Wednesday musings: Thoughts from a Dan John lecture and the power of moderation

Wednesday musings, 4/20/16
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to Dan John speak. Dan John is an author, teacher, and athlete, specializing in pursuits such as Olympic weightlifting, kettlebells, and the Highlands Games. Takeaways include:
Automate as much as you can. When you open e-mails, answer them. Always say yes when leaving the dentist’s office to make a follow-up appointment. Not having these things cluttering your thoughts allows you to better focus during the moments that matter.
Hang out (and train) with a group of people that energizes you. This keeps you motivated and enthusiastic, helping prevent burnout.
Floss daily.
Falling kills people. (The numbers are staggering). Teach people how to tumble, not just because it’s fun, but because it will help when the inevitable stumble happens. 
Loaded carries are the solution to all training plateaus (not really. But in the same way others are enthusiastic about the deadlift, he is enthusiastic about loaded carries). 
If you were to make a list of all the times in your life you struggled and a list of all the times in your life you thrived, there would be a common theme missing from the periods of struggle. Use this information to allow you to excel. 
Training is not competition. It is not a time to go all out and feel like you don’t have anything left to give. Treat training like training and make sure you have something left at the end.
There is an optimal arousal level for most things. For instance, preparing to give a speech in front of 40 people requires a higher arousal level than writing a research paper, and both require less arousal than participating in a boxing match. Make sure your arousal level matches the task.
Shaking and hot tubs are great ways to decrease stress levels.
Get a small, yippie dog that needs to be walked every day. The dog is the best training partner you will ever have (as the owner of two small, yippie dogs, I was quite fond of this advice).
When you are about to do something that requires you to be out of your comfort zone, it is easy to come up with a million excuses why you shouldn’t do that thing. (“I’m tired,” “I don’t feel good,” “my dog is sick”). Instead of focusing on the excuses, ask yourself, “can you go?” If the answer is yes, go.

Listening to lifelong teachers break down what they have learned is always inspirational. Even if weightlifting isn’t your thing, I strongly recommend checking out Dan John’s books for lessons on lifting and life.

Wednesday musings, 4/27/16
In a research paper I was reading recently regarding exercise and low back pain, the authors noted exercise and low back pain prevalence followed a u-shaped curve. Individuals that don’t exercise at all have a higher likelihood of experiencing low back pain; so do individuals that lead extremely active lifestyles. Moderately active individuals experienced the lowest amounts of low back pain, indicating moderate physical activity might be protective in nature.*

What I found interesting about this is how difficult it actually is to be moderate. We see this in the dieting industry all of the time. Why reduce processed foods and eat a little bit less when you could cleanse and detox to lose 5 pounds fast? Why gradually ease into an exercise program, exposing your tissues to a little bit more than you were doing last week, when you could do a 30 day jumpstart challenge? Moderate is hard. Some find it boring. Others aren’t interested in focusing on the impact their decisions today will have on their well-being 10 years from now, preferring to focus on immediate gratification from their actions. Moderate takes commitment, delayed gratification, and patience. Bryan Kahn, a well known fitness writer, wrote in a recent blog post on exercise and aging, “a good rule of thumb is, a few hours after completing a workout you should feel like you could go back and repeat it.”** For diet, ask yourself, “can I repeat this tomorrow?” Even if you have specific short term physical goals, begin to understand what moderate feels like and ask yourself, “can I repeat this in 4 hours?” If the answer is consistently no, consider re-evaluating your fitness program and assessing how it will hold up in the long run.

*Paper here: