Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Mark Bourne Stairclimbing Australia

Mark Bourne – winner of the 2013 Empire State Building Run-Up, seven-time winner of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower Stair Climb, holder of numerous course records and one of the top stair climbers in the world over the past decade – is the right man to take tower running advice from.

Bourne spoke with Men’s Health (Australia) to give some expert tower running tips, including pointers on warming up, pacing yourself and establishing a rhythm during a race.

Here are some of the highlights:

The lead up to the race

‘You definitely don’t want to be training the day before the race. I might do a light jog two days before, but it won’t be anything strenuous.’

‘Have confidence in your preparation and don’t introduce new things into your training routine.’

Warming up

‘Some 10 or 20 metre sprints at about 75 per cent would be a good warm-up. If you can find a small single stairwell to run up then that will also get the blood pumping around your body.’

Eat light

‘It’s not like a marathon so you don’t need to go carb loading. The worse thing you could do is fill yourself up to the point of feeling sick.’

‘It’s a personal preference but I also have a good hit of caffeine in the morning.’

Mark Bourne towerrunning

How to run a stair race

Aim for a steady pace

‘You’re going to be tempted to race off as quickly as you can, but you need to take it steady. Start off conservatively with a pace that you think you can maintain. And don’t worry if you find yourself running parts of the race and walking other bits, it’s bound to happen.’

‘The lactic acid will build up and burn deep in your legs, if you have to slow down then just do it. Walking intensely for a few flights will serve you better than trying to run through a pain that you can’t shake.’

Two steps at a time and use the railing

‘Make use of the railing, it can assist you when you’re going around corners. The other thing professionals do is climb two steps at a time. Whether you are walking or running, always aim for a couple steps in each time you go forward.’

Establish a rhythm

‘It’s not just a physical battle but a gruelling mental slog. You need to find a zone where you can just concentrate on your stepping rhythm and tunnel your vision towards the goal of reaching the top.’

‘It’s best to ignore any progress and avoid looking at the stairwell numbers. From the word go, see how far you can get before working out how high you are, the numbers will only slow you down.’

For the full list of tips, including what to do after a race, check out Bourne’s interview with Men’s Health Australia.

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The London Underground is still the simplest and most accessible training venue in the capital for those preparing for a stair running event.

With just an Oyster card and bottle of water in hand, you can zip around the city on the Tube to get in a solid workout on the emergency staircases at various stations.

But which Tube stations are the best for stair running? Read on to find out.

Although stair running on the Tube network is simple, it’s not without its problems.

Pros:

  • Easy access
  • Available from early morning to late evening
  • Mostly clear of other people (depending on time of day)
  • Lift back down available to start next climb


Cons:

  • Often dusty and dirty
  • Sooty rails blacken hands
  • Can’t leave bag down (security concerns)
  • Spiral staircases can be awkward to run on
  • No landing turns so can’t practice techniques for actual stair race

But if you just want somewhere straightforward to add some vertical to your training routine then the Underground is hard to beat. Keep reading to find out the five Tube stations with the highest number of steps and how to get to them.

5. Goodge Street

Goodge Street station stairs

How many steps: 136
What line is it on: Northern (Charing Cross branch)
How to find it above ground?: Map

4. Russell Square

Russell Square station stairs

How many steps: 171 (claimed number is 175)
What line is it on: Piccadilly
How to find it above ground?: Map

3. Belsize Park

Belsize_Park_Station._Emergency_Stairs

How many steps: 189 (claimed number is 219)
What line is it on: Northern (Edgware branch)
How to find it above ground?: Map

2. Covent Garden

Covent Garden station stairs

How many steps: 193
What line is it on: Piccadilly
How to find it above ground?: Map

1. Hampstead

hampstead_tube_station_emergency_staircase_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1473478 (1)

How many steps: 320
What line is it on: Northern (Edgware branch)
How to find it above ground?: Map

If you want alternative ideas for places to do stair running training, check out our guide on the best places to run stairs in London for inspiration.

