Almond Cherry Granola

I eat this granola with Greek Yogurt almost every day of the week. It’s easy to make, tastes great and is full of carbs, fiber and antioxidants. I first learned of the recipe from the book, “Runner’s World Meals on the Run” from Rodale Press. I’ve modified it slightly though. My recipe makes twice the amount and I’m not a big fan of cloves so I reduced the amount used.

Makes 10 Cups

Wet Ingredients:

6 ounces Canola Oil
4 tablespoons Honey
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract

Dry Ingredients:

4 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Slivered Almonds
1/2 cup Chopped Cashews
1 cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves

1 cup Dried Tart Cherries (Added after baking)

Pre-heat the oven to 35o degrees F.

In a medium bowl stir together the wet ingredients. The mixture should have a medium brown color when blended.

In a large bowl add the dry ingredients (minus the dried cherries) and gently toss to mix the dry then pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir to combine, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated.

Spread half the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the ingredients. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes. (I prepare two baking sheets and I use parchment paper on the baking sheets to make clean up a little easier. You can bake both sheets at the same time but I prefer to bake one sheet at a time.)

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Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the dried cherries onto the baking sheet. Allow the granola to cool on the pan then store in an airtight container.

Repeat the baking and cooling process for the remaining half of the granola mixture.

 

 

Half Marathon Training: Week Seven

The long run days are getting long. On Saturday I ran almost nine miles. I have to say I really enjoyed the run. I stayed relaxed and kept my heart rate and breathing in control. I turned up the jams and mostly daydreamed for an hour and forty minutes.

Monday: Ran 4.22 miles at 10:16 pace.
Tuesday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Wednesday: 31 minute interval run. 16 minute fast run/2 minute walk/14 minute fast run on a treadmill.
Thursday: 30 minute interval run. 10 minute slow run/1 1/2 minute fast run followed by 1 minute of walking (x4)/10 minute slow run for a distance of 2.72 miles at 11:04 overall average pace.
Friday: Rest day.
Saturday: Ran 8.78 miles at 11:30 pace.
Sunday: Strength training and stretching.

Fitbit Blaze Review

I’ve had the new Fitbit Blaze for a week now so I thought I would tell you about my experience with the new tracker. For a little over a year I’ve used the Fitbit Surge so any comparisons I make will be made between the Blaze and Surge. Functionally, both are very similar except the Surge has built-in GPS and the Blaze uses connected GPS from your mobile phone. The Blaze comes with a classic band and retails for approximately $200. For comparison the Surge retails for approximately $250.

Appearance

The Blaze uses a new color display instead of monochrome. The display is attractive and I find it easier to read than the monochrome display on the Surge. The tracking device snaps into a metal frame which gives the Blaze a nicer appearance than the Surge.  Unlike the Surge, you can swap out the bands that hold the tracking device. The classic band has an appearance similar to the Surge and Charge HR and is available in three colors: black, blue and plum. While a bit pricey, Fitbit now offers a leather band or metal links band for the Blaze. The leather bands come in black, camel, and mist grey. The metal band has a satin silver finish that matches the frame that holds the tracker. The metal links band retails for $130; the leather bands retail for $100 and the classic bands retail for $30. I hear Fitbit plans to offer additional bands that will appeal more to women. I hope they offer alternatives that are priced well below $100. I have the metal links band which to me, gives an appearance more appropriate for the office or evening out. I plan to use the classic band when I work out with the Blaze tracking device and wear the metal links band at work and on evenings out. My Surge will not go by the wayside either.  I will continue to use my Surge with its built-in GPS while running outdoors. The Fitbit app supports the use of multiple trackers very well so switching between the two trackers is easy.

Navigation

You press any side button or tap on the touch screen to wake up the device. Navigation between menu screens is handled by swiping to the right then tapping on the screen to open the menu. Menu choices are Clock, Today, Exercise, FitStar, Timer, Alarms, and Settings. At any time, you can press the Back Button (single button on left side) to return to the previous screen and eventually back to the clock screen. The screen tap function is a little quirky. Sometimes I have to tap multiple time to get the watch to detect my taps. Hopefully this will improve in a future firmware update.

