Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 251
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 251
I’m sitting here in the Granville Inn about a mile from the discus throwing area where I spent well over two decades of my life. Tiff and I decided to add an extra night to our trip here in Ohio. My athlete, Devin, got married to Haylee in Columbus in a beautiful ceremony and we added an extra day to remember a lot of good times.
Kelton and Brittany joined us on our walk down memory lane. We got a chance to link up with the person who made discus camp work all those years, Vicki Sussman. Vicki is an amazing woman and when she retired, we retired! Bill Witt and Vicki are on that list of “Most Amazing People Ever.”
College football started this weekend, too. As we were leaving for the wedding, we flipped to the Florida State-Boise State game and FSU was acting like the game was over after moving out to a good-sized lead. I told Tiff that Boise State is a lot better than FSU is giving them respect for and boldly predicted a comeback by BSU.
I was right. Here’s the thing: If I bet or put money on my genius insights, why am I always wrong? It’s obvious that the universe doesn’t want me to profit from my athletic insights!
It’s a good lesson that gets repeated yearly: Respect your opponents and always give them your best effort. Coach Maughan took me aside at a track meet once — I won’t say the university but their program obviously wasn’t taking track and field seriously — and gave me “that look” and said:
“Honor them with your best performance.”
I got the message. After the meet, two of their athletes asked for help and I think I may have started my coaching career that day. They weren’t lazy or dumb; they just didn’t have the tools for training.
This is a great segue for this week’s updates on danjohnworkouts. I feel like Marlon Perkins and the old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom show. “Just like the hyena relies on his pack for safety, a good insurance policy will keep your family safe and sound.”
So…unlike those two young men, you now have to tools to be successful by simply clicking over to the site.
This week on DanJohnWorkouts.com:
We added to major features this week that deserve highlighting.
First, we added a notes section to the bottom of each workout, so you can now record weights used, how you felt that day, and even diet information if you want. Simply type anything that’s important to you and click “Save Notes and Mark Complete” and you’ll have a saved recording of the workout.
Second, we’ve added progressions to all the Park Bench workouts. If an exercise is too difficult or too easy, you’re now able to adjust that specific exercise to a similar variant that is a more appropriate level for you.
If you don’t see the “Up” or “Down” links in the progression column, head to settings and create a new set of Park Bench workouts and they should pop up.
New essays posted this week:
Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence
Hammer and Stone
What Does Fit Mean?
Six Decades of Lessons in Fifty Words
New downloads posted in the Member’s Area:
Easy Strength Supplements Vol. 1 – Nearly 30 additional pages of information related to the 40-Day Program
Programming Basics – Everything you need to understand the process of creating reasonable and effective programs.
If you keep using the site, we’ll keep making it better.
Pat and I talked a long time this week. I sure hope people enjoy these podcasts. As always, the topic of reading great books returned and I am always happy to discuss literature. And proper lifting: Dan John on Strength Training vs Hypertrophy, Great Books, and His 62nd Birthday – Chronicles of Strength
For those interested, I have an HKC next month in St. Louis plus a “Dan John” workshop the next day: HKC516 | Dragon Door
For the one-day workshop, go to this link.
My Portland event is this weekend.
I will also be teaming up with Ole and the gang at Strong4Life in Denmark in October.
Easy Strength and the Magic Secrets of Training
Most of success is showing up. “Keep going” would be just as important. Easy Strength is a method of teaching people to keep showing up and keep going.
The secret to high-level performance is often simply getting the work in and staying out of your own way. I’ve heard dozens of stories of people ruining months and years of planning with some new thing. It can be as simple as a Swedish massage just before the finals of the Olympic games for an athlete who had never had one.
“It was free!” he told us at a gathering.
True. Sadly, the athlete left his performance on the massage table as he moaned and groaned all the appropriate performance tension from his body.
I’ve seen athletes try new techniques after watching an opponent do them. I used to add additional turns to my discus warm-ups just to get the opponents thinking about MY technique…not theirs.
I’m not sorry for it.
Easy Strength is the ultimate “show up” program. No one single workout makes a difference, but doing each lift five days a week accumulates over the two months. Combine ES with appropriate training leads to superior performance outcomes.
