Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 264

First, forgive me if you don’t care about American college football. I love it. This past weekend was rivalry weekend. Tiffini and I went to the Utah-Colorado game with my daughter, Lindsay, and her husband, Thomas. Linny has a new job with the University of Utah and we enjoyed the pre-game with her co-workers. Our seats were great but starting the game so late allowed the temperature to drop, drop, and drop. My feet and fingers will be cold far into winter.

American football is big business. It also gives those of us in coaching to observe people in the “hot seat.” I got a tiny taste of this teaching high school football dealing with fans and parents, but I learned a good lesson from both my coaches and the coaches I worked with in my career: “everything” stays inside the room. The big lesson is that “WE win and, if we lose, I need to do better.”

Michigan continues to flounder against Ohio State and the Michigan coach needs to learn to handle questions from the press. Auburn beat Alabama and the Alabama coach needs to learn to discuss officials. I really enjoyed the post-game comments from the Stanford football coach, David Shaw, whose team has been riddled with injuries and issues, but he stayed absolutely focused on the fine play by his players…even after a loss.

It’s easy to be gracious in victory. It takes discipline and focus, and some empathy, to be gracious in loss.

This week on danjohnworkouts.com:

Episode 13 is live at www.danjohnworkouts.com/podcast! As a reminder, every episode of The Dan John podcast is available on all the major podcast distribution platforms. You can listen on iTunes, Google, and all the other big podcast tools.

New essays posted in the member’s area this week:

Classical Conditioning
This Will Be Funny… But True
Bear Crawls and You
Building Your Home Gym

During this time of year, it’s nice to have workouts prepared for you that don’t take too long, focus on the important stuff, and don’t make you think too much. The Park Bench generator on the site does just that, so use it this month to limit the damage of the holiday season.

Have a great week!

~ Brian

I have a workshop coming up at Mike Krivka’s place in DC. The details:

Saturday December 14, 2019
12:00 to 02:30 PM

Exclusive preview to Dan’s next book: Bounce, Squeeze and Stay Tall!

This Lecture
The basics of lifting all too often reflect the basics of life. In this workshop, we will discuss resilience in all its forms: we will learn to bounce back from adversity, slippery ice and aggressive football blocking. We will learn from dance masters, special operation’s instructors, and financial advisors to relearn how to be strive for “pretty good” in almost every area of life.

Note: There will be exercise demonstrations that you are invited to join in, although your participation is voluntary.

When  Saturday December 14, 2019
Time    12:00 to 02:30 pm
Where CrossFit Koncepts
16720 Oakmont Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Cost     $120/person; attendees must pre-register in order to attend
Register  Contact Mike Krivka at cfkoncepts@gmail.com or 301/404-2571

Note: Space limited to the first 25 people who pre-register; no exceptions.

I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts recently. I met Rocco on my June trip to England. I really enjoy this podcast. In addition, you get a glimpse of my office.

My weekly podcast with Pat Flynn went well. We discussed Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions as well as fasting. This certainly was a balanced discussion about life and living. 

I probably have too many articles this week, but I really enjoyed the process. Sometimes as I look for articles for WW, I wonder (out loud) if this has any value. This week, I feel like it was time well spent.

This might be the most important article I have read in a while. This reflects my experience as a teacher from basically 1979 until, well, today. Failing is fine. The struggle is the lesson.


We love to praise our kids; call it a hangover from the self-esteem movement of the 1970s. But praising kids for being smart rather than working hard pushes them into what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset, one in which kids shy away from challenges. Consider this study, which Dweck did variations on for years and I wrote about here:

    Researchers give two groups of fifth graders easy tests. Group one is told they got the questions right because they are smart. Group two is told they got the questions right because they tried hard. Then they give the kids a harder test, one designed to be far above their ability. Turns out the “smart” kids don’t like the test and don’t want to do more. The “effort” kids think they need to try harder and welcome the chance to try again. The researchers give them a third test, another easy one. The “smart” kids struggle, and perform worse than they did on the first test (which was equally easy). The “effort” kids outperform their first test, and outperform their “smart” peers.

And here’s the really scary part: the researchers then tell the kids they’re going to give the same test at another school, and ask them to send a note over with their own scores. Forty percent of the “smart” kids lie about their results, compared with around 10% of the “effort” kids.
If they see you fail and survive, they will know that failing at a task is not failing as a person.

