Friday, September 30, 2011

Intervention DVD - the UnProgram Toolkit - from Dan John

How do you figure out how to train for your goals?  Whether that goal is to burn some fat or increase your DL 1 rep max? Do you talk with someone? read a book? a forum post? It seems most of us, at some point or other, are on the hunt for The Program  - that best schedule to follow that will get us from A to well, if not Z, at least further down the alphabet.

This quest for The Program is no different for trainers or coaches  looking for ways to help their athletes achieve their goals than it is for the individual.

There are likely 100s of programs promising awesome results all with fabulous testimonials. How decide? Or is everything as good as anything else? Wouldn’t it be nice just to sit back and have a trusted voice cut through all the noise, and provide some basic principles for performance? Dan John’s audio/video recording of his three hour Intervention workshop does just this: skips the programs (for the most part) and cuts to the principles, or as Dan calls them, the patterns. In a way, however, Intervention is if not the AntiProgram, the UnProgram.

the unprogram nut? says laree draper "we grow these here too"

Last week, i posted part 1 of an interview with Dan John about his book of the same name. Laree Draper, Dan’s publisher, kindly then shared the Intervention DVDs with me. While the core principles are the same in both book and DVD, the DVDs are sufficiently distinct to want to have both around. That's why i wanted to do this post in between part 1 of the interview with Dan, and part 2 coming up: why would someone want to purchase both a cool book AND a bunch of DVDs - are they the same? are they different enough? They're different enough, whether training yourself, or especially, training others.

The Phone Call; the ToolKit
As we saw in the interview, while the big take away from the book is the pattern concept  in detail, the big take away from the DVD is the ToolKit - using the patterns - but more, the questions to run through one’s head when training oneself or a client. The dozen or so heuristics are the big payoff of the DVDs, both as the concepts themselves, but also applied in worked out scenarios. It’s a rich three hours.

Everything is Obvious in Hindsight
Dan’s set up the workshop around unpacking what goes through his head when someone calls him up to ask how to achieve a particular goal. The result is the ToolKit - summarised and explicated in the DVDs. The toolkit is the ta da. The important note is that there are no secrets here. There's no magic per se in any one of the tools provided, taken on their own, such as asking "how are you doing" in a way that elicits an athletes actual state.

Put together in a complete package of steps, however, guarenteed after going through them, one will feel an overarching sense of "oh wow" and "duh" combined. The magic - such as it exists - is that these "simple" insights are the results of 30 (dan says 40; he's 53 at time of recording) years of experience and consequent errors put into an effective way to work with athletes.

So this is material distinctly framed from the book with a complementary emphasis. And it’s that emphasis from Dan’s particular style of delivery that also makes the disks worthwhile.

Yes, the book is far more detailed than the DVDs (it’s a book) - that’s one reason to go for the book when it comes out in November 2011 - but part of the value of the DVDs (and associated supporting content of slides and docs referenced in the workshop) beyond the Toolkit Framing is that, well, it’s Dan John talking.

Dan is extremely easy listening. And sometimes that’s what i certainly want, don’t you?  just  to put the pen down and listen to someone who has chops we trust break it down in a  clear way. Make sense? I mean this is why we go to talks or workshops in the first place, no? It’s not just the material (thought that’s critical) - it’s to hear it presented. When listening to Dan, as opposed to reading alone, some things in particular pop out; he puts the emPHAsis in particular places.And it’s that critical bit of emphasis or repetition where we can get the take aways.

Some  of Dan’s favourite “pay attention” tropes: “i just made you money there,” “you can thank me later,” leave the cheque on the way out.” And those cues really do help make the point that if we just do X, we’ll have had a significant impact for the better on ourselves or on our athletes’ lives.

I asked Dan why he decided to do the DVD/book combo, and it’s exactly this emphasis point that underlay the approach:

DVDs having ability to show and to show the flow. When you read, one might artificially put too much emphasis on a point that really isn't that big a deal. And the opposite, I might be typing REALLY loud the importance of something and you miss it because it blends into the page. So, a DVD allows you to act out, point out and lead the viewer to the point. With reading, I can complete the whole arc of the both need to be done.
In the DVDs, Dan also presents demonstrations of points that can only be described in the book. Likewise the three hour workshop can only make those Big Picture points whereas the book drills down into detail. They complement each other.

Dan John on hamstring firing for hinge movements

For instance, the DVD’s discussion of the hinge (presented on a youtube clip) is a very potent demo of how to help correct form to get the hinge working right in say a single leg deadlift. But that’s one demo. In the book, there’s a full section dedicated just to the hinge, patterning it and progressing it.

The two sources are effectively complementary.

Packaging the ToolKit and the Patterns
And sometimes it’s just nice to listen. For such occasions, very wisely, the Drapers are offering an mp3 of the audio track of the DVDs, because let’s face it, for the most part, what’s presented from the workshop as a whole is largely  the remaining lecture components. I stress for the most part - the demos are very visual as are the charts Dan creates to support his points, and the third disk’s discussion of the worked examples of the tool kit is very valuable. But for the most part, one is still listening to dan. So when in transit, listening to the lecture on an iPod is great - i went back later to check the vid bits and charts i missed.

