Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 310

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 310

Each time I start a new journal, I list out the lessons from the previous journal in a little chart. I am fancier now as I type them out and print them.
It’s amazing to see these through the years. I pull out these old journals every so often to confirm (or deny!) ideas that I have been working on. I’m always amazed how often certain small phrases show up:
Eat more fiber (Eat more veggies, usually)
Drink more water.
Use naps or meditation more.
Snatches, Military Presses, Carries
Recovery is key
Walk more
Oddly, I keep looking for these game-changing insights that I may have just missed. Some little combination of nutrient intervention, mesocycling and speed-dynamic axis.
I’ve been keeping my journal since 1971 and the best insights come from the fact that…
I’ve been keeping my journal since 1971.
The magic is literally fifty years in the making. From those first workouts doing incline bench press for sets of eight with 65 pounds to yesterday’s Olympic lift practice, I keep doing the big lifts, walking and taking care of the other stuff. I think little Danny would be proud to know that his insight that all Old Man Dan would need to do is the Olympic snatch and an overhead press was right on.
He didn’t know about kettlebells, loaded carries, machine training, nonsense bodybuilding stuff, “going for the burn,” or a whole bunch of other things. He did know that pressing and squatting was the Royal Road to success and that one day he would need to learn the Olympic lifts.
Little Danny read about Dick Notmeyer and the Pacifica Barbell Club and needed to do a few things before he could train with the master:
Get a driver’s license.
Get a vehicle.
Of course, he had to be sixteen to do that, so he went back on the porch and pressed, squatting, and lifted with an assortment of weights collected from everyone willing to part with some plates.
Fifty years later, I thank him by striving to keep these lessons alive.
This week on danjohnuniversity.com:
Here’s a link to Episode 64 of the podcast.
The big update this week was the addition of a program selection helper. It’s based on Dan’s Can You Go? assessment and will hopefully make it easier to find the right program for you.
Dan also did a video on his assessments here.
We are in the works of adding another workout generator to the site that’s specifically focused on fat loss. Be on the lookout for that soon!
Have a great week!
Pat and I had a nice discussion. Sometimes I think Pat and I are doing workshops on this podcast as the material is excellent.
For whatever reason, this week was a deep dive into the internet. I found an article on obesity that just got me wormholing on all kinds of things. I wish I could share with you somehow my weird “deep dives” as my daughters and wife think it is funny to see me obsess on a topic. Let me give you some of the best gems of my digging last week.
Valter Longo’s site has really improved recently. It’s worth your time to visit. This is the basis of his Longevity Diet.

Eat mostly vegan, plus a little fish, limiting meals with fish to a maximum of two or three per week. Choose fish, crustaceans, and mollusks with a high omega-3, omega-6, and vitamin B12 content (salmon, anchovies, sardines, cod, sea bream, trout, clams, shrimp.  Pay attention to the quality of the fish, choosing those with low levels of mercury.

If you are below the age of 65, keep protein intake low (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). That comes to 40 to 47 grams of proteins per day for a person weighing 130 pounds, and 60 to 70 grams of protein per day for someone weighing 200 to 220 pounds. Over age 65, you should slightly increase protein intake but also increase consumption of fish, eggs, white meat, and products derived from goats and sheep to preserve muscle mass. Consume beans, chickpeas, green peas, and other legumes as your main source of protein.

Minimize saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (meat, cheese) and sugar, and maximize good fats and complex carbs. Eat whole grains and high quantities of vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, legumes, etc.) with generous amounts of olive oil (3 tablespoons per day) and nuts (1 ounce per day).

Follow a diet with high vitamin and mineral content, supplemented with a multivitamin buffer every three days.

Select ingredients among those discussed in this book that your ancestors would have eaten.

Based on your weight, age, and abdominal circumference, decide whether to have two or three meals per day. If you are overweight or tend to gain weight easily, consume two meals a day: breakfast and either lunch or dinner, plus two low-sugar (less than 5 grams) snacks with fewer than 100 calories each. If you are already at a normal weight, or if you tend to lose weight easily or are over 65 and of normal weight, eat three meals a day and one low-sugar (less than 3 to 5 grams) snack with fewer than 100 calories.