End quote

I posted this before (I think). I keep circling back to the ideas presented here because SOMETHING seems to be happening from my observations in my community. We also know that humans don’t handle highly processed foods well and that is NOT addressed here in this article. Again, this is what mom and Dick Notmeyer told me, so nothing new is under the sun.


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 fact that the body weights of Americans today are influenced by factors beyond their control is a sign, Kuk says, that society should be kinder to people of all body types.

“There’s a huge weight bias against people with obesity,” she said. “They’re judged as lazy and self-indulgent. That’s really not the case. If our research is correct, you need to eat even less and exercise even more” just to be same weight as your parents were at your age.

The exercise part is perhaps one area where Old Economy Steve doesn’t have an edge. A membership at one of the newfangled fitness centers of 1987 would go for about $2,800 per year in today’s dollars, and that’s still what it costs today.

End quote

I was talking with Lonnie Wade the other day and I was reminded about how much I had picked up from Sun Tzu. This is an interesting article.


    “You can go all the way back to a few hundred years B.C., Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War.’ Attack weaknesses, utilize strengths and figure out what the strengths are on your team. There are some things you have to protect.  Find the weaknesses of your opponent and attack. You can’t win a war by digging a hole. You gotta attack. You have to figure out where you want to attack, how you want to attack and that changes week to week and game to game.”
This isn’t the first time Belichick has lauded Sun Tzu’s teachings. He revealed in 2017 that he relies on one key quote that he keeps posted where players can see it.
    “The only sign we have in the locker room is from ‘The Art of War.’ ‘Every battle is won before it is fought.’”
He claims that The Art of War is critical to guiding his preparation because it readies him for all possible scenarios.
    You [have to] know what the opponents can do, what their strengths and weaknesses are … [and] what to do in every situation.”

End quote

If you would like to see a video with the Coach explaining this, you can find this nice piece here.
Somebody asked me about programming loaded carries…I don’t. We simply do it and have fun with it every workout. This article explains how you might go about it well.


Programming Loaded Carries
Here are a couple sample loaded carry protocols you can add to your workouts whether your goal is size, strength, or fat loss.
Loaded Carries for Muscle Building
Week 1: Select a weight you can hold for approximately 20-30 seconds and walk with it. Work up to 3 minutes of TUT.
Week 2: Use the same weight as the week before, but this time work up to 4 minutes of TUT.
Week 3: Use the same weight again, but this week, work up to 5 minutes of TUT.
Week 4: Increase the weight 5 lbs and start back at 3 minutes.
When size is your goal, you want to focus on time under tension, gradually increasing the amount of time with the weight spent in your hands each week.
Loaded Caries for Strength
Week 1: 80 lb dumbbells carried for 30 yards x 4 rounds.
Week 2: 80 lb dumbbells carried for 30 yards x 5 rounds.
Week 3: 90 lb dumbbells carried for 30 yards x 4 rounds.
Week 4: 90 lb dumbbells carried for 30 yards x 5 rounds.
With this example, your goal is to increase distance, weight, or both.
Loaded Carries for Fat Loss
Instructions: Grab a pair of dumbbells and perform the following circuit without setting the dumbbells down. Choose a weight that is challenging yet allows you to hold the dumbbells for the entire duration of the circuit. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. Complete 2-3 times.
A1: Farmer’s Walk – 30 seconds
A2: Dumbbell Push press – 10 reps
A3: Farmer’s Walk – 30 seconds
A4: Bent-Over Two Dumbbell Row – 10 reps
A5: Farmer’s Walk – 30 seconds
A6: Dumbbell Reverse Lunge – 10 reps
There is really no right or wrong way to perform a loaded carry. Simply grab something heavy and walk with it for as long as you can. If you want to take your training, physique, and performance to the next level, add loaded carries to your workout. Trust me. They work.

End quote 
I love fish and seafood chowder. So, here:


Fish Chowder
Nancy Clark, Sports Nutritionist and Author
Nancy Clark, the team nutritionist for the Boston Red Sox, has an exceptionally surprising go-to dinner: a quick fish chowder. She says it’s “a balanced meal in a bowl, with fish, potato, onion, milk. Salty, satisfying, yummy.” It’s a hefty serving of protein and carbs with some fat to keep you full, without sacrificing flavor. Plus, it’s even better the next day.
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 large onions, diced
    4 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
    1 pound whitefish (such as cod, tilapia, sole, or haddock)
    1 can evaporated milk
    Salt and pepper
    In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, and then saute the onions until transparent.
    Add potatoes, plus just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until almost tender (about ten to 15 minutes).
    When the potatoes are almost tender, place the fish on top; cover and cook about five minutes or until the fish is done.
    Stir in evaporated milk; add salt and pepper to taste.

