The benefits of rock climbing for runners

You may have mastered a few 10Ks, or perhaps you’re the top dog at your local parkrun, but there are times when sprinkling a few skills from other sports can really help your running performance. We gave rock climbing a try and found some amazing benefits.

The benefits of rock climbing for runners

Strengthens, lengthens and tones

Rock climbing is a perfect full body exercise, targeting all muscle groups, working your upper body alongside your core, legs and posterior chain. Your core is strengthened as your body struggles to find a sense of balance and stability, while your biceps and deltoids spring into action as you grab and claw your way up.

Your quads and calves are also vital components for powering your way upwards. Rock climbing works on your muscular endurance, with virtually every area of the body involved which will be vital for your running training.

Decrease stress levels

As we know from the runners high, when the endorphins get pumping, there are few greater feelings. As you focus on reaching, gripping, and negotiating your ascent, norepinephrine automatically increases as you climb. This reduces stress and enables your body to feel more relaxed.

The focus, problem solving skills and hand-eye coordination aligned with physical exertion will also help improve your cognitive ability and problem solving skills. Staying in the moment will mean you don’t have time to worry about things like bills and work or if Steve/Cassandra from your local parkrun is going to ask you out.

Burns calories

Rock climbing is the perfect activity for burning calories. The constant stretching improves blood circulation and gets the heart pumping, while ascending, a one-hour climb session can burn well over 700 calories. For more calorie burning tips read weight loss for runners 

Enhances flexibility, agility and dexterity!

In a dry version of sink or swim – we’ll call it fall or climb, rock climbing forces you to develop a number of new skills. You will improve agility naturally as you scheme your way up the mountain.

Manoeuvring through several footholds and handholds improves hand eye coordination and you’ll develop flexibility you never knew you even had. Your range of motion will increase as you stretch and reach. Your newly found intricate footwork will massively improve your running/Dad dancing.

The mental battle

As with running, you are only competing against yourself. There is an unrivalled sense of achievement in rock climbing, as you look down at what you have conquered physically and mentally.

As you climb you are mentally setting goals and achieving them and this perseverance can be transferred to other daunting areas of life and help you smash your running goals. There’s a reason motivational posters often opt for rock climbing imagery (mountains, not Dwayne Johnson).

Finally… don’t forget to get outside! Once you’ve learnt the ropes, head for the great outdoors and get climbing. Time spent in nature soaking up the sun and vitamin D will further lower stress and make you feel great.

To find your local climbing school, head over to

Inspired to try rock climbing? This incredible video featuring the World's best rock climber Ashima Shiraishi should convince you!

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