Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 233

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 233

New from OTPbooks.com: In our second excerpt from Dan’s new book, Dan looks at the Big Picture View of Coaching

I had a very good trip to Denver last weekend. The National High School Strength Coaches Association is relatively new, but they really do good work. Bryan Glover put on an excellent event and I learned a lot from the other speakers and the exhibitors. I need to keep up with a lot of the new things. Conferences, workshops and congresses seem to do that for me.
It’s amazing to see the resources being invested in high school strength and conditioning. Still, we have miles to go. Most kids hear “bodybuilding and jogging” when I say “strength and conditioning” and that isn’t going to change soon. Also, the sports coaches often think that after wind sprints (or whatever), it’s time for the S&C coach to give them a workout.
More is just more. More is not better.
It’s a life truth I keep learning in every aspect of my life.
I had a couple of emails asking me for more information on the Fast Mimicking Diet. You can certainly also buy the book, The Longevity Diet, as I did…or email me for more things I can google for you. I thought these three articles did an excellent job explaining the basics and the results: onetwothree.
As always, I don’t recommend anything in terms of nutrition or supplements as I am not only NOT qualified, but, honestly, no matter what I read, the opposite will be true next week in these areas.
It’s nice being a strength coach: lift weights!
Oddly, this brilliant insight has been true for a long, long time.
As I recover from the events of the Battle of Winterfell, I found some interesting things on the internet this week.
I became a fan of Ursula Le Guin’s work from some discussions on the Q and A forumThis article unpacks a great process for writing and, in truth, probably every occupation.


Beginning at the early hour of 5:30 in the morning, the time to “wake up and lie there and think,” it continues on to breakfast — and “lots” of it — at 6:15, and the commencement of the day’s “writing, writing, writing” an hour later, which lasts until lunch at noon. After that, Le Guin considered what we consider her main work to be done, moving on to such pursuits as reading, music, correspondence, “maybe house cleaning,” and dinner. Past 8:15, she said, “I tend to be very stupid,” a state in which nobody could write the sort of books we remember her for.

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I don’t think there is anything shocking about this article on reading retention, but I remember reading this idea in Carnegie’s books years ago. President Clinton used this technique and I remember “some” getting after him about this idea. Oddly, those of us who read Carnegie understood the idea perfectly. I think that T. H. White and J. K. Rowling have influenced me in my writing as I literally wonder sometimes how they would write something.

Another great way to make connections in your mind is by visualizing what you’re learning. We’re visual learners, and our memories are also visual.
What I like to do when I read is to have imaginary conversations about the stuff that I’m reading. I imagine myself sitting together with a friend and talking about the subject. Or, when I read a piece of useful advice, I visualize myself actually doing that thing.
I remember vividly when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie for the first time. One of the pieces of advice Carnegie gives, is to become genuinely interested in people.
So I visualized myself having a conversation with a stranger and being genuinely interested in what that person had to say. When you visualize something, it’s almost like the real thing.
Visualization is also a common self-improvement tool that’s been used many top-performers. Recently retired NBA-player Paul Pierce once explained how he uses it before a game:
    “I probably visualize myself, the shots I’m going to get in the game, how I’m going to play defense, what we have to do to stop the other team’s best player, what it’s going to take out of me, the whole aspect of the game.”

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This is just amazing and fun. The little GIF of swapping Mexico for Greenland just opened my eyes. I’m a geography minor (not the great pick-up line you can imagine) and this stuff has always fascinated me.


The world maps we know all misrepresent the world itself: we’ve all heard it many times before, but how well do we understand the nature of that misrepresentation? “For many people, the Earth as they know it is heavily informed by the Mercator projection – a tool used for nautical navigation that eventually became the world’s most widely recognized map,” writes Visual Capitalist’s Nick Routley. But the Mercator projection dates to 1569, and “the vast majority of us aren’t using paper maps to chart our course across the ocean anymore, so critics of the Mercator projection argue that the continued use of this style of map gives users a warped sense of the true size of countries.”

