Dan John’s Intervention: More Parks, Fewer Buses and A Life Fit for Warrior and Kings

As soon as I started reading Dan John’s new book, Intervention, I knew it was going to be on my very short list of books I’d make everyone read if I were king of the world.  I decided to write up a review and recommendation as soon as I finished the last chapter.  But then as soon as I finished the book, I knew I couldn’t possibly put together a well-written review that captured everything that delighted me in this book unless I read it again; so I did.  But then the second time, and later the third, weren’t enough either.  I’ve decided I need to cut myself off and get this up.

The problem with reviewing Intervention is not that it’s too complicated to summarize.  In fact, the opposite is more true.  What Dan has to say in Intervention is so simple but also so all-encompassing that it makes any write-up somehow feel both trivializing and inadequate.

The writing is authentic Dan John prose.  If you’ve ever heard Dan speak at a workshop or on a podcast, you will hear him in your mind’s ear as you read the text.  (And if you haven’t had the pleasure, there is an audio version available, narrated by Dan.)  He’s funny, down to earth, self-deprecating, and entirely, authentically serious.  This is life and death stuff.  No joke.

The book takes on a subject no smaller than How To Do Everything.  If Augusten Burroughs hadn’t already used the title (of his own terrific book), Intervention could have been titled This Is How – how to assess where you are; how to identify your goals; how to get stronger; how to build armor; how to become resilient; how to eat; how to run a life.  Oh sure the book is about fitness, but the lessons all translate and spiral out, as Dan puts it.  Note that it isn’t This Is What.  You have to decide for yourself what you want your life to be.  Intervention just helps with the execution.  

Intervention starts with 10 questions to get you traveling down that road.  Some are easy (“How old are you?”).  Others seem easy but answering honestly can be difficult (“Are you willing to go back to basics?”  “Are you willing to correct your problems?”).  None are unanswerable.  When you’re finished working through the questions, you’ll be ready to start.  Start what?  Well, that’s the question, isn’t it.

Following the 10 questions, Dan discusses five principles that guide his advice for implementing the goals you have set for yourself.  They are all so simple and so fundamental that it is easy to blow past the discussion of the five principles.  Don’t.

I recall reading Dan’s book, Never Let Go, and seeing this line:  “What time is it?  Now.  Where am I?  Here.”  I thought:  Ha funny.  Wait.  Whoa.  Wow, that’s good.  When I find myself focused too much on the future or when I’m kicking myself for procrastinating, I come back to these two wise questions and these two always-true answers.

The five principles in Intervention have that kind of quality.  “Fundamental human movements are fundamental.”  Well, duh.  Except, no, not duh.  That’s profound.  Look around next time you’re at your local gym or even the grocery store.  Our brains have become so disconnected from our bodies that the idea that fundamentals are fundamental is actually a game-changer.

You might be asking yourself if you’re the audience for this book.  If you’ve read this far, then yes, you’re the audience for Intervention.  You can be a professional athlete, a professional warrior, a skinny and weak high school freshman, a deconditioned office worker, a banged up weekend warrior or just regular old you.  As I’ve said, it’s a book about how, not a book about what, so in the end, it’s a book about you – who you are, what you want, and how to get there.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Intervention in one of these formats:  


Digital Book


(ps – save these links because the odds are close to 100% that you will want to buy another copy to foist on friends or family.)


Stuff You Should Read

Technique Guides

Gray Cook and Brett Jones demonstrate technique, variations and cues for the deadlift in this Functional Movement video, “Cook-ing the Deadlift” (filmed backstage at a recent CK-FMS).

News flash: Neutral spine is more of a range/zone than static position. Mike Robertson of Robertson Training Systems and Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training explains. “The Myth of Neutral Spine

A front squat opus from Eric Cressey. Definitely worth the time to read: “How to Front Squat:  Everything You Need to Know

The SLDL-SQ: Love single-leg deadlifts (SLDLs)? Love Squats? Want monster hip stability? Check out this new single-leg combo exercise that hammers hip and core control. It’s definitely a keeper.  “Exercises You Should Be Doing: 1-Legged RDL to Squat

Pavel Tsatsouline of StrongFirst explains why he believes the kettlebell swing is the top dog in the world of hip hinge exercises:  “The ‘Best’ Hip Hinge Exercise

Nearly everyone needs to work on thoracic spine (upper back) mobility. The Brettzel (named by Gray Cook in honor of Master SFG Brett Jones) is one of the best exercises for developing t-spine mobility. Learn how to do the brettzel in this video:

The side-lying windmill is a thoracic spine AND shoulder mobilizer, while also giving a great pec stretch: perfect for the warmup but also soooo relaxing during a cool down. Credits to Tony Gentilcore and Eric Cressey from Cressey Performance.

