Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 290
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 290
Well, it’s June. It’s “busting out all over.” June is a strange time in my life. Since I taught for so many years, this month has “ends” to it: graduations, commencements, championships.
I should be in Europe as you read this newsletter, but I will be in Murray. I have no issues with this, of course, but I will miss my students. I will miss the Pope’s Pub. I am going to be missing a lot of amazing sites.
But I will be in Murray. I will watch the tomatoes grow and the sunflowers burst from little seeds to ten-foot trees almost overnight.
I will listen to the construction in front of my house as they put in all new waterlines, streets and sidewalks. The noise and rumbling…not to mention the dust…soothes my soul.
It’s hard to type sarcasm.
I hope you are doing well. I realized today that I have been basically in my house for almost three months. The longest I have driven was to go to a place to get kettlebells. I have gassed my car ONCE since Saint Patrick’s Day.
And, that’s a lot of good. The quality of the air is better, we’ve paid off all of our debt (it wasn’t much, but still…) and I have learned to use all kinds of new foods. Truly, it’s good.
I’ve been extremely popular on the podcast front. It’s a rare day I don’t do one and there are days where I do two or three. Oddly, the show often doesn’t send me the follow-up links to share.
Maybe that’s a good thing!
So, this week I have a lot of them. Yes, I do repeat myself when I am asked the same question. I have learned to hate several questions:
1. Tell us about yourself.
Okay, just one, I guess. I’m actually thinking about doing an all comedy podcast for these questions:
1. Can I add bench presses to the squats on the One Lift a Day program?
2. If you could only do one lift for the rest of your life, what would it be?
3. Why don’t you like lunges?
Without further nonsense, the new podcasts:
Pat Flynn and I got into the discussion of minimalism again. Sometimes I don’t make myself clear enough on how I feel about biohacking, but I get closer here.
My discussion with Arvind went very well. I found his ideas about training people to be simple and on point.
An amazing interview and site, thank you Charlie!
This was a nice discussion with Stephen.
Mimi and I meet again to discuss The Sword in the Stone.
Dan John is a strength coach and mentor to many in the fitness world.
I am so fortunate that we have been on a journey together exploring the philosophies of The Sword in the Stone. Although this book was written in 1938, the lessons I’ve taken away from the book are equally important today.
Today we discuss everything from the effects of covid19 on America to the lessons of mortality and honoring our ancestors.
Regardless if you have read the novel or not, the discussions that Dan and I have are truly enriching and worth the listen. I urge everyone to listen with an open mind and to let me know your thoughts. (especially if you have read the book!)
This is a VERY unique way to do a podcast here.
Dan: One of the issues we have in our field is that the bar to entry is so low and that’s where I try my best to help out. I get asked by personal trainers all the time what they should do next. I always think, “You took the job and you’re asking what to do next?” Don’t take that wrong. My point on this is that I taught history, political science, religious studies, and economics for years. I never went to my Principal and asked if I should go learn about the Middle Ages (laughing) because the bar is set a little bit higher. So one of the things I’m very happy about is that the educational options out there are much better than before. With John Beradi’s Precision Nutrition course you can take his course at home and fill your nutritional knowledge gaps. The kettlebell certifications all kind of cannibalized each other, but you can still get a good weekend course. I’m a big fan of Nick Rians FitRanx. I love all of these things! For context, I’m just talking about this from an educational standpoint first Matt. One of the things that hurts us in this field is that because the bar is so low to enter it’s possible to be the most tenured personal trainer in the gym and to have big gaps in your fitness knowledge. You may have never spent any time learning about the Olympic lifts, never moved beyond just focusing on bodybuilding, and have some voodoo knowledge with nutrition. Maybe you watched a Youtube video and now you think you’re an expert in nutrition. So, in the area of personal trainer initial certification and ongoing education we’re an odd field because you almost have to insist upon it. You have to allow the personal trainers to learn on the job. The average personal trainer at a big box gym is very different than when I teach at St. Mary’s University in London. Those students come in with bachelor’s degrees in this field and then work on their Masters. They work with the national sports teams, so when you talk to those guys about things they come in with a breadth of knowledge. So, the next area where we need to help personal trainers is on the economics side.
There’s more to this website:
Dan was recently featured on the Culture Club podcast, which spotlights thought-leaders from the fitness world. He talked about the elements of strong, intentional community – including the story of how his home gym grew from the incline bench he bought in 7th grade into the community hub it is today.
If you’re redefining your relationship to the gym during COVID-19, check out the show and the accompanying worksheet – *Strong Values* – 6 questions for struggling fitness professionals (and amateurs).
