Friday, October 26, 2012

Garmin Forerunner 405: How To Have More Than 99 Intervals (for Galloway Training)

As you may have read in a previous post, I was interested in trying out the Jeff Galloway Run/Walk method for increasing my distance. Well, I joined the local Galloway training group and have been run/walking with them for a couple of months.  I have recorded all of my efforts faithfully using my Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS watch, which not only records my distances and courses, but also provides valuable information about my pace, and has a built-in interval timer to tell me when to walk and when to run.

The Garmin 405 GPS watch is really cool.  When running (and walking) with my friends, we use a 2/1 ratio, meaning we run for 2 minutes, then walk for 1 minute.  So, I set my watch's interval timer to signal us to begin each alternating interval.  At this ratio, which we only use for distance running, we can average about 12 min/mile.  The watch has a built-in limit of 99 such intervals, and each interval is a coupled run and walk segment, so there is a limit of just under 300 minutes (99 intervals x 3 min/interval = 297 min), or about 5 hours.

So, never did I think that I could run for more than 5 hours.  However, as our mileage has increased, we are soon approaching the limits of the watch.  Next weekend we will be run/walking 21 miles, and at 12 min/mile, that comes out to be about 250 min.  Okay, but we will continue to increase our mileage  until we reach 27 miles.  At 12 min/mile, this comes to 324 minutes or more, if we stop for a bathroom break.

I didn't want to buy a new watch, so I figured out how to increase the number of intervals far beyond the 99 that are built into the watch.  If you have a Garmin Forerunner (probably any variety) and want to know how to do it, well, here are my instructions.

The approach I used is to set un a new workout from within the Garmin Connect website, then upload the workout to the watch. It was surprisingly easy to do.  Step by step instructions:

1. Log onto your Garmin Connect account and select Plan from the menu tab near the top of the window.
2. Select New Workout from the left side menu.  A graphic pops up in the middle of the page instructing you to title your workout (mine is titled Galloway 2/1), select a workout type (running, in my case), and Add a Step or Repeat.  Click on Add Repeat. You will get a new window that looks like this.

3. Use the pull-down menu named Repeat and select the maximum number, 40.
4.  Beneath this area, two buttons appear. Click on the Add a Step button.
For Step Type, select Interval.  For Duration, select Time if you are doing time intervals, or Distance, if that is what you prefer. I selected Time, then a submenu pops up and I typed in 2:00 minutes, my interval for running. Ignore Target menu.  The bar should be colored red now.  Click Done.
5.  Click Add Repeat and repeat step 5, this time inserting 1 minute for my walking time (or whatever you want). Click Done.
6.  At this point you have one set of 40 intervals for 2/1, totaling 40 x 3 min = 120 minutes.  You can repeat steps 5 and 6 several more times until you have 4 coupled sets for running and walking, totaling 480 minutes. More can be added if this isn't enough. 
7.  Drag each of the bars up and insert them, in alternating order, under the Repeat 40 Times banner. Your instruction set for the workout should look something like the image below.
8.  Click Save.
9.  Click on the Upload button to upload it to your watch. Give it a minute or two to upload.
10.  On your watch, go to the Training --> Workouts --> Advanced menu and you will see your workout.  Select the new workout and select Do Workout.
Check the steps in the same menu. This should work for you. Enjoy.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Initial Impressions Of The Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method

I don't mean for this blog to be about running, but something so profound just happened that I need to do one more post.  If you are interested in running, even a 5 k race, but dread the training required, I think you should read this post.  Running can be easier and more fun than you may have thought.

My first 10 mile (16.1 km) run.  Accomplished using
the Run-Walk-Run method.  Recorded by my Garmin
Forerunner 405 GPS watch.
On the eve of my 58th birthday last week, I decided it was time to get serious about my upcoming half marathon attempt.  A half marathon is 13.1 miles, and I have only recently been able to run 8 miles (that's 12.9 kilometers) without stopping.  I believed that I have it in me to run much further, but the summer heat and humidity in Florida is brutal and has stopped me like the Great Wall of China every time I have tried to go further.

Despite this, I set out to run 9 miles on Wednesday, which would be a personal best for distance.  Did I do it? No. I ran 10 miles, instead!  To top it all off, I ran that 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) at a pace that was faster than either of my shorter 8 mile all-running attempts!  How did I do it?  I have to give credit to my new training method, the run-walk-run method.

