Mint-Chocolate Protein Bars

This past weekend we finished our first full climbing competition, and guess what – we both made the podium! Jonty nabbed first place in Experienced Men, and I came in a close second in Experienced Women 🙂 It was a great day and it pushed me way outside of my comfort zone (in a good way!). We’ve signed up for the next competition in a few weeks time already, if for no other reason than to watch and learn from the younger climbers – watching their grit and determination acts as a great source of inspiration! | Mint-chocolate protein bars

The climbing competitions make for very long days, filled with quite a bit of waiting around. You climb two qualifiers in the morning, separated by at least 1 hour. Then, if you make it to the finals, you wait for another 3 hours, for the final routes to be set. Our adrenaline was running on high for much of the day, as we didn’t really know what to expect, and foods that are easy to eat and digest are key for us. | Mint-chocolate protein bars

These Mint-Chocolate Protein Bars came to the rescue. They are a modification from a recipe out of the Power Hungry cookbook I mentioned a few weeks ago. I made these protein bars the other week, storing them in the freezer for occasions just like this. A secret ingredient gives these bars a great boost of protein and healthy fats, but really, it’s the mint-chocolate that brings these bars into the “super yummy” category. | Mint-chocolate protein bars

And their super-secret high-protein ingredient? Black beans! To be honest, I’ve always been intrigued with the whole “black bean in a baked good” concept. This cookbook called them a Brownie.

Do they actually taste like brownies? Well, you definitely can’t taste the beans, and they have a great chocolate-mint flavour, but I would probably plant these firmly in the bar / cake camp. This is only because I like my brownies fudgy and gooey, and these are slightly more firm. | Mint-chocolate protein bars

We keep them in the freezer and bring them to the climbing gym for after a training session, or in between competition qualifiers. They are nice and portable and, at 10 g of protein in a single bar, are a good way to get a tasty source of protein, without resorting to a store product with an ingredient list full of mumbo-jumbo! | Mint-chocolate protein bars

Whether you’re doing a lot of sport, or just want a healthier chocolate treat to get you through the afternoon, definitely give these Mint-Chocolate Protein Bars a try.

Mint-Chocolate Protein Brownies
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 16 bars
  • Serving size: 1 bar
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 26 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Sodium: 52.4 mg
  • Fiber: 5.1 g
  • Protein: 10 g
  • Cholesterol: 34.5 mg
Recipe type: Snacks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Adapted from the cookbook Power Hungry
  • 275 g (1 540 mL can) black beans, drained and rinsed very well
  • 100 g (1/3 cup) pure maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 85 g (1/3 cup) skim milk
  • 40 g (3 tbsp) melted virgin coconut oil
  • 5 g (2 tsp) instant espresso powder, optional
  • 1½ tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 60 g (3/4 cup, loosely packed) all-natural unflavoured whey protein powder
  • 25 g (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) dark chocolate chips
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a 9x9-inch pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, fitted with an s-blade, pulse together the black beans, maple syrup, eggs, milk, coconut oil, espresso powder and peppermint extract. Pulse until smooth.
  3. Add the protein powder, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt. Pulse until smooth and completely combined. Scrape down the sides, if necessary.
  4. Pour the mixture into the lined baking pan and sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips.
  5. Bake for 25 - 28 minutes, until the top is slightly firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool before slicing into squares.
These brownies freeze well.

Enjoy! | Mint-chocolate protein bars

Strength Training: Pinch It Real Good!

A few weeks ago we finished a strength-focused climbing month, which means we added 2 hangboard sessions per week to our climbing schedule. We also changed up our hangboard routine from what we’ve done in the past (you can read about those here and here) and brought in a new, highly sophisticated piece of training equipment…. a small piece of 2×4 🙂

We were pretty happy with this new routine and thought we would share it.

