Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 280

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 280

As we move into Week Two of our Virtual Virus Lockdown, I have been amazed how positive people in my Inner Circle have been. We have all noticed a few interesting things:
Everyone is sleeping more.

Home cooking has taken center stage each and every day. The smell of “Home Cooking” has returned.

Everyone is interested in exercise.

One can only binge watch TV so much.

The air quality in Utah is obviously better.
Obviously, there are more things going on. We joke about the December Baby Boom.
It’s a rare day when someone doesn’t come by to use my gym. I’m glad I have spent a few years and few dollars putting together a good gym. It’s nothing fancy: kettlebells, O bars, two hip thrust machines, Straddle DL, Trap bar, four TRXs, two TRX Rip Trainers, squat racks, ab wheels, pull up station, and lots of bands (and a Concept II rower). Most of it was free, given or cut rate. And, now, I am glad I have it all.
I’ve often said that “I work out.” I work out my stress, my issues, my fears, my worries. During this lockdown, a lot of people seem to have things they need to “work out.”
Keep doing the basics of hygiene and general cleanliness. These habits will serve you (us!!!) well beyond this crisis. Learn, if you don’t know, the basics of cooking. My slow cooker is used each and every day. Beans and veggies are being added into practically everything we cook now as we empty our pantry and clean out the fridge. Get your Vitamin D by getting a walk or two in a day; my daughter, Lindsay, is doing four.
I read a thing about Home Schooling and the two top tips for teaching your kids were:
Let them sleep in.

Eat a good breakfast
I’m wondering out loud why this just isn’t the way we always do things!
As my poor family and friends know, I am an optimist. I can’t help it; it’s the foundation of just about all my foundational beliefs. It’s hard to develop an athlete over eight years as a pessimist.
The following is an attempt at humor:
Like I used to tell my students, I learned optimism from my uncle. He once survived a fall of 37 stories out of a building.
Sadly, the building was 38 stories.
At the 26th floor, a woman looked out her window and said: “How’s it going?”
He said: “So far, so good.”
Well, as we go through this time of crisis, remember this:
So far, so good.
Practice the basics of hygiene, get your sleep, eat well and remember kindness. Let’s pick up on the world of training.
This week on danjohnuniversity.com:
Episode 32 is live! We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from previous questions and that’s been really nice. Dan also announces a discount on the website because so many people are stuck at home working out and the workout generator is perfect for that.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
Mission Statements
Trust me. It’s been done before and better.
Slade Asked Me About Financial Planning
The forum is live and the conversations are starting! Website members can visit forum.danjohnuniversity.com and join in. Feel free to comment on someone’s post, ask questions, or let us know how your training program is going.
Have a great week!
Podcasts this week!

With Iron Radio. 

With Pat Flynn.
Let’s take a tour of the internet. Ideally, many of us are still training. If you need a resource, try danjohnuniversity.com or you can use this classic resource to train at home. JFK was way ahead of his time. 
This is an article referenced by Mike Boyle at our gathering in Boston recently. A Speed Trap is a brilliant way to teach true speed.

 We start every day with sprint drills, probably the same drills you’ve seen everywhere. As another coach once told me, “Everyone does speed drills, but your kids do them better.” I believe this to be true. We never go through the motions. I refuse to call our opening session a “warmup.” In 17 years of doing this, I’ve never had an athlete get injured doing speed drills. Never. The speed drills done every day include A-skips, high-knees, butt-kicks, 5 box jumps, bounding, straight-legged bounds x2, butt-kick & reach (retro sprints) x2, and starts (2-point, 3-point, or 4-point hop & go). We are done in about 10 minutes.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, we sprint for time. Our field house has a 180m track with a six-lane straight-a-way. We have enough room to run the 55m in an indoor meet. On Mondays and Wednesdays, our kids run 40-yard dashes with a hand-held time. I’ve been doing this for 17 years and can’t give up on my comparative data. Our times are fast because of hand-timing, 2-point starts, and wearing spikes on a rock-hard track. Here is the kicker … we time the last 10m with Freelap (Pro Coach, 12 FxChips). With every run, I record two types of data, 40-yard dash and 10m fly. We run solo. I don’t believe in racing until track season. I want sprinters focused on their fundamentals and competing against themselves. I record, rank, and publish times.

