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Cardio for Climbing: Running Part 1

Running for Climbers: Building Endurance to Improve Overall Fitness Part 1 - The Warm Up

Running complements climbing if training is intentional and technique is healthy. Running increases overall fitness building the endurance needed to send a big wall or cover a difficult approach. Running healthy requires the same things needed for climbing efficiently -- strength, balance, coordination, mobility, fitness, and mental focus. In this post, Coach Jenni Nettik of Mercuria Running will focus primarily on strength, proper running form, and how to integrate running into your climbing routine.

Strength
First, firing the correct muscles while running is the key to preventing injury and feeling light on your feet, that feeling of flying that runners love. How do you ensure you’re using the right muscles? Prior to heading out for a run do a quick dynamic warm-up to activate or wake-up the muscles and create neuromuscular connections that say -- hey body, use these muscles. Below is a general routine, want one designed specifically for your own strengths and weaknesses? Contact Coach Jenni for a personalized set of exercises.

Pre-Run Dynamic Warm-up Routine for Climbers:

1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch, 5 minutes
Kneel down on one knee making 90-degree angles with both legs. Squeeze the glute or butt cheek of the leg with the knee touching the ground, tilt your pelvis backward straightening your spine so you remain perpendicular to the ground. You’ll feel this stretch in front of the hip and thigh of the leg with the knee touching the ground. Hold this position for 2-3 minutes on each side. This stretch targets tight hips caused by sitting, opening your hips allows your body to more easily activate your glutes and abs so you can move efficiently.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch, 5 minutes

2. Bridge, 2 minutes
There are three bridge options below, pick the one that best allows you to feel your glutes or butt firing.

Option 1: Glute Bridge
Position yourself flat on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Flatten your back and squeeze your glutes, pushing your pelvis up into a bridge without arching your lower back. Hold for 30-seconds, repeat 3 times.

Option 1: Glute Bridge

Option 2: Glute Bridge with Elastic Exercise Band
If you feel the regular glute bridge primarily in your quads, place an elastic band above your knees and try again. Position yourself flat on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Flatten your back and squeeze your glutes, pushing your pelvis up into a bridge without arching your lower back. Move your knees out against the resistance of the band to activate your glutes. Hold for 30-seconds, repeat 3 times.

Option 2: Glute Bridge with Elastic Exercise Band

Option 3: Frogger Bridge

Don’t have an elastic band but need help activating your glutes? Try the frogger bridge. Position yourself flat on the floor with your knees wide and bent to about 90-degrees with the bottoms of your feet pressed together. Flatten your back and squeeze your glutes, pushing your pelvis up into a bridge without arching your lower back. Squeeze your glutes as you lift and really contract them at the top, drop back down to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Option 3: Frogger Bridge

3. Side Lying Leg Lifts, 2 minutes

Lie on your side with your torso and pelvis both perpendicular to the ground. Bend your bottom leg for stability and keep your top leg straight. Slowly lift your top leg just above hip height, while keeping your foot flexed forward, carefully return your leg to the starting position. If you have a foam roller, use it as a guide, brushing your quad along the foam roller while lifting and lowering your leg. You should feel this exercise in your side glute or gluteus medius. Make the exercise more challenging by moving your top leg forward until your top leg is perpendicular to your body at 90-degrees. Do 10 reps at 120-degrees & 90-degrees.

Side Lying Leg Lifts at 120-degrees
Side Lying Leg Lifts at 90-degrees

1. Plank, 1 minute

There are two side plank options below, pick the one that best allows you to feel your obliques or side abs working.  

Option 1: Side Plank

Lie on your side with your forearm flat on the floor and bottom elbow directly under your shoulder with both legs extended out in a straight line. Engage your core and lift your hips creating a straight line from your head to your toes. Close your eyes and notice what muscles you feel working, rotate your hips forward or back until you feel the obliques or side abs closest to the ground firing. Hold for 30-seconds on each side.

Option 1: Side Plank

Option 2: Modified Side Plank

Having a hard time firing your obliques? Try the modified side plank instead. Lie on your side with your forearm flat on the floor and bottom elbow directly under your shoulder with your lower leg bent at 90-degrees for stability and your top leg extended out in a straight line. Engage your core and lift your hips creating a straight line from your head to your toes. Close your eyes and notice what muscles you feel working, rotate your hips forward or back until you feel the obliques or side abs closest to the ground firing. Hold for 30-seconds on each side.

Option 2: Modified Side Plank
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That's your warm up! Stay tuned for Part 2 as we tackle proper running form and suggested work out.

About the Author

Coach Jenni Nettik is the owner of Mercuria Running in Denver, CO. Jenni has been a lifelong competitive runner, dating back to the days when she was beating all the boys in 1st­ grade recess. Today Jenni runs for fun, fitness, and a little competition. As a coach, she specializes in form coaching, training plans, and online coaching for everyone from beginning 5k runners to elites marathoners and ultra runners. Jenni’s own favorite distance is the marathon, where she thrives on the mental and physical challenges of 26.2 miles.

Coach Jenni Nettik
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