For the everyday trainer, ES allows you to focus on what truly is important for success: quality sleep and quality nutrition.
It’s that easy.
End Easy Strength
I found three really interesting pieces on the internet this week. This first article raises a good point: we literally have NOT eaten more nor exercises less since the 1980s. So, why was it so easy to stay thin then?
First, people are exposed to more chemicals that might be weight-gain inducing. Pesticides, flame retardants, and the substances in food packaging might all be altering our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies put on and maintain weight.
Second, the use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically since the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prozac, the first blockbuster SSRI, came out in 1988. Antidepressants are now one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and many of them have been linked to weight gain.
Finally, Kuk and the other study authors think that the microbiomes of Americans might have somehow changed between the 1980s and now. It’s well known that some types of gut bacteria make a person more prone to weight gain and obesity. Americans are eating more meat than they were a few decades ago, and many animal products are treated with hormones and antibiotics in order to promote growth. All that meat might be changing gut bacteria in ways that are subtle, at first, but add up over time. Kuk believes the proliferation of artificial sweeteners could also be playing a role.
The opening line here is important. I hate shows about teachers; we are either idiots or idols (or as Shakespeare snarked: “You are the idol of idiot worshippers.”). I’m looking forward to this series.
In popular culture, teachers are so often presented in an almost mythic way. We are martyrs; perfect people who would teach for free. This canard devalues the art of teaching—and does little to recruit the next generation. We are stereotyped for our worst moments, and therefore used as political cudgels. In reality, high school teaching is a complex, difficult profession that can have authentic rewards. We should treat teachers like they matter, and we should pay them like they matter. That’s how you attract and retain the best teachers—and how you best serve kids.
The kids deserve the best because we all deserve the best. Teaching high school is a way to give back to the community; to serve, to help, to comfort. A good high school teacher can work wonders in lives, in ways small and big—we all know this, and yet it is forgotten or lost in abstract, policy discussions about education.
Not only do I simply just love this “mystery,” I love the bit on Dionysus and the levels of boozing.
Alexander knew well his Euripides, the Athenian tragic poet of the late 5th century BCE, and recited verses from his play Andromeda. The plot concerned a beautiful young princess who was chained to a rock and awaited death from a sea monster. At the last minute the hero, Perseus, arrives on his flying horse, Pegasus, and rescues her. Only fragments of the drama have survived and we do not know what lines the king spoke, but one certainly fits his high opinion of himself: I gained glory, not without many trials.
The convention among civilized partygoers was that serious drinking only began once the meal was over. Wine was a little syrupy and could have a high alcohol content compared with vintages today. It was usually served diluted with water. A large two-handled bowl, or crater, containing wine (it could hold as many as six quarts of liquid), was brought into the dining room where guests reclined on shared couches. The host, or a master of ceremonies chosen by those present, decided how much water should be mixed with the wine and how many top-ups should be allowed. Guests had individual cups, and servants used ladles to fill them.
The Macedonians and their monarchs had a proud tradition of heavy alcohol consumption. It was not at all uncommon for a session to end with drinkers passing out. In a play performed in Athens earlier in the 4th century, Dionysus, the god of wine, sets out the stages of inebriation:
For sensible men I prepare only three craters: one for health (which they drink first), the second for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep. After the third mixing bowl is drained, sensible men go home. The fourth crater is nothing to do with me—it belongs to bad behavior; the fifth is for shouting; the sixth is for rudeness and insults; the seventh is for fights; the eighth is for breaking the furniture; the ninth is for depression; the tenth is for madness and unconsciousness.
If you ever find an article worth reading, give me a shout at [email protected] I’m always happy to consider things for WW.
Speaking of WW, Happy 250th last week. We haven’t missed a week since we began this little weekly review/newsletter and I know it has improved by leaps and bounds. Thank you for reading and let’s keep this going.
And, until next time, 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 104
“History,” murmured the snake, drawing a film over its eyes, because it could not close them. “History,” it repeated softly. “Ah.”
“I wonder,” said the snake after a minute. Then it gave a gentle sigh and gave it up.
