There are so many myths surrounding rock climbing vs. running that it’s no wonder why many rock climbers resist adding running to their cross-training routine. Is running bad for climbers? Would running really help improve your climbing abilities? Running and rock climbing are great forms of exercise, so why can’t they be integrated?
In this article, we’ll talk about how to safely integrate rock climbing and running together to form an amazing cross-training routine. From discussing the benefits of running that rock climbers can feel to helping you figure out how best to balance running and rock climbing in your life, we’ll cover it all!
Does Running Improve Rock Climbing Endurance?
Although typically thought of as an anaerobic exercise, rock climbing can be both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Any sustained climbing for more than about two minutes, for example, a longer route, a traverse or a multi-pitch, can fall into the category of aerobic exercise.
The most common form of aerobic exercise that people practice is running or jogging. Is running good for climbing, you might ask. The short answer is yes! Running is a great way to improve your aerobic health and wellness, which can, in turn, benefit your climbing ability and endurance.
Using cardio for climbing benefits is something that many climbers have done throughout the years. Although we’re discussing running in this article, you can just as easily use biking or any other form of aerobic exercise that you enjoy to see similar benefits. Improving your cardiovascular endurance and your muscle endurance are both ways to help improve your climbing ability and your overall climbing endurance.
What are the Benefits of Running for Rock Climbers?
There are tons of benefits of running their rock climbers can see in their practice. Here are a few of our favourite benefits that rock climbers will typically see from adding running into their routine:
1. Mental clarity and relaxation
When climbing, you will likely find yourself incredibly focused on the task ahead of you, meaning that there’s often little room for your brain to relax. Making sure that you take care of your mental health while climbing is essential to your success. Running is a great way to help clear your mind and relax your thoughts, as many runners tend to find the practice pretty meditative.
Including one or two 20 to 30-minute runs every week as part of your climbing training routine can really help keep your mind clear and calm. Running can be a meditative activity and is often used to help clear the mind and help focus on the next task at hand, which can be super helpful with climbing as focus is essential to your success. As you get more and more advanced at climbing, you may want to think about creating a more in-depth cross-training plan, which might include more running, but when you’re just starting out, a few runs a week is a great place to begin.
2. Increased leg strength and endurance
While we think of rock climbing as a sport that works your arms and core, the main muscles used in climbing are your legs which are often overlooked. Running is a great way to keep your leg muscles in shape without bulking them up too much.
Lean, strong leg muscles are the best for climbing, and when you use running as a cross-training method, you increase the endurance of these muscles, meaning you can climb for longer before feeling fatigued. If you want your runs to be more challenging and build more muscle mass, think about doing hill workouts of some sort. Hill workouts add extra resistance to your run and allow you to build more muscle.
3. Increased recovery time from injuries
Low-intensity cardio such as running, jogging or biking have all been shown to help improve recovery time from injuries. These low-intensity activities increase blood flow. An increase in blood flow not only brings more nutrients to the part of your body that is healing, but it also helps remove excess waste products from the body.
If you find that running on a sidewalk or hard-packed trail is still too intense for your joints, try using a machine in a gym that simulates running while taking a lot of the force off of your lower extremities joints. This can be a great option for someone with an existing knee or ankle injury.
How Can Running Help Improve Rock Climbing Technique?
Does running help with rock climbing technique? Unfortunately, the answer is both yes and no. While running won’t directly improve your rock climbing technique or teach you any new moves to use next time you’re on the wall, it will help improve your muscle strength and cardiovascular health, which will help improve your climbing ability.
Many climbers find that having better overall health and increased strength allows them to pay more attention to their technique and to better execute the moves they are trying to do. In this way, running can help improve your rock climbing technique, although indirectly.
Another way that many climbers find that running can help improve their rock climbing technique is by increasing the strength of the muscles in their legs. Having added endurance and strength in your legs will allow you to continue using proper climbing techniques even when you reach the top of the climb and are wearing out.
Using the proper technique while rock climbing is the best way to help mitigate your chance of injury. If you reach the top of a climb and no longer have the strength in your arms, legs and core to be able to utilize the proper technique, you are much more likely to pull a muscle or tear something. Making sure that you have good endurance in your muscles and in your cardiovascular health is the best way to minimize the chance of injury and allow you to continue using proper technique throughout your entire climb.
How to Balance Running and Rock Climbing?
Figuring out how to continually improve your rock climbing technique while integrating cross-training activities such as weightlifting, yoga, or running can be challenging, especially when you are just starting out. We recommend that beginner climbers spend the majority of their time climbing since that’s really what you want to be improving right now.
As you get better at climbing, you’ll want to think more about ways that you can train off the wall to improve your overall health and wellness and continue to improve on the wall. Balancing climbing and running or climbing in yoga can seem challenging at first but will get better the more you practice.
To start adding cross-training activity to your climbing routine, try adding one to two sessions of cross-training per week. As you learn more and more climbing techniques and discover which muscles you need to be focusing on in your cross-training activities, you can better tailor those activities to suit your climbing practice. This means that as you get better at climbing, you are more likely to start integrating more specific cross-training activities or simply more cross-training activities than you did when you first started climbing.
Try starting with one or two shorter runs per week. As your endurance improves and you feel more comfortable running, slowing increase both the amount of runs you go on and the length of the runs. Make sure that you are still giving yourself a day to rest and recover though. Generally, aiming to do somewhere between three and five runs a week is a good number to aim for.
Wrapping Things Up: Does Running Help with Rock Climbing?
Regardless of whether you are looking for rock climbing for runners or running for rock climbers, these two sports can bring many benefits to one another. After seeing that increased strength and endurance are only one of the many benefits that running can bring to rock climbing, we hope you will consider integrating running into your rock climbing cross-training routine.