Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 267
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 267
I’m getting the house ready for our annual party. The tables and the chairs live in this little closet most of the year, but come out for events.
Years ago, I bought five church tables and dozens of those folding chairs that everyone knows from weddings, funerals and other gatherings. I used to rent them for a couple of hundred dollars.
Then, I discovered that for about $100 (more or less), I could own them. So, I have a closet filled with tables and chairs.
It’s funny to get inside my brain. I am a huge believer in “decluttering,” but I also think it is a good idea to have a closet dedicated to things I only use a few times a year. This week, I decluttered my office and threw out a lot of jetsam and flotsam that was just getting in my way.
I write better in a decluttered area; I work better overall when things are where they need to be.
And, so with my tables: they need to be out today.
As we move into 2020, and I am shocked to write that, I am hoping for the best for all of you this holy season. 2019 was right out of Dickens for me: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
What holds my center is my friends and family…and you, Dear Reader.
My best to you.
This discussion with my friend, Pat Flynn, went well. Our weekly podcast means a lot to me.
Brian sent this in:
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Episode 16 of The Dan John Podcast is live! Dan starts this week discussing the value of smoking. It’s worth checking out.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
Crazy About Cardio
Assessing and Testing (and some training ideas)
Also, I just launched another big update and this one you will notice. I’ve added a “Dashboard” page that I think will be a valuable resource for you. It includes your next workout, the most recent essays (we’re up to around 70 now) on the site, and has Dan’s daily health checklist that we hope will keep you motivated to do the basic stuff. I’d love to hear your feedback if there’s anything else you’d like to see on it. Feel free to email me anytime at [email protected]
Have a great week!
Next week, the internet will be filled with year-end reviews and top ten lists. I didn’t find a lot online this week, but this article about my friend and coworker, Steve Magness, is excellent.
Hastening recovery is a multi-million dollar industry. (Think compression, foam rollers, supplements, and even bed sheets.) However, Magness’s low-tech recovery regimen may be just as powerful, and it doesn’t cost a thing. “Hanging out with friends is one of the most effective recovery protocols there is,” explains Magness.
“I really liked the idea of mindfulness-based meditation because I thought it could quickly transition an athlete from the stress of a workout to the recovery phase,” Magness says. “But I soon learned meditation takes a lot of practice, and for beginners, meditation can be stressful in and of itself.”
Magness started experimenting with other ways to facilitate recovery, like calming and relaxing music, but discovered what was most helpful—based on measuring heart rate variability, a common indicator of recovery—was creating a laid back social environment immediately after hard workouts. “Going from a high-stress workout to a desensitized period of just joking around together decreases tension way faster than anything else we’ve tried,” says Magness. “So now, it has kind of become part of our program to force fun social interactions after intense workouts.”
Magness recommends following your hardest workouts with fun group hangouts. If you can’t do that, at least don’t schedule grueling training sessions before high-stress meetings in the office. And while the efficacy of ice-baths is up for debate, Magness is certain that “hanging out with the guys is a lot less stressful than jumping in freezing water right after a workout.”
I found this article really worth discussing. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
People’s perception of their own age can differ markedly from person to person. People between the ages of 40 and 80, for example, tend to think they are younger. People who are 60 may say that they feel like they are 50 or 55, or sometimes even 45. Rarely will they say they feel older. However, people in their 20s often perceive their age to be the same as their chronological age, and may say they feel somewhat older.
Terracciano and colleagues have found that subjective age correlates with certain physiological markers of aging, such as grip strength, walking speed, lung capacity, and even the levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, an indication of inflammation in the body. The younger you feel you are, the better are these indicators of age and health: You walk faster, have better grip strength and lung capacity, and less inflammation.
Subjective age affects cognition and is an indicator of the likelihood of developing dementia. Terracciano and colleagues looked at data collected from 5,748 people aged 65 or older. The subjects’ cognitive abilities were evaluated to establish a baseline and they were then followed for a period of up to four years. The subjects were also asked about how old they felt at each instance. The researchers found that those who had a higher subjective age to start with were more likely to develop cognitive impairments and even dementia.
These correlation studies have limitations, however. For example, it’s possible that physically active people, who have better walking speed and lung capacity, and lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood, naturally feel younger. How can one establish that our subjective age influences physiology and not the other way around?
That’s exactly what Yannick Stephan of the University of Grenoble in France and colleagues tried to find out. They recruited 49 adults, aged between 52 and 91, and divided them into an experimental and control group. Both groups were first asked their subjective age—how old they felt as opposed to their chronological age—and tested for grip strength to establish a baseline. The experimental group was told they had done better than 80 percent of people their age. The control group received no feedback. After this experimental manipulation, both groups were tested again for grip strength and asked about how old they felt. The experimental group reported feeling, on average, younger than their baseline subjective age. No such change was seen in the control group. Also, the experimental group showed an increase in grip strength, while the grip strength of the control decreased somewhat.
