I used to run a lot. Well, not a lot for an ultra runner or marathoner or even a college cross country runner, but I ran at least 5 days a week for anywhere between 3 and 10 miles at a time. That’s a lot of running for a climber.
I’ve since stopped running, having jogged just once since the beginning of January. I rarely even trek 10,000 steps a day according to my iPhone. And, contrary to my previous fears, nothing bad has happened. In fact, I don’t miss running at all, nor do I believe that taking it up again will improve my climbing.
So for all of you longtime runner/climbers, here is was does NOT happen when you stop running:
YOU DO NOT GET FAT. In fact, I’ve lost a bit of fat since I reduced and finally quit running. Long slow runs are not the most effective way to burn fat, and they are one of the worst ways to maintain any sort of strength and/or power gains. Essentially, distance running was great for keeping me skinny fat, thin, but with minimal tone: Not the ideal body type for a climber. Try strength training and/or high intensity interval training to build lean muscle and burn fat. You’re wasting your training time running for an hour.
YOU DO NOT STRUGGLE ON APPROACHES. Once you have a base level of fitness, it’s surprisingly easy to maintain. I hike a maximum of twice each week (mile-plus long approaches and 2nd Flatiron scrambles included) with zero additional cardio on top of that and never feel so tired from an approach that I can’t climb well.
YOU DO NOT GET WORSE AT CLIMBING. Running builds none of functional strength or coordination necessary to improve your climbing. All running does is steal precious climbing-specific training and/or outdoor climbing time from your week, thus quitting and using the extra time to climb more will only lead to improvement.
YOUR CALF MUSCLES DO NOT RETREAT AND BECOME CANKLES. Want toned legs? Don’t take up distance running. Try some squats, deadlifts, lunges, and calf raises instead. Your legs will only look toned if they have muscle on them, and distance running is not the most effective way to make that happen.
YOU DO NOT REGRET YOUR DECISION: I’m perfectly happy doing yoga, stretching, and hiking around to look at new areas on my rest days. Sometimes I don’t do any of those things and simply rest. Do I feel gross because I didn’t sneak in a jog? Nope. I’m just psyched that I don’t have to shower.
What does happen? Well, you start to look at joggers like they’re crazy. You also have more time to climb, you get better at climbing, you lose body fat, you gain muscle, and you become more toned and arguably more attractive. I’d highly recommend kicking your running habit.