Confine all eating to within a twelve-hour period; for example, start after 8 a.m. and end before 8 p.m. Don’t eat anything within three to four hours of bedtime.

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I love this book. I love this part of the book…Zabo on training.


I asked Zabo, “What is the best exercise for biceps?”

We were buds for a long time, and went on various adventures near and far. The man was known for his simple wisdom, keen wit and adversity toward the ruins of ambition. He answered my provocative query in detail, “Curls.”

I was not surprised.

I continued. “What is the best exercise for triceps…shoulders…chest…back… thighs…calves?”

He answered each question generously, patiently and in order: dips…front presses…incline presses…deadlifts…squats…donkeys.

“Anything to add?”

I was riveted.

“Yeah, train hard, don’t miss, keep it basic and eat lots of chicken, fish, red meat and salads. Red wine won’t hurt ya.”

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This one popped up on the side of an article on gut biomes. So, I clicked it and found a really interesting little article on bathrooms. This point, on rugs, I thought was worthy of getting up from my desk and checking out my home to see if we follow this good advice (we do).


Rugs and rug-like items (like fuzzy toilet seat covers) should only serve a practical purpose. If you’re worried about slipping when you get out of the tub, then get a bathmat—but only one. “People love to have four rugs in their bathroom, one at each bowl of the sink, one in front of the toilet, one in front of the door, one in front of the shower,” Monroe and Knitter say. “Use one larger bath mat by the tub or shower that runs the length of it, not multiple rugs everywhere. The more you break up that floor space, the smaller the room appears. When we’re staging, we won’t put any rugs in a bathroom.”

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This is a very interesting article on the process of going from A-B in goal setting…with a lot more insights than I have ever seen.
Step 5: Push Through To Completion

The last step, of course, is execution. Dalio’s guidelines here are straightforward:

    Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere. No shit.

    Good work habits are vastly underrated. People who execute well are organised: they have todo-lists that are prioritised and they make sure each item is done in order.

    Establish clear metrics to make certain that you are following your plan. You need to make sure that you’re on track to hit your intended targets. Have someone other than yourself to check up on you. If you discover new problems, repeat this process and adjust accordingly.
My progress is alright. I’m currently at Week 2 of my 8 Week Plan. The course is 70% done at this point — I just have a small collection of worksheet materials to be designed, but I’m likely to finish it by the middle of Week 3 (which starts next Monday). As of today, I haven’t started marketing, due to my being scared of marketing.

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I really enjoy going to this site. The fact that they have great taste in books perhaps influences my choices.

1. Easy Strength: Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline
Easy Strength Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. When I first started Just Fly Sports, I decided that I really didn’t read enough books and spent far too much time on the internet reading random articles.  I wasn’t too familiar with many current authors and experts in the field, although I had heard of Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline.  It was actually a recommendation from Anthony Mychal that I saw that prompted me to get a kindle on my teeny phone and start reading books on the way to track meets and while waiting for events, so I started here. 

This is the first real book I’d say I’ve read on strength and power training, and I have gone back to it every year since. 

Between the practical wisdom of Dan John, and the dissection of otherwise unknown Russian sport science by Pavel, I don’t get 2 pages without remembering some aspect of training I can utilize.  This is honestly the best book on training I’ve ever read, I can’t recommend it enough.  I am completely aware of the mental anchoring effect, and even though this was my first Kindle book, it still stands alone against all others.
So there you have it, 8 books that have shaped me as a coach.  I am a true believer that good reading is not how many books you read, but how you find those that truly define you, and how you leave those pages written on and earmarked.  These are mine for training, what are yours?

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Saturday morning (watching College Football), I did my voyage into what’s new in nutrition. Sometimes I come away more confused. This article helped me a lot.

