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Training for long, hard multi-pitch climbs: running?
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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Mar 18, 2013

I am wondering how useful running is to climbing endurance and how to best modify my running to meet my goals involving free climbing long and strenuous routes.

Aside from weight training, on a treadmill I run 1.5 miles at a rate of 7 MPH about 5-6x a week. However, I am wondering if switching to interval running would better improve my endurance. What do you think? What is the best way to align running with climbing endurance goals?


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By lucander
From Stone Ridge, NY
Mar 18, 2013
Lucander off the GT Ledge on p. 2 of Keep on Struttin.

www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1436551/The-Aerobic-workout>>>


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By Nick K
From Somerville, MA
Mar 18, 2013

I have no idea how directly beneficial running is to the act of climbing, it probably helps with blood flow and things, but it certainly makes the approaches easier and I have way more energy left after the approach and I recover faster.

Clearly I'm not talking about walking 5 minutes up the hill to the sport crag here, I'm thinking in terms of hour+ approaches followed by climbing 5.10 and up (trad or sport).

I'm pretty irregular about my running at the moment, but last week I did 10 miles at a 9:30 mile, which is relatively typical for me. Right now I can do: 10 miles at a 9:30 mile, 5 mi at 8 min/mile, or 1.5 mi at 8min/mile while carrying 30lbs of groceries. Being in grad school and working right now, I don't get out much to climb, but the combination of running, running with weight, commuting 10miles/day round trip on a bike, and getting to the rock gym 2-3 times a week, means I can still get after it pretty hard when I get days off.

If I was more scientific about training I'd probably be doing even better, but all my mental discipline is focused on school right now.

It's probably worth noting that I really like running, and would be doing it even if it made no difference to my climbing.


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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Mar 18, 2013
Day Lily.

Running is super important for long routes at your limit/harder routes. Running keeps your body in tip top form to move lactic acids away and to bring oxygen to your muscles. Harder routes = more/constant tension = body constantly having to work hard.

Running will keep your pump at bay or make it go away faster since (because of the running) your body is adapted to constant strain.

I wasn't running for a bit (my passion is long, multi-pitch trad) and id climb at the beginning of winter in gym 120ft straight and id be out of breathe (harder routes), pumped, and not feeling great. I started running and I can climb 120ft and be fine, not out of breathe, and the pump, if any, is manageable. See my body is now setup to handle constant strain because running helped big time! Enjoy.


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Mar 18, 2013
Stairway to Heaven

Surprised no-one has mentioned this yet... running is also a great way to keep your weight under control.


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By BWIce
From Carlisle, PA
Mar 18, 2013
North face of long's.

I think it is important to mention maintaining a balance between endurance and power-centered training. Depending on what you do more of, over-training in one area might reduce performance. For example, using cycling and running (to a point) to train for endurance will mean larger legs and, for a boulderer or hard sport climber, that means your core and upper body need that much more attention to maintain sustained compression moves. For the alpinists, being able to crank out 5 one-arms with sticks for legs is probably not helpful either. I tend to train for objectives. Most of the winter I am in the gym working on power for winter bouldering in PA. For rope season (and those long, multi-pitch climbs) I tend to split between power and endurance while making sure to keep my weight down. Lately I've been doing my running on a fast to maximize fat oxidation as I come out of the gym/bouldering season and get ready for rope season. However, I make sure to keep my running to a minimum to reduce weight in the legs and I definitely stay away from cycling if I'm getting into climbing shape.


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By focus
Mar 18, 2013
High on Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne

Martin le Roux wrote:
Surprised no-one has mentioned this yet... running is also a great way to keep your weight under control.


+1.

I know there's the "just climb" crowd and that's fine. For me, putting in solid hours of aerobic work (plus good nutrition) has lead me to lose weight and in turn improve my climbing by a lot. Plus, I really like long runs, hikes, and cycling.

But, of course, running a lot, being light doesn't mean you'll necessarily climb better. It needs to be just 1 piece of the pie. Be careful about structuring your workouts. I used to run so much (ultra distance) that I was just too tired to climb effectively.

You're only running 1.5 miles per effort? And on a treadmill in Hawaii? That should change!


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By michaeltarne
Mar 18, 2013

I think running more would help improve your indurance- 1.5mi isn't a very long run at all. Back when I was in moderately good shape I was doing 30-35 miles a week.


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By Adam Leedy
From Austin, TX
Mar 18, 2013

BWIce wrote:
running (to a point) to train for endurance will mean larger legs and, for a boulderer or hard sport climber, that means your core and upper body need that much more attention to maintain sustained compression moves.