The run-walk-run method involves running for a set period of time, then walking for another set period of time, and then repeating the process over and over again, until the distance is reached.  This method has been promoted by 1972 Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, whose followers conduct clinics and workshops around the country teaching this method.  It is designed to allow ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary running goals.  And, surprisingly, it works. Or, at least it worked for me.

Now, when I first heard of this run-walk-run idea, I thought to myself, "All that walking must really slow you down", which would be the logical conclusion, right?  Surprisingly, though, it doesn't, or at least not enough to outweigh the benefits.

I recently joined a local running club, hoping to meet some like-minded folks.  A subgroup of the club meets on Saturday mornings, very early, before the heat sets in, and run-walk-run together to train for the upcoming Disney half-marathon and marathons.  Since I have a personal goal of completing a half marathon by the end of the year, I decided to join them and give this stuff a try.  As I said earlier, 8 miles had been my limit for distance, and I hoped I could add some more miles to it.  But, I was skeptical about slowing my pace (and, thus, race time).

My first time running with them was not a distance run, but rather a faster, shorter run.  However, I learned the basics of the method and applied it at home the following week.  I set my GPS watch's interval timer to beep at me after I had run 2 minutes, then beep again after I walked for 1 minute, and then just keep doing this.  I managed to run 8 miles with relative ease my first time with this method!

A week ago I again joined the group.  This time they had set a goal of 9 miles for that day.  Well, I had already had my long run just a few days before, so I ran with them for 6 miles and then quit, for fear of over exerting myself with two long runs just 3 days apart.

The following Wednesday, August 8, I decided to go for 9 miles on my own.  And, as I stated earlier, actually completed 10 miles with relative ease.  Not bad, I thought, but how would my pace compare to those of my prior runs?

I would like to show a comparison between my 8 kilometer pace when just running, versus the pace of my 8 kilometer and my 10 kilometer runs when using the run-walk-run method.  Here are my last four runs over 13 kilometers, and their average paces:

Running Only:

  • 13.67 km at 7:11 min/km on April 8
  • 13.06 km at 7:00 min/km on June 24


  • 13.23 km at 6:48 min/km on August 1
  • 16.13 km at 6:56 min/km on August 8

Jeff Galloway and me, today.
So, how can a person walk a large part of the way and actually run farther and faster than just running alone?

Well, today I actually met Jeff Galloway at a run-walk-run "get together" and he explained it this way.  The short walk breaks are designed to bring the heart rate and breathing down to a comfortable level, so exhaustion doesn't set in.  During the intervals while you are running, then, you can run at a comfortable, faster pace.  In addition, and perhaps more importantly, this allows you to run without slowing down as the distance increases.  You can maintain your pace throughout the distance.

Prior to adopting this method, I would run the whole way and my pace for each consecutive kilometer or mile would decrease until I was barely running toward the end.  My heart rate would continually increase too, and I had to struggle to stay in a sustainable aerobic zone.  The run-walk-run method prevents this from happening.  If you do it right, you run so that you are never out of breath, maintain a relatively low, aerobic heart rate, and keep your energy levels up.  As a result, the last half of the run is almost as fast as the first half. Cool!

I think that anyone who would like to start running, start back after a long layoff, or just wants to increase their distance, should look into this training method. It makes a lot of sense and takes much of the discomfort out of running.  It reduces injury too.  Not too bad.  Thanks, Jeff!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Turning 58: Lies, Damned Lies, And Actuarial Tables

Mark Twain once wrote:
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Cupcakes for my 58th birthday.
Today I can appreciate these words, for I celebrated my 58th birthday today.  Diane made Devil's food cupcakes with buttercream frosting, my favorite.  So, I got to wondering about how many more birthdays I can expect?

According to the U.S. government actuarial tables, I can expect 27 more years on this planet, then I reach my expiration date at age 85.

Actually, that estimate is from an IRS publication for calculating annuities.  Let's look at some others actuarial tables to tell me how long I have left...

