Elevation gain - Your stairway to Heaven or Hell?
Let’s talk about stair climbing.
This can be seen as alternative or complementary training for runners and can help if you’re working on elevation gains.
As runners, it goes without saying that we need to have strong legs, glutes, and a solid core.
Hills and stairs take care of this for us pretty much naturally.
Stairs can act as a both a muscle reinforcement and cardio workout at the same time.
As part of my training routine I incorporate hill work and / or stair climbing at least once per week into my schedule.
I’m lucky enough to live close to a couple of small mountains and some great hills.
If however, I can’t get to to any of those for whatever reason I always head for the stairs.
You can do that, too. There are stairs everywhere – perhaps where you work, or outside in the town or city where you live.
Stairs are a ready-made training playground purpose built just for YOU!
If stairs were good enough for Rocky and his rigorous training schedule, then I figure they’re going to be good enough for us!
If you’re a member of a gym there might even be a stair climbing machine in there.
They are great, but there is a down side with those – there literally is no down!
That said, if you are at the gym why not consider switching out one of your treadmill runs for a stairs workout from time to time. Your body will thank you for it later on in the season.
There are some real benefits to hitting the stairs.
Climbing stairs is a plyometric activity and because of this doing that often enough works the same muscles as when you perform squats and lunges.
In addition, it’s a cardio workout so, depending on intensity and time spent performing the activity, it can also hammer the heart and lungs.
By doing this exercise you’ll be strengthening the key areas of your body that we as runners all need – hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, and core. This in turn is likely to help lessen the risk of injury. Believe me as someone who worked his was back from a chronic hamstring injury via a controlled rehab program, THIS IS DEFINITELY A GOOD THING!
Also remember that gravity is at play here and for half the time during a stair climbing session you’re on one leg. Balance, power and strength all rolled into one.
Stairs in the main, tend to be steeper than regular hills, thus forcing you to work harder for those elevation gains.
Over time by hitting the stairs often enough you should be able to run at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.
Stairs really are a win-win.
Training tip :
If the idea of stairs is new to you or fills you with trepidation why not try walking up and down a few flights at the end of a run just to see what effect this has on your overall running game.
Can’t get to the hills. Stairs it is. GO!
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You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go!
Andrew is a middle-aged ultramarathon runner based in Quebec, Canada.
A confirmed mid-pack finisher, he runs for fun.
He is a proud military veteran.