Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 283

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 283

I didn’t Social Distance as well as I should on Easter Day. We had a fairly full house, but it was all people who have been around.
I was the most at risk. With my age and my history of pleurisy, I’m a target for this virus. Like many of you, I’ve read up on immunity lately and, like most things, you can’t just swallow a pill and turn your body into Fortress Invincible.
For reasonable insights, I always go to Phil Maffetone. I have been reading his work since 1987 (at least) and I have always found his approach to be reasonable and doable.
Reasonable and doable.
Those are the two standards I base much of my coaching and training upon. Like Coach Maughan’s “Little and Often over the Long Haul” and “Make yourself a slave to good habits,” common sense and wisdom based on experience tend to keep you in the right direction.
We have been doing “Vitamin D Day” on Mondays for a long time. My wife buys this product that, on paper, provides all your Vitamin D needs in a weekly dose. This, as I read the promotional materials, is better.
What I think is actually “better” is doing this for over a decade. I get exercise daily, eat lots of variety in my veggies, walk, destress, laugh and enjoy life at every opportunity.  That’s better than cramming it all in one week a year.
When the virus hit Utah, lots of people cleaned out the stores. Now, there is a reason this is odd, as many Utahans have told me for years that they are prepared for anything.
Their preparation seems to not have included toilet paper and food.
I think that bad things in life tend to hit like Nassim Taleb’s insight to Mark Rippetoe’s book, Starting Strength:
Well, the Starting Strength approach is precisely about extremes, what people in my business call the “tails,” the rare events that are consequential though of low probability. Just as systems learn from extremes, and for preparedness, calibrate themselves to withstand large shocks, so does the human body. Indeed, our body should be seen a risk management system meant to handle our environment, paying more attention to extremes than ordinary events, and disproportionally learning from these.

Likewise, to train pilots, we do not make them spend time on the tarmac flirting with flight attendants, then switch the autopilot on and start daydreaming about vacations, thinking about mortgages or meditating about corporate airline intrigues — which represent about the bulk of the life of a pilot. We make pilots learn from storms, difficult landings, and intricate situations — again, from the tails.

End quote
In my life, it seems that my issues come from two kinds of events:
First: There are the slick roads, too much speed, and/or a bad decision loop. Breaking my left wrist in 2002 was a series of bad decisions that nearly ended my career as a lifter (it should have). I discovered in 1981 that motorcycles in Utah winters are not a good choice either.
Second: I find these long, slow grinding issues that seem to pop up in journals from 1977, 1989, 2004 and here and there. My hips “clicked” in high school football after sled drills. I had weird hamstring issues my whole career. Then, Doctor Gibbs noted that I was the “Poster Boy” for something called “Pistol Grip Hips.” Nicely, he didn’t mention that it was a deformity, but I had spent 60 plus years holding back a surgery that was going to happen no matter how many correctives I did between stretches.
In my observations, marriages and most relationships tend to end with an “event” or a slow painful sludge to “enough!” It seems to be true about appliances in the home also.
I do have a theory about appliances: I think they talk to each other. If the oven goes out, the fridge misses his friend and decides its time to “give it up,” too. Trust me, the toaster and the disposal are broken-hearted and looking for the end.
Light bulbs insist on going out in waves, too.
Washing your hands longer probably was never a really bad idea. Staying home when sick is advice my mother gave me and she has been gone for forty years. Having extra food around the house, a full tank of gas, and sufficient supplies of cleaning materials is just common sense.
Common sense, in theology, is one of the highest forms of proof.
To get through this virus and “shelter in place,” common sense is going to be your best ally.
That and the basics of hygiene.
I’ve done LOTS of podcasts recently. Nearly every day lately, I have had at least one…often two. Here are a couple of them.
Sean and I had a wonderful conversation and you can find it at these two places: One and Two.
Pat Flynn and I continue our ongoing weekly talks.
This week on danjohnuniversity.com:
We had two episodes of the podcast this week. You can find them both at www.danjohnuniversity.com/podcast.
Dan is on a roll with the workshops. We uploaded Don’t Be Binary last week and the response has been excellent. People are really enjoying this one. Here’s the link.
We’re really happy so many people have been taking advantage of the special on the website. We wanted to do something to make this time a little easier on everyone and if the site helps us make a difference, we are happy. If you need custom workouts through these crazy times, please use CORONA on the website and receive 3 months access for $29.
Have a great week!
Let’s look around the internet this week.
Speaking of home training, I really liked this article. One of the better “stand alone” home circuit training articles I have seen. Enjoy.
I really liked this article on routines. I am a creature of habit (I can hear my daughters sarcastically yelling “Noooooooooo!) and it makes me better at many things.

        Work on one thing at a time until finished.
        Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
        Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
        Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
        When you can’t create you can work.
        Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
        Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
        Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
        Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
        Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
        Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
Under a part titled Daily Program, his routine also featured the following wonderful blueprint for productivity, inspiration, and mental health:
    If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
    If in fine fettle, write.
    Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.
    See friends. Read in cafés.
    Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.
    Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.
    Paint if empty or tired.
    Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.
    Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

End quote
This is a solid piece about American football strength coaches. Great finish here, too.


There are new techniques, programs, and fads. No one is immune to them, but strength coaches agree on a few principles:
    Players are nothing without effort.
    Effort starts in the weight room.
    The weight room requires commitment and attention to technique.
Smotherman speaks for everyone when he reiterates that the work has to be done, and the weights can’t be light.
“I heard a preacher one time say, ‘If you want to get strong, you gotta pick up something heavy.’ That’s kind of the foundational piece of it.”
And if it all the gear had to come out of the gym except for one thing, what would be left is obvious.
“Nothing will ever replace the barbell,” Moffitt says. He pauses for emphasis. “Nothing.”