End quote
I’ve written about this concept of intelligence before here at WW and the website. This is a real-world example of crystalized and fluid intelligence: Learning Chess at Forty.

I returned to the experts for reassurance. Park told me I was most likely at the peak of my cognitive power. For all my daughter’s seemingly spritely processing power, I had higher-order capacities I could draw upon. “If you’re younger, you can process information super-fast,” she told me, “but you may not know what to do with that information as you process it.” She cautioned she was “oversimplifying” things, but I was happy to take it.
There are, I learned, two forms of intelligence: “fluid” and “crystallized.” As first theorized by the psychologist Raymond Cattel, fluid intelligence is, basically, being able to think on one’s feet, to solve new problems. Crystallized intelligence is what a person already knows—wisdom, memories, metacognition. Even if I was only learning chess for the first time, I had a lifetime of play behind me. Fluid intelligence is generally seen to favor the young, with the crystallized variety rewarded by age (though there are many exceptions). Old mathematicians doing their best work are as rare as young Supreme Court Justices. Chess, especially played at the top levels, can encompass both fluid and crystallized intelligence—one needs the firepower to quickly think through a novel position, but it also helps to draw upon a deep reservoir of past games (grandmasters like Carlsen can often identify a historical game with a glimpse at a single position).
Of course, my daughter, like most children her age, has not memorized a huge library of games; nor does she consciously think in terms of higher-level strategy. “I think I’ll go with the Rubenstein Variation to the French Defense” is not a thought she will have. She seems to play with some brute instinct, pure fluid intelligence. As Daniel King, a London-based retired professional chess player who now analyzes and commentates chess matches, tells me, “children just kind of go for it—that kind of confidence can be very disconcerting for the opponent.” Lacking larger representational “schema,” the psychologist Dianne Horgan has noted, children players rely more on simple heuristics and “satisficing,” choosing the first good-looking move.
Indeed, my daughter often makes a rapid-fire move, after which I invariably ask: “Do you want to take a little more time?” She rarely does. Experts, curiously, make similarly rapid intuitive judgments. Magnus Carlsen, for example, has described how he often makes a move quickly in his head, then spends a great amount of time verifying it is the correct one.
When I asked Rudowski, my daughter’s coach, about the differences he sees in trying to teach beginner children and beginner adults, he said: “Adults need to explain to themselves why they play what they play. Kids don’t do that. It’s like with languages. Beginner adults learn the rules of grammar and pronunciation, and use those to put sentences together. Little kids learn languages by talking.”
Here was my opening. I would counter her fluidity with my storehouses of crystallized intelligence. I was probably never going to be as speedily instinctual as she was. But I could, I thought, go deeper. I could get strategic. I began to watch Daniel King’s analysis of top-level matches on YouTube. She would sometimes wander in and try to follow along, but I noticed she would quickly get bored or lost (and, admittedly, I sometimes did as well) as he explained how some obscure variation had “put more tension in the position” or “contributed to an imbalance on the queen-side.” And I could simply put in more effort. My daughter was no more a young chess prodigy than I was a middle-aged one; if there was any inherited genius here, after all, it was partially inherited from me. Sheer effort would tilt the scales.
The house took on the atmosphere of a war-room. I gravely analyzed opening lines and tried to keep on my toes with intense online blitz matches. She played in tournaments on chesskid.com but seemed as interested in being awarded little iconic trophies (like “Chess Marathon,” for playing a game with more than 100 moves) as in actually beating other kids. When I asked her one day who she thought was a better player, she answered in a cheekily engineered way that both hinted she had picked up on the research I had been doing, and that she wanted to get under my skin: “I am. Because I’m younger and my brain is faster, and still growing.”

