Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Terry Purcell is a legend of the sport and when the Tower Running Hall of Fame is founded, he’ll be first in line to be inducted.

His outstanding contribution to the sport began in 1993 when he took part in his first race at Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower. Encouraged by friend, and fellow Australian, Geoff Case, who had won the Empire State Building Run-Up from 1991-1993, Purcell excelled from the very beginning.

Within two years he had destroyed Case’s record at the Sydney Tower by 24 seconds. In 1998 he won the ESBRU himself, and when he retired from competitive racing in 2011 he had won more elite races than any other climber before him. His record included five wins from five starts at Chicago’s AON Center (plus a long-standing course record that was only broken in February 2017) and nine wins from nine starts at the John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Avenue).

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Terry Purcell winning the ESBRU in 1998.

Purcell came out of retirement in 2017 to race once more at the Hancock Center, and has been active on the US stair climbing scene for the past 18 months. In that time he’s secured wins, podium places and top five finishes in a spread of highly competitive races to take the number one spot at the top of the USA tower running rankings.

This is a cool video showing Terry Purcell MkII on his way to winning the Vertical Mile event at the Reunion Tower in Dallas back in January this year.

But it’s this next excellent video that we really want to bring to your attention. This interview is from around 2009, when Purcell had been racing and winning for 16 years. His knowledge and experience is invaluable and there are lots of useful insights here, ranging from how to pass rivals during a race to how he trains and his mental approach to stair climbing.

 

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With entries from the inspirational amateur to the expert elite, we run through five of our favourite stair climbing websites.

Considering how long stair climbing  has been around, it’s a bit surprising (and disappointing) that there aren’t more websites full of event news or training tips. But despite the dearth of sites, there are still some great ones out there worth visiting.

Read on to find out the sites we visit for expert stair climbing training tips and in-depth race reports.

5 – Keep It Up David

Since embracing an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits in 2010, David Garcia has managed to turn his life around and lose 160lbs (11 and-a-half stone/72.5kg).

Of course there have been several factors to his impressive transformation, but key among them has been his involvement in the stair running community.

He’s probably the closest thing to a celebrity there is in the tower running community – we certainly felt a little bit star struck when we spotted him in the holding area at the start line of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel earlier this year. He’s featured on The Ellen Show!!

For the past eight years, David has documented his inspirational journey in a series of excellent blog posts. His first stair climb was in 2012 and he does an easy-to-read and interesting post-race write up of the stair races and running events he takes part in. We’ve been following his blog for five years now and always look forward to new posts.

The posts are always personal, so if you’re just looking for cold hard training tips his site may not be top of your list, but he offers some nice insights from the perspective of a regular climber leaving it all on the stairs at every race.

That said, his STAIR TRAINING 101: Want To Compete In A Stair Race? Here’s What You Need To Know post is a great place for beginners to start.

Visit Keep It Up David

4 – Stair Life

This is a new addition to the community of stair climbing websites. Well-presented and well-written, it’s the work of former journalist and keen stair climber Josh Jackett. It’s focused exclusively on the United States, so unless you live there, or you’re a general fan of the sport who likes to keep up to date with the international stair climbing scene, it might not have what you’re looking for.

Stair Life has race previews of most, if not all, of the upcoming races in the USA calendar. It has a page of stat sheets for lots of the major race venues in America, featuring course records, number of steps and lists of male and female winners from previous years. It even dabbled with a short-lived podcast, which we hope makes a comeback.

In a sport that lacks any serious, constant media attention at all, the efforts of sites like Stair Life don’t go unnoticed. We’re sure the race previews give competitors a little buzz of excitement as they prepare for their upcoming climbs. We’re excited to see how this site develops as the sport grows.

Visit Stair Life

3 – X Gym

PJ Glassey is the founding father of the small corpus of stair climbing training literature worth reading. When we got into stair climbing seriously in 2013, PJ’s X Gym website was the only real source of dedicated knowledge on stair climb-specific training and race-day preparation. It was truly an invaluable resource for a sport where a lot of time can be wasted in trial and error trying to figure out how to race efficiently.

When races at most buildings come around just once a year, minimising errors in pacing and technique is essential so you can make the most of your annual chance. The expert advice on the X Gym site definitely compressed our painful learning phase and if you’re new to the sport it will likely do the same for you.

X Gym’s material is packed full of essential tips for how to approach your stair climb event, how to master landing turns, how to target your legs with tough workouts that will set them up to handle the demands of a long climb, plus lots more. They’ve even got a link to a site that provides a detailed breakdown of the step layout in major US buildings, so racers can pre-plan their strategy ahead of the event (whoever put that site together is another legend).

The fact that it’s almost nine years since he uploaded some of his training videos on to YouTube, and they’re still  probably the best and most informative around, speaks to their quality and unfortunately to the unwillingness of the slow-moving tower running community to produce content. But fortunately that’s beginning to change, as you’ll see in the next entry in our list.