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I found this article endlessly fascinating. I’m not sure what that says about me.


If there is such a thing as a truly perfect public restroom, it is the unmemorable one. It should be free of calamities, of course: the puddle upon which you slip and sprain your ankle, the overflowing toilet bowl, the broken stall door that leads to the embarrassing intrusion. But it should also preclude minor hassles: the five-second wait for a free sink, the malfunctioning hand dryer or the empty paper towel dispenser. Our bathrooms at home feel warm and familiar, like an extension of the rest of our domestic space; leaving aside its purpose, a visit there feels no different to nipping into the bedroom to pick up a book, or into the kitchen for a snack. The least the public restroom can do is slide in and out of our day as unobtrusively as possible.

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I thought this was a sports article at first, but it quickly turns in an article about learning methods. If you teach or coach, read the whole thing as it might really help you with some techniques.


Running coaches often talk about focusing on form, both in training and in racing, and I take this focus to express a related idea about the importance of thinking about movement. It is hard to give an adequate description of good running form in words. It’s got something to do with being up on your toes, the feeling of your thighs holding you up, and a smooth push-through each time a foot pushes off. But it’s more a feeling of the body working in a particular way than something we can easily summarise in words. The inadequacy of the description in the previous sentence suggests to me that, when one focuses on form, one is learning a demonstrative concept: a first-personal understanding of what good form feels like. In Frank Jackson’s so-called ‘Mary’s Room’ thought experiment, Mary cannot learn what red looks like until she has left her black-and-white room; likewise, you can’t learn what good form feels like until you have run with good form. Unlike the experience of seeing red – which you either have or don’t have – the experience of good form comes in degrees.
Having a first-personal grip of perfect form is probably unattainable, but it is possible to get a better grip on the concept. This means that, when we think about form, we are self-teaching; trying to gain the elusive but ultimately unattainable concept of good form that, once achieved and felt, can be recognised and sought after again with a greater likelihood of success. This asymptotic character of good form means that a runner’s whole practice can become a life-long process of self-teaching aimed at a kind of movement that is always – tantalisingly – just out of reach.

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A lot of people only know about Oliver Sacks from either the movie with Robin Williams or maybe the odd titles of his books. I liked this article a lot.


Oliver Sacks participated in many sports throughout his life, but never dedicated himself so completely to, nor expressed himself so clearly through, any quite like powerlifting. The part of his brain which took pleasure in mathematics was drawn to the sport’s numerical side. At one point, his routine was to back-squat 500 pounds for five sets of five reps on every fifth day, delighting in the neatness of this arrangement. At the same time, his medical mind was given free rein to treat his own body like a science project, bulking up into the sport’s heaviest weight category and maximizing his hulking form’s strength. And, like everything else in his life, he pushed himself as far as he could possibly go, culminating in a California State Record in 1961 with a 600-pound back squat.
The sport seemed to appeal to something deeper in him than his attraction to numbers and physiology. Sacks’s careers as both a doctor and a writer were defined by his quest to demystify the connections between body and mind, to understand how the lump of pink flesh and electricity inside our skulls could produce something as complex, contradictory, and variable as a human being. He pursued the idea of a self that sat somewhere between body and mind; a product of both, but exclusive to neither. As he enlarged and empowered his body, he looked to alter something about the self that it contained.

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That’s enough for this week. I just found out that a good friend of mine in the Highland Game world died over the weekend and I want to follow up on it. Life is precious…and it goes quickly. “Time passes…as do we.”
Until next time, keep on lifting and learning.