End quote
That should be enough to keep you going. 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 117

Chapter XV

It was Christmas night, the eve of the Boxing Day Meet. You must remember that this was in the old Merry England of Gramarye, when the rosy barons ate with their fingers, and had peacocks served before them with all their tail feathers streaming, or boars’ heads with the tusks stuck in again—when there was no unemployment because there were too few people to be unemployed—when the forests rang with knights walloping each other on the helm, and the unicorns in the wintry moonlight stamped with their silver feet and snorted their noble breaths of blue upon the frozen air. Such marvels were great and comfortable ones. But in the Old England there was a greater marvel still. The weather behaved itself.
In the spring, the little flowers came out obediently in the meads, and the dew sparkled, and the birds sang. In the summer it was beautifully hot for no less than four months, and, if it did rain just enough for agricultural purposes, they managed to arrange it so that it rained while you were in bed. In the autumn the leaves flamed and rattled before the west winds, tempering their sad adieu with glory. And in the winter, which was confined by statute to two months, the snow lay evenly, three feet thick, but never turned into slush.
It was Christmas night in the Castle of the Forest Sauvage, and all around the castle the snow lay as it ought to lie. It hung heavily on the battlements, like thick icing on a very good cake, and in a few convenient places it modestly turned itself into the clearest icicles of the greatest possible length. It hung on the boughs of the forest trees in rounded lumps, even better than apple-blossom, and occasionally slid off the roofs of the village when it saw the chance of falling on some amusing character and giving pleasure to all. The boys made snowballs with it, but never put stones in them to hurt each other, and the dogs, when they were taken out to scombre, bit it and rolled in it, and looked surprised but delighted when they vanished into the bigger drifts. There was skating on the moat, which roared with the gliding bones which they used for skates, while hot chestnuts and spiced mead were served on the bank to all and sundry. The owls hooted. The cooks put out plenty of crumbs for the small birds. The villagers brought out their red mufflers. Sir Ector’s face shone redder even than these. And reddest of all shone the cottage fires down the main street of an evening, while the winds howled outside and the old English wolves wandered about slavering in an appropriate manner, or sometimes peeping in at the key-holes with their blood-red eyes.

End quote
First, I apologize for skipping this chapter. T. H. White has a way of adding these perfect little chapters that push the story ahead without a lot of chases, fights and battles. J. K. Rowlings does this with the Harry Potter series: if you read the first book, Sorceror’s or Philosopher’s Stone, you might notice these neat little “one off” chapters that make perfect nighttime reading.
So, I made a mistake. Let’s go back.
“The weather behaved itself.” This line is part of the magic of the whole book. The weather obeys some unseen law concerning the seasons. As we look back on life, very often you might find that you do this, too: we tend to knit things up into neat little tapestries in our mind about better times in the past.
I do this a lot. My youth, in my mind, was endless play and perfect evenings. When I remind myself to pop in the Vietnam War (huge impact on my family), the Civil Rights movement, Watergate, endless social issues, the rich kid runaways and “hippies” choking the streets of The City and the unchecked smog and pollution of the 1960s, I recheck my memories.
And, instantly, I forget all of it and my brain insists on a perfect youth.
Before we get into the specifics, it is fun to reread parts of this opening section as poetry: the last part and the color “red” will leap off the page.
The Boxing Day Meet is the largest fox-hunting day in England. Up to 250 different hunts take place that day.
Boxing Day is the Feast of Saint Stephen and it is celebrated in much of the world. In the past several centuries, many put together boxes of food and supplies for others, hence “Boxing Day.” In other parts of the world, this day is called Second Christmas.
My family celebrates Boxing Day with a general decluttering of clothes and housewares as well as financial donations. In addition, watching “Love Actually” each year brings us the version of the famous “Boxing Day song:”
“Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know it telling:
yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence
by Saint Agnes fountain.”
We have seen the word Gramarye before; it is a magic or enchantment book from the medieval period. I think that much of this first part of the chapter becomes the base this song from the Broadway hit (and horrid movie), Camelot:
It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear
The climate must be perfect all the year
A law was made a distant moon ago here
July and August cannot be too hot
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are
The rain may never fall till after sundown
By eight, the morning fog must disappear
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine P. M. The moonlight must appear
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.
The songwriters, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, did a marvelous job with the music. Of course, having Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet (and Roddy McDowell) in the original cast seemed to help, too.
This line, “when there was no unemployment because there were too few people to be unemployed,” has always made me think. I’ve been sifting this through my head for a while as I still think there is plenty to do on this earth and not enough people to do it.
Until next time…and I promise to follow the book!

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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.