Pollan’s simple rules might seem complicated to us, because in order to understand them, we need to un-learn the rules of nutritionism. Here are some of the highlights:
– Eat food. What is food? Food is that which your great-grandmother would recognize as food. That means no “go-gurt,” no “meal substitutes,” no “protein shakes.”
– When you’re in the supermarket, “avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.”
– Eat mostly plants. Think of meat as a side dish or garnish rather than the principal component of the meal. Eat wild plants when you can.
– Eat less. Spend more — more money and more time.
It turns out that finding food is not necessarily that easy. We may not have to hunt and forage, but it can begin to seem like that. The best ways to find food are to get out of the supermarket and into farmers markets, community-supported agriculture and your own garden.
There is an inescapably elitist component to this argument, which Pollan acknowledges. Not everyone can afford to spend more money and time on food, yet, he’s adamant about the responsibility of those of us who can spend more to do so.
When a book like this comes along, people tend to embrace it as the gospel truth — and in a lot of ways it is. Pollan’s advice is revelatory. No more counting calories, or vitamins, or desperately trying to remember the different between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats.
Unfortunately, there is one fairly obvious problem with this advice: Americans don’t primarily eat food that comes in a box with a long list of “health claims” because they actually think they’re healthier than a home-cooked meal. We do so because we are addicted — to high-fructose corn syrup, soda pop, cookies, fast food and takeout.

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This argument might be the most elegant I have seen for the obesity crisis. The whole article should be read, but this is excellent.

This is the theme of perhaps the most epic of the alternative theories of obesity, put forward by Jonathan C K Wells. As I understand his view, obesity is like poverty, or financial booms and busts, or war — a large-scale development that no one deliberately intends, but which emerges out of the millions of separate acts that together make human history. His model suggests that the best Russian novelist to invoke when thinking about obesity isn’t Dostoyevsky, with his self-punishing anguish, but Leo Tolstoy, with his vast perspective on the forces of history.
In Wells’s theory, the claim that individual choice drives worldwide weight gain is an illusion — like the illusion that individuals can captain their fates independent of history. In reality, Tolstoy wrote at the end of War and Peace (1869), we are moved by social forces we do not perceive, just as the Earth moves through space, driven by physical forces we do not feel. Such is the tenor of Wells’s explanation for modern obesity. Its root cause, he proposed in the American Journal of Human Biology, is nothing less than the history of capitalism.
I will paraphrase Wells’s intricate argument (the only one I’ve ever read that references both receptor pathways for leptin and data on the size of the Indian economy in the 18th century). It is a saga spanning many generations. Let’s start with a poor farmer growing food crops in a poor country in Africa or Asia. In a capitalistic quest for new markets and cheap materials and labour, Europeans take control of the economy in the late 18th or early 19th century. With taxes, fees and sometimes violent repression, their new system strongly ‘encourages’ the farmer and his neighbours to stop growing their own food and start cultivating some more marketable commodity instead – coffee for export, perhaps. Now that they aren’t growing food, the farmers must buy it. But since everyone is out to maximise profit, those who purchase the coffee crop strive to pay as little as possible, and so the farmers go hungry. Years later, when the farmer’s children go to work in factories, they confront the same logic: they too are paid as little as possible for their labour. By changing the farming system, capitalism first removes traditional protections against starvation, and then pushes many previously self-sufficient people into an economic niche where they aren’t paid enough to eat well.
Eighty years later, the farmer’s descendants have risen out of the ranks of the poor and joined the fast-growing ranks of the world’s 21st-century middle-class consumers, thanks to globalisation and outsourcing. Capitalism welcomes them: these descendants are now prime targets to live the obesogenic life (the chemicals, the stress, the air conditioning, the elevators-instead-of-stairs) and to buy the kinds of foods and beverages that are ‘metabolic disturbers’.
But that’s not the worst of it. As I’ve mentioned, the human body’s response to its nutrition can last a lifetime, and even be passed on to the next generation. If you or your parents – or their parents – were undernourished, you’re more likely to become obese in a food-rich environment. Moreover, obese people, when they have children, pass on changes in metabolism that can predispose the next generation to obesity as well. Like the children of underfed people, the children of the overfed have their metabolism set in ways that tend to promote obesity. This means that a past of undernutrition, combined with a present of overnutrition, is an obesity trap.
Wells memorably calls this double-bind the ‘metabolic ghetto’, and you can’t escape it just by turning poor people into middle-class consumers: that turn to prosperity is precisely what triggers the trap. ‘Obesity,’ he writes, ‘like undernutrition, is thus fundamentally a state of malnutrition, in each case promoted by powerful profit-led manipulations of the global supply and quality of food.’
The trap is deeper than that, however. The ‘unifying logic of capitalism’, Wells continues, requires that food companies seek immediate profit and long-term success, and their optimal strategy for that involves encouraging people to choose foods that are most profitable to produce and sell — ‘both at the behavioural level, through advertising, price manipulations and restriction of choice, and at the physiological level through the enhancement of addictive properties of foods’ (by which he means those sugars and fats that make ‘metabolic disturber’ foods so habit-forming). In short, Wells told me via email, ‘We need to understand that we have not yet grasped how to address this situation, but we are increasingly understanding that attributing obesity to personal responsibility is very simplistic.’ Rather than harping on personal responsibility so much, Wells believes, we should be looking at the global economic system, seeking to reform it so that it promotes access to nutritious food for everyone. That is, admittedly, a tall order. But the argument is worth considering, if only as a bracing critique of our individual-responsibility ideology of fatness.

