Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 262
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 262
It’s been a nice week home. My daughters, Lindsay and Kelly, have visited daily and I get the sense they missed mom and dad. There are lots of good reasons for traveling and one of them is appreciating coming home.
I started training again and, as I type this, I am so sore in the squatting muscles. I did prowlers and goblet squats and I had forgotten about squat soreness. I was told as a young athlete to take time off annually and I never listened to this advice.
I was wrong.
Taking time off from training does all kinds of good, but the key, I think, might be that when you come back you are reminded by soreness and stiffness the impact of the training. Walking up stairs with sore squat muscles is illuminating.
Caveat: now, I have been training since 1965 and I rarely have missed training for more than a few weeks…actually, rarely a few days. If you train 52 weeks a year for a while, you will find taking some time off to be valuable. If you have bravely held yourself back from working out for a few decades, you might not get much from taking an additional few weeks off.
I think this is why I played so well in football in high school. After the season, I wrestled during the winter and did the hurdles and discus (occasionally shot put) in the spring. Summers were swimming, beach, games and lifting weights five days a week.
So, I never necessarily stopped training but I built up my tool box with different sports and different challenges. The lessons of hurdling and wrestling helped me far more in football than just more time playing football. Of course, once you wrestle there is no such thing as a tough workout in another sport.
Like all things, taking time off “depends.” I remember Olympian Dan Cantore telling me he would take up to two months off after the Olympics and I was stunned. I thought, at the time, that he needed to get right back into the weightroom to prep up for the next four years.
Youth’s lack of patience writes checks that are hard to cash decades later.
So, I sit on a sore butt and type today.
I enjoyed my podcast with Pat Flynn this week. We don’t dismiss fitness goals, but we have a nuanced discussion about goals when one doesn’t have goals.
Brian sent this in for us:
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Here’s a link to Episode 11 of the podcast. Thank you to everyone who has sent in questions. We’re always looking for more, so feel free to send them to [email protected]
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
The Geometry of Fitness
Another Way to Look at Hypertrophy
A friendly reminder than the Park Bench Generator is a great way to keep from gaining weight this holiday season. You can do a few quick workouts each week and hopefully finish 2019 at least 1 pound lighter than 2018.
Have a great week!
Let’s look around the internet. The moment I read the following article, it made sense to me why I loved Skyline College, Utah State, South San Francisco, and Galway: The power of wind!
There are lots of theories about why spending time in nature might be so good for us. Some researchers, like Qing Li, a physician at Nippon Medical School Hospital and the President of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, believe the answer may literally be blowing in the wind. He and his team have spent years studying the effects of phytoncides, antibacterial and antimicrobial substances that trees and other plants release into the air to help them fight diseases and harmful organisms. When humans breathe in these substances—typically by spending time in nature—their health can improve. Across several studies, phytoncides have been shown to boost immune function, increase anticancer protein production, reduce stress hormones, improve mood, and help people relax.
Pretty attributes the restorative power of natural spaces to their immersive quality. He tells me that activities like watching shorebirds or collecting seashells on the beach can be really engaging—so engaging that they can help us temporarily deactivate a part of the brain, located in our prefrontal cortex, called the default mode network, which allows us to scheme, plan, and innovate. “It’s what makes us brilliant humans,” Pretty says. The trade-off is that it’s also extremely active. “The one thing that we haven’t got is an off-switch for our thoughts,” he says. As a result, many of us “find ourselves living our lives on simmer—[like we’ve] got a pot on the stove that’s almost ready to boil.”
In the long-term, this constant low-grade stress can damage our health and well-being, increasing our chances of cardiovascular diseases, inflammation-related issues, and other dangers. That’s why Pretty believes a regular “dose” of something akin to uitwaaien can be so beneficial. In our over-stressed society, listening to the sound of the wind or admiring the colors of ocean waves may be among the few ways we can truly unwind. “We just need a name for it, an encouragement for people to undertake it and then to carry on doing it.”
Planning versus Free Will. Self-Discipline or Habits? This article does a nice job explaining the nuances of self-control.
“People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place,” Galla tells me. And structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity — like running or meditating — at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says. Not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier.
A trick to wake up more quickly in the morning is to set the alarm on the other side of the room. That’s not in-the-moment willpower at play. It’s planning.
This theory harks back to one of the classic studies on self-control: Walter Mischel’s “marshmallow test,” conducted in the 1960s and ’70s. In these tests, kids were told they could either eat one marshmallow sitting in front of them immediately or eat two later. The ability to resist was found to correlate with all sorts of positive life outcomes, like SAT scores and BMIs. But the kids who were best at the test weren’t necessarily intrinsically better at resisting temptation. They might have been employing a critical strategy.
“Mischel has consistently found that the crucial factor in delaying gratification is the ability to change your perception of the object or action you want to resist,” the New Yorker reported in 2014. That means kids who avoided eating the first marshmallow would find ways not to look at the candy, or imagine it as something else.
“The really good dieter wouldn’t buy a cupcake,” Fujita explains. “They wouldn’t have passed in front of a bakery; when they saw the cupcake, they would have figured out a way to say yuck instead of yum; they might have an automatic reaction of moving away instead of moving close.”
I think the author missed the tragedy of the men who died in these accidents, but the benefits are enjoyed by all. This is a fascinating read.