Coming from a background of racing mountain bikes, I have pretty massive quads and calves. It has been my experience that running actually reduces lower body muscle sizes and weight. This is because running doesn't require massive amounts of power like cycling does but instead promotes long lean muscles. Unless you are running hill repeats all of the time, I can't imagine you would ever be in danger of actually adding mass to your body by running.

I spent last winter bouldering and training fora half marathon. The half marathon training meant I was running more than I've ever ran in my life. The result was that in January I was also sending harder than ever before. In fact, I sent my hardest boulder problem the day after a 15 mile training run. I then sent a similarly hard problem the day after my half marathon.

All of that is to say, that I have yet to find any negative effects of running on climbing and it has all been positive.


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By JCM
From Henderson, NV
Mar 18, 2013

Adam Leedy wrote:
Coming from a background of racing mountain bikes, I have pretty massive quads and calves. It has been my experience that running actually reduces lower body muscle sizes and weight. This is because running doesn't require massive amounts of power like cycling does but instead promotes long lean muscles. Unless you are running hill repeats all of the time, I can't imagine you would ever be in danger of actually adding mass to your body by running.


I have had similar experience; I lost close to 10 pounds (of leg muscle) by quitting a long-term road-biking habit. That sure helped the climbing performance. I have since added back in some trail running, which hasn't seemed to have added too much leg bulk.

Others have reported similar experiences: lazyhclimbingclub.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/the-no-effort-pla>>> Those interested in this thread should read this blog post.


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Mar 18, 2013

I think running can be a big positive, for all the reasons everyone has already mentioned. However, you need to get outside. Training inside on treadmill, you'll get bored too quickly and stop before you can really get any distance in. Like someone mentioned, 1.5 miles is a pretty short run. Work up to 5 or 6 milers. Even though I used to be a pretty strong runner (16:43 for a 5K), I never ran more than two to three times a week. I didn't see any benefit from running more and felt sore or injured the more I ran.


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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Mar 18, 2013

Running will have no physiological benefit for your climbing but can help in weight management.
Keeping your workouts under 30 minutes will prevent you from tapping into your glycogen stores and hindering your climbing training. 1-Minute intervals are a great way to use this time.
No bodyweight exercise will add bulk to your muscles, so if you already have skinny legs don't worry about running bulking them up.


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By JCM
From Henderson, NV
Mar 18, 2013

Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:
Running will have no physiological benefit for your climbing.


This topic has already be debated ad naseum, but I'd register a disagreement with this statement. Although certainly not as vital to climbing training as a hangboard, a bit of running can lead to some notable benefits. Situations where some aerobic and lower body fitness will help include:

-Crags with long/strenuous approaches: If you aren't fit for hiking up a big hill, you'll feel pretty tired after the hike, and may not climb as well. Example: the Industrial Wall. Your send go on Vogue will go a lot better if you aren't totally wasted fromt he hike.

-Kneebar-intensive sport routes (Rifle, Jailhouse). Calf fitness/strength/endurance is quite useful here. I have seen people fall off routes at Rifle due to calf pump (route: The Present Tense; # of kneebars > 10). Strong legs will also let you can out in a kneebar or stem rest longer, allowing for better forearm recovery. I distinctly remember a somewhat strenuous kneebar rest near the top of a project of mine from last summer, for whcih the amount of time I could spend in the rest was limited by calf pump. I was not running much at the time. The previous summer, when I was running a lot, my calves never got pumped in kneebars.

-Long slab routes, enduro stemming, etc.

-Long days out. I feel like the fitness one gains from long runs helps with glycogen precessing for maintaining whole-body energy throughout the day. When I am running-fit, I feel a lot less bonked toward the end of a long route or long cragging day.

-Alpine climbing, big wall, etc. Duh.


So, running can pay dividends for your climbing, in certain situations. It won't help with you ability to crimp like a fiend on a hard boulder problem; it will probably actually detract from our ability there. In the right circumstances, though, running-related fitness will help you succeed.

For me, I cycle running in and out of my routine, based on my goals for the season. This winter, my goals have been bouldering-related, so the running was neglected. Now, however, Rifle season is approaching, and one of my goals for the season is very kneebar-intensive, so I'm starting to add back in more running to get the legs fit.


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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Mar 18, 2013

JCM wrote:
-Crags with long/strenuous approaches: If you aren't fit for hiking up a big hill, you'll feel pretty tired after the hike, and may not climb as well. Example: the Industrial Wall. Your send go on Vogue will go a lot better if you aren't totally wasted fromt he hike.

I think you are talking about glycogen depletion. As long as the line isn't one of the 50 Classics and you are race-hiking, just slow it down and eat regularly. The long/strenuous approach hasn't cut down on the number of smokers at Ceuse.

