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Guest post: Do climbers need aerobic training? Part II

bleary-eyed on the descent from a single-push on Dragontail Peak wishing I'd taken up running already, 2010, selfie cr. Chad Kellogg

 By Mercedes Pollmeier

Last week I talked about the benefits of aerobic training, how it increases your capacity to do more work, recovers muscles from hard training days, and it can teach you how to regulate your breathing and heart rate while climbing. Because we are rock climbers, and not training to be a runner, the program will be different. The recommendations listed will be primarily for recovery from climbing or other strength related training.

So how do you start adding in aerobic training into your lifestyle? If you are anything like me, I hated running because I felt I was constantly in pain when I ran, mostly because I tried to beat or maintain my last running pace. Silly Mercedes. 

What I discovered was that I didn’t need to run at a high intensity every time I ran. I started running at an intensity that was slow and long, keeping my breathing constant, smooth and unlabored. You may have heard this term before “Long Slow Distance”, where essentially you can have a conversation while you run. This is the type of running you will do for recovery adaptations. Don’t feel like you need to go fast at all, and if you do, you won’t get the recovery benefits from the training.

I’ve been doing this program myself for a few weeks now and have been able to increase my speed and distance while keeping my heart rate low. This is the kind of adaptation you want to start with. Add one run (or aerobic activity) a week at very low intensity (easy breathing, low heart rate, around 75 to 80% of your Max Heart Rate) keeping it easy and long (between thirty to sixty minutes). Then you can add in another aerobic session if you have the time. Make sure to add aerobic training in at the end of a climbing session or after a strength training session. If you can’t do it afterwards, try to separate the aerobic training from your climbing or strength training by a few hours.

Of course, there is much more you can do with your aerobic training, and if you are getting amped about it, you can integrate one day of high intensity running intervals to train the other side of the intensity spectrum. This type of high-intensity training does not help recovery from training, rather it taxes the muscles more and is used to improve adaptations specific to strength and power, which is also beneficial for a rock climber.


Thank you, Mercedes, for contributing your wise words on the topic of recovery these last few weeks while I recovered from the baby event!

Brittany Raven

As Mercedes suggested in her piece, training strategy is key to your climbing performance. My coaching can help you develop an appropriate gait, assist as you strategize your limited time for training, and support your perpetual performance. 
If you have not already, sign up for coaching with me below. Whether you'd like to consult on a single topic or engage in the run-up to a significant run or climb, I'm here to provide support to your limit-breaking ambulations.