End quote
I hate this show, but I like this article.


When The Biggest Loser debuted in 2004, obesity was being branded as a public-health crisis in most developed countries. By the early aughts, two-thirds of the adult U.S. population was overweight or obese. In May 2004, the World Health Organization released its Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health to address the “growing burden of noncommunicable disease,” of which being overweight and/or obese was listed as one of the top six causes. Much hand-wringing ensued about how, exactly, to overcome this rising trend, but one thing seemed indisputable: losing weight was paramount.
At the time, diet culture was going through its own transformation. Carbohydrates were out; dietary fat was in. Low-carb diets had been around for a while—the Atkins Diet, perhaps the best known, first appeared in the 1970s. But popular interest in this new paradigm surged after Gary Taubes’s story, “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?,” appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 2002, challenging, if not upending, the low-fat dietary standard that had been promoted by doctors and medical associations since the 1960s. Other fads were also underway—Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet was published in 2002, followed by The South Beach Diet in 2003—but the pitch was always the same: if we just ate the right stuff, like, say, bacon and eggs, the pounds would melt away and good health would return.
Into the fray came The Biggest Loser. Plenty of weight-loss programs teased us with dramatic before and after images, including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and Body for Life. But no one had showcased those transformations on television while we watched. As the origin story goes, around 2003, J.D. Roth, at the time a 35-year-old reality-TV producer, approached NBC with the idea of a show about obese contestants transforming themselves into thin people by burning off huge amounts of weight. How much weight? the network execs wanted to know. “A hundred pounds!” Roth told them.

End quote
That should be enough to get you through the week. I’m here to help, if needed.
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 136


“Do you know,” asked the Wart, thinking of the thrush, “why birds sing, or how? Is it a language?”
“Of course it is a language. It is not a big language like human speech, but it is large.”
“Gilbert White,” said Merlyn, “remarks, or will remark, however you like to put it, that ‘the language of birds is very ancient, and, like other ancient modes of speech, little is said, but much is intended.’ He also says somewhere that ‘the rooks, in the breeding season, attempt sometimes, in the gaiety of their hearts, to sing—but with no great success.'”
“I love rooks,” said the Wart. “It is funny, but I think they are my favourite bird.”
“Why?” asked Archimedes.
“Well, I like them. I like their sauce.”
“Neglectful parents,” quoted Merlyn, who was in a scholarly mood, “and saucy, perverse children.”
“It is true,” said Archimedes reflectively, “that all the corvidae have a distorted sense of humour.”
Wart explained.
“I love the way they enjoy flying. They don’t just fly, like other birds, but they fly for fun. It is lovely when they hoist home to bed in a flock at night, all cheering and making rude remarks and pouncing on each other in a vulgar way. They turn over on their backs sometimes and tumble out of the air, just to be ridiculous, or else because they have forgotten they are flying and have coarsely began to scratch themselves for fleas, without thinking about it.”
“They are intelligent birds,” said Archimedes, “in spite of their low humour. They are one of the birds that have parliaments, you know, and a social system.”
“Do you mean they have laws?”
“Certainly they have laws. They meet in the autumn, in a field, to talk them over.”
“What sort of laws?”
“Oh, well, laws about the defence of the rookery, and marriage, and so forth. You are not allowed to marry outside the rookery, and, if you do become quite lost to all sense of decency, and bring back a sable virgin from a neighbouring settlement, then everybody pulls your nest to pieces as fast as you can build it up. They make you go into the suburbs, you know, and that is why every rookery has out-lying nests all round it, several trees away.”
“Another thing I like about them,” said the Wart, “is their Go. They may be thieves and practical jokers, and they do quarrel and bully each other in a squawky way, but they have got the courage to mob their enemies. I should think it takes some courage to mob a hawk, even if there is a pack of you. And even while they are doing it they clown.”
“They are mobs,” said Archimedes, loftily. “You have said the word.”
“Well, they are larky mobs, anyway,” said the Wart, “and I like them.”

End quote
I’m never sure how much to chew on from this story. When it comes to these conversations, I hate breaking them up too small, but I don’t want to skip anything.
This conversation, and the next adventure of flying, really allows us to look at the very beginning of this book. I have argued, and I am more convinced of it by the week, that this story is a love affair with education. When we began, Wart and Kay are in need of a tutor and we have a nicely mapped weekly approach to their education:
“On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology…In the afternoons the programme was: Mondays and Fridays, tilting and horsemanship; Tuesdays, hawking; Wednesdays, fencing; Thursdays, archery; Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette.

End quote
As I have noted, the afternoon education has provided us with many of the tales of this book from Robin Wood to King Pelllinore forgetting his hunting etiquette. These have framed the story. In our version, we also will get a chance to see some more of the morning sessions, too.
Wart, as always, brings some enthusiasm into our discussion. Enthusiasm, of course, means “God within” and we generally knit this in with people with lots of fun and “flair” (see Office Space for that reference).
Rooks like to fly and that appeals to Wart. As we have seen, Wart genuinely likes things. He liked hay-making (and was good at it, if you remember) and he seems to enjoy everything he learns in our stories. The only time we see him grumpy is when there is nothing to do.
Future readers might miss this, but as I write this part of the story, we are entering into our fourth week of quarantine with the Corona Virus and people are beginning to discover their “true selves.” Nothing gives clarity more than being shut in.
White mentions the corvidae family of birds. This would be the crows and their cousins. In the Irish language, the word “Corva” is the word for crow.
As we go along in this conversation, it is fun to see the three pillars of opinion that Wart, Merlyn and Archimedes seem to sit on as they discuss their favorite birds. They are good friends now and the conversation is going to take us places.

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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