Our Strength-Focused Schedule:

  • One lead climbing session per week: Working on leading harder grades and improving technique (footwork, fast clipping, on-sighting, etc.)
  • One bouldering session per week: Working on bouldering harder grades and focusing on maximum strength moves
  • One general conditioning session per week: Incorporating exercises to improve functional movement and increase core and upper-body strength
  • Two hangboard sessions per week: Maximum strength dead-hangs plus pull-ups

Hangboard Routine:

The modifications we made to our old hangboard routine were as follows:

  • Choose 6 or 7 finger/grip positions to train. This time around, we included three different pinch grips using a 2 x 4 (cut to a length of 5-inches)
  • For each finger grip / position, find the weight you need to add / remove in order to just hold tension for 6 seconds + 1 pull-up
  • For each finger grip / position, complete 3 sets of the “6-second hang + 1 pull-up”), resting for 90 seconds in between each set | Strength training mono-pullup

We loved this new routine for two reasons:

  1. It was quick! We could finish the hangboard routine in less than 45 minutes (this was, of course, after a very good warm-up at the climbing gym).
  2. It incorporated movement (the pull-up) off of a finger grip position, which we feel is more beneficial to climbing.

Pinch it Real Good:

We also started using a 2×4, cut to a length of 5 inches, to work on improving our narrow, medium and wide pinch grip.

  • Start with your weakest grip (for us, it was the widest, 5-inch width of the block)
  • End with your strongest grip (for us, it was the narrow, 2-inch width of the block)
  • We used a sling around the block, attached to our weights. It seemed to work! | Strength training pinch-grip

For these maximum-strength exercises, you need to find out what weight you need to add (via a weight vest) or remove (via a pulley-system) so that you can just complete one 6 second hang / hold followed by 1 pull-up. This might take a session or two to figure out exactly where you lie.

Make sure you record your weights and grip positions, so you can track your progress over the week, and know what weights to start on, when you return to the hangboard training months from now.

Happy Strength Training!

Training for Climbing: Power and Visualization

Last week I started into the Power Training phase of our 17-week training schedule. I’m following the same plan as last time (you can find that post here, if you’d like to see what I got up to). These sessions include a thorough warm-up, followed by some campus board work.

For me, campus training requires a lot of mental visualization and commitment. I find the exercises difficult, and a lot of it comes down to my mental preparation. The movements on the campus board do not come naturally to me, and in the past it has felt like it’s has taken almost the entire 4-week phase to improve my skills to a level I’m happy with, only to move onto the next phase and lose any gains I’ve made!

So, I tried to be more proactive about hitting the ground running this time, and I did a few things to set me up to be more successful for my power training:

  1. Prepare during the Strength Phase: I decided to use the campus board for my finger strength phase, instead of the hangboard. The intention was to prepare my body (and mind!) for campusing, as well as improving my finger strength.
  2. Document: At the end of the last power phase in August, I wrote down a few notes for things I knew I’d forget. Things like “This order for exercises worked well”.
  3. Visualization: I also wrote notes for what I was thinking about when I succeeded at a campus ladder. Things like “Keep a steady tempo”, “Think about bouncing up the campus board”, etc.

This approach has really helped! On the first campus session, I finished almost as strong as my last session in August! Wahoo!

Some of the things I think about which I find improve my success rate are:

  • Each move up the campus board should be a little hop or bounce.
  • Even if I slow down towards the top, make sure each move up is still a quick power pull-up.
  • With each move, make sure my shoulders and body don’t sag between moves.
  • Focus on where my  hand is in relation to my shoulder (this gives me a consistent point to pull-up to, where I know I can easily reach the next rung, even if I tire).

Yesterday, I was able to ladder all the way up to the top of the campus board multiple times, and I was very pleased with myself 🙂 I think a big part of that was my visualization and prep during the Strength Phase, so my mind and body knew what was coming!

Jonty, in week 13 of knee recovery, is able to walk now (wahoo!), but is still not strong enough to withstand landing on his leg, so he’s continuing to work on finger and upper-body strength. One of his long term goals was to be able to do a muscle-up on gymnastic rings; this requires working on dips:

… and quick pull-ups:

… and putting it together, a muscle-up with a bit of aid to start:

He also decided to work towards being able to do one-finger pull-ups, here’s his latest climbing party-trick 🙂

This power phase will take us through another few weeks, then transition into the power-endurance phase. We’re thinking of putting together a few before / after videos to showcase any improvements we’ve made, so perhaps you’ll see those pop up in another few weeks.

Happy Power Training!


We’re celebrating our wedding anniversary this week! We’ve been married for 5 years, and together for 14 – ah, how quickly the time goes by!

This is the only year in the history of our relationship where this number will mean something to a rock climber (it’s the grade point we hope to climb at some point!) If you’re not a rock climber, this number just means we’ve been together for a bit of time 🙂 | Ferry ride, Nanaimo BC

To celebrate, we’re taking a few days off for a bit of Island life. We’re also celebrating Jonty’s road to recovery after fracturing his left kneecap and partially tearing his patellar tendon!

