Sunday, 13 May 2012

Running and energy bars

Happy Monday everyone!  Hope everyone had a nice weekend!  Mine was great… relaxing night on Friday, dinner with friends on Saturday and a bush-walk (otherwise known as a hike) on Sunday.  Good times.  It was a beautiful day to be out and about yesterday… here are a couple pics from the walk.

A little walk through the gum trees... we had a random guy walking past us give us a tutorial on all the different trees.  Good times.

Just a nice view.  It is actually a crazy location for a bush-walk.  We took the train out to the suburbs, walked through a bunch of residential neighborhoods and then ended up in this park area.  A bit of a natural paradise in suburbia!  The view from these rocks here was almost spoiled by crazy kids running around pretending to shoot at everyone with sticks.  I was forced to practice my deep breathing.

The hubby was less than happy with the uphill climb to end the trek.  
Overall a good day of outdoor fun!

For those who don’t know, I am running a half-marathon in Sydney.  Now that I am thinking about it, most probably did not know about this I have been keeping it on the down low… due mostly to my own fears of backing out!  No longer an option…it is in less than a week- yikes! 

Running has become a huge part of my routine. Particularly since moving overseas it has been one of the best things for me to stay centered.  I truly love it.  Running gives me time to clear my head.  It really helped a lot when I was adjusting to living in Sydney in terms of stress relief and having some sort of schedule/structure to my day. 

It is pretty funny to talk about how much I enjoy running now.  I used to HATE it.  Every time I tried to start it up, it would last a max of 2 weeks before I was over it.  Not that I have ever minded exercise, I just always preferred going on walks, the elliptical or taking a spin class to running.  I did a 5 mile run in Boston last spring and for whatever reason stuck with it.  I’m not sure what was different this time around except maybe an increase in stress due to the move?  I think that I somehow finally got past that old point of cursing every minute I spent running and started to just enjoy.  There just seems to be that point you get to when running that causes that shift in thinking and I just never pushed myself long enough to get there before.  Maybe the combination of being in an amazing locale for running and the fact that it is free and I can do it whenever helps here. Who knows if this is something that will last when we move back home, but I really enjoy it now.

With all the extra free time I have- relatively speaking without working full time- I decided to run the ½ marathon.  Not sure what brought it on… maybe just setting a goal for myself, a new challenge… but here we are less than a week away.  A bunch of people have asked me my goal time… umm to finish?  To enjoy myself?  Yup I'm pretty sure those are my only goals at this point.  

I have no idea really what to expect despite trying to prepare well. I have been pretty good about sticking to a “beginners training schedule” recommended by the group that puts the ½ marathon together.  Let me tell you, this is a lot of work and takes up a ton of time!  Hats off to people who are disciplined enough to train with full time jobs/children etc.  I don’t think if I was working full time right now I would have been able to prepare for my first longer run… maybe after you get more experience things are a bit different.

With all the running I do here and especially with the increased miles due to training, I am constantly eating.  Seriously, I am always hungry.  There is the usual healthy pre and post-run snacks of bananas with nut butters, toast, oatmeal, yogurt etc.  But what I really like to have on hand are energy bars.  Yes I know they are glorified candy bars, but they are so convenient when in a rush!  I used to buy all sorts back in the states (as long as they were on sale or Trader Joes prices).  My favorites were Luna Bars, Larabars and Zone Bars.  I can’t buy either here in Australia and the energy/protein bars they sell are usually around $4 each!  No thanks… that doesn’t really work with my frugal mentality. So what is a girl to do?  Right then, just make my own.

You can find a fair amount of recipes for protein and energy bars online.  Some are pretty terrible and it took quite a bit of trial and error find some that were easy, tasty and actually healthy.  The easiest by far are imitation Larabars… the reason?  Only a few key ingredients, dried fruits, nuts, flavoring and in some cases some oats.  The binding ingredient in the recipe is dates (you could also use raisins).  You just need some sort of food processor/blender to mix and there is no need to bake them.  It is super easy and way cheaper to make your own. 

Homemade Larabars
Almond Chocolate (not actually a Larabar variety as far as I know... but very tasty anyways!)

As I mentioned, I did a lot of trials based off many different recipes online.  The closest that I based mine off of was from
This is a super cute blog with lots of different healthy versions of baked treats... definitely worth looking through her site if you have the time!)

½ cup dates
¼ cup almonds
2 Tbs almond butter
½ cup rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs mini-chocolate chips

~ Combine the dates, almonds and almond butter into food processor and process until smooth.  This process will take several minutes.
~ Add rolled oats and vanilla and process another 1-2 minutes.
~ Add chocolate chips and pulse several times.
~ Shape the dough into bars.  I get 5 bars out of this recipe.  Wrap each well and store in fridge until ready to eat. 

Easiest recipe there is.  Blend it all together in food processor....

Shape into yummy bars and eat.  Done.

The great thing about these bars, is there are so many different flavor options.  Your base of ingredients always remains the same (the dates and nuts) but you can change the type of nuts, and nut butter you use, omit the oats, add different dried fruits to the mix and take the chocolate chips out.  Here are some other examples of tasty varieties...

Oatmeal Raisin
½ cup raisins
¼ cup walnuts
2 Tbs peanut butter
½ cup rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla extract

Key Lime Pie
½ cup dates
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup cashews
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice

Peanut Butter and Jelly
½ cup dates
¼ cup peanuts
2 Tbs peanut butter
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tsp vanilla extract

I am still working on the other more "protein bar" recipes that would be similar to a Luna Bar or even a Clif Bar.  All the ones that I have tried are just not coming out properly... mostly a texture issue.  I will keep you all posted and hopefully will have a good version soon!

Now that I have spent the whole morning writing, snacking on all things almond butter and making a batch of Larabars I need to head out for one of my last runs before the 1/2 marathon... woohoo!  

Hope everyone has a good start to the week :)

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