To view text messages, calendar reminders or missed calls you swipe up from the clock menu. To view the music controls, you swipe down or hold the top right button. If you use the original watch display (three other display options are available: Pop, Zone, & Flare) you can tap on the clock to see the date, heart rate, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed, total steps. Swiping to the Today menu and tapping once allows you to scroll through the screen to view to daily activity.

Tracking Exercise & FitStar Integration

SmartTrack automatically detects most exercises but you can use the Exercise menu to start a workout such as running, treadmill, golf, bicycling, weights and others. The Blaze can track your running or cycling route by using the GPS capabilities of your mobile phone.
Fitstar is a new integrated feature of the Blaze. The integration is limited and I would really like to see more routines included. Users like myself that use Fitstar’s premium service will not be impressed. You have the choice of three routines: “Warm It Up”, “7 Minute Workout”, and “10 Minute Abs”. I didn’t have any trouble understanding the exercises in the routines but if you’re not a Fitstar user the routines may be a little confusing at first. All three routines will give you a useful short workout, especially when you’re away from home or only have time for a short workout.

Sleep, Silent Alarms & Heart Rate

The Blaze does a great job of automatically tracking your sleep. Just wear it to bed and the Blaze will do the rest and will calculate your resting heart rate for you. Unlike other smart watches on the market the Fitbit HR models Charge HR, Surge and Blaze track your heart rate all the time. Most other smart watch makers only record it every ten minutes.
As with other Fitbit trackers you use the Fitbit mobile app to set your silent alarms. I use the alarms for morning wake up and to remind me to get up from my desk at work and get moving for a few. You can tap the screen to turn an alarm off or put into snooze mode for nine minutes. I tend to use the right side buttons instead of the touch screen. This is an area that I have my greatest complaint but I will admit had I not come from using the Surge I probably would not have noticed or even minded the change here. You use the lower right button to turn the alarm off and press the upper right button to put the alarm on snooze. This is the exact opposite of the Surge. The first night I used the Blaze I intended to put the morning wakeup alarm on a nine-minute snooze and without realizing it I turned the alarm off. I fell back asleep and then overslept by twenty minutes. I suppose I will get used to the change but I will always have to think about which tracker I’m wearing when an alarm goes off. I cannot think of any compelling reason why Fitbit didn’t keep this function consistent between both trackers.

Overall Impression

If you are a Fitbit Surge user, there is little reason to switch. Personally, I got the Blaze for its appearance and not for its functionality. A Fitbit Flex, Charge or Charge HR user who doesn’t need built-in GPS the Blaze would be a good upgrade option that has a cheaper starting price point than the Surge. Of course, if you start adding custom wristbands the saving will disappear quickly. The Blaze has very good battery life. Even with my frequent tapping, swiping and button presses while going over all the features and functions I got four days on a single charge. Overall, I like the Fitbit Blaze and will wear it daily however, I will continue to use my Surge on my outdoor runs so I can take advantage of the built-in GPS.

If you are wanting to upgrade from a first generation tracker, the Blaze is a great option. All measurements from the tracker are accurate and battery life is very good. If you want or need built-in GPS you may want to consider the Fitbit Surge, otherwise you can’t go wrong with the Blaze.

Workout Playlist of the Month: March 2016

Where Are U Now (with Justin Bieber) (Kaskade Remix) – Skrillex & Diplo (126 BPM)
More (RedOne Jimmy Joker Remix) – Usher (125 BPM)
Time of Our Lives – Pitbull & Ne-Yo (124 BPM)
Sound of Your Heart – Shawn Hook (122 BPM)
The Nights (Mike Mago Remix) – Avicii (125 BPM)
Hold My Hand – Jess Glynne (123 BPM)
Emergency (Sam Feldt Remix) – Icona Pop (126 BPM)
Sparks – Hillary Duff (122 BPM)
Under Control (featuring Hurts) – Calvin Harris & Alesso (126 BPM)
Go Big or Go Home – American Authors (122 BPM)
We Own the Night (Chainsmokers Edit) – The Wanted (126 BPM)
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) (Nicky Romero Club Remix) – Kelly Clarkson (126 BPM)
Levels (Steven Redant Club Mix) – Nick Jonas (126 BPM)
Telephone (Kaskade Extended Remix) – Lady Gaga (126 BPM)
A Sky Full of Stars (Robin Schulz Edit) – Coldplay (123 BPM)

To learn an easy way to create a workout mix check out my blog post, “Easy Way to Create Your Own Music Mixes“.