This article is simple and straightforward. I really agree with this point on appropriate practice.
5. Change the way you practice.
Repeating anything over and over again in the hopes you will master that task will not only keep you from improving as quickly as you could, in some cases it may actually decrease your skill.
According to recent research from Johns Hopkins, if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, “you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.” The most likely cause is reconsolidation, a process where existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge.
Say you want to master a new presentation. Do this:
1. Rehearse the basic skill. Run through your presentation a couple of times under the same conditions you’ll eventually face when you do it live. Naturally, the second time through will be better than the first; that’s how practice works. But then, instead of going through it a third time …
2. Wait. Give yourself at least six hours so your memory can consolidate. (Which probably means waiting until tomorrow before you practice again, which is just fine.)
3. Practice again, but this time…
Go a little faster. Speak a little — just a little — faster than you normally do. Run through your slides slightly faster. Increasing your speed means you’ll make more mistakes, but that’s OK — in the process, you’ll modify old knowledge with new knowledge — and lay the groundwork for improvement. Or …
Go a little slower. The same thing will happen. (Plus, you can experiment with new techniques — including the use of silence for effect — that aren’t apparent when you present at your normal speed.) Or …
Change the conditions. Use a different projector. Or a different remote. Or a lavaliere instead of a headset mic. Switch up the conditions slightly; not only will that help you modify an existing memory, it will also make you better prepared for the unexpected.
Break your presentation into smaller chunks. Almost every task includes a series of discrete steps. That’s definitely true for presentations. Pick one section of your presentation. Deconstruct it. Master it. Then put the whole presentation back together. Or …
4. And keep modifying the conditions.
You can extend the process to almost anything. While it’s clearly effective for learning motor skills, the process can also be applied to learning almost anything.
That will have to hold you for a week. 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 120
There were about twenty verses of this song, in which Wold King Cole helplessly saw more and more things that he ought not to have seen, and everybody cheered at the end of each verse until, at the conclusion, old Ralph was overwhelmed with congratulations and sat down smiling dimly to a replenished mug of mead.
It was now Sir Ector’s turn to wind up the proceedings. He stood up importantly and delivered the following speech:
“Friends, tenants and otherwise. Unaccustomed as I am to public speakin’—”
There was a faint cheer at this, for everybody recognized the speech which Sir Ector had made for the last twenty years, and welcomed it like a brother.
“—unaccustomed as I am to public speakin’, it is my pleasant duty—I might say my very pleasant duty—to welcome all and sundry to this our homely feast. It has been a good year, and I say it without fear of contradiction, in pasture and plow. We all know how Crumbocke of Forest Sauvage won the first prize at Cardoyle Cattle Show for the second time, and one more year will win the cup outright. More power to the Forest Sauvage. As we sit down tonight, I notice some faces now gone from among us and some which have added to the family circle. Such matters are in the hands of an almighty Providence, to which we all feel thankful. We ourselves have been first created and then spared to enjoy the rejoicin’s of this pleasant evening. I think we are all grateful for the blessin’s which have been showered upon us. Tonight we welcome in our midst the famous King Pellinore, whose labours in riddin’ our forest of the redoubtable Questin’ Beast are known to all. God bless King Pellinore. (Hear, hear!) Also Sir Grummore Grummursum, a sportsman, though I say it to his face, who will stick to his mount as long as his Quest will stand up in front of him. (Hooray!) Finally, last but not least, we are honoured by a visit from His Majesty’s most famous huntsman, Master William Twyti, who will, I feel sure, show us such sport tomorrow that we will rub our eyes and wish that a royal pack of hounds could always be huntin’ in the Forest which we all love so well. (View-halloo and several recheats blown in imitation.) Thank you, my dear friends, for your spontaneous welcome to these gentlemen. They will, I know, accept it in the true and warm-hearted spirit in which it is offered. And now it is time that I should bring my brief remarks to a close. Another year has almost sped and it is time that we should be lookin’ forward to the challengin’ future. What about the Cattle Show next year? Friends, I can only wish you a very Merry Christmas, and, after Father Sidebottom has said our Grace for us, we shall conclude with a singin’ of the National Anthem.”
The cheers which broke out at the end of Sir Ector’s speech were only just prevented, by several hush-es, from drowning the last part of the vicar’s Grace in Latin, and then everybody stood up loyally in the firelight and sang:
God save King Pendragon,
May his reign long drag on,
God save the King.
Send him most gorious,
Great and uproarious,
Horrible and Hoarious,
God save our King.
The last notes died away, the hall emptied of its rejoicing humanity. Lanterns flickered outside, in the village street, as everybody went home in bands for fear of the moonlit wolves, and The Castle of the Forest Sauvage slept peacefully and lightless, in the strange silence of the holy snow.
Well, that will do. Have a Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader, and get some sleep before the Boar Hunt.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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