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Cross-training for runners

by Maria Barrow
Tuesday 9th February 2016
Tags  Cross-training   |   climbing   |   Maria Barrow
Our Run247 contributors are trying out different types of cross-training and reporting back to give you some ideas. In our latest article Maria Barrow enthuses about climbing. 

What did it cost?
Climbing is quite pricey, particularly at the beginning when you’re buying equipment and taking a beginner’s course. My beginner’s course was £105 and ran for 3 weeks; subsequent sessions cost between £8.25 and £11.50. The good thing is that you can stay for as long as you want once you’ve paid for entry, but there’s only so long you can climb for because once your arms have given up you’ll find yourself flailing around trying to grab holds with little success. 
How much preparation was required (equipment, clothing, set-up etc)?
You will need to take a beginner’s course if climbing with rope, but that isn’t necessary if you want to boulder. If you decide to boulder the only thing you really need are good shoes – these really range in price but in the sale you can pick up a pair for excellent prices, around £20 upwards. More serious climbers, like runners, may find themselves paying something in the region of £100 upwards. If you’re climbing in a centre you can hire shoes. For top rope climbing you will need a harness, again starting from around £20 and a carabiner which are very cheap. More carabiners and things like rope will need to be purchased if you climb outdoors or progress to lead climbing. You can end up spending endless amounts on equipment but it’s not necessary if you’re climbing to supplement your running training. 
How hard was it on a scale of 1 - 10?
Like most things it’s as hard as you make it. All of the routes are graded so that you can work your way up the grades, which is very satisfying. What I love about climbing is that problem solving is a huge part of it and I’ve found myself trying to figure out routes once I’ve left and am impatient to get back to try my theories. It can often rest on one move. I would say it’s a 7 out of 10.
How much did you ache the next day on a scale of 1 - 10?
My arms and shoulders have ached but never my legs and that’s probably a indication that I’ve not got to the level I would like to – the power should be coming from your legs, you shouldn’t be relying on your arms. 5 out of 10 for achiness. 
What muscles did it work?
I have never been so toned in my life and building muscle has become a slightly addictive element of climbing. My hands, arms, shoulders and general physique are noticeably different. My core feels strong and I have no doubt it’s improved my running.  
Could you do it if you were injured and couldn’t run?
No, I’ve never climbed with an injury. Climbing uses so many muscles I personally wouldn’t attempt it if I was trying to recover. However, my main injuries have involved my back and clearly that’s going to be an issue with climbing. 
How good or bad was it for your street cred (with 1 being very bad and 10 being awesome)?
Climbing is cool: 10.
How likely would you be to continue doing it?
I love climbing and can’t recommend it highly enough. However, it is expensive and you do need a climbing partner for top rope/lead climbing which can be a faff if you’re trying to find someone of a similar level who can climb at the same time as you. 

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/7RanLg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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