Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 79

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 79

Brand new! Dan’s new Lifelong Approach to Fitness lecture collection audio book:A Lifelong Approach to Fitness lecture collection audio book!

This morning, Tiffini will be going back to work after a few weeks of recovering from her surgery. We spent the weekend in Park City celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary with grandchildren and Godchildren and swimming pools and laughter.

I was a child groom at age thirty. I had traveled the world, finished a lot of degrees, competed well and set myself up in my career. But, I sacrificed a lot of other things in life like cars, homes and luxuries to be able to spend the summers all over the world. Tiffini and I bought our first home together and she taught me the importance of being debt free, protecting the credit rating and enjoying life.

Many people say that Tiffini and I are “a lot alike.” To ensure we are not too much alike, we did the DNA testing from 23andme. I have to say that the results are a lot of fun and provide some fun insights. My family tree has a lot more Irish than I thought, a fair share of Neanderthal (obviously!) and a few stories that probably would make Mom blush.

I also found out that I probably like caffeine a lot, sweat in my sleep, and I should consider being a power athlete. And, my wife has a lot of Scandinavian in her as well as basically the whole of Europe in small parts. I was warned by Professor Glatfelter in 1981 that Family Trees are fraught with misinterpretations, flat-out lies and stories that should best remain in the dark. DNA testing seems to support this truth that our neat little trees probably have their share of stories.

My favorite part of this was finding out that coffee is good for me!

“The study showed that individuals who drank from one to three cups of coffee had an eight percent lower risk for premature death; those who drank three to five cups had a 15 percent lower risk; while those who drank more than five cups a day had a 12 percent lower risk. The results persisted even when correcting for age, sex and diet.

This article really struck home with Tiffini’s recent surgery and the whole discussion of DNA. The online experts who teach us that “this or that” will make the hormones react in a certain way might need to try medical school and a few history classes.

“Some who believe in WTS cite it as a ‘starvation coping mechanism gone amuck,’ meaning that the bodies of those who have suffered from prolonged periods of hunger have altered the way in which their thyroid works, to slow down their metabolism and preserve energy.

“In certain cases, they claim, following these periods of hunger the thyroid continues to function abnormally and that this trait has been passed down to their ancestors causing thyroid problems in our current generation.

“WilsonSyndrome.com adds, ‘Interestingly, the patients who seem to be the most predisposed towards developing Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (earlier in life with less provocation) seem to predominantly belong to certain nationalities such as, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, American Indian and Russian (as well as from other countries which have been plagued with famine).'”

As I roamed the web, I found that the “Biggest Loser,” which still remains number one in my voting for most offensive title of all time, has really become a popular discussion. This article provide some insight.

“Yet when it comes to weight, it would seem that everyone is trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon of weight loss, and society is not only not pointing out how backward that goal is but reinforcing it.

“But what if, like running, the goal with weight loss and/or healthful living was for people to simply do their best? For people to determine their own best efforts, and respect their realities? For a person’s reality to include potentially unchangeable limitations like genetics, medical illnesses, socioeconomics, caregiving requirements, job responsibilities, and travel — as well as the fact that food is not just fuel, but also something that we as a species use for comfort, for celebration, and as the substrate of the world’s oldest social network?

“Embrace the healthful living imperfections of reality, and suddenly the impossible may well become possible.”

That was a good article, and it linked to this article. I like first person articles and this one is loaded with honesty.

“You’ll notice I talked mostly about weight loss through exercise rather than diet, despite the fact that the current scientific thinking says that eating less is way, way more important than working out. The thing is, though, it was a lot easier for me to hop on a treadmill than to cut portions, at least at first. So I just ignored the (frequently contradictory) mountains of literature on the best way to lose weight and just focused on finding a way that worked for me. I’m usually not so blithely ignorant, but it worked pretty well here.”

I’ve been a fan of high rep squatting since doing it added twenty feet to my discus throw. It also ended up being too much for me, but that is “the rest of the story” for another time. Lyle McDonald, the gentle voice of reasonableness in our community, has a nice summary here.