“You must forget about us,” it said absently. “There is no History in me or you. We are individuals too small for our great sea to care for. That is why I don’t have any special name, but only T. natrix like all my forefathers before me. There is a little history in T. natrix, but none in me.”
It stopped, baffled by its own feelings, and then began again in its slow voice.
“There is one thing which all we snake remember, child. Except for two people, we are the oldest in the world. Look at that ridiculous H. sapiens barbatus which gave me such a fright just now. It was born when? Ten or twenty thousand years ago. What do the tens and twenties matters? The earth cooled. The sea covered it. It was a hundred million years ago that Life came to the Great Sea, and the fishes bred within it. They were the oldest people, the Fish. Their children climbed out of it and stood upon the bosky newts. The third people, who sprang from them, were the Reptiles, of which we are one. Think of those old faces of the world upon which T. natrix moved in the slime, and of the millions of years. Why, the birds which you see every day are our descendants: we are their parents, but can persist to live among with them.”
“Do you mean that when you were born there were no birds or men?”
“No birds or men: no monkeys or reindeer or elephants or any such animals: only the amphibia and the reptiles and the fishes and the Mesozoic world.”
“That’s History,” added the snake thoughtfully. “One of those H. sapiens barbatus male might think of that next time he murders T. natrix for being a viper.”
“There is something strange about the Will of the Sea. It is bound up with the history of my family. Did you hear the story of H. sapiens armatus georgius sanctus?”
“I don’t think I did,” said the Wart.
“The Will of the Sea” still confounds me just a bit. I’ve searched for what our friend T is talking about here and I am just stumped. Further reading might make it clearer, but this is another one of those questions I have for White.
The Mesozoic Age is often called, at least when I was young, the Age of Reptiles. It is also referred to as the Age of Conifers; a phrase I have never ever once used in my life. Most readers would know the Mesozoic’s famed Jurassic period with the great age of dinosaurs, the books by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic World books (Jurassic Park and Lost World…infinity better than the movie series) and the Hollywood movies and Flintstone cartoons that wildly get the history wrong.
Years ago, I addressed the issue of putting dinosaurs into human history:
A friend of mine has this book, ‘The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible.’ The point of this book, basically, is that dinosaurs existed in the Garden of Eden, most were wiped out in the Flood, yet others survived and we find their stories in the legends of Saint George, Loch Ness, and, though the author doesn’t mention it, the last great fight of Beowulf. The author of the book found in ‘The History’ of Herodotus an interesting tidbit: In ancient Egypt, flying snake-like reptiles were described near Buto; the author contends that these ‘sound amazingly like the small Rhamphorhynchus.’ (For proper pronunciation, ask a five-year-old.)
Once again, I have a liberal education, a Catholic worldview. So, I walked over to my bookshelves, opened my well highlighted and underlined copy of Herodotus and started reading ‘The History.’ Again. The author of the dinosaur book was right! Herodotus states that, as ‘the story goes,’ great numbers of these snakes fly from Arabia to Egypt.
There is more, of course. Lest the faint-hearted reader worry, these snakes are destroyed each year by large flocks of Ibises, crane-like birds who act as the Royal Air Force alone against the flying lizards of the Luftwaffe. Herodotus also mentions the sacred phoenix, a bird that lives for 500 years, after properly burying its parent. He also gives high praise to the mouse. It seems that a despised monarch named Sethos defeated the Assyrians because a mouse army ate the bowstrings, quivers and thongs of the enemy the evening before battle.
I recently picked up Herodotus again after reading “Travels with Herodotus” by Ryszard Kapuściński. The author reminds us repeatedly that Herodotus always explains that he “heard this” or was “told that” in each and every one of his reports. When he sees or witnesses something, he rings the bell of clarity and truth.
White’s summary of evolution here is pretty good. I haven’t kept up on evolution and dinosaur studies in a long time, but this explanation by T seems close enough for me.
Most readers, by the way, pick up “H. sapiens armatus georgius sanctus” as being St. George the Dragon Slayer. Shakespeare (Henry V) reminds us that St. George was very real to his viewing audience in Henry V: “The game’s afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’” My Sherlock Holmes’ fans will catch a favorite phrase in the first three words here, too.
Next time, we discover why all history is sad.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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