Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 269

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 269

It’s that weird week for American football fans. The college season is basically behind us, but NEXT week is the championship game. This weekend the NFL gave us some interesting Wild Card games, but my interest has been slowly walking away from the professional game.
One delightful thing about this past year is that my daughters, Kelly and Lindsay, have become football fans. Lindsay has, of course, been a Ute fan for a while; she threw the hammer there and was part of the great student tradition of the “MUSS.” Kelly has surprised me with her love of the game recently.
I think I am happy about this. The whole family came over for brunch on Sunday and I fed them while we all cozied up to watch an early game. The weather was nice so my grandkids got on their bikes and went up and down, up and down, up and down the sidewalk. I feel for my dog, Sirius Black, as he thinks it’s his job to corral the kids into one safe space.
When they leave, he snores soundly for hours after the visit.
It’s January. By the time you read this, most people’s resolutions will be the sparkles of memories. One thing I do every year is to stop and look back. Janus, of course, was the two-headed God and looks back and forth. (In the old Celtic tradition, Brigid was the three-faced God(dess)…so she one-upped him!)
I think the reason most people fail at resolutions is that they only look forward. I have found that we are basically built on the foundations we set. I often tell/warn people:
“You are the sum of your habits.”
That doesn’t go well. Ever.
By looking back, I get a chance to list all the things that helped or hindered me through the last calendar year. I find that this works best by simply doing a Top Ten Best and Worst list. Let me share some of mine:
“Best” List:
1.     Lindsay and Thomas got married
2.     I flipped the Caber at their wedding rehearsal Highland Games (six months after a total hip replacement)
3.     I lost 36 pounds and 11 percent bodyfat (Caveat: the THR eliminated 24/7 pain)
4.     We published 40 Years with a Whistle, I think my best work (few agree!)
5.     Jo, my granddaughter, started Kindergarten…no more Daycare for my daughter!
6.     Kelly rediscovered “joy”
“Worst” List
1.     My brother, Phil, died. And I truly miss him.
2.     On my usual glorious trip to England in June, I was really sick the whole time
3.     A few things related to what I do for a living.
4.     Coach Bob Lualhati, my Junior College coach, died.
5.     A general “drifting away” by some people important to my life
So, as I look over the list, once again I discover (what I first learned during the sports psych sessions at the USOC), that “people” seem to be the glue that keeps me going in the right direction.
Which is maybe why I enjoy having my family over for brunch to watch two football teams play that I probably couldn’t name more than two people associated with the teams. Like we learned in Soylent Green:
It’s people.
I know you will be excited to know that know you can watch my podcast with Pat Flynn and see us! I show a bit of my house on this episode and we discuss an interesting article that got my name back in the “workout that shall not be named” wars.
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Our New Year’s special is still going on. $29 for three months is half the normal price and might be the stimulus you need to make sure you finish 2020 one pound lighter than you start. Use code NEWYEAR at checkout to get started.
A quick reminder that every episode of The Dan John Podcast is on Dan’s YouTube page as well. Here’s a link to Episode 18. In the beginning, he breaks down Coaching 101 and it’s a segment worth listening to.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
Heating Up Rest Periods
Interval Weight Training
Standing Long Jump: My Favorite Test
Have a great week!
I was really hoping for a lot of Top Ten lists for the year and decade (I know the decade ends on 12-31-2020, but you get the point) but, oddly, I couldn’t find many. Many of my usual sites to read have always been pumping out Top Ten lists…but not this year. I still found a lot of fun on the internet this week and I liked the point in this article that the “secret” to staying young is simply being around young people.

“When older people and younger people share time, there’s magic,” Alex Smith, founder and CEO of the Cares Family, said at the longevity conference. “Younger people get a sense of pause from their everyday lives, a sense of connection to another generation and a different set of life experiences, as well as a sense of community.”
The program helps change the way both younger and older people experience the cities in which they live. While many young people come to places like London or Manchester for the diverse cultural and economic opportunities, they often end up alone, or with only people like themselves. Meanwhile, older people, eager to explore what is new in their cities—like new restaurants or cocktail clubs—may feel those spaces are off-limits to them; younger people can introduce them to those spaces. “It’s a way for older people to reclaim their city through physical space and shared storytelling,” he added.
While there is a popular narrative that older generations have robbed younger ones of future prosperity, Smith says the generations have more in common than not. Almost eight in 10 people between 18 and 24 and the over-65s want life to slow down, and social care for older people remains the second-highest concern for 18-to-34-year-olds. The issue is not whether they have anything in common, but how to connect them.
One of the most important things about intergenerational friendships is that they serve as a reminder that there is no predetermined lifestyle that accompanies getting older. “Aging itself is malleable; it is a moving target,” says Carstensen. “We can influence how it unfolds.” Freedman, meanwhile, thinks we can help aging happen in a way that connects people together, rather than isolating them. “We can fix it,” he said. “And in the process it can fix us.”

End quote
I read the NIMH book years ago in an unabridged audiotape driving around Utah in my old job. I had heard that the book(s) were based on a “true” story. This article is oddly interesting and weird at the same time.

