Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 261
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 261
Hi << Test First Name >>,
When you pop open this week’s WW, I (ideally…hopefully) will be sitting (jet lagged) in my home in Utah. It’s been an amazing trip to Denmark, Belfast and Galway. We are packing a bit and prepping to fly home.
I’ve seen some amazing rugby and GAA and I visited gyms across the continent. I went to a powerlifting meet and swam daily in the Galway Bay (which is difficult to describe in terms of beauty and cold).
It’s always fun. We have a little phrase: “Say yes to the adventure.” So, when someone asks if we want to go to a concert, we go. If there is a game, we go. Bike rides? We go.
During my walks and rides, my mind often clears up things about coaching and training. I’ve been trying to explain “Level Training” for years and this trip I have finally seem to understand the point well enough to explain it.
Basically, I believe that the WORST kind of training is to sit in a chair and do the work. I’ve nothing against this for any kind of rehab or repair, of course, but it breaks my heart seeing young collision sport athletes strapped into a machine doing rep after rep in a movement that may never carry over into the field of play.
Before I go on, I get it, Mr. Bodybuilder who emailed me, this is fine for bodybuilding. But, at 62, I need the challenge and work of moving up and down and sideways to deal with the dangers of falling…and becoming useless when someone asks me to help them move.
Level training is when you “change levels” in training. Obviously. Here are the basics:
On Your Back
“Stay Tall” Family of Exercises
“Air” is getting in the air by jumping, leaping, bounding or whatever. Pick three exercises from every level and mix and match them into a training sequence. We do this at Epic Fitness:
Goblet Squat for ten followed by Prowler followed by Push Ups for ten. Three rounds of that (or more if you are courageous) does something hard to understand for the temperature of the gym: it gets really hot in there on the coldest days! My friend, Aonghus, and I did that last week and I am still breathing hard.
By the way, Aonghus’s restaurant won the award for best Mexican food in Ireland and, if you go to Galway (or Sligo with the new site), visit Tucos and tell them you know me. They will probably chase you out.
Getting back to the point, I find that almost all my coaching during Level Training seems to return to the three key coaching points I always emphasize:
My insights on this trip, among many, is that coaching and training people can really become simple if you have a vision of the whole person, an appreciation of the environment the person lives in daily and the vision of striving ahead.
Obviously, more to come!
My weekly podcast with Pat Flynn went well. Enjoy.
I also had an interview with Coach Joe Di. We were pressed for time at an RKC, but it went well.
This video takes you into the old Pacifica Barbell Club. I miss this place so much.
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Here’s a link to Episode 10 of the podcast: The Dan John Podcast – Ep 10 | Squat Depth, Neck Training, Coaching Cues, and More. Dan’s been on vacation and he looks excited and rested in this episode, so be sure to check it out.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
Time Management For… Everyone
Intentional Community from “Now What?”
The site keeps growing every week and I’ve been receiving lots of wonderful emails. Thank you all for the support.
Driving around the internet, I found some interesting things. A few weeks ago, I mentioned this original material, but Clarence Bass does a nice job with this stuff in his blog. This article is a great way to look at lifelong training.
If your goal is lifetime fitness and health, you’ll probably want a balanced approach.
To Dr. Galpin, health and fitness are simple: “If you look at what predicts mortality—and I love these studies because the endpoint is death—the ones who are stronger tend to live longer.” But strength isn’t the only fitness consideration linked to longevity. Cardiovascular fitness and total physical activity are also associated with longevity.
“The research is unambiguous enough, but the message can get garbled by experts who, despite their general good intentions, are stuck in fitness silos,” Lou Schuler observes. “They’re so invested in strength or endurance training that they’re blinded to the value of everything else.”
“Strength is a major part of health,” Galpin says. “The more strength you gain, the more you’ll move around during the day.” Stronger muscles allow your heart to do its job with less effort, making it easier to do everything from walking and climbing stairs to lifting and carrying sacks of dog food. “I mean, what dissuades you from doing those random acts of physical activity? It’s not all cardiovascular function. It’s also being weak!”
Galpin’s prescription is a combination of activities. Do a few things involving heavy lifting. A few things to get your heart rate up. And a few things that require sustained effort. “It’s not sexy, but all the research shows that those three things are the most important,” he says.
There are many ways to meet those challenges.
Here’s a sample program recommended by Galpin:
Monday: Go heavy. Do at least one exercise in each of the five major movement patterns: squat, deadlift, push (chest press, shoulder press, dip), pull (pulldown, row), and carry (pick up something heavy with one or both hands and walk). On at least one or two exercises in each workout, go as heavy as you can while maintaining good technique. “On a scale of one to 10, it should rate about seven to nine,” he says. “If you don’t push it, you won’t get stronger.”
Wednesday: Go long. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you keep up a continuous, sustained effort for at least 30 minutes. You can run, ride, or do calisthenics. Your intensity should be high enough to feel like exercise, but not so high that you have to stop and rest.
