/ Ultra running and climbing/bouldering

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SRuss 28 Oct 2019

I'm just interested in people's thoughts on doing a bit of climbing and bouldering on the side, for fun, while also training for an ultra marathon. 

Over the last 18 months I've pretty much stopped climbing and bouldering while focusing on hill/fell running and ultra running. I've completed and thoroughly enjoyed one ultra and have another two in the books. I love running and I'm excited for the next two ultras but I am now really missing climbing - both the act of climbing and the social side too. I appreciate that climbing and running work different muscles etc. so some thought is needed to get the right balance. But surely climbing once a week - without any intention of climbing hard or pushing grades - would not be detrimental to running? In addition, I feel climbing might be a good form of cross-training to help with flexibility and core strength. 

Anyway - just wondered whether anyone had any advice or thoughts on this. Thanks. 

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L Elliott 28 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

It's completely fine, especially if not pushing grades. It's not uncommon for people to be doing both with focus just shifting as projects come up.

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jack89 28 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

As L Elliott says.

Interesting read on taking this to extremes though - inspiring:   https://tomrandallclimbing.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/can-you-be-a-pro-in-two-sports-a-reality-check/

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SRuss 29 Oct 2019
In reply to L Elliott:

Thanks. That is pretty much what I thought.

There just seems to be a lot of mixed opinions on this. Climbing isn't often mentioned as good cross-training for runners and on some forums I've read folks suggest that you can't run and climb (though the topic is usually focused on whether you can excel at both at the same time). And my running partner is very critical of mixing the two, stating that if I started climbing once a week he'd stop running with me because he thinks climbing would compromise my running. However, on the flip side, quite a lot of folks I know/have known prioritise one activity such as climbing but also enjoy others such as mountain biking and running. Plus, there are the elites. Anton Krupicka for example, climbs at relatively low grades, bikes, and skis, but remains an exceptional long distance runner (not that I'll ever be at that level).

Just left me feeling a bit confused. 

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SRuss 29 Oct 2019
In reply to jack89:

> As L Elliott says.

> Interesting read on taking this to extremes though - inspiring:   https://tomrandallclimbing.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/can-you-be-a-pro-in-two-sports-a-reality-check/

I ache just reading that! 

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JoshShaw 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

Be aware of the stress that climbing / bouldering puts on your knees and hips. I used to do both long distance running and climb but found the climbing caused ITB flare-ups. Stopped climbing while pushing the running and the ITB issues went away.

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gavmac 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

You need a new running partner!

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afx22 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

I tend to boulder one day, run the next day and repeat endlessly - sometimes both in a day.  I'm convinced that walking round on a bouldering mat helps my legs recover from running and that running helps my fingers and forearms recover (all that flailing my arms around).

There are lots of podcasts that infer that doing too much of one will encroach on the other - that our nervous systems may need longer to recover than we realise.  I tend to run shorter distances nowadays but a few years ago I was comfortable with a full marathon training program and still bouldering a couple of times per week.

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Steve Jones 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

There are plenty of top fell runner who are also v good climbers. Can't see a problem with it myself. 

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sheffbabe 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

I do both but neither at a high level. A couple of things I have found, all from my own experience: not based on scientific research!

I am crap at stretching, and climbing forces me to do this, which i think improves my running

I would suggest that the core strength from bouldering helps with my running posture. This and the above could be achieved by strength training and stretching instead, but like you, i enjoy climbing so if i can get the stretching and core benefits from that vs solo strength training or gym work then that suits me very well.

However, running makes me less flexible, particularly in the hips. This affects my bouldering ability particularly in the few weeks after an ultra and also makes me more prone to injury. 

It also makes me more prone to calf cramp in the weeks after an ultra: an obvious problem if on a high ball boulder problem / high above gear

On the plus side, i think the upper body strength from climbing has helped me with the stamina needed to use poles for long periods on ultras

I combine a 3 to 4 hour run with a 3 hour boulder one day a week. This has improved my endurance : good for ultras, but I certainly can't push the grades on that bouldering session! I treat it as a long slow run instead, so the three hours of bouldering is not intensive and does involve a tea break

 If i am training for a big race i tend to reduce the climbing, but increase during the taper (keeping grades and risk of falling / injury low). Then I pick up the climbing again until the next race comes along!

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Tom Briggs 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

I boulder 3 or 4 times a week and run 4 or 5 times a week. Apart from tiredness affecting my bouldering and being a kilo or two heavier from heavier legs, I think the two go together OK. I do minimum strength training for running as I am training core/upper body when climbing (so mainly focus on glutes/hamstrings). And if I'm doing mainly base/easy volume running I don't find any issues with tightness in legs etc, though I do tend to avoid heel hooks nowadays. After a weekend long run or a harder effort I lose the top 5 - 10% of my climbing power the following day. Though as I get older I do wonder whether I'm slowly losing power anyway (I'm actually stronger on a fingerboard/locking off, but can't do the campus moves I could do 5 years ago)?

Post edited at 14:17
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Roadrunner6 29 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

Certainly not, it improves core. I used to use it as my rest day, or say an easy 4-5 miler in the morning followed by a bouldering session in the evening.

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Ged Desforges 30 Oct 2019
In reply to Tom Briggs:

I've found quite similar to you Tom. I started running again recently due to craving a bit more adventure. Trad climbing is off the cards at the mo due to baby, and bouldering whilst fun, wasn't quite cutting the mustard. 