  • A 2007 Social Security Administration table predicted that I, at age 53 then, would live 26.5 years, to age 79.5.
  • The Office of State Actuary for Washington figures that I have 23 years left (age 81).  The same age as I am (we went to high school together), a female friend of mine just retired from Washington State last week and, being a woman, they think she will outlive me by 3 more years.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates I would live to be 74.3 if I lived in Ethiopia, but would live to age 84.4 if I lived in Sweden.  I guess the cold air preserves you better than the hot desert air.

So, life expectancy or mortality rates vary not only by sex, but vary greatly depending upon where you live (your country of origin), your race, and whether or not you smoke or are married, to name a few major variables.  (Johnny Carson once joked , “Married men live longer than single men. But married men are a lot more willing to die.”  What an awful thing to say!)

These statistics do not take into account your genetics or personal health practices either.  My parents both died at 72, but they smoked, didn't exercise, and had no personal interests, like hobbies.  I have an uncle, though, who has lived a healthy lifestyle and is in now his 90's, so at least some longevity may run in the family, I hope.

But, what is missing?  I really think it is attitude about life.  People tell me "You don't look 58!", and I think to myself "What does 58 look like, anyway?"  I see people out in public and try to guess their age, and it is hard to do.  I have seen some folks in their 60's look like they are just waiting for the Lord to take them any day now, while other people who are far older don't look or act their age, whatever that means.

Pete Seeger, age 93, appearing this week on the Colbert 
Report.  Seeger is an American folk singer whose songs 
were responsible for the revival of folk music in the 
mid 20th century.  He may also be a good model for
increasing your longevity.
My wife and I were watching Stephen Colbert the other night and his guest was the great folk singer and activist Pete Seeger.  Seeger, who wrote or co-wrote such great songs as "Where have all the flowers gone?", "If I had a hammer", and "Turn, turn, turn",  is 93 years old but, in my opinion, doesn't "look it" at all.

He played the banjo and dodged Colbert's silly interview questions with wit and style.  Despite a pretty tough life throughout much of his career, he looked good.  When Colbert asked him about how he stayed healthy, he simply said that he lived in the country where the air was fresh, and he chopped wood with his axe for exercise.

So, Seeger may actually be onto something.  Exercise and purpose.  Perhaps he has lived so long because he still has something to look forward to every day.  Performing.  Writing a book.  Contributing to the betterment of the world. Not too shabby.

Should we trust actuarial tables?  They have their purpose for underwriting life insurance policies and such, but they can't predict anything about an individual's lifespan.  For example,  where does wood chopping factor into actuarial tables?  How about living a life of purpose?  Fresh country air and a healthy lifestyle?  I thought so.

I may just ignore my expiration date when it comes along.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Stressing And Love Running

Granted, it's an odd title.  I paraphrased the title of a 1964 Stanley Kubrick movie satirizing the cold war.  Actually, the real Dr. Strangelove (yes, there was one) does relate to my story indirectly, a tale of which I will share at the end.  This blog, however, is about how I overcame my dislike of jogging and running.

Poster from the movie.
When you hear or see the word "running", an image is probably conjured up in your mind.  If you already run and enjoy it, then the image is a pleasant one.  If you hate running and don't even want to think about it, then perhaps you will identify with my story.  For I, too, was once like you.

Why Some People Hate Running

"Hate" is a strong word.  Probably appropriate, though.  If you are an anti-jogite (thanks, Kramer), then let me look into your past and tell you why you may feel that way.  Odds are we shared the same P.E. teacher.  You know the one.  Tall or short, overweight, sweaty, loud, and unengaged with his/her job.  It doesn't matter what his/her name was (I can't remember my teacher's name either), but this teacher managed to take something as beautiful as running freely through the cool autumn air and turn it into a death march or a Darwinian survival of the fittest lesson (take your pick).

I attended a small Catholic high school in Eugene, Oregon during my freshman and sophomore years.  Yes, Eugene. The running capital of the world!  You would think it would be a great place to learn the joy of running.  Well, maybe it is today, but my experiences with running were far from joyful back then.  My memories of running involved the many, many hours spent pounding the pavement in P.E. during those two years.  There was no coaching involved.  The teacher had us for one hour every day, so we would get dressed in our P.E. uniforms, go outside where he would point to the road behind the school and command us to run a loop around the neighborhood.  That's it. He didn't tell us to stretch, to set a pace, or instruct us about properly managing our run.  We ran about a 3 mile loop, so it would take me almost the whole class period to complete it.  It was HELL!  Why was I so slow, and why was running so hard to do?