Here’s the link to the interview.
That list of podcasts should give you a hint about how things are going. Brian sent this in about the DJU:
This week on danjohnuniversity.com:
The workshop this week has been very popular so far. It’s a look at warrior spirit through the lens of Beowulf. It’s well worth 20 minutes of your time.
The podcast is still growing strong. We’re closing in on 150,000 downloads, which blows my mind. Keep the questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the link to Episode 45.
That’s it from me this week. We’re working hard on new content and features for the site. Thank you for the ongoing support!
Have a great week!
I enjoyed my digging in the internet this week. I have an interesting way of reading lots and lots of things and then boring my family to death with my new knowledge. (Or, should that be Knew Knowledge?) Here you go:
This is a nice sum of what we know about helping the gut biome: exercises, fruits, veggies, fermented foods…the usual suspects. The key is to get them!
It’s common for people to focus on their health at the start of the year. But few consider the well being of the microbes that live inside the human gut – the microbiome – which are vital to an individual’s good health.
How important are these bacteria? There are as many bacterial cells in us as there are human cells, and they help control everything from inflammation and the development and treatment of cancer to how much energy we get from our foods and perhaps even what foods we crave and our moods. When our microbiome becomes unbalanced, often indicated when certain species or groups of bacteria become overly abundant, these functions can be disrupted, contributing to the development of a wide range of diseases such as obesity, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and many others.
Our gut microbes are also responsible for gas production when we eat new foods as those microbes adapt to this new nutrient source in their environment. So it is clear we want to have a healthy microbiome, but what is that?
There is a lot of debate regarding what exactly constitutes a healthy community of gut microbes, but one thing has become clear. Humans need a diverse microbiome with a variety of bacterial species that can quickly adapt to the wide range of foods that we might want to consume while still performing all those important functions like preventing inflammation. So what are some things that you can do to support a healthy, diverse microbiome?
If that is too much reading for you, here.
What is this superfood?
I have been a fan of this actor for probably four decades. This article makes me like her more.
The third and final entry in O’Hara’s tales of terror is the most adorable—and possibly the most revealing. She auditioned to play the wife in a Robert De Niro movie. The casting people asked her to read a scene set in bed, so O’Hara slid down in the chair trying to seem like she was lying down. She re-creates it for me on her kitchen chair, her chin tucked unflatteringly into her chest and her legs stretched out akimbo. “Really attractive, right?” Yes, it may have been a poor choice, but as Candy said: She didn’t actually want to play the wife.
We could have used a lot more of O’Hara over the years, but with Schitt’s Creek she gave us everything. The actor spent enough time at SCTV and in Christopher Guest’s improvised movies to make collaborating with Eugene and Dan Levy feel like a homecoming. “She was so sure of the boundaries of what the character would and wouldn’t do,” says Dan Levy. O’Hara came up with Moira’s vague, European-parlor accent, as well as her obsession with wigs. She also elevated the character’s grande-dame vocabulary into the stratosphere of absurdity with words like unasinous. “Unasinous is fun,” the actor says with a laugh. “It means ‘equally stupid.’ As in: A number of unasinous ideas have been put forward today.”
I’m getting tired of all these young people telling me how to be productive with “hacks,” but this article was excellent: This Lifehack Will Change Your Life—If You Can Stand It
To get things done, you have to do. That’s it. You need sitzfleisch (ZITS–flysh), or “chair glue,” which—as Quartz’s Anne Quito notes—is a German word for the ability to sit through a boring or complex task for a considerable amount of time, however long it takes.
So how do you cultivate the focus and discipline to finish a task? By continually doing the dull stuff. You do it until you’re used to it and getting through is a habit. For example, if you want to be a writer, you write, as Rebecca Solnit explains on LitHub:
Write. There is no substitute…But start small: write a good sentence, then a good paragraph, and don’t be dreaming about writing the great American novel or what you’ll wear at the awards ceremony because that’s not what writing’s about or how you get there from here. The road is made entirely out of words. Write a lot…it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.
Make your goal to simply write, and eventually you’ll get to the next boring step—edits. The work may always be a bit painful, as acclaimed writers reveal. “More often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three,” poet and writer Maya Angelou tells the Paris Review. “That’s the cruelest time you know.”
Still, the more familiar you are with the process and your inherent tendency to resist it, the better you get at just muscling through and doing the work anyway.
Every so often, I picked up my well-read copy of Beau Geste. This article does a very nice job explaining the French Foreign Legion. I have other materials on their efforts in Vietnam and the stories border on horror films.