Friday: Go hard. This time your goal is to get your heart rate up near its max through brief bursts of all-out effort. Again, the specific mode of exercise doesn’t matter—you can use a rower or stationary bike, swing a kettlebell, run up a hill. A good target is three to six 30-second intervals, with two to three minutes in between for recovery.
I thought this whole article made a lot of sense. I tried to teach my daughters in their teen years that literally most people simply “don’t care.” So, when you reach over to hold your 13 year old daughters hand at an amusement park, she shouldn’t pull away and say “Dad!!!” No one cares what I wear or if I let my daughters know, in public, that I love them. In fact, people might like what I wear.
The beauty of traveling around the world is that it allows you to get altitude.
No, I don’t mean airplane altitude.
I mean it allows you to get a big-picture perspective on things, to see the various ways cultures mesh and collide with one another and how the different streams of history have eroded and hardened each country’s social structures into their respective places.
You realize that much of what you believed to be unique in your home country is often universal, and that much of what you thought was universal is often specific to your home country.
You realize that humans are by and large the same, with the same needs, the same desires and the same awful biases that pit them haplessly against each other.
You realize that no matter how much you see or how much you learn about the world, there’s always more — that with every new destination discovered, you become aware of a dozen others, and with every new piece of knowledge obtained, you only become more aware of how much you really don’t know.
You realize that you will never be able to explore or encounter all of these destinations. Because you realize that the more you spread the breadth of your experience across the globe, the thinner and more meaningless it becomes.
You realize that there’s something to be said to limiting oneself, not just geographically, but also emotionally. That there’s a certain depth of experience and meaning that can only be achieved when one picks a single piece of creation and says, “This is it. This is where I belong.”
Perpetual world travel literally gives you a whole world of experience. But it also takes another away.
Winter is coming. I struggled last winter because of my total hip replacement, but this year “I am back.” This article gives us some insights on how to enjoy our annual freeze in Utah.
At first, she was asking “Why aren’t people here more depressed?” and if there were lessons that could be taken elsewhere. But once she was there, “I sort of realized that that was the wrong question to be asking,” she says. When she asked people “Why don’t you have seasonal depression?” the answer was “Why would we?”
It turns out that in northern Norway, “people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured,” says Leibowitz, and that makes all the difference.
Lessons From The Far North
To be sure, there are some aspects of the near-polar culture that might be hard to emulate elsewhere. Small Norwegian communities are tightly knit, and strong social ties increase well-being everywhere. That said, there are lessons that can help anyone think differently about cold weather.
First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. “People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start,” says Leibowitz. Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep going outside, whatever is happening out there. Notes Leibowitz: “There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. Leibowitz reports that Tromsø had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together.
I found this article actually exciting. I have had “issues” with psychology since one of my football player’s moms decided he need a sports psychologist and, well, let’s just say he never played well again. I like that the field is trying to apply hard data, but this article shows us a very interesting issue: literally, no one followed the numbers!
“I contacted Seligman to clarify his use of the sixty corporations research vs. sixty teams,” Friedman says, “and he responded that he wasn’t sure how he came up with it. He distanced himself from the whole situation, saying that he had never endorsed the ratio as an exact number.”
The two continued dialoguing on the topic. Eventually Seligman thanked Friedman and his coauthors for helping to correct the scientific record, but “his first response was brief and seemed rather annoyed,” Friedman says. “Dismissive.”
“Very strange,” says Sokal. “It doesn’t give you confidence if two of the biggest names in the subfield are at the very least so sloppy.”
What follows here might be the single smartest article I have ever read on “all of this:” fasting, gut health, blah blah blah. It’s simple and honest. Moreover, I almost want to say “here(!!!)” and be done with all the discussions about diet for a bit. And, no, I don’t want to hear about some documentary you saw with all the experts having financial interests in selling supplements and powders to help you change to their particular form of magic.
If you were to view your microbiome as a garden, fibre would be your fertiliser. Spector reckons that most people need to double their intake. Foods containing the best fibre types for your microbes – AKA prebiotic foods – include artichokes, jerusalem artichokes, leeks, celery, chicory, onions and garlic. Variety is the top priority. “So, it’s not just focusing on one or two of these examples,” warns Spector. “Our latest research is showing that it’s not necessarily someone who calls themselves vegetarian who has the most healthy gut – it’s the person who eats more diversity of plants in a week. Having the same salad every day isn’t going to be as healthy as eating a rich diversity of food with occasional meat.” This could just as easily be a way of describing the Mediterranean diet, with its kaleidoscope of fruit, veg, nuts, grains and legumes.
The exciting news for carb lovers is that you can render potatoes, rice and pasta more prebiotic by cooking and then cooling them and then either eating them cold or reheating them (be careful with rice, which can potentially harbour unhealthy bacteria). In her book Gut, gastroenterologist Giulia Enders writes that, as they cool, some of the starch crystallises, making it more resistant to human digestion, “so your potato salad or sushi rice reaches your microbes untouched”.