In hindsight, I now know why.  Without instruction, I had no idea about how to pace myself and would be winded before the first mile was completed.  Also, I was living in a house of heavy smokers.  My father smoked 3 packs of Chesterfield Kings every day, and my mother smoked two packs.  I did not smoke, but I still got a heavy dose of West Virginia's finest.  Thanks to my parents, in effect I smoked 5 packs a day via second hand smoke.  No wonder it took me 40 minutes to run 3 miles. I had the lung capacity of a chain-smoking lab monkey.

So, my experience with running was initially bad and I learned to dislike it at an early age.  My guess is that if you hate running now, then you may have had a similar experience to mine.

Running Is Not For Everyone

No, indeed it isn't.  So, how did I learn to change my attitude about running?  I don't know if "love" is the word, but I learned to find some joy it it by my late 20's.  I ran some 5 k's and then a 10 k race.  After a knee injury at age 29, however, I never really got back to running seriously.  That is, until recently.  Now I find that I thoroughly enjoy it for the first time in my life.

Why did it take so long?  Perhaps it is maturity that has improved my appreciation for it.  Also, I understand how to do it better, and more importantly, I now see its benefits (described here).  I get fresh air (sorry, no treadmill for me) and see the world from a different perspective than from a passing car or on a speeding bicycle.  Also, running gives me a genuine feeling of accomplishment.

The accomplishment I feel comes from making measurable progress.  When I started running in January of 2011, I couldn't run a half mile.  I was overweight and out of shape.  By March I could run all the way down to the park and back, which was a mile and a half round trip.  By November I could run 6 miles without stopping.  The improvement was evident.  It was exciting to see myself getting better at something athletic, particularly at my age.  That never happened with golf!

Running doesn't come without costs, usually in the form of injuries.  I have hurt my knees several times.  I also developed plantar fasciitis too, although orthotics now keep it under control.  No matter what the problem has been, however, I have tried to just keep moving forward.  In my younger days I gave up after my knee was injured, but I don't give up so easily any more.  Running, then, has become a source of emotional growth for me as well.

Regardless of what you choose to do for exercise, I can assure you that accomplishing something like this is an uplifting experience.  I have learned to really like (love?) doing something difficult and succeeding at it.  I urge everyone to find something healthy to do and really strive to make it fun and rewarding.

Dr. Strangelove and Me

The late Dr. Edward Teller,
aka, Dr. Strangelove
You've read this far and I promised to tie this all in with a story about the real Dr. Strangelove.  So, here it is.

When I was an undergraduate physics student in the mid 1970's, one of my "visiting professors" was the famed physicist Dr. Edward Teller, the so-called "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb".  Dr. Teller was an intimidating man with a thick german accent, "power eyebrows", and a close friend to powerful people, like then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.  He was also commonly referred to (though not to his face) as the real Dr. Strangelove, because of his association with the H-bomb.  A biographical book by that title was later written about him.

After a few lectures and Q&A sessions, I found that I disliked him personally, despite my admiration for his knowledge and accomplishments.  I found him to be "gruff", for lack of a better word.  Some of our interactions bordered on arguing.  So I eventually just kept my trap shut and let him pontificate about his very conservative ideological views.

Oddly enough, in the Fall of 1992 our paths crossed again when he came to the high school where I was teaching physics.  At the invitation of the school's founder, Dr. Leon Lederman (Nobel laureate in physics), Dr. Teller volunteered to work with our students.  He spent a month as an unpaid mentor to aspiring science and mathematics students.  It was very nice of him to do that.

Despite this kind gesture, I never spoke to him during the whole time he was there - not even once.  I would often pass him in the hallway, but I never made eye contact.  He wouldn't have remembered me, anyway.

Why was I so rude?  I now realize that I had avoided him for the same reasons I avoided running for so long - I associated him with an unpleasant memory based on a single set of experiences that would frame my viewpoint for the rest of my life.  Immature, I know.

