Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 245

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 245

I enjoyed last week’s talk in Long Beach. As you read this, I will probably be on the Metro zipping over to my workshop with Mike Krivka in DC. I’m always amazed that people who will “do anything” to come to a workshop won’t travel an hour to get there, but that might be another discussion.
I’m doing another Fast Mimicking Diet for a few days. I am doing it with just stuff from the store. So, twice a day, I eat 20 olives and 14 almonds. I drink lots of water and herbal ice tea (mostly from my garden mints now) and eat my homemade veggie soup as much as I feel like.
Basically, the soup is those zucchini noodles (zoodles!), lots of members of the pepper family, onions and tomatoes. I shared all the information with the “why” in past issues, but readers who want to know more can read Valter Longo’s book, The Longevity Diet. I really like it as it is much easier than most things I have done and I honestly feel better.
It’s odd to have people tell me I look better. Since my Total Hip Replacement in December, I am down 35 pounds (maybe more…weigh in on Tuesday). But it’s not diet and exercise (though obviously both help): not being in pain is so important for weight management. No pain leads to better sleep, better choices and a better life.
I did a number of podcasts recently. Please enjoy these.
Podcast with Al, Al Kavadlo – We’re Working Out: We’re Working Out! EP#9 Dan John on Apple Podcasts
Podcast with Mimi, CChat 115: Dan John on The Sword in the Stone and fitness philosophy ⋆ Sifu Mimi Chan
Podcast with Pat, Dan John on Training 2-a-Days, Fluid vs Crystallized Intelligence, Improving Grip Strength, and more – Chronicles of Strength
I’m doing an RKC next month. There is still plenty of space.
And this is an upcoming workshop in Portland, Oregon.

I will be doing an HKC and “Dan John” lecture in St. Louis, too.

More workshop information to follow.
Continuing on my discussion about the Quadrants, let’s move to QII training: Training for Quadrant Two
One of the hardest lessons I have learned in life is that the barbell (and the whole family of progressive resistance exercises) can do amazing things for us. That little barbell set you bought in 1965 can make you stronger, bigger, leaner and faster.
It’s simple stuff: like Dick Notmeyer told me nearly every day, “He who lifts the heaviest weights gets the strongest.” But, and there is always a “but,” Dick was talking about getting stronger. “Pound for pound” is basically a lost phrase today, but it was a cornerstone of thinking when I was young.
In the mid-1970s, when Jane Fonda and her “go for the burn” videos appeared and Arnold’s double bicep pose became the focus of training, the world embraced lean flanks and big guns as the epitome of strength training. People began to tell us that they wanted to “look like athletes.”
The phrase “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” emerged during this period. Absolutely, this is sexist, but “we” all know what it means: the decision to “train like a SEAL” or “look like an athlete” is as cosmetic as liposuction or breast augmentation.
I have NOTHING against this. I don’t care what your fitness goals are nor do I really care about how you get there. If you just want to look good…well, Bless You. I know this: you probably will still call me up when you need a couch moved up a few flights of stairs.
The issue, the problem, with Quadrant Two is that the normal person often wants to “look like” QII people. It’s alluring. It’s sexy to want to look like an NFL Defensive Back or an elite team special operator. Of course, they don’t truly look like the TV and movie star image. Generally, they look like your neighbor…save for the multiple deployments to the Middle East. And, they also have the ability to break into your house, car, boat or airplane, sit quietly for 72 hours staring at one spot and leave literally everything better after they have used it.
QII is rare air. It is dozens of qualities at a high level. You might not be as fast or as strong as an Olympian, but you are faster and stronger in a dozen areas than even well trained people. A high level rugby player is bigger, faster, stronger, leaner and “better” at nearly everything you will ever attempt.
So, training for QII is NOT looking like someone who wants to be in QII. You need to be freakishly strong, not LOOK like someone who is freakishly strong. For endurance, you must endure…not take 40 pictures of yourself making you LOOK like someone who endures.
To get strong, you need to lift heavy and lift hard. To endure, you must slap on the backpack and go for hours, or days, at a time. It’s not a movie shoot. When you get a mission…or a play…you must rise up and do the job. It’s not Hollywood crap. It’s life or death.
I can help you in QII if you want to do collision sports and collision occupations. I can’t help you look like you do collision sports and collision occupations. You need to get strong.
But: no one cares what you “look” like. It’s all about getting the job done.
Let’s drive around the internet and see what I like.
In June, I was driving along the English-Welsh border and passed Shrewsbury. My mind darted back to the best murder mystery series I had read in a long time (Reverential Nod to Sherlock Holmes…back to the point): the Brother Cadfael mysteries. This article sums just a taste of the books and reminded me why I love this author’s work so much.