Fasting – a dietary habit as ancient as fermenting – is also beneficial to gut health. “When you’re not eating,” says Spector, “a whole different set of microbes comes and cleans up your gut wall, eating the sugars and things there, and that’s important in keeping a good immune balance.” We are not talking extreme abstention. In fact, animal studies have shown microbes nibbling through the gut’s protective lining if starved for too long. But intermittent fasting with low-calorie days, or simply leaving long gaps between meals, is beneficial for your gut microbes. You are even allowed to skip breakfast – Spector says it’s a myth that this makes you gain weight. “There are now at least six randomised control trials showing that. Skipping breakfast has generally been shown to be good for adults and helps you lose weight. Basically, in southern Europe, their breakfast is an espresso and a cigarette, if they’re lucky, and they don’t snack. Whereas we are told to always eat breakfast and continual snacking is encouraged.”
Junk food is the gut microbes’ nemesis. In the introduction to a new book, The Healthy Gut Handbook, by Justine Pattison, Spector writes that after he put his student son on a fast food diet (chicken nuggets, burgers, soft drinks etc) for 10 days, the boy had lost 40% of his microbe species and felt sick and lethargic. Emulsifiers, which keep texture consistent, are rife in heavily processed foods and, warns Spector, “it has been shown in a couple of studies in rodents that they cause disruption of the gut microbes, which react differently and produce funny chemicals, in a similar way to sweeteners. If you give animals lots of sweeteners, you get a reduction in diversity of the microbes and they produce abnormal chemicals – different metabolic signals which have been shown to be more likely to give you diabetes and make you put on weight.” There’s no hard evidence yet in humans, but Spector has seen enough to make him wary of regularly eating these additives.
That’s a lot to feast on this week. I will continue to search for the best and brightest in online reading when I get home. Until then, 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 114
The only chap, reflected Sir Ector, who could be really useful in showin’ the King’s huntsman proper sport was that fellow Robin Hood. Robin Wood, they seemed to be callin’ him now—some new-fangled idea, no doubt. But Wood or Hood, he was the chap to know where a fine tush was to be found. Been feastin’ on the creatures for months now, he would not be surprised, even if they were out of season.
But you could hardly ask a fellow to hunt up a few beasts of venery for you, and then not invite him to the meet. While, if you did invite him to the meet, what would the King’s huntsman and the neighbours say at havin’ a partisan for a fellow guest? Not that this Robin Wood was not a good fellow: he was a good chap, and a good neighbour too. He had often tipped Sir Ector the wink when a raiding party was on its way from the Marches, and he never molested the knight or his farming in any way. What did it matter if he did chase himself a bit of venison now and then? There was four hundred square miles of forest, so they said, and enough for all. Leave well alone, that was Sir Ector’s motto. But that did not alter the neighbours.
Another thing was the riot. It was all very well for the crack hunts in practically artificial forests like those at Windsor, where the King hunted, but it was a different thing in the Forest Sauvage. Suppose His Majesty’s famous hounds were to go runnin’ riot after a unicorn or something? Everybody knew that you could never catch a unicorn without a young virgin for bait (in which case the unicorn meekly laid its white head and mother-of-pearl horn in her lap) and so the puppies would go chargin’ off into the forest for leagues and leagues, and never catch it, and get lost, and then what would Sir Ector say to his sovereign? It was not only unicorns. There was the Beast Glatisant that everybody had heard so much about. If you had the head of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion, and were footed like a hart, and especially if you made a noise like thirty couple of hounds questin’, it stood to reason that you would account for an excessive number of royal puppies before they pulled you down. Serve them right too. And what would King Pellinore say if Master William Twyti did succeed in killing his beast? Then there were the small dragons which lived under stones and hissed like kettles—dangerous varmints, very. Or suppose they were to come across one of the really big dragons? Suppose they was to run into a griffin?
Sir Ector considered the prospect moodily for some time, then began to feel better. It would be a jolly good thing, he concluded, if Master Twyti and his beastly dogs did meet the Questing Beast, yes, and get eaten up by it too, every one.
Cheered by this vision, he turned round at the edge of the ploughing and stumped off home.
“Cheered by this vision.” Sir Ector is not a cardboard cutout character. He is deep and White develops him so well throughout the book. In the later books of The Once and Future King, we won’t really see him much and his wisdom and depth won’t be reflected in King Arthur’s life. Of course, Arthur also loses Merlyn, until The Book of Merlyn IF you count that as part of the series, so Arthur has to go it alone a lot.
Ector sees the Forest as it should be: Savage. It occupies a lot of things:
Beast Glatisant (Questing Beast)
We, the readers, also know there are witches, “the good people,” giants and all varieties of dangerous real creatures. It’s funny to add “real” here as there are places in the wild in the world where many of us would not survive long alone. Even well-trained boys like Wart and Kay have been in constant danger in the areas around the castle.
Yes, it makes for thrilling reading, but they are facing death constantly.
We are coming up to some of White’s best comical writing but, as always, he comes tragedy close at hand.
Until next time.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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