I like to think I have grown since then.  If he were around today, I would hope we could become re-acquainted.  Like I did with running, I would give him a second chance. Well, maybe... he was kind of intimidating, you know!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How To Maximize The Health Benefits From Walking

Benefits of walking depend on how you do it. 
I am a big fan of walking.  It is a low impact exercise that almost anyone can do.  It requires little more than comfortable shoes. And, it gets you out of the house and into the fresh air.  What more could you want?

There is a walking craze going around.  With obesity at alarming levels, the airwaves and bookstores are filled with doctors and fitness experts telling us that we need to be more active.  They are right, too. We Americans take the car to drive a block to the convenience store for milk!  Don't tell me you haven't done it, or something equally as silly.  We all have.  So, we are advised to get off our fat butts and walk.  Yeah, that oughta do it.

Walking, however, is not the same for everyone.  Some folks walk fast, some walk slow, and the older you are, the slower you probably walk.  So, as far as health benefits are concerned, is all walking the same?

Short answer: No, all walking is not the same.  The benefits one gets from walking are not dependent on just moving our legs.  The benefits are derived by increasing our heart rate, and a casual stroll probably ain't gonna do that. Don't get me wrong.   If slow, casual walking is the only exercise you want to do or are capable of doing, then please continue with it.  Slow walking certainly is better than not walking, and it does have some minor health benefits.  However, casual walking, no matter how much you do, may not meet the minimum levels for exercise recommended by health professionals.

Here is why I say that.  Just about everybody, from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) to the American Heart Association (AHA) advise about 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.  Moderate exercise, however, is not taking a stroll.  It is defined as exercise at a level that elevates the heart rate and breathing rate, and may make you sweat.  Therefore, if you are walking, you probably need to be walking briskly to get to this level. This makes it an aerobic exercise!  Aerobic exercise is the minimum you need to do to achieve and maintain good health.

Maximum Heart Rate

How do you know if you're walking at the moderate or aerobic level?  Well, the best way to find out is to monitor your heart rate.  If you can increase your heart rate to 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR), then you are in the minimally beneficial zone.  If you are less than "fit", this level may be achieved by walking, probably at a quick pace.  As you become more fit, however, this may no longer do it for you.  Jogging or biking (even stationary) may be needed to get your heart rate up high enough to do you some real good.

Warning here: Please read all of this.  Yes, there is some simple math, but it is absolutely essential that you understand it if you are to achieve even a minimal level of fitness from walking.  That is because 50% MHR is not half of your MHR, despite a number of web sites that say it is!  This is a common misconception.  That number is calculated differently than you might expect, and is explained below.

What is meant by maximum heart rate (MHR)?  Well, it is simply the maximum number of beats your heart is capable of producing without going into fibrillation.  This value decreases with age.  If you have had a recent stress test, your doctor may be able to tell you what that number is.  However, if you haven't, you could go out and really push yourself by running far and fast (not advised unless you are in shape) and taking your pulse.  There are also some formulas that have been published that can estimate your MHR.

Do a Google search for MHR formulas and you will find the formula below, which is one that is most commonly used.  Even the Livestrong website uses it.  This formula, like others, uses your age to arrive at an estimate, based on "studies" correlating age to MHR:

220 - age = MHR

I don't like this formula.  If I were to use that formula, my MHR would be 220 - 58 = 162.  That's not even in the ballpark for my actual MHR!  While running up hills wearing my heart monitor, I have reached 181 bpm, and probably could have gone a bit higher.  So, either I have the heart of a 39 year old, or the formula is wrong.  What does that tell you?  These formulas aren't always reliable.

Heart Rate Zones

There are 5 heart rate "zones" that are generally recognized by trainers and doctors. Visit this web site for more information:

However, be aware that the values for the heart rate zones are not simply found by, say, multiplying your MHR by the corresponding fraction (Livestrong and other web sites (mis)calculate it this way, but that is incorrect because you could actually calculate an aerobic heart rate below your resting rate, which is not realistically possible).  In other words, 50% MHR is not half of your MHR.  Instead, 50% MHR really means your heart rate when working at 50% of capacity. Wow, that is confusing.

You must know one other piece of information to make the simple calculations for your heart rate zones.  You need to know your resting heart rate (RHR).  That is easy to do.  Just take your pulse while resting. My BP machine also finds this value.  Now, here is how you find your heart rate for each zone.  