The other part of her genius—one I’ve felt with particular potency amid the day-to-day turmoil of the past couple of years in American politics and culture—is to have created in Cadfael and twelfth-century Shrewsbury the perfect example of the appeal of the cozy mystery. We turn to cozy series for many of the same reasons that Cadfael took the cowl: a desire for order and a familiar place that will welcome us again and again, unchanging even as we change. For what is a monastery but an enactment of the promise that surface changes don’t matter, that the deeper truths, like those found in the cyclical round of seasons and saint’s days, are eternal? That the friends we make in these series are subject merely to the occasional mystery rather than the unsolvable vagaries of time renders us grateful each time we open another. Yet like Cadfael, we know that we cannot live wholly removed from the world. The abbey, though a lifelong choice for him, is only a viable home if it can be leavened with the occasional experience of interesting strangers and complicated human puzzles that only the outside world can offer. The cozy, for us, can only ever be a temporary escape, a way of ever-so-gently girding our loins for the real-world battles it temporarily lets us forget.
“Happiness,” Cadfael thinks as he floats on the River Severn, “consists in small things, not in great. It is the small things we remember, when time and mortality close in.” Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael series is one of those small, good things. You’d be remiss not to give it a place in your reading life.

End quote
If you like this genre, here are some more ideas.

From the bespectacled Father Brown, blundering along with pipe and umbrella, to Clare Fergusson, the tenacious, Air-Force-pilot-turned-Episcopal-priest, the clerical detective delights mystery fans with the twining of murder and mysticism, death and divinity. Why does the priest, minister, rabbi or nun make such a compelling and fascinating detective? Because religious types are natural sleuths in their own right as they sort out the most troublesome realities of society: order and chaos, good and evil, right and wrong. Not unlike the police detective or the gumshoe private eye, the members of the clergy are often faced with the dark side of humanity. But unlike their more mainstream contemporaries, they temper it with an enduring faith in goodness.  Throw in the melodrama of a church jumble sale, the social entanglements of a lady’s luncheon, or the tension of parish council meeting, and you have the perfect setting for murder.
This list focuses on the top ten clerical mysteries found in a series, chosen for their intriguing detectives and page-turning plots as well as an acquaintance with all things ecclesial. An ecclesial mystery must, above all, represent the faith community with authenticity: the good, the bad and the ugly, from last rites to first communion.
One final note, the list is as ecumenical as I could get it: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and one Protestant sect, the Shakers. I searched for an Imam detective, but as yet, haven’t found one.

End quote
This is a very clear (and simple) look at the role of the strength coach. I would love to discuss the issue of the genetic superstar and the damning effect of their comments concerning this or that (“I live on fast food!”) and this article brings this idea out…among many great insights.


Year after year, we hear the same tired discussion about how weight training is not sport specific, even among track and field coaches. I realize this section is a long one, but I promise it’s worth reading. The logical fallacy of sport-specific training is not new. When someone is overconfident with a joke at a press conference, make sure the person talking is aware they are not making a new argument. When they believe they have a great point to make because they unknowingly bring up an idea from the past, they usually don’t have much to say after the one-liner.
In addition to the argument that sport does not look like some specific exercises—often using a barbell—it’s not unusual to hear about a talented athlete who achieved great results without any outside training. If you’re a strength coach who has heard either point it, it’s like hearing you have no value, and it’s demeaning. Although it’s frustrating and can hurt your ego, use their points against them constructively.
Strength coaches are not above having the sport-specific argument among themselves; the subject often is debated internally. How many strength coaches have you talked to who claim they understand the “demands of the game” and break down the event or sport into such detail, you wonder if they see the forest for the trees? Since coaches can’t collectively agree on training internally, it’s understandable how the external sporting world is not policed for bad reasoning. The answer is to talk about what the sport can do and how an athlete’s genetics matter.