We have two groups, the non-sprint-slow-guys-who-don’t-wear-spikes group, and the speedy-always-remember-their-spikes group. Group-1 is one and done; then they leave the field house. Group-2 runs three 40s.

When coaches hear that we run only three sprints, they are dumbfounded. What? Then what do you do?

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” “Nothing worth having comes easy.” “There’s no substitute for hard work.” Coaches are addicted to quotes about work. If the mission of a coach is to get their athletes tired, fine … but don’t expect speed to improve.

Stupid coaches sometimes have the hardest practices. Focus is the key to speed, not hard work.

End quote

Michael does a great job here summing something that I think is simple, but others “don’t get it.” (I hate that phrase. Teach 40 years and ask me how you feel when someone raises their hand and says “I don’t get it.” Valley Girl that “get it” part.) I like his clarity here.


Dan John notes that there’s two kinds of fitness regime: the bus bench and the park bench. On the bus bench, you have clear expectations of what success looks like. Your aim is to be at the same bus stop at the same time, every day. If you miss the bus, your day is ruined. Athletes preparing for a big competition are on the bus bench. They know what they want to achieve, when they want to achieve it, and every step they need to take to get there.
On the park bench, on the other hand, you have no specific expectations and time doesn’t matter much at all. Some things might be the same as yesterday, but if they’re not you’re not terribly concerned. You may not even be at the same park bench from day to day. Dan John argues that for most people’s fitness needs, a park bench program of moderate, varied exercise is more effective, more sustainable, and better for us than a bus bench workout.
In addition to following this advice with regard to exercise, in the last couple of years I’ve learned to apply similar a similar mental model to my PhD and professional work. Sometimes I have a firm deadline and a key deliverable, like a report due to my boss, a manuscript draft due to an editor, or an ethics application. I need to be clear on my goals, develop strategies for getting the work done, and apply self-discipline to manage my time and attention. For me, like most people, being on the bus bench too often or for too long is incredibly stressful and exhausting, especially when working to someone else’s timetable.
Recently I have learned the importance of time spent on the intellectual and professional park bench. Reading out of curiosity rather than necessity, roaming around the boundaries of my work, or re-visiting things I read a long time ago. Keeping a journal, writing reading notes, jotting random ideas down, putting down fat outlines. Playing with a new tool or experimenting with a new method. Casual chats with friends and colleagues, or sitting in the campus coffee shop and seeing who happens by.

End quote
From the archives! I remember this conversation like it was yesterday.


You know, the reason I hate all this stuff is (and I’m trying not to rant), first, it gives us all an excuse. When Nautilus first showed up, I believed all those twenty page ads and I thought, “If only I had those machines!”
So, my first concern is that some of this stuff drives people to have a built-in excuse for not achieving success. You know what I’m talking about, too. Most people have something that they’d buy if they had just a few more bucks, and whatever that is would make them a “success.”
I remember these protein strips that you urinated on that told you whether or not you were in positive nitrogen balance. I was sure that this, finally, would be my ticket to the top. Peeing on your hands, I discovered, has limited value in understanding your potential.
Second, I hate the cults that pop up immediately with each new toy. I watched a girl on television jump up and land on a ball and balance herself. Impressive. Then they showed about five outtakes of her crashing off to either side. I thought to myself, how’s this helping her do her sport? Isn’t crashing in training an inferior modality protocol, or whatever we’re calling training today?
Bah! Bah, I say! Get strong in the gym; master your sport on your playing field. Mix and match a little for fun, but don’t ever try to equate tackling me to doing bent arm pec deck flyes!

End quote
Marty G is a genius. This one day a week (!!!) training idea is simply amazing work.