Why did they put up with this? Many didn’t and talk of deserting was common, but without money it was difficult to escape. It became rather easier to desert after 1962, when the Legion shifted its headquarters from Sidi Bel Abbès in Algeria to Aubagne; Carins tells of a modern-day American who left during training and headed over the Pyrenees into Spain. If caught, he would have been sentenced to military prison, but he made it home. The kind of official manhunt that would have been sanctioned by desertion 100 years ago is far more lacklustre today. The fact is, the modern Legion has enough keen recruits not to care too much if some run away.
In the past, strong discipline merged into punishment. If a man fainted on a march, he’d be tied to a pole sticking out of the side of a wagon. His arms would be supported, but if his legs couldn’t perform a walking action, he would be dragged along, burning a hole in his boots and feet. This harsh treatment was not seen as unjust since any man who couldn’t keep up would be killed by the Arab forces that often tailed the expedition.
After the Mexican civil war of 1857-60, and as an interlude from pacifying the North African colonies, the Legion was sent to help install Maximilian, the brother of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, in Mexico. There were other troops also on loan to the insurgent regime including British Royal Marines, Austrian footsoldiers and even 447 Egyptians. But it was the French who stayed longest, until 1867, and did most of the fighting. Oddly enough, one of the few remaining influences of the Legion’s time in Mexico is the widespread acceptance of the French word for marriage to describe wedding musicians: the mariachi band.
The story of the Battle of Camarón on 30 April 1863, when Captain Danjou lost his life, has become the stuff of legionnaire legend. Surrounded by 3,000 Mexicans, Danjou and 64 of his men were given the chance to surrender. Danjou, however, knew that if he held up the Mexicans, a vital convoy of supplies would have time to get through to his men. So there would be no surrender. Down to their last cartridge, the final six legionnaires standing made a bayonet charge. Somehow, three of the six survived (with hideous wounds) and were protected by a merciful Mexican officer impressed by their bravery. Even then these three gave in only when their terms were met: that they kept their empty rifles and could give an honour guard to escort the remains of Captain Danjou. But not all his remains. In a macabre, comic twist, his wooden hand was somehow overlooked. After prolonged negotiation, it was later bought back by the Legion from a Mexican farmer who had found it but was reluctant to part with it. This is the wooden hand enshrined in Aubagne, where each new legionnaire is inducted, and where they say a final goodbye upon completing their service. The day of Danjou’s death is still celebrated every 30 April as Camarón Day.
I actually was going to share more articles this week, but that’s enough. As always, I will be looking for more for you to enjoy.
And, until then, 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 143
“You are beginning to fit things together,” remarked Archimedes. “Do you mind if we sit down?”
“How does one?”
“You must stall. That means you must drive yourself up until you lose flying speed, and then, just as you feel yourself beginning to tumble—why, you sit down. Have you never noticed how birds fly upward to perch? They don’t come straight down on the branch, but dive below it and then rise. At the top of their rise they stall and sit down.”
“But birds land on the ground too. And what about mallards on the water? They can’t rise to sit on that.”
“Well, it is perfectly possible to land on flat things, but more difficult. You have to glide in at stalling speed all the way, and then increase your wind resistance by cupping your wings, dropping your feet, tail, etc. You may have noticed that few birds do it gracefully. Look how a crow thumps down and how the mallard splashes. The spoon-winged birds like heron and plover seem to do it best. As a matter of fact, we owls are not so bad at it ourselves.”
“And the long-winged birds like swifts, I suppose they are the worst, for they can’t rise from a flat surface at all?”
“The reasons are different,” said Archimedes, “yet the fact is true. But need we talk on the wing? I am getting tired.”
“So am I.”
“Owls usually prefer to sit down every hundred yards.”
As I review this entire project, I wonder out loud sometimes, why I do it? There wasn’t a great deal of need, of begging, for me to start this review of The Sword in the Stone.
Yet, it captures me. I find myself watching birds land and I remember this small section. As I sit in my backyard, I enjoy watching the birds land on wires, knowing the reasoning behind how they do this feat.
If you ask me how I know this stuff, I can tell you that an owl taught it to me.
It’s the LOVE of education and learning in this book that brings me back. The most popular quote from White is this famous insight:
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn—pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theo-criticism and geography and history and economics—why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.”
“Apart from all these things,” said the Wart, “what do you suggest for me just now?”
(Chapter 21, The Sword in the Stone)
As I type this, I am approaching the three-month mark of “shelter in place” with the Covid 19 virus. What keeps me sane is that I strive to “learn something.”
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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