Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 246
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 246
I have a quiet week. I do have to fly out to California, but it is mostly for fun. It will be nice to be able train a few days in a row and not have to juggle jet lag and airplane dehydration.
I think the travel beats me up sometimes. Last week, my flight was delayed nine hours. Finding something to do for nine hours is tougher than you think. I do a lot of things like walk and read, but I also seem to just waste lots and lots of time worrying about the situation.
My workshop in DC went well. I can always use more time, but this group was awesome. We had people come a long way to make the talk. That always impresses me.
My friend, Lacie Helfert, just became the first American to graduate from the Master’s program at St. Mary’s in Twickenham. She had to juggle work, school and flights for a couple of years to pull this off. That’s showing up.
That’s a LOT of showing up.
Speaking of showing up, Marty Gallagher, the famous lifting coach, came to my workshop. He is still turning out some of the smartest and best material ever written in our field. He also reminded me of the great number of people who have died in our field in the last year. I had this memory of deciding, at the last minute, to see a Charlie Francis workshop. I went and he died within weeks. Please don’t take this as “Miss my workshops and I die!,” but Marty’s insight was crucial, as the old saying goes: “Time passes as do we.”
Speaking of time passing, my daughter, Kelly, advised me that she only has this last week of summer. She reports to school next week; she’s a teacher. I can’t believe how bummed that made me. But…she can’t wait! I’ve taught for over 40 years and I still miss the opening excitement of a school year. Everything is so fresh. With what I do now, I miss the hustle and bustle of registration, book sales, and classroom setup.
Now, I just click on to a fresh screen. It’s not nearly as fun.
Not a lot of podcasts to share with you this week, but I think you will like this one.
Podcast with Pat Flynn, EP 308: Dan John on Minimalism, Improving Sleep, and the Snake Diet – Chronicles of Strength
If you have five minutes, this video on Virgil makes a great argument to read or reread this classic:
Why Should We Read Virgil’s Aeneid? An Animated Video Makes the Case
And…let’s pick up on the Quadrants: Quadrant Three
I have lived my life in QIII. Ever since Otis Chandler defied his coach at Stanford and snuck out to lift weights then broke the longest standing record in track and field, the shot put, every thrower knows that lifting is a MUST. Soon, jumpers and sprinters discovered the weight room and the improvements were measured with tapes and times.
Percy Cerutty, the Australian distance coach, later showed us that marathoners needed to pull a double bodyweight deadlift and a bodyweight press. I think it is still true.
In track and field, you practice your event and you lift weights.
There: that’s it. That’s Quadrant Three. You do your singular event and nudge your strength levels up and, over time and proper tension and arousal, things go faster, higher and farther.
No, you won’t lift at the levels of the elite powerlifter or Olympic lifter, but you will be oddly stronger than most people you will ever encounter. Of course, the O lifter and powerlifter don’t get measured by tapes and timers, just by load.
Most people should think “QIII” when it comes to goals and goal setting. Now, I don’t necessarily include “everybody else” in the Quadrants (basically, it is for the role of strength coaches with athletes), there is a value in thinking like this.
For fat loss: lift weights and cook appropriate meals…and eat them!
For health and longevity: have a vigorous social life surrounding quality food and go for a walk.
Generally, QIII is simply two things. Sure, you need to sleep well and do mobility work and read good books, but discus throwers need to throw the discus and get stronger.
The biggest job of the strength coach here is to keep the path that simple: do this AND do that. “What about that thing I saw on that show…?”
Do this and do that.
That is all.
End quadrant discussion.
As always, I had some fun roaming the internet this week. I tend to find something fun daily in crimereads.com. This was especially good — Raymond Chandler: The Art of Beginning a Crime Story:
“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”
It might be worth reading this whole piece, but this little bit of financial advice is one of the truest things I have ever read.
When we think about investments, we often direct our attention to categories such as stocks, bonds and real estate. What we often don’t think about is our most valuable asset: our ability to earn an income and to make that income grow faster.
Almost 20 years ago, I met a successful business owner who gave me a simple lesson: Invest 2% of everything you earn annually back into your ability to grow your income.
What does this mean exactly? Investing in you is like diversifying your portfolio of investments. You might take a chance and invest in that side hustle you think could be a business. Take a training course or advanced education that could further your current career. Invest in a personal coach who could improve your business performance. It could mean investing in an exercise or nutrition program that could give you more stamina every day to accomplish more.
It’s the best advice I’ve ever received—and I do it every single year.
I have rehooked Marty Gallagher’s blog to my bookmarks. I lost them all a while ago, but this article is a great refresher on one of the real great lifts.
I started doing dips to strengthen and build my triceps and pecs in 1965. I was an avid reader of Strength & Health magazine, the bible of American Olympic lifting. Staff writers John McCallum, Bill Starr and Tommy Suggs all championed parallel bar dips, no weight and weighted. McCallum called dips, “Squats for the upper body.” This analogy is accurate on a multitude of levels.
