Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 281
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 281
You will begin to see people’s “true colors” this week. My daughter is a teacher and she is dealing with parents, and grandparents, teaching their own kids every day. Suddenly, many parents, as I understand it, have discovered that teaching THEIR children is not the honor and joy they have led themselves to believe.
One positive thing that will come out of this situation: many parents will find joy dropping their beloveds off at the school and more joy driving away. Teachers will be appreciated again.
Hoarding continues here in Utah. Our legislature passed an important bill during this crisis that is literally killing off our brothers and sisters:
My state decriminalized polygamy.
That makes sense: during a pandemic….wait. What?
I can’t find toilet paper to save my life, but I can pick up an extra wife or two.
I still see a lot of positives during this time. I have watched a lot of documentaries, eaten a lot of homemade soups and stews, played countless games with my family and friends, and trained daily.
I talked with Dick Notmeyer yesterday. As most know, he coached me up from a good high school discus thrower to a Division One MVP. He has had some surgeries lately, including a Total Hip Replacement. But, as he told me, he thinks that taking his vitamins and protein and eating “good” and training allowed him to pop back up and get training again.
He “bounced” back up. That’s what I keep encouraging people to think about now: bouncing back. I have a video about this, let’s get to the details.
This week on danjohnuniversity.com:
We had two episodes of the podcast this week. Episode 33 and 34 are both live here.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
The Right Tool for the Need
The Complete History of “The History”
What is health? What is fitness?
Work Capacity and Training Throwers
I know I’ve shared this in a lot of places, but in case you missed it, here’s a link to Dan’s most recent workshop. With all the chaos in the world, he decided to share it with everyone, and we have received excellent feedback. We hope you enjoy it.
Have a great week!
Your friends from danjohnuniversity
Along with this video, Pat and I had a good conversation on dealing with this pandemic. Enjoy.
I tried to find some articles online this week that might get you thinking about a few things. This first article discusses the importance of ritual in every aspect of life. Habits and rituals are something that you do without even thinking about them…well, they are YOUR habits. As Coach Maughan taught me: “Make yourself a slave to GOOD habits.”
My rituals become more formalized, even concentrated, in a situation like this writers’ residency. The work of reading and writing goes on through the day, interrupted by walks along the country road outside or on the grass that stretches out to the surrounding hills. The writers don’t see much of one another during the day, but we gather together for dinner at 7:30. Then, soon after the dinner plates have been cleared, I look forward to table tennis. Although I brought with me a new yoga mat, thinking that I’d like to stretch every day, it has stayed rolled up in the corner of my room. I’m satisfied with my routine, happy that I’m able to play table tennis, and sometimes even mixing drinking shots of bourbon into the game. (This is the place, of course, to insert a passage from Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice: “Who can unravel the essence, the stamp of the artistic temperament! Who can grasp the deep, instinctual fusion of discipline and dissipation on which it rests!”)
My first act on waking up is to pour the coffee from the thermos (I make the coffee in the communal kitchen each night before going to bed) and sit down at the desk to write. It appears that at least one-third of the writers and artists featured in Daily Rituals mention their dependence on coffee. I’m not surprised. What surprises me more is that writers such as Graham Greene and Jean-Paul Sartre relied on amphetamines for their writing. Then there was W. H. Auden, who took “a dose of Benzedrine each morning the way many people take a daily multivitamin.”
This article really resonated with me. I’ve been at meetings when we facing a school closure (finances) and one person kept stopping the meeting because of the term “Chairman” being used versus “Chair.” Dragging the heels to hell is one thing, but dealing with preventable deaths is another.
Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities, proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements. “This is the first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard someone say, ‘Oh, if you’re sick, stay home,’” says Adia Benton, an anthropologist at Northwestern University. Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.
I think I mentioned “flossing” once in a workshop. Can it also help with brain health? I found this article absolutely amazing.
This inflammation can lead to chronic periodontitis and tooth loss, and some studies have shown that people with fewer teeth are more likely to have dementia. The inflammation and toxins caused by P. gingivalis damage the lining of your mouth, which may make it possible for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and then other organs. Even if you don’t have gum disease, transient damage to your mouth lining from eating or tooth-brushing can let mouth bacteria into your blood, says Lynch.