I have no doubt that when I'm not running, I'm better at bouldering. Weight, time, energy levels I guess. Equally, I can maintain a reasonable standard of bouldering, and run quite a lot. Generally if I want to do both close together, bouldering first. Fingerboard sessions after running are useless. 

I'm the past when my climbing was more endurance focused, I tried to do both. I failed. I think that the energy demands of endurance climbing are too much to be draining tge tank by running too. Unless you're prepared to be distinctly average at both. 

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Shaunhaynes99 31 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

I run and climb too. 

Tbh im a runner that climbs,  i much prefer running so i do it a lot more  im not fussed by what grade i can climb. I just go to the indoor wall and do  moves  that a fnacy some times route sometimes sprint  work on the auto belay sometimes just endurance  work. 

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jpicksley 31 Oct 2019
In reply to SRuss:

I think the general consensus here appears to be that there is no reason at all why you can't do both. I ran competitively for many years and it was my main sport but in the later stages I also started climbing. I wasn't too concerned about grade but I think it definitely helped with flexibility and core stability (up to that point I'd only really run which has some quite detrimental effects on the body, especially ultras, e.g. tight hips/lower back/hamstrings). Climbing will help manage these. I now cycle a lot and climb more than I used to and still feel the same way regarding the other benefits. In fact I now wish I'd done more yoga and core work as a competitive runner as I'm convinced it would have helped performance and recovery.

Unless you're a professional climber or runner, and are concerned about injuring yourself doing another sport, I would ask why would you not climb if you want to? At the levels that most of us perform (not professional or international standard) I think it's more important to make the most of your time, enjoy yourself and get a good balance. Climbing helps with flexibility and core stability (and I guess you want to do some), running/cycling help with cardio fitness and leg strength. In my opinion, at the level most of us perform, they compliment each other (add in a bit of yoga and calisthenics and you have a really good balance of activities that are really good fun).

Mix it up a bit and enjoy yourself and good luck with whatever you choose to do.

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steveriley 31 Oct 2019
In reply to jpicksley:

Agree with all that. If you want to be top of the tree specialise, if you want to do things that make you happy find the mix that works for you. You can be pretty close to top of the tree mixing things up and plenty of elites have proven that. A bit of variety is always good.

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SRuss 02 Nov 2019
In reply to steveriley:

Agreed! There definitely seems to be a consensus. 

Thank you to everyone who responded - this thread has been a great sanity check.

 

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jhudsy 02 Nov 2019
In reply to SRuss:

One (anecdotal) word of warning - I ran the Comrades Marathon in SA in my early twenties. A week or two after the race I did a hard (for me at least) sports route. One dropped-knee later, I ended up with a torn meniscus. I *suspect* that I didn't give myself enough post race recovery time which led to the injury, but obviously it could have just been coincidence.

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In reply to Ged Desforges:

We must be going through a similar phase in life Ged, as I've been thinking the exact same thing, and judging from Tom's response (and having spoken to him previously) I have a feeling he came to the same conclusion in/around the same time.

I too have been missing that little bit of adventure and started running again a couple of months ago. It's been quite a mixed year in terms of weather, and time has obviously been that little bit tighter due to the arrival of the wee one, so running was initially just a way of getting outside (even if it was raining) because that seemed to feed the soul more than a fingerboard ever could. That said, I've definitely been wrangling with how to balance it - hence this thread is quite timely (and reassuring).

My own aspirations extend to continuing my 2019 bouldering form into 2020, whilst simultaneously training to do the Bob Graham. I'm unsure as to whether I'm completely deluded, but hey ho - it'll be a laugh trying...

Hope all's well with the little'un and that it's not quite as rainy down south!!

p.s. I'm aware this isn't much help to the OP, other than to say I'll keep you posted with how it all goes

Post edited at 09:42
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Tom Briggs 07 Nov 2019
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> My own aspirations extend to continuing my 2019 bouldering form into 2020, whilst simultaneously training to do the Bob Graham. I'm unsure as to whether I'm completely deluded, but hey ho - it'll be a laugh trying...

That'll come down to time, flexibility and psyche levels then. If it were me, I estimate I'd need 8 - 9hrs pw to train for a BG and 5 - 6hrs to maintain bouldering at a level 1/2 a grade below my top grade. I couldn't break a grade whilst trying to do both. 

You work flexibly and live as close as you can get pretty much to the 'best' vert in the Peak, plus you have age and previous running experience on your side.

It would be really interesting to plan a training programme with those objectives in mind. Generally speaking I'd look at putting in a solid running training block over the winter, that still gives you enough energy to train for bouldering, so maybe having the focus 40% running, 60% climbing.

Aim to peak in the bouldering March/April (often the best time for grit IMO) with running dropping back to 30%, then focus 80% on the BG training in May/June with a 10-wk block, with a mid-July BG in mind. Then, once you've done the BG start focussing on climbing again with the hope of the 'typical' good bouldering conditions in Sep/Oct. Simples.

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Ged Desforges 07 Nov 2019

Fair play Rob. I've decided that doing a few fell races around the 10 mile mark works for me. I don't think I'd manage to keep bouldering with the energy demands of raining for something like the bg.

I have however, been really surprised how little climbing you need to do to maintain a decent bouldering standard! 

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L Philb1950 07 Nov 2019
In reply to SRuss:

Back in the day our team were massive fell running and climbing fans. Keeps the weight down. Our little group included Karrimor mountain marathon elite winners and the world 10K road running veteran champion, as well as E6 onsight leaders, so climbing and marathons do mix!

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