Anyone in the strength world knows that barbell squats are the undisputed King of all progressive resistance exercises – for reasons best discussed another time. Comparing dips to squats is the ultimate compliment for dips. Physiologically, squats and dips have a lot of commonalities: both dips and squats require the upper arm or upper leg be eccentrically lowered to a point “below parallel” (to the floor) before arising concentrically.
McCallum suggested that dips are the ultimate triceps exercise. He might be right. I think a strong case could be made that weighted dips (done using a highly specific technique) are indeed the best tricep exercise. My other top tricep contenders would be narrow-grip bench presses, nose-breakers with an EZ-curl bar and overhead tricep press with two arms using a single dumbbell.
McCallum pointed out that dips taken too deep cause the pectorals to become involved. There is also undue rotator cuff stress with ultra-low dips. Our objection with deep dips is that the poundage needs to be reduced to a significant degree and while the reduced payload is more than enough to stress the pecs, the reduced payload is insufficient to really stress the triceps. Why turn one of the world’s best tricep exercises into a subpar pec exercise?
Back to Crimereads: I hated these kinds of movies as a kid, but now I “get” them. This is just a fun summary of noir films. I never liked the movie, Sunset Boulevard. Of course, as a kid, it was on all the time. I didn’t understand this kind of “noir” film. I still don’t but I love the discussion. Here is a nice little article on the genre.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
One of, if not the most iconic movie about movies ever made, Billy Wilder’s pitch-black satire, about Norma Desmond, an aging silent-era star attempting a comeback with the help of a bitter and desperate young screenwriter is also the epitome of film noir.
While most of its story takes place within Norma Desmond’s decrepit mansion, there are a handful of scenes set at Paramount Studios, including a one in which the deluded former starlet confronts Cecil B. DeMille (one of several industry icons who show up in the film, alongside the likes of Eric von Stroheim and Buster Keaton) on the set of the iconic director’s latest epic.
Groundbreaking in the way it broke the fourth wall and ruthless in its self-examination, Sunset Boulevard is the standard against which all other Hollywood noirs must be held.
I also didn’t like Fight Club. Sorry. I know a lot of people found this as a defining film. But…it is a very good movie; I just didn’t like it. This article does a nice job looping us back to “the point.”
The movie has a lot of added flourishes and details, of course, that aren’t in the book. But the book has something the movie doesn’t, and it clears things up a little: In the end, the narrator meets God.
I’ve met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, “Why?”
Why did I cause so much pain?
Didn’t I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?
Can’t I see how we’re all manifestations of love?
I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God’s got this all wrong.
We are not special.
We are not crap or trash, either.
We just are.
We just are, and what happens just happens.
And God says, “No, that’s not right.”
Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can’t teach God anything.
Maybe this isn’t God. Maybe the narrator’s in a psych ward. It’s Fight Club. Why can’t it be both?
Since school is starting again, this might be an article worth sharing with students. I can tell you this: “good” writing is disappearing in college.
Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than 10 or 12 words.
Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
Never use words whose meanings you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of color, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.
And, if you MUST know about the Snake Diet, here you go: Getting Started — Snake Diet.
It’s compressed eating (1-2 hours a day) and drinking a solution of minerals. The results, as always, are impressive, but it serves as a good example of what fasting, in all its forms, can do.
That should be enough for you for the week. I will have a nice week of writing, riding and reading and I look forward to seeing you next week.
Until then, keep 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 100
“If you don’t mind my saying so,” remarked the snake, “it seems to me that your education has been neglected. First you have a mother who calls you Wart, just as if you were one of those vulgar Bufonidae, and then you can’t distinguish a T. natrix when you see him. Did you never have a mother?”
“As a matter of fact, I didn’t.
“Oh, I am sorry,” exclaimed the snake. “I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings. Do you mean to say you never had anybody to teach you the Legends and Dreams and that?”
“You poor newt. What do you do then when you hibernate?”
“I suppose I just go to sleep.”
“And not dream?”
“No,” said the Wart. “I don’t think so. Not much.”
The “Bufonidae” are the toad family. Now, as we recall, T. Natrix doesn’t eat toads and maybe there is a touch of frogism going on here.
T. Natrix softens his heart here for our friend, Wart. Of course, Wart had a mother and that is one of the great points of the later stories: since he doesn’t know his mom, he makes an incestuous decision that will impact everyone’s futures.
Usually, we talk about the question of fatherhood in epics. It’s interesting, and refreshing, to see White discuss the issues with not having a mom. T. Natrix becomes a bit of a hero to me: welcoming the outcast and teaching him some life lessons.
I think that is what we are supposed to do.
The snake dreams and the upcoming owl’s dreams are two of my favorite sections in the book.
Until next time.
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