Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 285

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 285

Being an optimist, I tend to be pretty positive about things. As we face another week, month or season of “Stay in Place,” I’m just doing my best to find the best in things.

However, it does, and this comes from my heart, bother me that many of us can’t appropriately bury and honor our dead. Yesterday (the birthday of my brother Phil who died last June), I found out that my neighbor, Bryan Godfrey, died. He was a wonderful man who lived on Ramona Avenue (where I grew up) for sixty years. He was a steady rudder in my life.

I want to attend whatever gathering or observance or funeral that honors him, but it just might not be for a while. Burying the dead is one of those things we are called to do.

I can’t deny that the air quality is so much better. The trees, unburdened by the usual haze of pollution, look amazing this year. Moreover, the bird population of Murray seems to be exploding; it feels like a Disney movie when I walk outside.

I spent last night with some neighbors that I didn’t know very well. I play games with my daughters’ families. I call people to just check in.

I’m just guessing, but I think the readership of Wandering Weights is probably doing the same kinds of things.

My gym is busier than ever as people come by to just use my equipment.

So, like most of life: “It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.”

My inbox is full of people talking about the 10,000 Swing Challenge and training ideas. Internet forums are a “thing” again.

We’ll get through this and maybe, on the other side, we will keep some of the lessons we are learning. I sure hope so.

It’s nice to wake up and see our Western mountains here in Salt Lake Valley. I knew they were there…I just could never see them!

So, yes, in the future, I hope to be calling loved ones more. I hope to enjoy more walks and bike rides and time with my neighbors. And I hope we can enjoy weddings and birthdays.

And, bury the dead.

This week on danjohnuniversity.com:

We’re up to Episode 40 of the podcast now! I’ve also added the audio for the new Easy Strength Workshop (more on that below) to the podcast as well. You can find both here.

Dan has been cranking out the workshops for us. We posted the Easy Strength Workshop this week and it’s been super popular so far. Here’s the link to that.

Have a great week!


Thank you, Brian. Pat and I had a good conversation again this week. Our discussion of the 10,000 swing challenge reflects the renewed popularity of the task.

Here are the resources that might help you, if interested.




I had a nice talk with my friend, Adrian, from Limerick. Enjoy.

Let’s look around the internet. I really enjoyed this basic approach to recovery. As always, sleep is key.


So, what are some recovery methods?

Sleep! (for me it is the easiest!).

At the time of writing this blog sleep is not fully understood. We know it helps regulate energy levels and it has an impact on wake time function. In recent studies restricting sleep has impaired mood, cognitive function (your ability to think), immune function (fighting off germs), glucose metabolism and appetite regulation (food cravings!). This is what lead to the recommendation of 8 hours a night. But don’t just take my word for it LeBron James guest stared a podcast with Tim Ferris in which he shared that he sleeps 8-9 hours a night sometimes 10. Lebron also stated that after the podcast he was going to go and nap at home ‘I just think that’s just the best way to recover’. LeBron James is a phenomenal athlete and from this podcast he has tried lots of recovery methods. If you want to listen to the podcast click here.

Would we all be in less pain if we got more sleep?

Active recovery (my favourite).

Active recovery is where you perform gentle aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming and cycling. The idea is that active recovery is better than passive because you get more blood to your muscles (remember your blood carries all the necessary things you need to recover). It also helps clear your body of lactate and other metabolic waste by delivering oxygen to the area. If you have sore muscles from work or the gym, a gentle walk, cycle, jog, or swim might just be what you need to ‘loosen up’.

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I just enjoyed this article. I didn’t know anything about Grace O’ Malley, but I really enjoyed this story. She reminds me of my mother.

Grace continued to lead raiding parties from the coast and seized English vessels and their cargo, all of which did little to endear her to the Tudors. She was known for her aggression in battle, and it’s said that when her sons appeared to be shirking, she shamed them into action with a cry of “An ag iarraidh dul i bhfolach ar mo thóin atá tú, an áit a dtáinig tú as?”—which roughly translates as “Are you trying to hide in my arse, where you came out of?”