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This last article deserves a full read. I often come back and revisit some of these articles and this one will be read and reread. Rereading, as my old mentor taught me, is the key to knowledge. So, until next week, 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 164


“But he’s not big at all,” whispered the Wart disappointedly.
“He is ten feet high,” hissed Merlyn, “and that is extremely big for a giant. I chose the best one I knew. Even Goliath was only six cubits and a span-or nine feet four inches. If you don’t like him you can go home.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be ungrateful, Merlyn, only I thought they were sixty feet long and that sort of thing.”
“Sixty feet,” sniffed the necromancer.
The giants had heard something at the top of the wall, and looked up towards them, remarking in a rumbling tone, “How the bats squeak at night?” Then he poured himself out another hornful of madeira and tossed it off in one draught.
Merlyn lowered his voice and explained. “People find the teeth and bones of creatures like your friend, Atlantosaurus, and then they tell stories about human giants. One of them found a tooth weighing two hundred ounces. It’s dragons, not giants, that grow really big.”
“But can’t humans grow bit too?”
“I don’t understand it myself, but it is something about the composition of their bones. If a human was to grow sixty feet high, he would simply snap his bones with the weight of their own gravity. The biggest real giant was Eleazar, and he was only ten feet and a half.”
“Well,” said the Wart. “I must say that it is rather a disappointment.”
“I don’t mean being brought to see him,” he added hastily, “but that they don’t grow like I thought. Still, I suppose ten feet is quite big when you come to think of it.”
“It’s twice as high as you are,” said Merlyn. “You would just come up to his navel, and he could pitch you up to a corn rick about as high as you can throw a sheaf.”
They had become interested I this discussion, so that they got less and less careful of their voices, and now the giant rose up out of his easy-chair. He came towards them with a three-gallon bottle of wine in his hand, and stared earnestly at the wall on which they were sitting. Then he threw the bottle at the wall rather to their left, said in an angry voice, “Beastly screech owls!” and proceeded to stump off into the castle.
“Follow him,” cried Merlyn quickly.
They scrambled down off the wall, joined hands, and hurried after the giant by the garden door.

End quote
Wart continues to be a little boy here. He wants a sixty-foot giant. Well, they don’t make them that big.
I think this is one of White’s best “loops.” The giant is drinking madeira. This wine varietal takes us back to the Boar Hunt celebration and our first evening drinking with Sir Ector. “Pass the port” and all of that.
On that first evening that starts our story, there is a mention of a giant, Pass the Port, and here we finally meet him.

As we follow Galapas into his keep, we are going to meet a lot of the giant’s prisoners. And…we know one of them!

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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