The key to building strength and power is to start with a fully rested body. Pristine techniques are combined with battle-tested tactics. Tiny weekly poundage increases are attained weekly as the lifter stairsteps upward towards the overarching goal. The predetermined overarching goal is arrived at after twelve weeks, three months, of sustained and unwavering effort.
Every week a small incremental goal is established and attained: a mere 10-pound weekly bump in squat and deadlift poundage each week for 12 weeks results in a 120-pound increase over the jump-in weight. A mere 5-pound a week increase in the bench press and overhead press results in a 60-pound increase over the 12-week cycle starting weight.
Once a week strength training subtleties and nuances…
    Attain periodized weekly goals, be realistic, most trainees start cycles off way too high
    1st four weeks: velocity! at cycles’ start all weights manhandled, maximally explosive
    Start cycle with light weights, ingrain full range-of-motion, archetypical techniques
    Loaded, controlled, precise eccentric followed by explosive concentric
    2nd four weeks: techniques are mastered, the real training commences
    Reps are cut, poundage increased, learn to embrace and fight through sticking points
    Cycle a periodized bodyweight goal – go up or down – don’t stay the same
    Don’t burn out on squats: don’t shoot you’re wad at the beginning of the workout!
    Benches can take more work: different grip widths, put more space between squats/deads
    Regardless the exercise, work up to one top set and move on
    3rd four weeks: At cycles end, poundage peaks, grind sets in, pure low-end torque is created
    Hit your realistic weekly numbers and you have done your job
I do not consider once a week strength training as an end-all be-all that sweeps all that has come before it off the table. I do think once a week strength training deserves a seat at the table and please don’t tell us this can’t or won’t work because we have way too many flesh-and-blood examples of the uber-elite that have used and improved with extended doses of this uber-minimalistic approach. I train a bunch of regular guys every Sunday and we have documented their sensational gains.

End quote
I got smarter reading this. A great article on writing.


A spoiler is a form of unearned power—power over the author. As they’re trying to cultivate their ending, you the reader can sit there grinning, knowing as you do the result of the writer’s exhausting performance. Imagine watching a magician perform a complex illusion, replete with distracting tactics of smoke and superfluous gesticulation, carefully delivering just the right patter, only to discover upon the trick’s finale that the whole audience had been informed by someone just before the magician’s act exactly how the trick worked. How humiliating, in retrospect, for the magician, to realize that each bit of sleight-of-hand, each ham-fisted attempt at misdirection was transparent to everyone in the theater.
With the exception of maybe murder mysteries or any story that depends on the literal information of its ending as the primary narrative impulse, most spoilers don’t really spoil anything, do they? If they did, nobody would re-watch or re-read anything; once they’d learned how it concludes, why would they? The second time, by definition, would be spoiled for them. But we do—or, more precisely, we re-do; we’re a culture of repeat viewings, of Easter eggs and sly, insider allusions. We are, in other words, a society that expects to re-experience favorite novels and movies and TV shows, a bunch of Mark David Chapmans obsessively poring over The Catcher in the Rye. To be sure, people often say that there’s nothing like their first exposure to particular works of art, but then again people say that about their second, and third, and fiftieth times, too. Roger Ebert, who when he was alive watched Citizen Kane, frame-by-frame, every year at his Overlooked Film Festival, once wrote about how no matter how many viewings he’d gone through, there were still surprises to behold (in this case an audience member pointed out how a chair gets nudged, presumably by the camera operator, in an early scene in Kane’s childhood home).

End quote
Well, that should keep you busy for a bit. Until next week, let’s 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 133


“When we get home,” concluded King Pellinore, “the first thing will be to give it a nourishing meal, and then, if it is all right in the morning, I will give it a couple of hours’ start and then hey-ho for the old life once again. What about that, Glatisant, hey? You’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road, what? Come along, Robin Hood, or whoever you are—you may think I don’t know, but I do—stop leaning on your bow with that look of negligent woodcraft. Pull yourself together, man, and get that muscle-bound sergeant to help you carry her. Now then, lift her easy. Come along, you chuckle-heads, and mind you don’t trip. Feather beds and quarry, indeed; a lot of childish nonsense. Go on, advance, proceed, step forward, march! Feather brains, I call it, that’s what I do.
“And as for you, Grummore,” added the King, even after he had concluded, “you can just roll yourself up in your bed and stifle in it.”

End quote
That was a long chapter. The whole story of the Boar Hunt, like the other story with Robin Hood (Wood!), took several chapters to bring to a conclusion.
Pellinore was a bit of a cartoonish figure in the Disney version of this story. I guess that makes sense, but you can see here that he does “come around” and show some serious leadership…and anger.
The Boar Hunt is over. It is time to move along again in our story. We will now come to some transfigurations and adventures that are not included in the 1958 version.
For the life of me, I can’t explain why anyone would want to miss the stories we are about to read.

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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