In 1574 an English expedition sailed for Ireland with the aim of putting an end to her exploits once and for all. Though they besieged Rockfleet Castle, no one knew the coastline better than Grace, and she repulsed them with the might of her own ships.

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I posted this in an early addition of WW. I then read the book and I really enjoyed it. There is some value in rereading this during these times.


But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools:

    Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”

    Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

    Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.

    Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

    Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

    Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.

    If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.

    Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.

    Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

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This is an interesting story about overdoing things and then addressing overtraining. The author’s concept of the athletic career is worth thinking about for a bit.


I used to think of athletic ability as a mountain. You’re born at the base, and you’ll die there too. In between, you climb higher and higher until you begin to descend. But that analogy isn’t quite right, because as you get older you acquire wisdom that can help you train. I’ve come to realize that a better analogy is of rolling peaks. You go up, you go down. At some point you reach your peak, but there are still vistas as you descend.

One year after my father’s death, in the spring of 2018, when I was 42, I got a call from Nike. They were looking for people to train under elite coaches, a moon shot program ultimately aimed at testing and promoting their new products. (Yes, I do understand why the editor of a magazine that covers technology and gear might have been selected by a company that makes gear and technology.) Did I want to participate? My race times had been consistently slower for roughly five years. Of course I did.

As I wrote in a story in WIRED in 2018, I was soon equipped with a heart-rate monitor on my arm, a balance monitor on my waistband, and sensors on my shoes that measured pronation and force. I started doing hard, structured workouts of a type I had never done on my own, and I had the oxygen consumption rate of my blood tested at Nike’s lab in Portland. I drank beet juice every morning because studies have shown that high-nitrate foods can boost cardiovascular endurance. I started to log every workout publicly in Strava. In October of that year, I crossed the finish line in Chicago in 2:38, my best time ever.

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This article reflects something I see a lot in the fitness industry. Sadly, it seems true when it comes to the coronavirus.


On this past International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I reread a bit of Bertrand Russell. In 1933, dismayed at the Nazification of Germany, the philosopher wrote “The Triumph of Stupidity,” attributing the rise of Adolf Hitler to the organized fervor of stupid and brutal people—two qualities, he noted, that “usually go together.” He went on to make one of his most famous observations, that the “fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Russell’s quip prefigured the scientific discovery of a cognitive bias—the Dunning–Kruger effect—that has been so resonant that it has penetrated popular culture, inspiring, for example, an opera song (from Harvard’s annual Ig Nobel Award Ceremony): “Some people’s own incompetence somehow gives them a stupid sense that anything they do is first rate. They think it’s great.” No surprise, then, that psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger prefaced a 2008 paper she wrote with David Dunning and Justin Kruger, among others, with Russell’s comment—the one he later made in his 1951 book, New Hopes for a Changing World: “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” “By now,” Ehrlinger noted in that paper, “this phenomenon has been demonstrated even for everyday tasks, about which individuals have likely received substantial feedback regarding their level of knowledge and skill.” Humans have shown a tendency, in other words, to be a bit thick about even the most mundane things, like how well they drive.

    Stupidity is not simply the opposite of intelligence.

Russell, who died in 1970 at 97 years of age, probably would not be surprised to hear news of this new study, published in Nature Human Behaviour: “Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most.” The researchers, led by Philip Fernbach, cognitive scientist and co-author of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, analyzed survey responses from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. They obtained similar results, they write, “in a parallel study with representative samples from the United States, France and Germany, and in a study testing attitudes about a medical application of genetic engineering technology (gene therapy).”

