and doctors can’t cure many chronic diseases. But they can keep people dying longer.
“We can keep you going for quite a long time,” Lieberman said. But “at that point, the damage is done. We’re not curing them; we’re just keeping them alive longer.”
Alive but not well, that is. While life expectancy in the U.S. now teeters around the 80-year mark (under for men, just over for women), “healthy life expectancy,” a measure that discounts the years a person spends severely ill, finds the average American only has 68.5 healthy years (63.1 globally).
As far as living to 150 (let alone achieving immortality), we’re no closer today than we were 10,000 years ago.
For the hopefuls out there, a better aim would be 115, which scientists consider the age at which humans have evolved to die. After that, Vijg said, “You fall apart. Everything breaks down.”
That may sound dark, but it can be empowering when viewed through a certain lens. If we want to live long, healthy lives, most of us don’t have to hire the best doctors or wait for scientists to invent a magic pill. More bike lanes and salads will do the trick.

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I always enjoy articles that take a little from here and a little from there and make a conclusion. Pushups and salmon and blueberries are the answer to a lot of questions.


The world’s oldest yoga teacher is still doing her sun salutations at 97 and she says maintaining healthy eating habits has been important. Tao Porchon-Lynch has said portion size helps her manage her weight. “Most people overeat and put too much food on their plate. Pause a moment to think about how many people are without food, and you won’t eat so much,” she said in an interview last year.
Senior athlete Fred Winter who’s still doing 100 push-ups every day follows elements of the Mediterranean Diet, trying to eat blueberries and salmon every single week. The diet, which is rich in age-fighting compounds like anti-oxidants and heart-healthy omega-3s, has been shown in studies to stave off certain diseases and even help one live longer, by protecting DNA against damage.

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For many of our readership, this article is an “of course, that is true” piece. But, for many…well, it is illuminating.


What should a normal person do if we don’t have hours a day to train?
One of the biggest differences between Larson’s training and what a normal person might do in the gym, Walsh said, is that she showed up every day because getting in shape was literally her job. It’s okay to recognize that you’re not a movie star and you might need to spend a little less time at the gym than she did.
So how can you make the most of limited time? Look for “those multi-player, multi-joint exercises that incorporate every muscle in the body. You’re squatting, you’re deadlifting, hip thrusting, things like that. Sled pushes. All the variations… If I’ve only got two days [to work out this week] I’m going to put my time into something like a deadlift because I’m going to get a hell of a lot more out of that than bench press and bicep curls.”

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I am very impressed with this whole website, but this piece is especially worth your time.


Our very essence is cyclical. Blood is pumped out of our heart and returns to it. Our circadian rhythm—which dictates our sleep and activity patterns—repeats itself, day after day. When it comes to sustenance, we go through the same process; eat, digest, excrete, repeat. One of our fundamental psychological orientations is time. Seconds that make minutes that make hours that make days that make weeks that make months that make years that repeat themselves until we die. And through the passage of seconds and lifetimes, the sun is rising and setting, rising and setting, rising and setting. Civilisations themselves begin, grow, evolve and deteriorate. Economies go boom, then go bust. Companies—both young and old—harness feedback loops. If something works, it’s replicated. If it doesn’t, it’s abandoned.
I’ve attempted to leverage this undeniable preference for the cyclical. Instead of devoting myself to the attainment of specific and singular outcomes, I try to find my preferred processes. I have tasks that I complete every week and every month. I’ve developed rituals and workflows that I rely upon, day after day after day. One such construct is my daily standard. It’s derived from two concepts: the 80/20 power law and minimum effective dose. “What matters most to me and what’s the minimum amount I can do of those activities every day in order to chalk that day up as a success? I came up with:
– Meditate in the morning.
– Read for two hours.
– Write for the blog.
– Weight train.
– Play a game.
But that was years ago. I’ve simplified it since then. I write it on my index card to-do list as follows: Med / Re / Wr / Move / Play.

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As a followup, the insights here are also worth your time.


Outside of BJJ my movement practice feels revitalised too. Much has been said about the toxicity of social media, especially channels that overwhelm us with normative models (see The toxic triangle of modernity). However, I’ve cultivated a private Instagram account, made it movement-centric—as opposed to my Twitter feed, which is a river of ideas concerned with a great number of mostly abstract topics—and deliberately resolved to use the people I find there as inspiration instead of models to compare myself with and gauge my ability against. Following the accounts of Ido Portal, Tom Weksler, Rafe Kelley, Roye Gold, Fighting Monkey, Formless Arts, Erwan Le Corre and MovNat, many yogis, multiple BJJ competitors and coaches, and a lot of photographers and filmmakers, has nourished my mind with possibilities and helped me to practice movement more often, for longer, and in many different ways.
As I hinted at in The floor and the canopy, my aim is not just to lift weights, swing a kettlebell or cycle up a particularly challenging hill. Those things are good and useful sure, but my main aim is to be able to walk and run and climb and swim and jump and fall and crawl with ease.
Part of the reason that my capacity for movement was dulled in the first place was that I was struggling to find a way to fit it into my life. I solved that problem: in the back of my notebook, I keep a folded index card. On that card are three stages of a movement practice.
– The first stage, which involves a few low-level basic movements that I can do cold—like hanging and rolling—functions as a warm-up. If I have five minutes, I can just do that. And how can I not have five minutes?
– The second stage is more expansive. It has two parts. The first is a superset which pairs a pull movement with a Turkish get-up. The second is a single-hand kettlebell complex which involves a swing, a clean, a squat, a press and a carry. If I have only fifteen minutes I can do a warm-up and one of those movements. If I have thirty or forty minutes I can do a warm-up and both the superset and the complex.
– The third stage is focused on exploration and has no explicit instructions. Instead it has three columns. The first lists basic human movement instructions: strike, throw, crawl, jump, etc. The second lists modifiers or spectra for those actions: slow-fast, inside-outside, planned-improvised, etc. The third lists implements that can be mixed in: the ground, water, bands, bars, sticks, balls, etc.