Hey strength fans, don’t forget the “and conditioning” part of “strength and conditioning.” In this blog post, Joel Jamieson discusses 5 ways to improve your conditioning.  “5 Ways to Improve Your Conditioning


Oh boy, is this a good post. Dan Trink discusses why women should lift heavy, and PRAISE [insert name of whomever you praise], he doesn’t fall back on “fitspiration” nonsense.  “Girl Power: Why Lifting Heavier Can Be a Life Changer

Hey endurance athletes, getting strong should be a top priority for you too. In this article, Mo Farrah’s coach explains how strength training was the key to propelling this runner to double Olympic gold this year: “The number one thing that has helped Mo is not the 110 miles a week he puts in on the road, but the seven hours a fortnight he does in the gym.”  “Mo-tivator: How Mo Farah’s Coach Trained Him Up for a Double Olympic Gold Success

Recovery and Stress Management

Do you cool down at the end of your training sessions? In this blog post, Science of Running gives a new perspective on why cooling down is so good for us.  “Rethinking the Cool Down

At this time of year, it’s so easy for life to spiral out of control. In this blog post, Whole9Life shares its brilliantly simple formula for a balanced life:  “The Whole9 Health Equation

Even Elmo is advocating diaphragmatic breathing these days. “Belly Breathe

No one disputes that it’s important to keep an eye on overall straining volume and intensity to avoid over-reaching and over-training. But too often, we ignore all of the other stresses in life. In this blog post The Science of Running discusses how the stress of life is something no one can afford to ignore. “The Stress of Life: How Stress Can Impact Your Workout

Let’s talk hand care. In our view, nothing (including the Pedi Egg) compares to the Tweezerman Spa Callus Smoother. Here’s what to do: keep the callus smoother in the shower with you. Toward the end of your shower, after your hands have had a chance to get nice and soft, spend a little time gently running the file over your callus line. This process will take less than a minute. The goal is to file away the excess skin; it isn’t to remove your callus altogether. Learn from my fail: it’s a gentle process, not an opportunity to wear down 9 months of neglect in one session. (This advice holds true no matter what filing implement you use.) If you ignore this advice, even a few rays of sunlight will make you whimper. But if you gently work on your hands and do a little work every shower and then follow up with lotion, you will keep the toughened skin that helps with training, but you won’t have excess skin just begging to be torn by an errant clean or snatch.

With proper kettlebell form and hand self-care, you should never tear a callus. But sometimes things go awry, and you’ll need to tape your hands while they heal. In this classic blog post, Master SFG Reifkind explains the best way to tape your hands. “How to Tape Your Hands

Special Order: Chicago Kettlebell Company Cycling Jersey and Shorts

teamupb_shirt_final1 bibs_teamupb_corrected

Chicago Kettlebell Company is an official sponsor of the Team Ultimate Pro Bikes road racing team. For a limited time, you can order the exact high-quality racing kits worn by the UPB team, made by Italian cycling-wear manufacturer TEXMarket. Order by December 31 for delivery in mid-February. Select men’s or women’s shorts here, or unisex jersey here.

Special Pricing for SFG Level I Certifications for RKCS and HKCS


Strong First has announced special pricing for the upcoming SFG certs: Current and former (expiration within past 18 months) RKCs can attend the three-day SFG-1 certification for $500. HKCs can attend for $695. HOLY SMOKES THIS IS A BARGAIN.  To qualify for your discount, please e-mail a copy of your certification, current or expired, to qualify@strongfirst.com.  For more information on SFG certifications, visit Strong First.

Dan John (Feb 8-9) and Charlie Weingroff (June 22-23) Workshops in Chicago

Dan John Intervention Workshop February 8-9, 2013

Dan John is coming to Chicago on Feb 8 and 9 to do a workshop based on his new (and FANTASTIC) book, Intervention. There are only 30 spots available. This event absolutely will sell out (probably before we see baby new year). If you’re interested, book now. Burr Ridge Kettlebell Club is putting the workshop together, and the fun days will all take place at Rebell Conditioning in Lakeview. The cost is $349. Further info and registration details here.

Charlie Weingroff Training=Rehab, Rehab=Training
June 22-23, 2013

Charlie Weingroff, RKC, Doctor of Physical Therapy, strength coach and all-around smart guy is coming to Rebell Conditioning on June 22 and 23 to do a workshop based on his landmark DVD series Training=Rehab, Rehab=Trainingsystem. The cost is $699. There are only 30 spots available and will sell out long before June. Register here.