Let's say you want to know your value for 50% MHR, the minimum you need to sustain during aerobic exercise.  Use this formula:

  • Subtract your RHR from your MHR, thus giving you your working heart rate (WHR). 
  • Calculate 50% of the WHR by multiplying the WHR by 0.5,  giving you a new value we'll call "Z". 
  • Now add "Z" to your RHR to give you your final value.
For me, it works like this (my RHR is 68 bpm):

181 bpm - 68 bpm = 113 bpm (this is my WHR)
113 bpm x 0.5 = 56.5 bpm
68 bpm + 56.5 bpm = 124.5 bpm (my 50% MHR value)

So, my 50% MHR is 125 bpm.  Note that this is a far cry from half of my MHR, which would have been about 90 bpm had I used the erroneous method published all over the web.  

Walking at 50% MHR

Okay. Back to walking. I had a point to make.

I had a leg injury last spring and tried walking instead of running.  I was in pretty good shape at that time, able to run five miles with effort.  When I strapped on my heart rate monitor to go walking, I found that I could not walk fast enough to get my heart rate up to an aerobic level.  My heart rate averaged only 108 bpm.  I walked like an Olympic speed walker for 3 miles (5 kilometers) and never reached even the lowest aerobic level.  Here is my heart rate graph for that effort, keeping in mind that 50% MHR for me is 125 bpm:

My heart rate while speed walking for 5 kilometers.

So, that is why I have stayed with running. I don't run fast, but even an easy jog gets my heart rate up enough to maximize my health benefits. When I run, I try to stay in the range of 75-80% MHR, which is considered the most beneficial range for vigorous aerobic (fat burning) exercise.


So, here are my recommendations:
  • Get a stress test before you begin a strenuous exercise program.  
  • Find your MHR.  Then calculate your minimum aerobic-level heart rate (50% of MHR).
  • Get a heart rate monitor (there are some inexpensive ones at Best Buy).  If not, at least take your pulse off and on during your walk.  Some treadmills also have heart rate monitors built into the handles.
  • When you walk, try to get up into the aerobic zone and stay there, if you can.  Walking uphill will help.
  • If you cannot walk aerobically, you may need to consider another exercise.
  • Two and a half hours per week should be your minimum if you want to exercise by walking.  You can probably cut that time in half if you jog or run.  
Remember, aerobic exercise burns fat, strengthens your cardiovascular system, and the sweat makes your skin nice and soft!  Don't forget the sunscreen!

See you on the walking path!

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Recipe For Homemade Granola: Good Health In A Bowl

Being fit requires eating well.  What do I mean by "eating well"?  I am NOT talking about tofu burgers or lentil soup (not that there's anything wrong with those choices).  I mean eating something that is both a treat and is good for you.

Homemade granola - health in a bowl!
As a general rule of thumb, I stay away from processed foods.  No more instant potatoes or salt-infused frozen lasagna for me.  No refined sugars.  To keep my blood pressure low and immune system functioning optimally, my wife (Diane) and I usually cook our own stuff from scratch.  A recent addition to my growing list of stuff I can make better (and cheaper) than the store-bought brand is granola.

Granola.  Even the name sounds healthy.  The oats help lower your cholesterol (#1 on Mayo Clinic's list) and blood pressure (go to Livestrong) too.  I add shredded coconut (another Livestrong link about health benefits).  If you add the right nuts, it's even better!

The best granola I ever tasted was from a store in Christchurch, New Zealand.  I don't recall the brand, but I remember the taste. My goal was to replicate the taste. That particular granola did not contain nuts, but included golden raisins (called sultanas, in NZ).

Have you priced granola, lately?  $5 for a small box is not unusual.  If you have the time, you can make it cheaper and better than anything you will find on the shelves.  Besides that, you can control the ingredients you want to add, substitute, or leave out altogether.

To get started making my own granola, I looked up a bunch of recipes on the web and went from there.  The most promising recipe I saw was by Alton Brown, which gave me a place to start.  I experimented until I got the right mixture of ingredients and now I think I have a really good recipe.  It is also a modular recipe, so you can have a choice of substitutions, any of which will yield a unique and delightful flavor.