The reason why all those pilots were crashing when their B-17s were easing into a landing was that the flaps and landing gear controls looked exactly the same. The pilots were simply reaching for the landing gear, thinking they were ready to land. And instead, they were pulling the wing flaps, slowing their descent, and driving their planes into the ground with the landing gear still tucked in. Chapanis came up with an ingenious solution: He created a system of distinctively shaped knobs and levers that made it easy to distinguish all the controls of the plane merely by feel, so that there’s no chance of confusion even if you’re flying in the dark.
By law, that ingenious bit of design—known as shape coding—still governs landing gear and wing flaps in every airplane today. And the underlying idea is all around you: It’s why the buttons on your videogame controller are differently shaped, with subtle texture differences so you can tell which is which. It’s why the dials and knobs in your car are all slightly different, depending on what they do. And it’s the reason your virtual buttons on your smartphone adhere to a pattern language.
But Chapanis and Fitts were proposing something deeper than a solution for airplane crashes. Faced with the prospect of soldiers losing their lives to poorly designed machinery, they invented a new paradigm for viewing human behavior. That paradigm lies behind the user-friendly world that we live in every day. They realized that it was absurd to train people to operate a machine and assume they would act perfectly under perfect conditions.
Without comment or conclusions, I offer this article to you: Higher Cholesterol Is Associated With Longer Life.
Read it. Then ask yourself why people might be confused about things.
That last article should keep your wheels spinning for a while. And, until then, let’s all 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 115
Cheered by this vision, he turned round at the edge of the ploughing and stumped off home. At the hedge where the old lady lay waiting to scare rooks he was lucky enough to spot some approaching pigeons before she was aware of him or them, which gave him a chance to let out such a screech that he felt amply repaid for his own jump by seeing hers. It was going to be a good evening after all. “Good night to you,” said Sir Ector affably, when the old lady recovered herself enough to drop him a curtsey.
He felt so much restored by this that he called on the parish priest, half-way up the village street, and invited him to dinner. Then he climbed to the solar, which was his special chamber, and sat down heavily to write a submissive message to King Uther in the two or three hours which remained to him before the meal. It would take him quite that time, what with sharpening pens, using too much sand to blot with, going to the top of the stairs to ask the butler how to spell things, and starting again if he had made a mess.
Sir Ector sat in the solar, while the wintering sunlight threw broad orange beams across his bald head. He scratched and pluttered away, and laboriously bit the end of his pen, and the castle room darkened about him. It was a room as big as the main hall over which it stood, and it could afford to have large southern windows because it was on the second story. There were two fireplaces, in which the ashy logs of wood turned from grey to red as the sunlight retreated. Round these, some favourite hounds lay snuffling in their dreams, or scratching themselves for fleas, or gnawing mutton bones which they had scrounged from the kitchens. The peregrine falcon stood hooded on a perch in the corner, a motionless idol dreaming of other skies.
If you were to go now to view the solar of Castle Sauvage, you would find it empty of furniture. But the sun would still stream in at those stone windows two feet thick, and, as it barred the mullions, it would catch a warmth of sandstone from them—the amber light of age. If you went to the nearest curiosity shop you might find some clever copies of the furniture which it was supposed to contain. These would be oak chests and cupboards with Gothic panelling and strange faces of men or angels—or devils—carved darkly upon them, black, bees-waxed, worm-eaten and shiny—gloomy testimonies to the old life in their coffin-like solidity. But the furniture in the solar was not like that. The devil’s heads were there and the linen-fold panelling, but the wood was six or seven or eight centuries younger. So, in the warm-looking light of sunset, it was not only the mullions which had an amber glow. All the spare, strong chests in the room (they were converted for sitting by laying bright carpets on them) were the young, the golden oak, and the cheeks of the devils and cherubim shone as if they had been given a good soaping.
“Mullions,” by the way, are those vertical slats in windows that divide the two panes…and, no, I didn’t know that before I read this section.
T. H. White is at his best in this relatively short chapter. Sir Ector is center stage and we join him in his deep thoughts as he balances his local needs with the wants and needs of his liege lord. I used to teach medieval history and getting the roles straight are nearly impossible as this was literally a society of “tapestry:” everyone and everything were interconnected at some level. Your life and safety were based on your communal health and that is still true today.
Today, though, we don’t tend to worry about dragons and griffins as much. One could argue that human beings have invented far worse creations than dragons and griffins.
As I write this, there is a new Star Wars show called Mandalorian. Obviously, I enjoy it. It fits my love of the heroic journey.
A critic noted that they did not like this new episodic television show as much as me because…well, because the story has all of these side stories that don’t push the narrative along.
And, the critic missed the whole point of epics. Epics, as I always tell my students, are BIG! Big stories about life, love, death, pain, suffering and the unfairness of mortality. In the great epics, and think Homer, Gilgamesh, and Beowulf here, the side stories are really THE story. Imagine how dull The Odyssey would be if Ulysses would have just gone home and reunited with his family.
Who needs Sirens, Cyclops and discus throwing competitions?
Well, we do!
This chapter, and it finished with the description of the furniture and woodwork, is a quiet little side story. We are walking around with Ector after he read a letter and responded to it. There is no danger to Wart, no magic, and no madcap adventure.
After the snake dreams of history, we have a quiet walk through the grounds, the Forest Sauvage and the castle.
And, this is the genius of White: he understands the epic. He doesn’t mind pausing the narrative to develop the story.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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