The blood-brain barrier should protect your brain from microbes, but P. gingivalis can invade white blood cells and the cells lining blood vessels, so might cross it that way. It may also invade cranial nerves near the mouth, then spread from cell to cell towards the brain over a period of years.
“This is why years of efforts to treat Alzheimer’s have seen few results”
As to how P. gingivalis might cause dementia after it arrives in the brain, there are two clear possibilities. It may trigger the release of amyloid, the brain’s method of trying to contain the infection, and this may then kill neurons.
Or P. gingivalis may directly damage the brain. We already know that Alzheimer’s involves inflammation, an excessive immune response that ends up killing neurons instead of protecting them. P. gingivalis is known to cause inflammation in gum tissue, and it may do so in the brain as well.
In response to the new findings, David Reynolds of the Alzheimer’s UK charity said he is dubious that P. gingivalis causes Alzheimer’s, because of the evidence showing that a person’s genes play a crucial role in the disease. “Strong genetic evidence indicates that factors other than bacterial infections are central to the development of Alzheimer’s, so these new findings need to be taken in the context of this existing research,” he said in a statement.
Speaking of memory, I loved this article. As a teacher, every year we were presented with a chart, later discovered to be bogus, that showed us that listening to a lecture was not as good as other methods. The issue might be, with learning retention, is that the poor student had to get up and go into another room and get a whole set of new information. In college, I had time between classes to let things sift and sit and settle before I had to push more knowledge in. This article explains much of this idea.
Thomas Baguley at Nottingham Trent University in the UK is also cautiously optimistic. He points out that some Alzheimer’s patients are already advised to engage in mindfulness techniques to alleviate stress and improve overall well-being. “Some [of these] interventions may also promote wakeful rest and it is worth exploring whether they work in part because of reducing interference,” he says, though it may be difficult to implement in people with severe dementia, he says.
Beyond the clinical benefits for these patients, Baguley and Horner both agree that scheduling regular periods of rest, without distraction, could help us all hold onto new material a little more firmly. After all, for many students, the 10-30 percent improvements recorded in these studies could mark the difference between a grade or two. “I can imagine you could embed these 10-15 minute breaks within a revision period,” says Horner, “and that might be a useful way of making small improvements to your ability to remember later on.”
In the age of information overload, it’s worth remembering that our smartphones aren’t the only thing that needs a regular recharge. Our minds clearly do too.
“Move more, eat less” has probably been causing more harm than good for a while. Sure, it’s “true,” but there is simply so much more.
More importantly, ‘things that alter the body’s fat metabolism’ is a much wider category than food. Sleeplessness and stress, for instance, have been linked to disturbances in the effects of leptin, the hormone that tells the brain that the body has had enough to eat. What other factors might be at work? Viruses, bacteria and industrial chemicals have all entered the sights of obesity research. So have such aspects of modern life as electric light, heat and air conditioning. All of these have been proposed, with some evidence, as direct causes of weight gain: the line of reasoning is not that stress causes you to eat more, but rather that it causes you to gain weight by directly altering the activities of your cells. If some or all of these factors are indeed contributing to the worldwide fattening trend, then the thermodynamic model is wrong.
We are, of course, surrounded by industrial chemicals. According to Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, an organic compound called bisphenol-A (or BPA) that is used in many household plastics has the property of altering fat regulation in lab animals. And a recent study by Leonardo Trasande and colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine with a sample size of 2,838 American children and teens found that, for the majority, those with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were five times more likely to be obese than were those with the lowest levels.
BPA has been used so widely — in everything from children’s sippy cups to the aluminium in fizzy drink cans — that almost all residents of developed nations have traces of it in their pee. This is not to say that BPA is unique. In any developed or developing nation there are many compounds in the food chain that seem, at the very least, to be worth studying as possible ‘obesogens’ helping to tip the body’s metabolism towards obesity. For example, a study by the Environmental Working Group of the umbilical cords of 10 babies born in US hospitals in 2004 found 287 different industrial chemicals in their blood. Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, has proposed a long list of candidates — all chemicals that, she has written, disrupt the normal process of energy storage and use in cells. Her suspects include heavy metals in the food supply, chemicals in sunscreens, cleaning products, detergents, cosmetics and the fire retardants that infuse bedclothes and pyjamas.