Note: Although I rarely use refined sugars, this recipe calls for some.  I adhere to the 80/20 rule.  I am strict 80% of the time, but can indulge 20%.  The health benefits, I believe, far outweigh the negatives in this cereal.

Here it is.

Recipe makes about 7-9 cups of granola.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 75 minutes


6 cups rolled oats (any brand, including Walmart. Do not use quick or instant oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (or more, if you desire)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light honey (orange blossom or Tupelo are best.  Substitute pure maple syrup or Golden Syrup for a decadent twist)
1/3 cup canola oil (vegetable oil is OK too, but canola is a bit healthier)
3/4 teaspoon salt (that's about half of what you get in most cereals)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon is the BEST!)
Optional: 1 cup raisins or sultanas, slivered almonds, and/or other nuts


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Mix (by hand) all dry ingredients (except raisins) in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Use a wisk to get the oil and sweetener to fuse.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Use a large spoon to blend the ingredients together. It will be pretty dry, but mix thoroughly.  Break up the little clumps to spread the sweetener and oil.  If you added a lot of optional ingredients, you may need to add a little more liquid-type sweetener, but do not produce a "wet" mixture - slightly sticky is fine.

Pour it onto one very large or two large sheet pans.  Tip: spray the pans with oil or line them with no-stick foil (works great).  Cook for 75 minutes, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. Place into a large ziplock bag. Mix in raisins if desired.

Enjoy!  Feedback is welcome.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How To Live To 100 (If You Really Want To)

Fauja Singh, 100, receives a finishing
medal after crossing the line in the
 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in
 Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011.
 The Canadian Press / AP
If you had asked me a few years ago if I would like to live to 100, I would have said "no thank you".  Getting old, I thought, meant wheelchairs and Depends, uncontrollable drooling, and senility.  Well, I have looked into it further and have a whole different opinion now.

Last year, a 100 year old man from Canada completed the Toronto Marathon.  Imagine that!  I am just over half his age and have yet to complete a half marathon.  So, it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, our bodies don't have to decay away so quickly.  Nor do our minds (although my wife says it's too late for me on that one).

So, 100 might not be so bad after all.  I will probably still shave, though.

In my last essay, I mentioned the book The 100 Year Lifestyle.  I'm not going to write about the book today, but be assured that there are some strategies that the author, Eric Plasker, offers the readers that may be useful.  Another book that I recommend is Chasing Life, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which documents what we know about slowing the aging process.  

A book I recommend even more, and I plan to write about extensively at a later date, is Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 And Beyond, by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge.

These books all tell us essentially the same thing, some more effectively than others.

  • It is possible to begin in your 50's or 60's (or even later) to regain much of your health through improving your diet and vigorous, abundant exercise.
  • The rapid decline in health that you probably expect to occur is not inevitable, and can in fact be minimized and postponed.
  • The incident of the major causes of death for seniors, such as heart disease, strokes, cancers, and Alzheimer's, are greatly reduced or increased by your choice of lifestyle, even during your senior years.
  • Mental decline can be greatly reduced by physical exercise.
I think about it this way.  If we look at the top 5 or 6 causes of death for seniors (some listed above), there are actual steps you can take right now to reduce your chances of experiencing any one of them!  These steps include aerobic exercise and resistance training, losing weight, exercising our minds, socializing, taking (the right) vitamins and supplements, and baby aspirin.  Sure, some are easy to do and some are hard, but they are all possible for most of us.

Think about what this really means!  If you can reduce your chance of having a heart attack by 30%, that already increases your life expectancy, doesn't it?  I mean, that is a factor that actuarians consider, right?  So, if you do the same for the other causes, now your life expectancy has changed by 5, 10, or even 15 years!  Yeah, you'll probably be run over by a bus, but if that doesn't happen, you can look forward to a heathy, long life!

I hope that this has given you some food for thought.  To close, I would like to offer some inspirational quotes...
"If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!" - Eubie Blake, Micky Mantle, or George Burns (pick one - who really knows?)
"We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." -George Bernard Shaw 
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" - Satchel Paige
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. - Mark Twain
“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.”  - Andy Rooney
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.  - Sophia Loren
Twenty-three is old. It's almost 25, which is like almost mid-20s.” - Jessica Simpson
Thanks for reading. Please post a comment if you wish.