The trajectory of the popularity of tower running is an odd one, though. Five years ago Vice and Adidas did a three-part feature on the sport, with a focus on the scene in Seattle. It showcased Glassey and other well-known names including Kevin Crossman, Shaun Stephens-Whale and Kourtney Dexter as they prepared for and raced the Big Climb in Seattle’s Columbia Center.

You can watch the videos here.

The sport is definitely expanding, as demonstrated by growing participation globally and increased mentions – albeit small ones – in mainstream publications. But right now, despite this growth, the idea of Adidas, Vice or any other big brand/media channel doing anything with tower running seems like a dream. Glassey was at the forefront of the sport when it was at its zenith and the X Gym materials capture that.

The site’s stair running training materials haven’t been updated in a while and Glassey seems to have taken a step back from the sport, but his contribution to the sport is lasting.

Visit the X Gym stair climb training page

2 – Team Stair Climb

Although PJ Glassey’s training tips are thorough and comprehensive, this site probably just edges it for us in terms of usefulness for competitive stair climbers.

The reason is because it draws from the combined experiences of three of the best stair climbers in the USA: Terry Purcell, Eric Leninger and John Osborn. With dozens of wins between them at some of the toughest events in the USA, what these three don’t know about stair climbing isn’t worth knowing. The result is a rich body of knowledge spread over just a few pages in easily digestible nuggets of stair climbing gold.

There are full sections on pacing and technique, plus one page mysteriously titled The Secret, which has eight expert tips designed to help you lop heaps of time off your stair race PBs. They are excellent.

The site isn’t regularly updated with fresh content, but it really has everything you need to begin training and racing in earnest.

Visit Team Stair Climb

1 – Climbing to the Top

This blog by American stair climbing star Alex Workman was always going to be number one, because it was the inspiration for Tower Running UK.

Back in the barren years of the early 2010s, it was the personal blog of Alex Workman (alongside X Gym) that was keeping stair climbers informed with race day tips and training advice.

As his athletic endeavours have expanded to include other disciplines such as rowing, Workman has been largely absent from the stair running scene in 2018, although he’s recently begun racing and blogging again this month. But among his six years of intermittent blog posts are some of the most informative pieces on stair climb training you will find anywhere.

Made up largely of race reviews, his blog is full of expert post-race analysis. Workman takes a scientific approach to stair climbing – he climbs with a metronome to help maintain his pace throughout the race – and each race he competes in undergoes a thorough examination detailing how he felt through each stage of the event.

He has a very readable style and a knack for telling a good story, so you find yourself really drawn into his experiences. We read over 30 posts in one sitting after discovering his blog in 2013.

But Workman’s lasting contribution is in two training blogs he wrote back in 2014. These two in-depth training posts, combined with the technique and pacing information on Team Stair Climb, are all you need to take your stair climbing to a whole new level.

The first is Workman’s gym workout designed to target the muscles needed for fast stair climbing.

Part two details his interval training workouts, which he says ‘focus on increasing anaerobic threshold and VO2 max, which I consider to be the #1 ingredients to stair climbing performance.’

Make those workouts part of your preparation for your next stair race and you are bound to see improvements on your times.

Visit Climbing to the Top

 

This excellent, but unfortunately one-of-its-kind, three-part documentary gives a great insight into the sport of tower running.

It focuses on a group of stair climbers from the Pacific Northwest as they prepare for and race the Big Climb at Seattle’s Columbia Center.

It features well-known names from the stair climbing community, including Canadian superstar Shaun Stephens-Whale, and is definitely worth a watch.

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 1

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 2

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 3

 

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.

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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.

You might also want to check out this three-part documentary on tower runners from VICE & adidas.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been training a few people on the stairwell at the world’s tallest hospital for some of the upcoming UK stair races. During sessions we’ve been asked various questions about strength training for stair running, including how often to do it, and what sort of routines. We’ve decided to explore the question a bit further over the coming weeks.

Unfortunately, proper strength training is often overlooked by stair climbers. They assume that running sets on their favourite stairwell will be all they need to make the gains that will help them compete. Then come race day the legs give out on the championship floors and they can end up just missing a PB or slipping agonisingly out of the top 10 or 20. A simple strength training routine for stair running will help build endurance in the legs and stop them giving out too soon in a race, as well as helping to prevent injuries.

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Mo Farah and Galen Rupp (Olympic 10km gold and silver medalists, London 2012) decide they want to go hard and not home. Do the same!

We recommend incorporating a strength training routine twice a week and, if you have time, doing it on the same day as your stair running. This may seem counter-intuitive, but by running and strength training on the same day you leave yourself a recovery day or an easy workout day the day after. Remember, you need a rest day to help cement your strength gains and give your body a proper chance to recover and repair.

Squats and lunges are great all purpose lower body exercises, so those are great go to exercises to get started with. But, there is loads of variety when it comes to leg routines, from high-intensity goblet squat routines to more complicated exercises involving suspension ropes and balance boards. Renowned American stair climber, and head of X-Gym in Seattle, P.J. Glassey demonstrates a great routine using a suspension rope in this YouTube clip.

 

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