My apologies for being AWOL for the last month.  I’ve had family visiting and just got back from summer vacation on Prince Edward Island.  It was a wonderful week on the beach, riding, and golfing – a sport I just might be getting the hang of, in a double-bogey, multiple-mulligan sort of way.

This is a mix of new, never-before-seen-on-the-blog tunes.  It veers from dance to pop to hip hop to rock, and showcases two Canadian artists – Beast, and K’naan.  The profile includes an intense 17 minute climb, followed by some surges and lifts.  It winds up with some sprints to the finish.  I cribbed the lengthy climbing idea from reader Tim, who posted a great playlist with a quad-busting 23 minute climb on the Reader Playlists page.  If you’re mulling over a Michael Jackson tribute class, readers Denise and Judy both posted all-MJ playlists on the Reader Playlists page.  (Thanks to all three of you for covering with new material – much appreciated!)

Before we get into today’s mix, I have to give a shout-out to another Canuck, Gabriela, the Toronto spin instructor who blogs over at SpinDJ.  I visited her blog last night and downloaded a whole bunch of new music based on her suggestions.  We have very similar musical tastes, and Gabriela uses to make her music available to listen right from the blog – a nice touch.  I added a link to her blog under Other Sources for Spinning Music – surf on over and check it out.  I bet you’ll like it, too.

The photo?  Canadian readers will recognize the Tim Hortons sign for the Canadian cultural icon that it is.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Timmies, it’s a chain of coffee shops named after the NHL player who started the business in the 1960s.  Tims has over 2,800 locations across Canada and 400 in the United States, including some brand new locations in NYC.  Okay, here we go:

Tim Horton's bike PEII Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (4:49): What an upbeat song.  I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be a good, good ride.  Take the resistance up to 3/10 and give me some fast, strong legs.  We’re headed for a 17 minute hill, folks, so we have to be ready for it when we get there.

E-Pro – Beck (3:22): Oh, frig.  We’re at the base of this hill, and it’s the biggest one we’ve ever tackled.  We’re going to need breaks… water…. and fortitude, but we can do it.  Just take it at your own pace, and dial back the tension for a break when you need to.  (Advanced riders, skip one or more of the breaks between songs.)  Keep your cadence at no less than 60 RPM to protect your knees.  If you’re slower than that, dial back the tension a bit.  The songs naturally encourage the proper cadence – just let the beat drive you up the hill.  We’re starting seated, resistance around 5/10 with progressive increases every 60 seconds.

Finger Prints – Beast (4:33): This tune from Montreal band Beast has been on heavy rotation since I heard it on the CBC Radio Show, “Q.”  Wicked, wicked, wicked.  You didn’t dial the tension back, right?  Good.  Settle in at 8/10.  Around 2:00, take it to 9/10 and stand for the rest of the song.  It’s like riding through mud, a slog all the way.  Pace yourself – we’re not even half way.  If you prefer, you can coach the whole climb seated, standing only for LoveGame.

Breathe Stretch Shake – Mase (3:17): Break time!  Take 30 seconds of easy spinning, then roll the tension back to 5/10.  More progressive tension increases.  Don’t come out of the saddle – yet.

LoveGame [Chew Fu Ghettohouse Fix feat. Marilyn Manson] – Lady GaGa (5:21): Finally, a chance to pull out the stops.  Come out of the saddle and finish the slog to the top with a standing climb. Sure, the beat is fast, but we’ve got the energy for it.

Fine Without You (Radio Edit) – Armin van Buuren (3:18): We did it!  Time to spin out all that tension we’ve accumulated over the course of the 17 minute climb.  Drop the tension back to 3/10 and go back to fast legs, alternating 30 second surges with 60 seconds of active recovery.  The 60 seconds should still include strong legs and a purposeful cadence.

Bang Bang – K’naan (feat. Adam Levine) (3:07): Such a clever song, with clever lyrics and a hummable chorus.  Let’s do some lifts, low tension (4/10).  It’s a fast beat so we’re going to stick to 16 counts.  This was a free songs on iTunes.  K’naan is a Canadian hip hop artist.  He was born in Somalia and lived there during the civil war.  He comes from a musical family – his aunt is one of Somalia’s most famous singers.  K’naan and his mother fled Somalia and joined his father in New York City.  The family later moved to Toronto, Ontario.

New Divide – Linkin Park (4:30): You didn’t think we were going to get away without sprinting, did you?  Two sprint songs, back to back here, to take us through to the cool down.  There are four sprints here, of 15/40/60/30 at 0:19 – 0:34, 1:08 – 1:48,  2:21 – 3:18, 3:35 – 4:05.

Love Drunk – Boys Like Girls (3:47): Is it just me, or does this song remind you of something by Avril Lavigne?  Ashlee Simpson?  Kelly Clarkson?  While we figure it out, let’s do one more set of sprints to take us to the cool down: 30/45/50 at 0:48 – 1:20, 1:45 – 2:28, 2:38 – 3:28.  (It’s actually from this Boston band’s eponymous debut CD.)

Her Diamonds – Rob Thomas (4:40): This single from Thomas’s latest CD is charting right now.  Slow down and enjoy the pace while we cool down and stretch.

New York New York – Ryan Adams (3:47): Some extra stretching and goodbye music.

Vietnamese Noodle Salad 2I’ll admit it…. I love to go out for dinner.  I live downtown with all sorts of restaurants nearby: Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Latin, Indian, Turkish, Lebanese, English, Mexican, Greek… all within a 10 minute walk.  But according to CBC’s Marketplace, eating at sit-down restaurants can be far worse for your waistline than chowing down at McDonalds.  If you only go out for dinner a few times a year, no big deal, have whatever you want.  But what if you go out for dinner once or twice a week? Here are some strategies for coping with restaurant food:

1.  Have a snack before you arrive at the restaurant.  If you sit down ravenous, you’ll make bad choices.

2.  If you can’t have a snack beforehand, start with a broth soup or salad with dressing on the side.

3.  Decide on your priorities.  Do you want to have an alcoholic drink?  Dessert?  An appetizer?  Some bread?  Pick one only.  (This rule seems particularly unfair.)

4.  Ask about half orders and lunch sizes, even if they’re not mentioned on the menu.  Try ordering an appetizer as your main course.  (I tried this on vacation and was served a child-size bowl of soup as an appetizer, even though it wasn’t listed anywhere on the menu.  Perfect!)

4.  Consider eating until you’re full and leaving the rest of your meal behind.  It’s wasteful, but if you take half the meal home to eat another day, you’re essentially eating out twice as often.  (If you can’t bear to leave it, bring the leftovers home as a treat for another family member, or even your pet.)

5.  Whenever possible, share the portion with your dining companion(s).  (Another way to ensure no leftovers to take home.)  This trick works particularly well with desserts.