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I certainly enjoy writing Wandering Weights every week. I have had a lot of positive emails lately and so many people tell me they just discovered this little newsletter. The archives have tons of information, too…so, if you are new, be sure to explore the earlier editions.
Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


In case you missed it last week, here you go: Dan’s new book! Ebook and audiobook files are available for instant access; print book will be in stock and shipping next week.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 87

They dragged him from under the dead griffin and found Kay’s arrow sticking in its eye. It had died in its leap.
Then there was a time which made him feel sick—while Robin set his collar-bone and made him a sling from the green cloth of his hood—and after that the whole band lay down to sleep, dog-tired, beside the body. It was too late to return to Sir Ector’s castle, or even to get back to the outlaws’ camp by the big tree. The dangers of the expedition were over and all that could be done that night was to make fires, post sentries, and sleep where they were.
Wart did not sleep much. He sat propped against a tree, watching the red sentries passing to and fro in the firelight, hearing their quiet passwords and thinking about the excitements of the day. These went round and round in his head, sometimes losing their proper order and happening backwards or by bits. He saw the leaping dragon, heard Marian shouting “Good shot!”, listened to the humming of the bees muddled up with the stridulation of the grasshoppers, and shot and shot, hundreds and thousands of times, at popinjays which turned into griffins. Kay and the liberated Dog Boy slept twitching beside him, looking alien and incomprehensible as people do when they are asleep, and Cavall, lying at his good shoulder, occasionally licked his hot cheeks. The dawn came slowly, so slowly and pausingly that it was impossible to determine when it really had dawned, as it does during the summer months.
“Well,” said Robin, when they had wakened and eaten the breakfast of bread and cold venison which they had brought with them, “you will have to love us and leave us, Kay. Otherwise I shall have Sir Ector fitting out an expedition against me, to fetch you back. Thank you for your help. Can I give you any little present as a reward?”
“It has been lovely,” said Kay. “Absolutely lovely. May I have the griffin I shot?”
“He will be too heavy to carry. Why not take his head?”
“That would do,” said Kay, “if somebody would not mind cutting it off. It was my griffin.”
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I’m not sure how old the boys are here, but this is truly an adventure. I have never broken my collarbone, but my friends have told me it is just miserable. Like broken toes and ribs, there is not a lot that can be done, but no matter what you do…it hurts.
Robin Wood, remember “Hood” is the wrong way to say it according to Little John, seems to be right out of the Errol Flynn movie in this story. We will meet him again soon in a Christmas hunt, but I have always loved the Robin H/Wood character.
As I write this, there has been a down-down-down trajectory of the movies about Robin and His Merry Band. I must say though the episode “Qpid,” from Star Trek: The Next Generation, does a fine job of playing around with space travel and the Flynn movie. As I noted before, my favorite Robin Hood is Bugs Bunny, but Daffy Duck also did his own role as Robin.
Wart’s dreams, and the whole picture of them all sleeping together, takes us back to the night before we met Merlyn. White’s ability to draw word pictures of night has always amazed me.
This is his night before meeting Merlyn:
“The boy slept well in the woodland nest where he had laid himself down, in that kind of thin but refreshing sleep which people have when they begin to lie out of doors. At first he only dipped below the surface of sleep, and skimmed along like a salmon in shallow water, so close to the surface that he fancied himself in air. He thought himself awake when he was already asleep. He saw the stars above his face, whirling on their silent and sleepless axis, and the leaves of the trees rustling against them, and he heard small changes in the grass. These little noises of footsteps and soft-fringed wing-beats and stealthy bellies drawn over the grass blades or rattling against the bracken at first frightened or interested him, so that he moved to see what they were (but never saw), then soothed him, so that he no longer cared to see what they were but trusted them to be themselves, and finally left him altogether as he swam down deeper and deeper, nuzzling into the scented turf, into the warm ground, into the unending waters under the earth.”
As I said before, this is simply lovely.
Reading this part of Robin’s speech drove me back to Harry Potter:
“‘Well,’ said Robin, when they had wakened and eaten the breakfast of bread and cold venison which they had brought with them, ‘you will have to love us and leave us, Kay. Otherwise I shall have Sir Ector fitting out an expedition against me, to fetch you back.'”
It reminded me of that great line In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
“The ones who love us never really leave us, you can always find them in here.” (J.K. Rowling)

I’m still working on Sir Kay and “his” griffin. He seems to have come so far recently in the book and he seems to revert back to being a spoiled brat. Having said that, he has done something remarkable, killing a griffin, so I supposed I will give him a break…this time.


In this excerpt from his new book, Dan John tells us about his experiences at Skyline College: growing up, learning what he was capable of and being prepared to step up to the next level.