Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stair Climbing-Building my Foundation for Trail Running Season

I've always climbed the stairs.  It all started when I quit smoking five or so years back and needed something to do to step away from the office and let off steam as I used butts to do that and needed something new to occupy my energy and stress and the stairs did just that.  After about three months of it, I lost a lot of weight and never gained an ounce which is what is often said happens when one kicks that habit.

Here are just some of the benefits of Stair Climbing:  Source and Link-Stair Climbing Sport

  • Stair climbing burns about twice as many calories than any other sport or activity.
  • Because it is a grueling sport, stair climbing requires less time to do the same intensity of a workout. For example, if you run 30 minutes per day, the same workout intensity could be achieved with 15 minutes of stair climbing.
  • Stair climbing is a total body workout. It makes the arms stronger with the use of the arms pulling you up with the use of the rails (or banister) which is allowed and encouraged. Stair climbing especially builds muscle mass in the legs, including the quadriceps and calfs. It is an aerobic sport as it works the cardio-vascular lung package. Stair climbing becomes an anaerobic event after about 10 to 20 flights of stairs as it strains your aerobic capacity to hold an intense load on the cardio-vascular package to the top of a very tall building. Since the contest is vertical, even a 70 story race up is not a total sprint and requires endurance, sprint, and muscular strength to complete in a fast time.
  • Stair climbing is excellent for cross-training. Runners, swimmers, cyclists, rowers, soccer (or football), and others find stair climbing to be helpful with its total workout. Cyclists, skiers, and rowers are especially attracted to the muscle mass in the legs which can be developed with stair climbing. 
So with all of those benefits I put on my shoes anywhere between 3-5 times a week and do about 80-120 flights per day depending on my time and how my legs feel.  Generally I will break it out through out the day and do a series of 20 flights a few times a day but have been known to get up to 40-60 flights on occasion, like today when I got in 60 flights at once at lunch.

Trudging up the stairs.  I do most of them double step as I am using the stairs to get me conditioned for uphill and mountain trail running so really want to build the legs up as well as an aerobic base to go with it.  I double step up as many flights of stairs as fast as I can until I get anaerobic and stay like that for about 60 seconds and then single step to recuperate.  I do this to test my overall fitness level (as it's taking me longer  to get anaerobic and takes me only 1 or 2 flights to get my heart rate back to where I want it).

Stair Climbing can be very boring but I welcome that as another form of training and one I call mental as doing countless flights of stairs can be mind numbing after a while and I want to get used to mind numbing for loop running this year which I find even more boring than the stairs!  Yes I go past this thing around 20 times a week but love it just the same as it means I've reached the 23rd floor and can turn around and head down them and back to my office.

And speaking of going down the stairs, most people who stair climb for sport do NOT practice it and with good reason as it's killer on the knees.  I have no choice in the matter as the 23rd floor is locked so need to get down them the same way I got up them.  Plus I want my legs to get some of that stress to get them used to downhill running which as many trail runners know is most fun when you do it kamakazzee style!  With that said I have found a way to get down them without much stress to the knees and a bonus upper body workout to go with it which is very welcome now that I'm no longer lifting weights or doing CrossFit.  See video above.  I made this video for a couple of reasons with one showing how I get down the stairs for Ken aka Running With Ken, and also for me so I can see how my legs are positioned when going up the stairs and comparing them with some of the elite stair climbers and based on what I'm seeing I'm doing a lot of it wrong but what else is new.  Will use video next month after watching and learning more from the various web sites.  I'll be using a lot of video documentation on my blog for myself as I find it's going to show my strengths and weaknesses better than any picture could.  At some point I'll be doing video of my trail running in hopes I can figure out what it is in my stride that causes me so many issues (hopefully not this year though!).  PS:  People tell me I talk fast and didn't realize how fast until I downloaded this video so it was another thing videoing will coach me on as next time, I'll talk slower!  ;-)

Even when trail running season starts I will continue with the stairs but keep it at three times a week.  I seriously consider it my building block for trail running this season as it's built my legs and cardio base up and hoping that combined will allow me to run injury free and get past the dreaded 12 mile long run mark where I always wind up getting injured.

Take care all.

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