The 20 Rep Squat

“For no particularly good reason I want to write about something that has already had endless words written about it and that I probably won’t contribute much meaningfully “new” to the topic on.  But so it goes.  That topic is the 20 rep squat (sometimes called more specifically the 20 rep breathing squat).  This is kind of the original rest-pause training, an entire book has been written about it although if you gain 30 lbs in 6 weeks, it’s not gonna be mostly muscle, and I imagine most have at least heard of it.

“But I’m hoping not to make this just the same old generic article that everyone has seen.  Yes, I want to look at the 20 rep squat in a general sense, in terms of how it is done but I also want to look at variations and a couple of things about it that many may not be aware of.  I’m sure, as is my wont (what the hell does that even mean), I’ll tangent into some other random stuff too.

What is The 20 Rep Squat?

“So what is the 20 rep squat, anyhow?  Based on the name you’d think it was just some generic set of 20 repetitions but that’s not an accurate description.  As stated above, it’s really the first rest-pause approach (that I know of anyhow) and you will typically see something to the effect of ‘Take your best 10 repetition maximum weight and grind out 20 reps’ with it to describe that set. Let’s look at that first.

“By definition, you can’t do 20 repetitions with a 10 repetition maximum (RM) weight.  If you could, it would be your 20 RM.  And this would be true if you were using that 10RM weight in a relatively continuous, no major rest between repetitions way.  But again this is rest-pause training and that’s not how the set is meant to be done.  But even here there are two traditional ways that the set has been done.”

So, it’s graduation time of year. For us, graduation parties come in ways: we seem to go to a lot for a few years, then there is a lull. Often, we find that we go to a wedding about six to ten years after high school graduation and we get a chance to see “success” and the path to success in the bride and groom and wedding party. This article seems to echo the truth of our observations.

“The moms work.

“According to research out of Harvard Business School, there are significant benefits for children growing up with mothers who work outside the home.

“The study found daughters of working mothers went to school longer, were more likely to have a job in a supervisory role, and earned more money — 23% more compared to their peers who were raised by stay-at-home mothers.

“The sons of working mothers also tended to pitch in more on household chores and childcare, the study found — they spent seven-and-a-half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework.

“‘Role modeling is a way of signaling what’s appropriate in terms of how you behave, what you do, the activities you engage in, and what you believe,’ the study’s lead author, Harvard Business School professor Kathleen L. McGinn, told Business Insider.

“‘There are very few things, that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother,’ she told Working Knowledge.”

Youtube is always fun. This video of kettlebells and wrestling is going to give some of us some bad ideas, but what an interesting video:

The Soviet Discus video also has hundreds of ideas, not all good, for the discus throw:


I like the idea of using a “switch,” a small bit of a tree, to teach the whip.

And, for the popular fitness world, I found this short video a fun watch.

For even more fun in fitness:

“Culture Breeds Success: Inside MFF, Ninjas are greeted with pink and purple graffiti-covered walls, booming music, and several murals of frolicking unicorns. Coming from a Broadway background, Mark and his team have created a culture that not only appeals to those in theater but anyone that may not fit the typical gym member profile. You can still get the same results (some would argue better) being in an environment where you feel like you can be yourself.”

Phil Maffetone came out with another great article. I have been reading his work since BEFORE I met Tiffini, so I like to think I am not exactly a latecomer to his work. His  recent popularity is well deserved, but he was warning about junk carbs and the lack of quality fat long before the internet was born. After learning more about DNA and fast twitch muscles, I found this article a much better route to speed training for most people.

“Overreaching. The sweet spot of training means getting in enough volume (time and or miles) but not too much, and going fast but not too fast. This point is called overreaching, the point at which one maintains and increases fitness, but before the onset of overtraining, which results in injury, fatigue and poor performance.

“Here’s my high-performance formula: Training = Workout + Rest

“The most common reason for exceeding overreaching is too much hard training. These anaerobic, hard efforts can no doubt increase VO2max and lactate threshold, even while the athlete is drifting into overtraining. Unfortunately, what often happens is VO2max and lactate thresholds are pushed higher at the expense of economy, and performance suffers.”

I also think you need to read these two other articles from Maffetone to understand the whole idea:

I have a quiet week before I start traveling a lot again. I’m off to Sweden, England (twice) and a few other destinations in the next month or so. Until next week, let’s keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note: From Taylor Lewis this week, we have a comprehensive discussion of time under tension: