Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Rich ‘Beyond Human’ Sirrs is the fastest UK stair climber on the circuit. He first blew onto the UK tower running scene in 2015 after a successful run of results while working in China. The Hull native caught the tail end of the inaugural UK Tower Running championship that year, and managed to set two British records in the process – at the Gherkin and the Heron Tower.

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In May 2016 he set a new British record at the Broadgate Tower and then departed our shores once again, this time heading for Singapore. We caught up with Beyond Human to see what he’s been up to since he left. Read on to find out how a grip strengthener and training alongside the best in the world have transformed him.

TRUK: We haven’t seen you racing in the UK for a while now – where have you been and what’s going on?

RS: I moved over to Singapore in June 2016 and haven’t had a chance to get back over to the UK yet. I’m living and working here with my girlfriend and really can’t say enough good things about the place. Plenty of training opportunities and chock-a-block with sports facilities – I have two Olympic sized pools within five minutes walk of my house! I’ve taken some time out from stair racing in 2017 and trained for my first aquathlon. I’ve enjoyed mixing it up and also seeing some benefits from adding swimming to my training. I’ve recently raced another aquathlon and ended up with podium place in my category, so quite pleased with that as my swim is still a little pedestrian.

My last race in the UK was at Broadgate Tower in May 2016 where I finished second behind an inform David Robles. I’ve seen there have been some close, competitive battles in my absence and I’d like to get involved in those races.

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Beyond Human salutes a victory in 2015 from the top of the winner’s podium

TRUK: So, how is training going?

RS: I’ve been suffering with shin and Achilles injuries from running for a couple of years now and I’ve made the commitment to try and injury proof my body with a regimen of strengthening and balance exercises, plus some custom orthotics, and so far it seems to be going in the right direction.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of trail running out here, and even managed to win a trail race in Malaysia earlier in the year, despite only being able to put down 10-15km a week running for the six months before it (lots of stairs and swimming though). Further proof stair climbing is a great way to maintain/enhance fitness.

I’ve been listening to podcasts when I’m open water swimming here at the beach in Singapore (big recommendation to swim and get MP3 on) usually Tim Ferriss or Joe Rogan and usually sports or nutrition related. Anyways I came across this guy called Pavel Tsatsouline and he was talking about strength training and how all the muscles can be recruited to fire together to greatly increase strength of a movement. For example, you can grip harder if you flex your glutes at the same time! It’s called muscle irradiation and it got me thinking that perhaps it could be an important factor in stair racing where you are literally powering up the stairs and firing so many muscles at the same time. The force you can pull on the rail and how the legs can fire you upwards must be an important factor and I realised then that strength training must be a key element and was one I was overlooking.

I’ve basically added a range of body weight exercises – chin ups, dips, press ups, leg raises…and grip training using bar and also a sprung grip trainer. I’m trying to give myself a more stable and efficient movement base to increase the force I can recruit to power myself up the stairs, but also to try and move and run more efficiently.

I was actually told all of this in 2014 by an inspirational P.E teacher and former Valencia CF (when they were good) strength and conditioning coach during my time as an English teacher in Northern Spain, but at the time I didn’t act upon his advice.

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TRUK: You’ve been training with Tomas Macecek (Czech stair climber, current world number 7) and Suzy Walsham (reigning ladies tower running world champion) out in Singapore. How has it been training with the world’s best?

RS: I took Suzy and Tom on my stair running tours of Singapore. It’s basically a 5km loop of Singapore CBD, which takes in 4 or 5 open access buildings of varying height 150-225m, with a variety of stairwells. We run to a building, ascend, come down in the lift, run to the next building, and repeat.

We go at a steady pace, not killing each other but also not slow. The key thing I noted from following them up was how stable and compact they looked in the stairs. There was an assuredness to their movements. No energy was being wasted hopping around or flailing arms around the corner. It just looked compact and stable and the turns were tight and controlled.

Tom is more of a power walker and seems to sort of sit into his stride. I’ve seen something similar in videos of the Colombian stair climber Frank Carreno (current world number two). I’m guessing that lowering the pelvis helps recruit more glute to the movement. Try it next time you walk up stairs, it feels weird but you feel kinda powerful as you stride up. Anyways I was running behind Tom, but still having to work pretty hard to keep up even though he was walking.

Suzy employs a technique where she has real quick feet as she ascends the stairs and then sort of takes a mini rest on the stairwell, which involves lifting the head slightly and opening the lungs up and then popping her head back down and whipping around the turn to do the rapid feet again up the next flight.

I don’t think we are anywhere near understanding what is the best way to climb stairs, however I’m personally starting to transition my training away from a bouncy run style to a more compact rail heavy walk which whips around the corners. I call this the ‘German style’ – Christian Riedl, Görge Heimann, Ralf Hascher all have a similar style to this, in my opinion.

Beyond Human

Beyond Human: Sirrs was profiled in a Chinese magazine in 2015.

TRUK: What does your training look like at the moment?

RS: On weekends I train in the local ‘council flats’ – 50 floors/160m or so I think. I have a left turning and right turning stairwell (my left is always slower – in fact at balls out I’m about 15 seconds slower on left turning than right. The only left turning race I’ve won is Heron Tower, and it wasn’t by very much.)

  • I start with 4 x 50 floors steady.
  • Then it’s onto 10-floor sprints up to the 50th. I’m looking for around 45 seconds to complete the sprint and another 45 seconds recovery. I’m using these more to develop my coordination and feel for the stairs rather than endurance so I don’t pay too much attention to recovery time.
  • Once a month or so I try to do a vertical km in this building, taking it easy but looking for the volume.

I will also do a lot of lunch time sessions during the week in my 36-floor office building:

  • 2 x 36 floors at a tempo pace, which is a steady pace that feels fairly quick but isn’t a full gas effort. This stairwell has very runnable stairs, which actually allow ‘aerobic stair running’. Basically I mean I can ascend and keep HR around 150 and still maintain a run. Not easy to do in most stairwells as it’s just too bloody hard on the body.
  • 2×10-floor sprints with recovery between sprints. 10 floor sprints are for me more about getting used to moving fast in the stairs and practising the coordination which it takes to move quickly without falling over. It definitely hurts, but for me the real pain comes in a 20-floor sprint, as you need time to get into that pain zone (it usually kicks in at around 16 floors). I’m not using 10 floor sprints to build endurance. It’s about coordination of hands and feet to whip around the turns. I don’t think the movements are easy and they take a lot of practice.
  • 20 floors steady + 16 floors surge. I recently introduced a training run where I take 20 floors at the tempo pace and then push for the last 16 floors. This hurts big time and helps to strengthen the mind to take on this zone when it inevitably arrives during a race. I started doing this after reading your article on Terry Purcell.
  • I also do a monthly vertical km here, too. Ascending seven times at a steady pace (around five minutes per climb). The idea here is to build some strength.

 

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“I could get used to this!” Sirrs embraces the perks of being a champion

TRUK: Do you do anything for recovery? How about diet and nutrition?

RS: I love eating too much, especially here in Singapore – got to be the world’s best place for food. Get anything you can imagine, all pretty well priced and eat outside every night. I consider my race weight to be around 70kg, but I’ve put on a little muscle recently since the strength training, so up that a couple of kilos.

I realise weight is a key factor in heaving yourself up the stairs and I’ve seen there is a trend for the top guys to drop weight. Some were definitely more bulky and muscular looking a few years ago and seem to have improved their times by trimming down.

It’s probably a place I can get some improvements in, but I lack a little will power when it comes to food! One thing i’ve started taking is probiotics. I suffered for three years with a recurring problem with yeast infections and gut problems. I put it down to training too much, which maybe was stressing the body and lowering my immune system. I started taking probiotics and it cleared up almost immediately and hasn’t come back.

TRUK: Can we expect to see you back in the UK anytime soon for a race?

RS: Not anytime soon!

TRUK: Where the f**k are the OPSRC (Orchard Park Stair Running Club) lads??

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To Hull and Back: the successful Orchard Park Stair Running Club (l-r) Michael “The Rampart” Johnston, Lawrence “Bleed ’em” Needham, Daniel “Beast Mode” Sirrs, Rich “Beyond Human” Sirrs and manager Paul “Toolbox” Spivey.

RS: I know mate, don’t get my started!!! I’m considering withdrawing their OPSRC membership. We cant have Total Motion Tower Runners as the best team in the UK! That keeps me up at night sometimes.

My bro (Daniel Sirrs) moved to Canada this year, hopefully we’ll see him in a U.S/Canada race in 2017! We have talked about doing a U.S trip in 2017 or 2018. I’m thinking Las Vegas race (Scale the Strat) could be good! We’ll have a good battle with West Coast Labels and Total Motion coming up soon and I expect it might be close! Imagine that, cross country style scoring format. That would be fun.

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The question of taking one or two steps when stair climbing is one we get asked a lot by newcomers to the sport. Without hesitation we tell them that two steps is always best. This is especially the case if you’re hoping to clock a fast time at an event or be in any way competitive. But is taking two steps at a time actually always most beneficial?

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A 2012 study from scientists at the University of Roehampton in London found that if weight loss or control is your primary motivation for stair climbing then taking one step at a time might be the best option.

The team found that “climbing just a 15 m high stairway five times a day represents an energy expenditure of on average 302 kcal per week using the one step strategy and 266 kcal using the two step strategy.”

You might be thinking, “well, one step at a time is slower so you’re expending more calories because you’re climbing for longer”. This is true, and the stair boffins acknowledge this but add “there may also be a biomechanical explanation as well.”

“Since stair step rate is higher during single stepping this may result in faster rates of muscle shortening, which increases energy turnover, and the greater recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibres which are less economical.”

You can check out the full report of the study here.

Alternatively you can defy convention altogether and take three steps at a time like ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski:

 

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Piotr “Showtime” Lobodzinski, the reigning tower running world champion, shares some race advice and training tips in this video from Physique TV.

In the right amount, pre-race nerves can sometimes enhance performance, but when they get out of control they can really suck the fun out of an event. There are loads of strategies available to try and tackle them, such as breathing exercises, listening to music or tensing and relaxing each muscle group. We have put together three of our favourite methods.

Have your gear packed the night before

It’s the night before race day, what are you doing? Up late watching the UFC? (guilty) Watching the Bulls play? (guilty). Or are you in bed early with your race bag packed and ready by the door? Do you know your route to the tower and how long it’s going to take to get there? Have you planned what you’re having for breakfast?

All of these things if left to the last minute add to the stress of race day. A little bit of time taken to plan ahead and you can start the morning of your race with only one thing on your mind…giving everything you have in the stairwell.

Visualise the race

The importance of visualisation for success in stair running is, in our opinion, markedly more significant than say for a 5k or 10k race, or any other distance race actually. How so? Ok, so if you wanted to, you could run around 50 fairly competitive 5k races a year in the UK just turning up to your local free Parkrun event. Every single week somewhere in the country or near a city you live in there will almost certainly be an organised race to take part in. This allows runners to build up race experience and more importantly pacing strategies. There are then more blocks with which to build your vision before each race of how things are going to potentially play out.

But this just isn’t the case with UK tower running. Even if by some stroke of investigative genius and good luck you had managed to sign up to every stair race in the country last year, you would only have raced about 12 times. All those races would have been different too. Different turns, vastly differing numbers of stairs and widely different numbers of fellow climbers. Figuring out a pacing strategy for a building you get to enter once a year is difficult. Sure, if you can get access to a decent set of stairs for your training you can work on pacing and technique, but how many of us have that luxury?

This is where the importance of visualisation comes in. You often have to work with limited experience and knowledge, so you have to take the bits you do know about and enhance them and make them clear and bright in your mind. This can be tricky, but if you can get it right it really helps come race time.

If you’ve raced a certain tower before, then draw on that experience. Picture the buzz around the start line, imagine dashing into the stairwell, feel the lactic acid building and your pulse racing upwards. Remember where the real hurt kicks in and have a strategy for handling the effect that has on your mind and will. All this will go quite some way to helping you settle your pre-race nerves. Have a race plan in your mind and stay focused on executing it.

If you haven’t raced the course before, then do some research. Ask around to people who have raced it. Look for pictures online of the stairwell; how many stairs on each flight, what way do they turn, how close together are the railings? Piece together an idea of what lies ahead and see it over and over again. Imagine crushing each flight, taking each landing turn smoothly, and kicking hard at the end of the race. Once the race is over make sure you recall the stairs and your experience so you can PB at next year’s event.

Check your expectations

If it’s your first climb and you’re not usually very sporty, then perhaps you’ll be nervous about finishing at all, or worried about the potential pain. Listen, you’re a lot stronger than you think. We really wish people would unchain the physical limitations they put on themselves. When we speak to people about stair climbs, we too often hear ‘oh I could never do that’. Or on the Facebook pages of events, you will always see people posting nervous messages asking if it’s ok if they walk or saying they probably won’t make it. You can walk and you will make it, and when you get to the top you will feel amazing!! Trust us on that. The buzz on that last flight of stairs, no matter how fast you got to the top is just brilliant. So lose the nerves. Be proud you’re taking part and raising important funds for charity, and most importantly enjoy the day.

For those stair climbers who are set on being competitive, it’s a slightly different story. Your nerves are all gonna be about performance. Will I win? Will I make the top ten? Will I get an age group medal? It’s great to have these athletic aspirations, and they can drive you on to good times. But if you don’t keep them in check they can also ruin the weeks leading up to a race. One useful strategy is to have a good, great and excellent goal for your race. You can decide for yourself what these are, and hopefully they will lessen that fear of ‘failure’, because at the very least you are going to realise one of them

Also remember, “working hard doesn’t guarantee success, it only gives you the opportunity to succeed.” Give your best during training and on race day, and then whatever the result is you can be proud of yourself.

Interested in taking part in a tower running event? Check out our partners Total Motion Events or our race calendar to find out what events are happening near you.

We are holding regular stair running training sessions in London in preparation for the Broadgate Tower run up (Feb 20th) and Vertical Rush@Tower 42 (March 3rd). They will be continuing into the year for those building towards later events.

At the moment sessions are happening on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on Saturday or Sunday mornings/afternoons on the 320 step emergency staircase at Hampstead tube station. They are open to climbers of all abilities and are free. In addition to varied and intense workouts, we will be offering alternative training suggestions, tips on stair climbing technique, advice on how to prepare for a stair climb and more.

If interested please contact @TowerRunningUK or email us at training@towerrunninguk.com for more details.

Interested in taking part in a tower running event? Check out our partners Total Motion Events or our race calendar to find out what events are happening near you.

Find out the best places to run stairs in London.

Running Stairs on the London Underground

Keep to the left. When traveling on the tube, don’t just stand on the escalators. Get moving and pump up the left hand side two steps at a time. If you’re a regular commuter, you will certainly get some benefits from these short bursts.

For something more substantial, you’ll want to head onto the emergency stairs at one of the stations. The popular suggestion when this comes up is to head for Covent Garden, where there are 193 steps. People wrongly assume this is the tallest set of stairs on the Underground. It isn’t. That honour goes to Hampstead Station on the Northern Line, which boasts over 320 stairs.

Covent Garden is one of the busier stations on the network and in our opinion it’s to be avoided. Its central location is appealing, but it’s just too busy, and really the ride out to Hampstead is worth it. There you will almost certainly have the stairs to yourself for the duration of your session, and the lift is close to the top of the steps making fairly quick intervals possible. The staff there are pretty friendly too and might let you leave a bag in their office while you train. Do not leave anything at all on the stairs while you are running, as you will almost certainly be asked to move it. Pack light and run with your stuff in a back pack if you can’t, or don’t want to, leave it with the staff upstairs.

Also, be sure to bring some water, and maybe some latex gloves because the bannisters are very, very sooty and will leave your palms completely black.

The only down side to training on the underground is that it can be quite difficult to get a good rhythm going on the spiral staircases. Plus there are no landing turns so you won’t be able to practice those either.

The entrance to the stairs at Hampstead tube station.

I’ve got a stair race to win, of course it’s an emergency!!

Hospitals and public buildings

London is home to the tallest hospital in the world, which is Guy’s – with its Tower Wing being the tallest building in it. There are approximately 700 stairs there to train on, and access in and out is pretty straightforward. It’s located a very short walk from London Bridge Station, just behind The Shard, and is the best option in the city for stair running.

Guys Hospital Tower Wing

The Tower Wing at Guy’s hospital offers 700 steps of clear running

Hotels

We’re not going to name the hotels you can train at in London because we don’t want them being overrun and security being tightened so much nobody can access them. There are hotels across the city you can walk into and get a few lengthy runs in without attracting much attention. You will have to ‘shop’ around a bit as some will have higher security than others, but training on hotel stairwells is a viable option.

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‘Yeah…err…i’m staying here. Yep on the top floor, that’s right.’

Offices

These are a real treasure. We have 170 steps at our office (7 floors) and with the lift right next to them it is very easy to get in a lot of stair running before or after work. If you work in a tall office block you are flying, and should make the very most of the opportunity. If like us you work in quite a small block, you will have to be creative with your routines, but it is still definitely possible to get a great workout in with only 5 or 6 floors.

Flats

If you live in a tall block of flats you are good to go. If not then ask about on Facebook to see if any of your friends will let you visit them and get in some long climbs. If neither of those options are a possibility you can sometimes access flats early in the day using the ‘Trades’ entry button. Some flats won’t have this and instead have a security desk. We find that if you are friendly enough and explain that you are training for a charity run, they will sometimes let you in. If you do manage to get access to a high-rise you also have the benefit of taking the lift down, which saves your legs and cuts down on training time.

 

Stair running is a very demanding activity, and it really pays to be wearing the right gear so you are as comfortable as possible during your race.

Clothing

A lot of this would seem to be just plain common sense but you would be surprised what some people wear during stair running events. We have seen people labouring up the stairs in hoodies, jeans and boots. While these participants would obviously not be looking to win, or even compete, their clothing choices make for an altogether more uncomfortable experience than is necessary.

Keep things light and aim for comfort. Shorts and either a vest/singlet or a technical t-shirt made from some sort of wicking material will be best. Some stairwells can be a little chilly, but once you’re a few floors into your race, and whether you are walking or running, you are going to be heating up real quickly. Less is definitely best.

Shoes

Your regular running shoes will be just fine for a stair race. If you check out photos of elite runners at events around the world, most of them tend to have on pretty standard footwear. That being said, the recent upsurge in the popularity of minimalist footwear has found its way into the tower running scene too, and quite a few runners do favour light weight, zero drop shoes such as Vibram’s Five Finger range or the Merrell Trail Glove. Some successful runners even race barefoot, with Americans Henry Wigglesworth and Paul Curley both preferring to run unshod.

Sorry, what are those things you've got on? Shoes, you say?

Sorry, what are those things you’ve got on? Shoes, you say?

Some athletes will also wear compression socks, with the aim of saving their calves a little bit in the longer climbs.

Gloves

Quite often one of the first bits of advice novice stair climbers tend to hear from ‘experts’ is to wear cycling or weightlifting gloves, or more commonly, to wear one glove depending on which way the stairs turn. The suggestion being that they will allow competitors to grip the railing better and help produce a faster time.

The fact is the vast majority of elite stair climbers do not wear gloves and it’s really just a matter of preference. For example, Piotr Lobodzinksi, the reigning men’s Tower Running champion doesn’t wear gloves, but, Suzy Walsham the reigning women’s Tower Running champion does.

A set of gloves isn’t going to make the difference between winning and losing. If you have a pair already and you feel they are working for you in your training runs, and it gives you a bit more confidence then of course wear them on the day. But there’s no need to buy a pair especially for your first stair run.

Music and headphones

In global stair races, these are often allowed and used by competitors. They are more popular in the longer stair climbs, which last upwards of nine minutes, where the blast of some of your favourite psych up tunes can really help when you’re battling fatigue.

However, for health and safety reasons, most UK race organisers will not let you bring anything at all into the stairwell, so to bring or not to bring is not even a consideration.

Interested in taking part in a tower running event? Check out our partners Total Motion Events or our race calendar to find out what events are happening near you.