JCM wrote:
-Kneebar-intensive sport routes (Rifle, Jailhouse). Calf fitness/strength/endurance is quite useful here. I have seen people fall off routes at Rifle due to calf pump (route: The Present Tense; # of kneebars > 10). Strong legs will also let you can out in a kneebar or stem rest longer, allowing for better forearm recovery.

Kneebars are an isometric strength where you are trying to keep your foot in the same position. Running is an isotonic strength where your muscles work through the whole range of motion. These movements tax different muscle groups. Strengthening your running muscles does not translate to strong/longer kneebars.

JCM wrote:
-Long slab routes, enduro stemming, etc.

Again, isometric (don't Elvis dance!) v.s. isotonic (get a good BASE jump push!)

JCM wrote:
-Long days out. I feel like the fitness one gains from long runs helps with glycogen precessing for maintaining whole-body energy throughout the day. When I am running-fit, I feel a lot less bonked toward the end of a long route or long cragging day.
Eat right, take er easy.

JCM wrote:
-Alpine climbing, big wall, etc. Duh.

This is where we agree. The movement of hauling a pig is very much like running/power-lifting/hell.

JCM wrote:
Now, however, Rifle season is approaching, and one of my goals for the season is very kneebar-intensive, so I'm starting to add back in more running to get the legs fit.
Skip the running and set some kneebars at your gym for sport-specific training.

That being said, I run every day.


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By frankstoneline
Mar 18, 2013

I got yer long hard training hangin'.

with that outta the way: I've both trained while doing some basic cycling as well as without it making any serious presence in the training schedule and havent noticed much difference in my ability to climb. I was significantly better at riding a bike while I was riding the bike though...

Train for long efforts by replicating the effort. Link lots of gym routes in up-down-up fashion, then swap with a buddy or rest, then repeat. lots.

Also of note: lots of people who run marathons and other distance events rarely if ever do training runs that are much longer than half of their intended distance. I dont know if this applies and i'm too lazy to distance run, but it might be worth noting/considering.


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Mar 19, 2013
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

frankstoneline wrote:
Train for long efforts by replicating the effort. Link lots of gym routes in up-down-up fashion, then swap with a buddy or rest, then repeat. lots.


Basically aerobic climbing training (ARC). Increasing the level of cruxless climbing that you can do. If you want to do 5.9 all day long, then start by doing 20 minute sets a grade or two lower, then work up to 45 min sets of 5.9 over time. Then you'll certainly be able to handle pitches upon pitches of 5.9. Seems like the most specific training possible.

Also, emulate what your plan is. When Tommy Caldwell wanted to do two El Cap routes in 24 hours, he didn't train for 3 hours a day. He kept himself climbing, cycling, bouldering, lifting, climbing, etc, all day long.


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By frankstoneline
Mar 19, 2013

Brendan Blanchard wrote:
Basically aerobic climbing training (ARC). Increasing the level of cruxless climbing that you can do. If you want to do 5.9 all day long, then start by doing 20 minute sets a grade or two lower, then work up to 45 min sets of 5.9 over time. Then you'll certainly be able to handle pitches upon pitches of 5.9. Seems like the most specific training possible.


This depends on the climbing you want to do. If you want to be able to climb long moderates in mega-pitches for time reason, climbing arc style is good.

If you want to climb long routes of a grade that is somewhat challenging for you your effort is better concentrated to things that are ~a pitch in length. You'll have time to rest to (probably) nearly full recovery between pitches while your partner climbs, so targeting something like 80-100 feet of climbing at challenging grades (either by climbing up and down routes of desired grade or by lowering off and starting again with as little rest as possible) seems more specific/beneficial to some route types.

I've found that a. I'm more likely to do endurance training in this fashion as it is more interesting to me, b. I am more capable of adjusting difficulty of the workout (make one or more of the routes harder) and c. it trains a more complete skill set (resting, climbing while pumped, energy management).


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By michaeltarne
Mar 19, 2013

frankstoneline wrote:
Also of note: lots of people who run marathons and other distance events rarely if ever do training runs that are much longer than half of their intended distance. I dont know if this applies and i'm too lazy to distance run, but it might be worth noting/considering.

I don't think you can generalize this...my dad has been doing marathons longer than I've been alive and his long runs are always in the 20-25 mile range when the race gets closer.


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By frankstoneline
Mar 19, 2013

michaeltarne wrote:
I don't think you can generalize this...my dad has been doing marathons longer than I've been alive and his long runs are always in the 20-25 mile range when the race gets closer.


I should have qualified my statement with "some people" as I realize it isn't an across the board thing, I just meant to point out that it is an accepted and (as far as I know) fairly widely used training strategy. I know when I was doing lots of long-ish cycling I rarely trained days longer than 50 miles even when training for long rides (100+ mile days), this seemed to work for me.


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