Convinced that he had found a real problem, Calhoun quickly began using his mouse models to try and fix it. If mice and humans weren’t afforded enough physical space, he thought, perhaps they could make up for it with conceptual space—creativity, artistry, and the type of community not built around social hierarchies. His later Universes were designed to be spiritually as well as physically utopic, with rodent interactions carefully controlled to maximize happiness (he was particularly fascinated by some early rats who had created an innovative form of tunneling, where they rolled dirt into balls). He extrapolated this, too, to human concerns, becoming an early supporter of environmental design and H.G. Wells’s hypothetical “World Brain,” an international information network that was a clear precursor to the internet.
But the public held on hard to his earlier work—as Ramsden and Adams put it, “everyone want[ed] to hear the diagnosis, no one want[ed] to hear the cure.” Gradually, Calhoun lost attention, standing, and funding. In 1986, he was forced to retire from the National Institute of Mental Health. Nine years later, he died.
But there was one person who paid attention to his more optimistic experiments, a writer named Robert C. O’Brien. In the late ’60s, O’Brien allegedly visited Calhoun’s lab, met the man trying to build a true and creative rodent paradise, and took note of the Frisbee on the door, the scientists’ own attempt “to help when things got too stressful,” as Calhoun put it. Soon after, O’Brien wrote Ms. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH—a story about rats who, having escaped from a lab full of blundering humans, attempt to build their own utopia. Next time, maybe we should put the rats in charge.

End quote

There are many points in the following article that deserve some time ruminating in your brain pan. As I think back to college, my mom got mad at me because I called the house long-distance about once a week. I think my folks were the opposite of the modern helicopter parents. I would like to think I turned out okay, but I still have time to blow it.

Professors can still compete with cell phones by shedding traditional lectures and changing instructional patterns to be more engaging. This has the added benefit of actually teaching in a more effective manner.
But the other problem is, honestly, parents, as the article points out. College students today are far, far more connected to their parents than they were even 5 or 6 years ago. Sometimes it’s good – I’m sure my father would have liked it if I’d called him more often while I was away. More often (from the point of view of the university or professor) it’s obnoxious interference. I’ve had to deal with parental micromanagement of their child’s college life far more often than I would like. I’ve been on phone calls with students who are obviously relaying all the information I’m giving them to a parent standing right there. I’ve been on phone calls with parents themselves (with whom I cannot legally discuss their child’s grades, unless there’s a FERPA waiver on file). I’ve had in-person meetings with students ~that a parent also attended like it was a high school parent/teacher conference (again, usually with a FERPA waiver on file so yes, they have legal access to their child’s performance).
I get that higher ed is expensive now, and parents have the attitude that if they’re paying for it, then they have a say in their child’s career. But so often these parents give their students awful advice, pushing them into a STEM field they hate rather than letting them pursue a social science or humanities field they love. And no, a humanities degree is far from worthless, and there are plenty of studies that showcase the career flexibility (and pay potential). of a social science/humanities education.

End quote
This is a very simple article on sleep. There is nothing too fancy here, but this last bit of advice, basically don’t worry too much, is important to remember.


It’s easy to get wound up about sleep. So it was reassuring to hear Samuels offer some takes on what counts as normal. Does it take you 20 or 30 minutes to fall asleep in the evening? Do you wake up during the night sometimes, then fall back asleep? In the morning, does it take some time—perhaps as much as an hour—before you feel refreshed and awake? If so, relax. None of those things indicate a sleep problem.
To find out if you do have a problem, Samuels has developed a tool called the Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire, which can you can take online. If nothing else, it can be reassuring: I got a “Sleep Difficulty Score” of 4 out of a possible 17, which indicated that I have no clinical sleep difficulty. (A score of 5 would have indicated a mild issue.) That’s good to know—and it’s also a reminder that there are no miracle improvements waiting for me if I could just hyper-optimize this aspect of my life. That, in the end, was the final point Samuels emphasized in his talk. Yes, rest and sleep are important for recovery, and if you have issues you should seek help to address them. But when it comes to sleep, there are no bonus points for being better than normal: “If you get what you need,” he said, “that’s as good it as it gets.”

End quote
As many of you know, since 1987, I have used Phil Maffetone’s work to guide me in the areas of nutrition and aerobic work. Actually, I have been comfortable with both, but his ability to connect the dots on this was important for me. “Keto” is this years Intermittent Paleo Atkins Vegan Juice Banana Smoothie award winner for the title of “Fad of the Year,” but Maffetone’s little test and “diet” make sense to me at several levels. As always, just because I put it in WW doesn’t mean I am telling you to do this. Or recommending it. Or endorsing it. Or…