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I was never a big fan of the hacking stuff. I liked reading the books, usually the Four-Hour ones, but I never got the benefits. Often, the results in these books were pretty unamazing. IN addition, many of the books are flat out confusing; the most famous issue would be the Fifteen Minute Orgasm from Four-Hour Body. In the same book, though, you do basically get Barry Ross’s entire springing template. Obviously, I like minimalism, but this article does a nice job going into the downside of it. For the record, show me a way to “hack” a 200-foot discus throw and I will be all in: The End of Life Hacking


As you’ve surely realized by now, it is possible to devote so much time to organizing your work that you never actually do any of it. As Reagle observes, several of the early champions of life hacking, include O’Brien and Mann, signed contracts to write books about how to defeat procrastination and attain Inbox Zero and then never got around to writing them. Most of them dropped out of the scene entirely, abandoning their blogs and denouncing the tech world’s preoccupation with productivity.

Others became proponents of minimalism, an ethos that involves getting rid of almost all of your stuff while becoming even more obsessed with the few things you keep. They sold their houses and moved into RVs. Like Marie Kondo on overdrive, they aimed to fit everything they owned into a single backpack. They started blogs with titles like “The 100 Thing Challenge,” chronicling how they reduced all their possessions to that number. The blogs mainly consisted of lovingly photographed and cataloged entries on each item, explaining how it was the perfect specimen of its kind. I never followed life hacking into this terrain—in no way, shape, or form does minimalism represent the way I want to live. Yet, reading Reagle’s descriptions of minimalists’ blogs and books, I found myself itching to visit them—although, like 43 Folders, and many of the productivity blogs I used to read, many of them no longer exist. Who doesn’t want to know which backpack is the one backpack to rule them all?

Of course, plenty of people live in RVs and don’t own much because they have no other option; nobody asks them to give TED talks about it. Reagle points out that minimalism has been a phenomenon of young, educated, affluent white men supposedly repudiating a middle-class materialism made possible by their careers in the tech industry and lack of family encumbrances. “Minimalism is for well-off bachelors,” as Reagle puts it, and not especially imaginative ones at that. If you make your fortune at 30 and you’re the sort of person who’s never given much thought to a purpose beyond “success,” what do you do with yourself? A common and strikingly unimaginative answer among minimalists was full-time travel. The possibility that experiences can be accumulated and consumed in just as mindless a fashion as belongings can did not occur to them.

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That should keep you reading for a few hours. Enjoy. 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 138


“And what is your favourite bird?” asked Archimedes, feeling that his master ought to be allowed a say.

Merlyn put his fingers together like Sherlock Holmes and replied immediately, “I prefer the chaffinch. My friend Linnaeus calls him coelebs or bachelor bird. The flocks have the sense to separate during the winter, so that all the males are in one flock and all the females in the other. For the winter months, at any rate, there is perfect peace.”

“The conversation,” observed Archimedes, “arose out of whether birds could talk.”

“Another friend of mine,” said Merlyn immediately, in his most learned voice, “maintains, or will maintain, that the question of the language of birds arises out of imitation. Aristotle, you know, also attributes tragedy to imitation.”

Archimedes sighed heavily, and remarked in prophetic tones, “You had better get it off your chest.”

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Linnaeus, or Carl Von Linne, is one of those historical figures that, when studied, you become more amazed as you read. Basically, he invented how we name and organize animals into those familiar “trees.” He was considered to be one of the most important figures in human history according to Rousseau, Goethe and Spinoza.

That’s a level of praise that is pretty hard to match.

I do find Archimedes to be rather funny here. These are old friends talking. If you have been around someone for a while, you tend to know where some conversations are going. With Mike Warren Brown, we both groan when we start talking about Don Quixote as he loves Part Two and I see no value for it.

Let’s just say that we have beaten this discussion to death. My friend, Chris Long, and I used to go into long circular discussions about Hamlet (I give the guy a break) and, as I recall, Chris relented, as I am always right.

Merlyn and Archimedes have probably danced this dance before this conversation. Retreading old stories and old arguments is part of the fun of being in relationships. I can get an eye roll from my friend, Mary, by simply mentioning how a microwave cooks things. It’s a discussion from 1982!

So…sit back and enjoy.

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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