My husband has an unusual hobby. He’s super into stair climbing. Every year there’s a stair climbing race in town, hosted by the American Lung Association. They picked the tallest building in the city, and one at a time, they send runners or walkers up the stairs to get 44 stories off the ground as quick as they can. The event is accompanied by a vertical mile wherein participants make about ten trips up the stairs over the span of a couple/few hours until they’ve climbed a vertical mile.
Dan is the single trip repeat champ of this event, and as such, he feels the obligation to continue training hard each year to return and defend his title. The event is in February which means that the winter is “stair-climb season.” It’s kind of perfect because it’s an event that can be trained for indoors and the weather is never a factor. He found a 23 floor apartment building to use, and visits several times a week to take some laps up.
It’s painfully boring, and well, also painful. So I usually decline his invitations to join. However, more recently, as you know, I’ve had to make several adjustments to my workout regimen. Stair climbing has facilitated my situation in a couple of unique ways. First, it seems to not aggravate my Achilles for whatever reason, while at the same time giving me a great upper and lower leg workout. So I believe it’s strengthening my legs and making me more resistant to injury in the future (with any luck). On top of that, it’s a low impact activity unlike running (whether outside or on the treadmill) which is a little more bladder friendly for my increasing pregnant status.
Ok, so I’ve concluded that stair climbing is a good workout solution for me right now. But is it maybe a good solution for all runners? Dan has for a long time advocated stair climbing as an excellent workout for anyone looking to increase their fitness. He’s also advocated adding strength training to most workout routines because, let’s be serious, many of us runners tend to let it go by the wayside, favoring one more run this week or five more minutes of running each day (whatever the case may be) instead of cutting a run short to add some strength moves. Come on… who’s not guilty of that?
But I haven’t had perfect luck when it comes to injury avoidance… Have you? What if I did add more strength training? And what if it could be conveniently combined with a cardio workout a la stair climbing? Would I get the best of both worlds? After contemplating this question, I’m forced to ask myself, “Is there anyone who wouldn’t be better off for adding a stair climb session to their weekly (or even monthly) workouts?” I daresay not.
Good news… You don’t have to find a 23 floor apartment building in order to add stair climbing to your life. In town here we are lucky to have several options like a dam with long set of steep stairs, but in almost any city or small town, you can find a gym with a stair climb machine (probably not quite the same, but better than nothing!) or a high school football stadium near the track you might already frequent with rows of bleachers to climb up and down.
More good news? Just because you’re a runner doesn’t mean that you have to “run” up the stairs to get a “real” workout. I often find (especially now) that after running up a few floors, I’ve already gotten way beyond the heart rate I intended and I’m slowly to a walk. I’m still breathing hard and struggling the whole way up. There is no compromise in the quality of my cardio workout just because I’ve slowed the pace. You can adjust accordingly! (And the trip back down, while continuing to stress your muscles in different ways, is a welcome break from the intensity.)
Ok, so try it or don’t … that’s just my two cents.