Accessibility via InterWeb
If this presentation inspires you to want to grab the DVDs NOW, the Drapers anticipated a big wish about getting DVD content fast by getting rid of the disks. Oh sure, one can buy the physical discs in a package, but they’ve also made all the material available for  download,  including the audio files and the supporting materials. These can be bought together or separately. The audio file alone with the supporting visual material is a sixth of the price of the physical DVDs. The DVDs downloaded are half the price of the physical DVDs. And the book will start at 4.99.

I should note the quality of the DVDs is just fine - the charts are mixed into the videos, the demos are presented in different views. The only weak spot in audio is that a few bits of audience participation questions are not mic’d directly so the audio in those spots is weak. But that’s twice in the whole thing, and a niggle not an issue. The transcript provided with the mp3 clarifies what was said in any case. Oh yes, there’s even a transcript if you’d rather read than listen to the presentation.

Dan John on"realistic reps" from Intervention

Making it so easy and affordable -with multiple options - to connect with this material - is really cool and very progressive. And a little weird. As i noted in the interview last week, Dan’s put out a lot of the material in Intervention for free in places like t-nation. You don’t *have* to buy any of this material since so much of it is “out there” on what Dan calls the interwebs.

The reason for purchasing each of the components? The more-ness. Intervention the Book gathers that material together and expands it in the detail of the patterns and progressions; Intervention the DVD set provides the emphasis (and the comfort) of Dan’s delivery with the framing on the ToolKit, and the Draper’s presentation means that all of this great material is pretty much accessible all the time to anyone

Indeed, the plan for Intervention the Book is: free perpetual update. Says Dan:
The idea behind the book is to come out as a Kindle. Then, I will add to it as time goes on. But, if you buy it when it first comes out, all the new material will be free, you just update. The price will go up each time after updates. The initial price will be low, by the way. This isn’t a money maker, the idea is to get “something,” of course, but I just want it to cover the hassle of typing it up.

Adds Laree Draper:
This new work of Dan's is especially interesting from a publishing point of view for two reasons. First, it's the type of material that stands solid and unchanging, but it will also benefit as he develops new ideas and learns new ways to teach the Intervention concepts. The second thing is the chaos of publishing today gives us a unique opportunity to test new publishing options.

For example, we'll release the new book Intervention in its edited state in November, whatever the length at the time. ... The initial release will be sold as an ebook at $4.99.  In the following months as Dan adds more meat to the bones, we'll upload a new version, and move the price to $6.99; and we'll do this again in the spring or early summer 2012, moving the price to $9.99.

The way ebooks work is a book owner can delete a book from a device, and can download it again at a later date. This means the early buyers who paid $4.99 will be able to get the updated book without paying an additional fee.

This is a wonderful way to get new material to the public quickly, while it's still fresh, without waiting through the normal book writing and publishing timeline. I'm very enthusiastic about the new opportunities in publishing, and this, while it will require explanation, is one of my favorites new options.
This is a pretty cool way for a publisher to investigate producing material with an author for an audience, and that’s partly why i’m writing this piece: i’m personally fascinated by the group’s approach to supporting athletes and coaches connect with material at the speed of the internet. Durn progressive.

I asked Dan how the Drapers became his publisher
I thought everyone knew the story: on the Power and Bulk forum, Steve needed helped moving stuff for a strongman contest. My brother, Gary, volunteered himself and his son, David, to do it. They spent the day there. While moving stuff, Laree Draper asked Dan Martin: "Who is this guy?"

Happily, Dan told Laree that Gary was MY brother and Laree should get in contact with me. Laree emailed me. The timing was perfect, she started handling my first three DVDs, then we agreed to do just a little two day workshop, which became the four part Utah DVDs...then the forum, the book, the next book, the next DVD, traveling, workshops and, well, there you go.
The Everything Else
That’s what one might call a lasting relationship. Indeed, quality social interaction plays a big role in Dan’s training principles, and in Intervention. One of the things Dan talks about in the Intervention DVDs considerably more than in the book - and that’s intriguing - is that what one does with one’s life to improve quality should make all parts of it bigger: if one trains harder, one needs not just more quality rest but more deep play, and more quality social interaction. He talks about everything we do should make each part of our lives spiral out wider.

Which brings us back to the challenge that began this post: trying to figure out what program to use to get us to our fitness goals.

After listening to Intervention, it’s pretty clear that getting to those goals is not about the program - or not about *just* the program. It’s really about one’s life. For Dan John, he mounts a pretty good case that getting stronger helps make everything better, but the bigger case seems to be that one gets stronger because of what that brings to the EVERYTHING else. One gets the feeling that for Dan John (and his grade school teacher who so inspired him to discern) it’s the quality of the Everything Else that really matters.

 If you're interested in Intervention in all its manifestions, check out that myriad of options at

Part II of the Intervention interview with Dan John with a special focus on women's strength, coming up.

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