Climbing and Running: Should it be one or the other?


There are two main disciplines of rock climbing: bouldering and sports climbing. Think of bouldering as a 100-meter dash. It involves a handful of difficult sequences at 10-15 high. On the other hand, rock climbing can either be a 21k or a full-distance marathon, depending on the route. Climbing has a steep learning curve, which means that the first few steps can feel extremely difficult (for me, it felt impossible). That’s the reason why many people are intimidated from even trying.

Climbing is an excellent cross-training for running. It builds upper body strength, core strength, and over-all flexibility. Climbing, unlike going to the gym, gets your body ripped but not bigger. You gain a lot of muscle tone without gaining a whole lot of weight.

However, rock climbers are divided whether running is good for climbing. Some of the best climbers refuse to run (or do heavy lower-body cardio) because it builds leg muscles and therefore adds up to their weight. Neil Gresham, one of the foundations of rock climbing, says specificity is the best way to improve. That means climbers should only focus on climbing in order to get to that next level.

But some of the best climbers go against the norm, like Sasha Digiulian. The 21-year old climber runs 8 miles 5 days a week to build endurance. 25-year old top-class Alex Puccio also runs for endurance. As literature about fitness becomes more intense and more specific on micro-skills, many amateur athletes like myself who don’t have professional nutritionists, fitness coach, and trainers are left in confusion.

I only have one rule when I don’t know what to do: Just do it. It doesn’t matter whether I get better or not by doing both. The more important thing is I can enjoy whatever it is that I wanna do. As Charles Bukowski said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” Now I have a lot of things that will kill me.

Rock Climbing in Bukidnon

I recently made a trip to my hometown of Bukidnon. I was unable to climb the crag in Quezon, Bukidnon because they require a minimum of 5 people. It would have been great to try that route, especially that the great Pulangi River is near that crag. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t become five people.

So I skipped that part and did mostly mountain biking. But by a delightful stroke of coincidence, I was able to find this wall climbing gym by a guy named Dhruv. The gym is located in Barangay Dologon, Bukidnon, just a few kilometers from the Central Mindanao University. I saw it on my way home from my bicycle ride to Overview in Quezon (will upload photos on my next post).

There are three walls on his gym, most of his equipment were bought from Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro. He also had a few made with fiber glass resin. He hasn’t perfected those holds yet but it’s a great start for him. I was glad to have been joined by another climber. He’s name is Joey and he’s gearing up for the one-week bouldering competition happening in Davao this week.

The great thing about climbing is, it does not require college education or formal training to do it. Just put some climbing shoes on, get a belayer to hold the ropes for you, and fire away. There are theories for improvement but they’re not as a complex as other sports like cycling and running. You get better by repetition. But in climbing, every repetition hurts no matter how many times you have done it over.

Even the great Chris Sharma hurts a lot when he climbs, you can hear it from the earth-cracking way he screams every time he reaches for the next hold. I’ve climbed a lot of times and I’ve never tried climbing there it doesn’t hurt. It hurts on the forearms for the most part, but it hurts all over the body where there is a need to tense up so you don’t fall down.

Just a quick note on the side before I end this: the San Carlos Association of Mountain Bikers (SCAMB) is holding races on June 28 and 29. On the 28th will be the duathlon and trail run while the 29th, they’re gonna unleash the fierce cross-country boys. Please check out their Facebook page for details, thanks much to Sikad Jose and all the guys who made this possible. I hope to see you there!




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