Neil Gresham on Cardio for Climbing

Should running be a part of your climbing training?  This question about cardio training has been hotly debated topic and you can get wildly different answers depending on who you ask.  However, as with most things related to training, there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer for all climbers.

The answer really depends on your general fitness levels, athletic background, climbing goals, and where you are at in your training.

To help make sense of all these variables, here’s an excerpt from the TrainingBeta Podcast with Neil Gresham.  In it, Gresham gives a nuanced answer that really highlights how activities like running and cycling can at times be part of a climbing training program and at other times seriously hinder your training efforts.

Read Gresham’s thoughts on cardio below and if you like what you see check out the full TrainingBeta Podcast episode and transcript by clicking through below.

Neil Gresham on Cardio for Climbing:

Neely Quinn: Okay, I have to ask: what are your thoughts on cardio? Like, running for climbing?

Neil Gresham: If you want to climb endurance routes and you have poor aerobic fitness you sure need to do cardio. If you’re already an ultra runner then you need to do a lot less cardio. You know, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. Do you need to be as fit as a ultra runner for climbing? No, not even to do long, multi-pitch routes and certainly not to do single pitch routes or sport routes. You don’t need anything like that level of cardio fitness but if you’re a boulderer or someone who’s never done anything like that before, and you’re wanting to get into slightly longer routes, then you need to be able to recover not just on the route but between burns on the route. Then, sure, you need that background cardio fitness. I think the important thing is to not just plot away and do the same week in/week out.

I think you need to look at phases, when you’re going to up the level of cardio training and then phases when you’re going to cut it back. For example, hard cardio training doesn’t go hand-in-hand with strength training. I think it can poach from your strength gains. I think cardio training can be very complementary during climbing-specific endurance phases but you’ve still got to be a little bit careful not to overdo it, but it really fits in well in general conditioning and cross-training phases.  You don’t want to be doing the same amount or we’re still just overdoing it.

Neely Quinn: All right, that’s a great answer and kind of what I’m getting from people. It’s like it’s good to have the base of cardio but it’s not great to do it when you’re exhausting yourself instead of doing other things.

Neil Gresham: Definitely. On the first hand, it will take away energy from your actual training and even if it doesn’t do that, it will poach it from your recovery and you won’t necessarily notice it happening, either.

Full Transcript: TBP 048 :: Neil Gresham on Training for 5.11 and 5.12

(photo by Lukasz Warzecha –; courtesy of

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By | 2017-09-18T06:37:16+00:00 April 7th, 2017|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Thomas April 26, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

    my opinion is also that cardio really does not influence climbing performance so much, but it helps on long steep alpine approaches/alpine climbs and can support burning body fat together with good nutrition.

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