End quote
Without trying to pat myself on the back, this technique highlighted in this article and video, came naturally to me. I was lecturing as a kid…and I apologize to friends and family.

Learn Feynman’s method for learning in the short animated video above. You do not actually need to teach, only pretend as if you’re going to—though preparing for an actual audience will keep you on your toes. In brief, the video summarizes Feynman’s method in a three-step process:
    1. Choose a topic you want to understand and start studying it.
    2. Pretend you’re teaching the idea to someone else. Write out an explanation on the paper…. Whenever you get stuck, go back and study.
    3. Finally do it again, but now simplify your language or use an analogy to make the point.

End quote
Please enjoy those podcasts and try to make some workshops, if you can. My travel schedule doesn’t ease up for a while, but as long as I keep enjoying it….
As always, until next week, keep on lifting and learning.

For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 99
It was in such a flutter that it did not wait for its question to be answered, but when on excitedly, “Oh, the horrid creature. Did you notice how it smelt? Well, I shan’t go out again in a hurry, that I will say. Look what a mess I have got myself in. It was an H. Sapiens Barbatus, as far as I could see. They are quite common round here. You take my advice and lie close for a day or two. I just went out for a moment with the idea of getting a frog or two before hibernating, and it pounced upon me like a hedge-hog. I don’t believe I was ever so frightened in my life. Do you think it would be best to hibernate at once?”
“I shouldn’t worry,” said the Wart. “That particular human is fond of snakes, as I happen to know.”
“To eat?” stammered the serpent.
“No, no. He is friendly with them, and has some as pets. WE-he, I mean-that is, he spends most of the botany hours looking for frogs to feed them on. It’s wonderful how few frogs there are, once you begin looking for them-only toads. And of course snakes don’t eat toads.”
“I ate a toad once,” said the other, who was beginning to calm down. “It was a small one, you know, but it wasn’t very nice. Still, I don’t think I should like to be a pet of that creature’s, however many frogs it caught. Do you happen to know its sex?”
“It was a male,” said the Wart.
“H. sapiens barbatus male,” repeated the snake, feeling safer now that he had got the subject classified. “And what is your name, my child?”
The Wart did not know what to answer, so he simply told the truth.
“It’s a funny sort of name,” said the snake doubtfully.
“What is yours?” asked the Wart.
“T. Natrix.”
“Does the T stand for anything?”
“Well, not Tommy,” said the snake rather coolly, “if that’s what you mean. It’s Tropidonotus in my family always.”
“I’m sorry.”

End quote
Our friend the grass snake is, well, a grass snake. The T. Natrix is a European water snake that basically lives off of amphibians, but not toads as we discovered here, and can play dead and even pretend to have a cobra’s hood. They are harmless to humans, but dinner for a number of birds and mammals.
I’m embarrassed to admit this after all these years, but I always leaped over “barbatus,” thinking that T. Natrix was calling Merlyn a barbarian. I was wrong and what it means actually makes the story better.
“Barbatus” means “bearded.” That completely changes my thoughts on our timid friend, T. Natrix. He is probably, along with the Badger and Archimedes, my favorite animal characters in the book. Sure, Cavall always deserves a mention (Wart’s favorite dog), but as we move through the dreams, you might appreciate Natrix more.
Natrix is good. He is just having a bit of a fright now and he will more than make up for his quick temper with our hero. As soon as Natrix realizes that Wart is “without family,” he will warm up (as the best snakes can) and help him in a wonderful way.
Keep that in mind, by the way: Wart’s “lack of family” is part of the journey of the communal hero. Like Superman, Batman, Luke Skywalker, Moses, Jesus, Beowulf, Spiderman and others, the story of the orphan saving the community is part of the length and breadth of western civilization. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the recent Wonder Woman movie gives us this same basic insight.



Subscribe below and we'll send great articles to your email box. Includes FREE access to our OTP Vault of material from experts in the field.