Two-Week Keto Test
For those wanting to experience ketosis, the Two-Week Test can easily be tweaked to ensure 50 grams or less of carbohydrates are consumed, making it the Two-Week Keto Test. You follow the same plan, but consume no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates each day.
Below is a sample menu. Call this a very low-carb, high fat-burning eating plan, or formula for nutritional ketosis. Or perhaps simply call it “the best way to eat for my personal needs,” if that’s how it turns out — it’s how humans ate for millions of years.
Just please don’t call it a diet.
This one-day menu will quickly jump-start your metabolism — for most people, quickly triggering nutritional ketosis. This menu contains 2,000 calories, so adjust it to your own particular needs, and substitute for convenience. Just make sure you don’t exceed 50 grams of carbohydrates.
Phil’s Fat-Burning Coffee
1-2 Eggs with sautéed zucchini (cooked in butter) with fresh tomatoes.
Salad of mixed raw vegetables with a half avocado and 3-4 ounces raw or lightly cooked wild salmon in butter. Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
Midafternoon Smoothie
    1-2 whole eggs
    Raw vegetables (1 serving each: spinach, carrot)
    Raw sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon
    ¼ cup blueberries
    3-6 oz. water
    Cooked broccoli in butter and garlic
    4 oz. beef, lamb, duck, chicken
    If desired and tolerated, 4 oz. dry red wine options: one drink of Tequila, Gin, Vodka, Whiskey).

End quote
Well, that should get you through the week. I’m looking forward to a nice week of training, a nice visit with a friend, and the return of Bingo on Tuesday night (it’s become a family tradition). Until next week, 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 122

Chapter XVI

Wart watched the great man in silence for some time, then went indoors to see if there was any hope of breakfast. He found that there was, for the whole castle was suffering from the same sort of nervous excitement which had got him out of bed so early, and even Merlyn had dressed himself in a pair of breeches which had been fashionable some centuries later with the University Beagles.
Boar-hunting was fun. It was nothing like badger-digging or covert-shooting or fox-hunting today. Perhaps the nearest thing to it would be ferreting for rabbits—except that you used dogs instead of ferrets, had a boar that easily might kill you, instead of a rabbit, and carried a boar-spear upon which your life depended instead of a gun. They did not usually hunt the boar on horseback. Perhaps the reason for this was that the boar season happened in the two winter months, when the old English snow would be liable to ball in your horse’s hoofs and render galloping too dangerous. The result was that you were yourself on foot, armed only with steel, against an adversary who weighed a good deal more than you did and who could unseam you from the nave to the chaps, and set your head upon his battlements. There was only one rule in boar-hunting. It was: Hold on. If the boar charged, you had to drop on one knee and present your boar-spear in his direction. You held the butt of it with your right hand on the ground to take the shock, while you stretched your left arm to its fullest extent and kept the point toward the charging boar. The spear was as sharp as a razor, and it had a cross-piece about eighteen inches away from the point. This cross-piece or horizontal bar prevented the spear from going more than eighteen inches into his chest. Without the cross-piece, a charging boar would have been capable of rushing right up the spear, even if it did go through him, and getting at the hunter like that. But with the cross-piece he was held away from you at a spear’s length, with eighteen inches of steel inside him. It was in this situation that you had to hold on.
He weighed between ten and twenty score, and his one object in life was to heave and weave and sidestep, until he could get at his assailant and champ him into chops, while the assailant’s one object was not to let go of the spear, clasped tight under his arm, until somebody had come to finish him off. If he could keep hold of his end of the weapon, while the other end was stuck in the boar, he knew that there was at least a spear’s length between them, however much the boar ran him round the forest. You may be able to understand, if you think this over, why all the sportsmen of the castle got up early for the Boxing Day Meet, and ate their breakfast with a certain amount of suppressed feeling.

End quote
“Hold on.”
Good advice for so much of life, especially when holding a boar at the end of a spear. In our house, we called this “raising daughters.”
White’s description of the war between hunter and boar is simply elegant. Years ago, an English teacher at a school I taught at was trying to write the next great American novel. She was flaying away at trying to describe a character who had played American football. She asked to come to a practice…of course, I said…and stand near the athletes.
I went over the ideas of a “system” versus the “plays” that most people miss when watching the game. Very quickly, from the Little Rascals through the Three Stooges and The Longest Yard, television and movies tend to make American football about a bunch of plays. In reality, most teams (I could say all) use a series of interconnected plays that allow you to do “this,” if they do “that.”
She understood the academic sense of all of this. She grasped the concepts, the symbols and the numbering system immediately.
“It’s so simple!”
Yes, it is. Then, she came to practice. Standing so close to the violence and energy and the absolute crashing noise of human bodies, she began to slowly step back. She didn’t cry, but she was clearly emotional.
Later, she told me that she understood everything with her brain; she couldn’t get a grasp of the terrible noise of the game.
I’m not sure if she ever finished the book, but she mentioned, months later, that her character’s clarity was so much better.
Joseph Campbell noted in The Power of Myth on how a man described a terrible battle in WWII:
“It was sublime.”
On the morning of the Boar Hunt, the drunken toasts and back room bravery are tested as we come to spear’s length with the 140-240 pound boar. This line is perfect: “The result was that you were yourself on foot, armed only with steel, against an adversary who weighed a good deal more than you did and who could unseam you from the nave to the chaps, and set your head upon his battlements.”
White blends the academic discussion of boar hunting around a fireplace in a safe room with the realities, the terrors, of actually holding on to a boar spear.
Merlyn’s pants continue to be used (in a sense). The University Beagles still exist.

I think this section has some of the most beautiful writing of our book, but:
“Hold on.”

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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