Chemicals and metals might promote obesity in the short term by altering the way that energy is made and stored within cells, or by changing the signals in the fat-storage process so that the body makes more fat cells, or larger fat cells. They could also affect the hormones that spur or tamp down the appetite. In other words, chemicals ingested on Tuesday might promote more fat retention on Wednesday.
Fortunately, I stocked up on coffee and red wine far ahead of this crisis. I’m always amazed at the health benefits from coffee. Once vilified, coffee is now a supplement!
1. Decreased Risk of Heart Disease
Not only does coffee boost heart cell activity, but researchers at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea found that regular coffee drinkers have less risk of heart disease. The study, led by Dr. Yuni Choi, screened over 25,000 men and women and found those who consumed three to five cups of coffee a day were less likely to see a prevalence of coronary artery calcium or early signs of heart disease.
2. Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer
According to a study at the University of Southern California, coffee can reduce the odds of developing colorectal cancer by 26 percent. And that’s just if you’re the casual coffee drinker. For those who drink more than 2.5 servings of coffee a day, the risk of cancer decreases up to 50 percent. This was true even when participants drank decaf, meaning there’s more goodness to coffee than just the caffeine.
“We were somewhat surprised to see that caffeine did not seem to matter,” said Stephen Gruber, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and lead author of the study. “This indicates that caffeine alone is not responsible for coffee’s protective properties.”
All this coffee should keep you awake enough to finish this week’s readings. Until next week, keep on lifting and learning…and caring for yourself, your friends, your families and your communities.
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 134, Chapter XVII
“I think it must be time,” said Merlyn, looking at him over the top of his spectacles one afternoon, “that you had another dose of education. That is, as Time goes.”
It was an afternoon in early spring and everything outside the window looked beautiful. The winter mantle had gone, taking with it Sir Grummore, Master Twyti, King Pellinore and the Questing Beast—the latter having revived under the influence of kindliness and bread and milk. It had bounded off into the snow with every sign of gratitude, to be followed two hours later by the excited King, and the watchers from the battlements had observed it confusing its snowy footprints most ingeniously, as it reached the edge of the chase. It was running backward, bounding twenty foot sideways, rubbing out its marks with its tail, climbing along horizontal branches, and performing many other tricks with evident enjoyment. They had also seen King Pellinore—who had dutifully kept his eyes shut and counted ten thousand while this was going on—becoming quite confused when he arrived at the difficult spot, and finally galloping off in the wrong direction with his brachet trailing behind him.
I find this small little paragraph to be an absolute delight. As a child, I loved Hide and Go Seek (which along with Tag are the two greatest games of all-time that I am sure go back to the ancient human hunter-gatherer times) and I feel I learned more about thinking, tactics and strategy, outwitting my friends and family to get home safely.
Counting to ten thousand, as Pellinore does, seems like a long task. The Beast is back and we, in the editions we follow, will meet this interesting creature again.
We are moving into Spring now. With the Boar Hunt and Christmas behind us, our story returns to teaching Wart. It’s time for more education. Honestly, the Boar Hunt and our adventure with Robin Hood and the Fairy People are long stories over many chapters and I miss the fun of the transfiguration stories. But we learn a lot during our little diversions.
I am “big” in this concept of destiny. Whether or not there is a Supreme Force in the universe guiding our lives, our destinies, is a conversation for another place and time, but what we find here with Pellinore is interesting. His job is to seek the Questing Beast. He seems to “get it” a few times in our readings and, yet, we see him release the beast and start the chase again.
As those of us who have achieved a goal, and good for us(!!!), I have often noticed that the achievement of the goal isn’t nearly as, and I don’t have a good word for it, fun/good/joyful as the process in which we went through to get there.
Art Devany reminds us in his Evolutionary Fitness article that we should ignore goals completely and simply focus on the process. I tell my athletes and clients to “respect the process.”
Questing, the chase, seems to be Pellinore’s destiny. Whenever he catches the Beast, he lets it go. As we joke in theology: “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there.”
I’m sure there is a life lesson here. Maybe it’s time for another dose of education.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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