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 

The Sword in the Stone, Part 89
They had an immense reception. The return on the previous day of all the hounds, except Cavall and the Dog Boy, and in the evening the failure to return of Kay and Wart, had set the household in an uproar. Their nurse had gone into hysterics—Hob had stayed out till midnight scouring the purlieus of the forest—the cooks had burnt the joint for dinner—and the sergeant-at-arms had polished all the armour twice and sharpened all the swords and axes to a razor blade in case of an invasion. At last somebody had thought of consulting Merlyn, whom they had found in the middle of his third nap. The magician, for the sake of peace and quietness to go on with his rest, had used his insight to tell Sir Ector exactly what the boys were doing, where they were, and when they might be expected back. He had prophesied their return to the minute.
So, when the small procession of returning warriors came within sight of the drawbridge, they were greeted by the whole household. Sir Ector was standing in the middle with a thick walking-stick with which he proposed to whack them for going out of bounds and causing so much trouble; the nurse had insisted on bringing out a banner which used to be put up when Sir Ector came home for the holidays, as a small boy, and this said Welcome Home; Hob had forgotten about his beloved hawks and was standing on one side, shading his eagle eyes to get the first view; the cooks and all the kitchen staff were banging pots and pans, singing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” or some such music, out of tune; the kitchen cat was yowling; the hounds had escaped from the kennel because there was nobody to look after them, and were preparing to chase the kitchen cat; the sergeant-at-arms was blowing out his chest with pleasure so far that he looked as if he might burst at any moment, and was commanding everybody in an important voice to get ready to cheer when he said, “One, Two!”
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Sometimes, I have to pull out the dictionary when I read White. If you go back through all of these offerings, you will discover that White’s vocabulary is expansive and I spend a fair amount of time trying to get even deeper into these words. For example, “purlieus” is the land at the edge of a forest. It’s probably still in use, but I have never used it.
We can certainly blame English. English is a language that just hoards words. I’m sure in a typical day, I use Spanish, Arabic (admiral, algebra, alcohol) and maybe dozens of other “stolen” words and it doesn’t even faze me.
I thought of this the other day when my Uber driver explained his voyage through learning American English. We have idioms we toss out that make little sense; he said, “Raining cats and dogs” and I had to laugh as it doesn’t help to think about that too closely. I used to explain to my students that the Anglo-Saxon words tend to be three to four letters: neck, gut, butt, arm, leg, neck, hand, eye, ear, nose and head, but when the Normans showed up, we inherited esophagus, diaphragms and gluteus…for a start.
Since we live in a disposable society (and we probably need to change that), the idea that the nurse still has Sir Ector’s “Welcome Home” sign from his youth probably sounds a bit odd today. My mom used to darn socks and repair clothes with regularity and these seem to be lost arts in my mind.
It’s a good reminder.
The song being sung (“or some such tune”) is a classic. Here are the lyrics:
Bonnie Charlie’s noo awa
Safely o’er the friendly main
Mony a heart will break in twa
Should he ne’er come back again.
Will ye no’ come back again?
Will ye no’ come back again?
Better lo’ed ye canna be
Will ye no’ come back again?
Ye trusted in your Hielan’ men
They trusted you, dear Charlie
They kent your hiding in the glen
Death or exile braving.
English bribes were a’ in vain
Tho’ puir, and puirer, we maurn be
Siller canna buy the heat
That beats aye for thine and thee.
We watch’d thee in the gloamin’ hour
We watch’d thee in the mornin’ grey
Tho’ thirty thousand pound they gie
Oh, there is nane that wad betray!
The nap takes us back to the last chapter. You may remember Merlyn’s excitement about his naps:
“Ah, don’t plague me about a little thing like that. You run along now, there’s a good boy, and mind you don’t forget to take Kay with you. Why ever didn’t you mention it before? Don’t forget to follow beyond the strip of barley. Well, well, well! This is the first half-holiday I have had since I started this confounded tutorship. First I think I shall have a little nap before luncheon, and then I think I shall have a little nap before tea. Then I shall have to think of something I can do before dinner. What shall I do before dinner, Archimedes?
“Have a little nap, I expect,” said the owl coldly, turning his back upon his master, because he, as well as the Wart, enjoyed to see life.”
As we come to the close of this chapter, I am starting to look ahead to what I consider White’s best philosophical works.
Until then…


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.


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