After 7 1/2 weeks post-accident, Jonty was finally able to move his leg, narrowly avoiding surgery in a you-just-gotta-make-it-work do-or-die moment.

After 8 weeks, he took his first tentative step without his knee brace.

After 9 weeks, he’s now able to walk (in short bursts) without his crutches!

This is very exciting progress after more than 2 months of being immobile! | Jonty walking without crutches

Happy Anniversary to my best friend and most favourite person! Love you to the moon and back 🙂

Training for Climbing: Gimme Strength!

Since Jonty’s knee injury (at the beginning of our September performance phase), we haven’t been able to climb together, as his leg is still splinted and he can’t walk (or climb or belay!). As a result, we hadn’t talked very much about what our winter training schedule together would look like! After a month or so of bouldering in the gym, I was ready to start training again, with a focus in mind.

Last week, a notification popped up in our calendar, telling us we were due to start the Strength phase for our winter training block. Perfect timing! The whole premise of this 17-week training plan is to think about your climbing goals and to tailor your training to give you the best shot at conquering your “goal routes”. Since climbing outside in the winter on the “Wet Coast” is not possible for those that live some distance from the crags (climbing on soaking wet rock is not that fun!), our training usually focuses more on improving our general skills (finger and core strength, power movement patterns, etc.). | Jonty on the hangboard, large rungs

Normally, during this 4-week training block we focus on improving finger strength through exercises on the hangboard. We talked about that session here, if you’re interested in our set-up. We’ve had discussions over time about whether this is the best way to improve finger strength. The main issue we have with this style of training is that you’re hanging, statically, on small holds. But climbing is a dynamic process, and the forces generated through your fingers as you move off a hold are much different than if you’re just hanging on a hold. | Jonty on the hangboard, medium rungs

So I thought I would try something different this time around! A few years ago, we bought the Gimme Kraft training book, which includes tonnes of climbing-specific training exercises, developed in their training studio in Germany. Virtually all the exercises use body weight only and all have a rating from “Easy/Beginner” to “Very Hard/Pro” levels. We worked through some of the exercises in this book a few years ago and Jonty suggested I might want to look at some of them again. | Jonty on the hangboard, thin rungs

What I like about these exercises is that they are dynamic and require the strength of multiple muscle groups at the same time, which (I’m hoping!) will help me improve some of my weaknesses.

For this strength training round, I’ll be focusing on 3 general exercises, all done on the campus board. After a significant warm-up session on the auto-belay (climbing continuously for 20 – 30 minutes, warming up each of the finger groups like pinch, crimp, 2-finger, etc.), the finger-strength training can begin!


What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “square-dance rounds” without a break
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between a set
  • Body tension (stay close to the wall)
  • Contact strength (fingers latch to the rungs)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to smaller/thinner rungs
  • Use higher feet (if possible)
  • Use a steeper-angled wall (if possible)


What to think about:

  • Hang 7 – 10 seconds on off-set holds, lifting one leg as high as possible; repeat with the other hand/leg combo.
  • Complete 12 sets of these hangs
  • Core tension, finger contact strength

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to thinner rungs, if you can hold the tension for more than 10 seconds
  • Starting at 6 sets, working up to 12 sets
  • Starting with 4 fingers on the holds, working my way down to 3 fingers


What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “lock-off” rounds, without resting
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between
  • Keep the body tension throughout the move
  • Try to touch your body to the wall as you lock-off (hips through nose)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Use thinner holds
  • Use higher feet (if possible) to get a deeper lock-off
  • Use a steeper wall (if possible)

For the last 7 weeks, Jonty has not had the luxury of two functional legs, so he has been working on improving his upper-body strength and finger strength, namely in the way of pull-ups. Lots of pull-ups. He’s now up to >130 per session, and generally stops due to boredom not fatigue!! On the weekend, when we are both at the climbing gym together and he has access to the campus board, he will work on his finger strength by doing off-set pull-ups and two-finger pull-ups. Over the last 7 weeks, he has really improved! He can now do off-set pull-ups on the thinnest campus rung:

And he has been working toward two-finger pull-ups on the medium and thin campus rungs:

He makes both look pretty easy, but I can assure you, it’s not!!! 🙂

This routine might get modified over the next few weeks, but this is my general plan.

Happy Training!!