Easily Create Your Own Music Mixes

I love to create my own workout music mixes. I create mixes not only for my workouts but for parties and special events with my friends and family. My primary mixing tools are an iPad mini with djay Pro from Algoriddim installed and connected to a Pioneer DDJ-WEGO3 controller. This is a bit of a labor intensive process. Now I know this is overkill for most people but I can make some great motivational music mixes this way and I enjoy doing it. There is one problem with this method though. Once you’ve worked out with the mix a few times you begin to memorize the song order and it becomes boring. How soon this happens varies but eventually you find yourself repeating the creation process again.

Thanks to Chris Lawhorn from the Run Hundred website I learned of an app called Cross DJ from Mixvibes that makes creating your own workout mixes that offer variety and only take a few minutes to create. Before I explain how to do this let me tell you a little about Chris. Not only does he have a website focused on workout music but he is also a contributing writer for Shape magazine and Huffington Post. I find his website very helpful in finding new and sometimes not so new music to use for my workout mixes. If you’re not a subscriber to his site you should consider it.

 Setting Up Cross DJ
Mixvibes offers Cross DJ for Android and Apple iOS devices along with Mac and PC versions. The instructions I’m about to give you assume you have either the Android or Apple iOS version. They offer a barebones version for free but you will have to at least spring for the “Automix” tool. I didn’t think to remember how much the tool costs as a standalone add-on. I think it’s $3.99. You can buy all the added tools for under $10 but Automix is the only tool you will need for what I’m showing you here.

Now that you have the app loaded on your mobile device you will need to change a few settings. First, turn on “Auto-gain” and set “Sync mode” to 4 beats as shown in this graphic.

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Next, you will set the “Automix” setting to 16 seconds and “Auto-sync” to on.

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That’s it for the settings.

Choosing the Songs for Your Mix

Next you need to make sure the songs you want to include in your mix are loaded on your device. Yes, that’s right; you cannot stream the songs for this–you must own the tracks. Your song selections should all be close to the same beats per minute (BPM). You can experiment with this but I’ve found song selections within six beats of each other will work just fine. Now that you have chosen the songs for your mix; arrange the order or choose to shuffle them and then hit the “Play Automix” button. Cross DJ will do the rest. Change the order or change the shuffle and you will have a new seamless mix every time you hit play button.

How Do I Find the BPM of the Songs I Want to Use?

Well… you could just start playing the song and count the beats for ten seconds then multiple that number by 6. Another way would be to subscribe to Chris Lawhorn’s Run Hundred website. Chris posts the beats per minute for every song listed on his site. I use it quite often.

Starting this month I will post the beats per minute for any song I list in my Playlist of the Month and in any blog post that lists songs I use in my own workout playlists. My lists will not be as complete as the work Chris has done at Run Hundred but it will be an option for you to use.

I hope you find this useful. I’m finding I use Cross DJ for my mixes more and pulling out and setting up my Pioneer WEGO3 not nearly as often. If you listen to music while you work out give this a try. Sometimes it’s nice to bring out the your inner DJ.

Half Marathon Training: Week Six

The sore toe problem I mentioned in last week’s post was gone after about five days. I’m not exactly sure when the soreness went away really. I had forgotten about it until I started writing this blog post.

Running in a 10K on Sunday changed my training plan a bit but I don’t think it’s going to harm my overall half marathon training. Everything is going well so far. Every week I push my limits a little further than the last. Here’s my recap of week six:

Monday: Ran 4.22 miles at 10:16 pace.
Tuesday: Rest day (but still did some walking).
Wednesday: 31 minute interval run. 14 minute fast run/2 minute walk/14 minute fast run on a treadmill.
Thursday: 41 minute interval run. 10 minute slow run/1 1/2 minute fast run followed by 2 minutes of walking (x6)/10minute slow run for a distance of 3.61 miles at 11:23 overall average pace.
Friday: Rest day (still did some walking).
Saturday: Rest day.
Sunday: Augusta Half Marathon & 10K. I ran the 10K. I even managed to pull off an old man running 10K personal record. To get the details check out my post, “Go Figure? A New Old Man Running 10K PR