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Tower races are often won and lost by the narrowest of margins, so finding ways to make small gains can make a big difference to where you finish in a race.

Ergogenic aids, or performance enhancers, are one easy way to potentially get ahead. Alongside proper training, these simple and natural additions to your race day prep could see you clocking faster times on the stairs.

Read on to find out the three natural performance enhancers that could change your tower running.

Caffeine

Caffeine

There’s a good reason why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had caffeine on its list of banned substance up until 2004. Its performance enhancing qualities are well established.

Up until that point you had to be ‘caught’ with a dose of 1,200mg (somewhere around 10-12 cups of coffee) in your system close to competition to be considered doping. To be fair, if you were necking that much before an event, the chances were you were probably utilising it disingenuously as a performance enhancer.

But since coffee and energy drink usage in particular have become more mainstream, WADA has softened its stance on caffeine. It’s no longer banned, but since 2017 it has been put on WADA’s Monitoring Program.

That means caffeine levels in athletes can be monitored for patterns of use, or abuse, but there’s no longer a set limit as to how much you can have in your system before competition. If caffeine intake is a normal part of your dietary routine, you’re OK; but if you’re specifically ingesting loads just before a race you could potentially be flagged for a violation if it doesn’t fit in with your regular pattern.

Of course, WADA regulations haven’t found their way into tower running yet anyway, but it’s worth noting the official position adopted by them.

Interestingly, the NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the USA) still has caffeine on its banned list. Ingest 500mg of coffee within three hours of the start of one of their sanctioned competitions and you run the risk of a positive drug test.

Although the advantages of high levels of caffeine for performance have been established by multiple studies, you don’t need to go anywhere close to 1,200mg to reap the benefits of this centuries old performance enhancer.

Some studies have shown that caffeine can still have a significant impact on performance at much lower doses. In one test, trained runners cut an average of 4.2 seconds off their 1,500m time after taking 150-200mg of caffeine in the form of coffee (roughly two cups of instant) an hour before exercise.

In another study, cyclists extended their time to exhaustion by nearly 15 minutes while caffeinated with 330mg caffeine one hour before exercise.

Some of the established positive effects of caffeine include:

• Enhances endurance exercise performance
• Improves reaction time, concentration, and self-perceived energy levels
• Low doses increase energy expenditure and oxygen uptake without changing perceived effort, exercising heart rate, or fuel usage
• Delays feelings of fatigue, and lessens sensations of exertion and pain

That last point is probably most significant for tower runners. Delaying the onset of pain and fatigue by just a couple of floors could potentially see you clocking PBs at a bunch of towers.

Caffeine isn’t for everyone and it should be used judiciously, because at high doses it can be dangerous. The potential benefits will vary depending on a bunch of other factors, but even if you’re not a coffee fan, it’s probably worth experimenting with it in some form to see if it can work for you.

Research shows the effects peak around one hour after consumption, so make sure you time it before your climb to maximise the benefits.

Peppermint oil

peppermint oil

The evidence on this one is less well established than for caffeine, but results from studies have shown that inhaling peppermint oil prior to exercise, or taking it orally as a supplement, can produce some positive effects on performance.

In a 2013 study, ’12 healthy male students every day consumed one 500 ml bottle of mineral water, containing 0.05 ml peppermint essential oil for ten days.’ The results of a series of exercise tests on a treadmill taken one day before and one day after the supplementation period showed ‘significant increases’ in power output, time to exhaustion and energy output.

Additional studies have examined the ergogenic benefits of peppermint oil when inhaled as a vapor. A 2000 study concluded that there was an ‘association found between administration of peppermint odor during near-maximum treadmill exercise with a reduction in RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and increase in perceived performance.’

A further test, although this one done on rats, showed that the inhalation of peppermint oil ‘powerfully relieved the indicators of exercise-induced fatigue’. There was also a reduction in blood lactate (BLa) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN), which is another sign of reduced fatigue.

Tower runners work at the edge of exhaustion for significant parts of their races. A reduction in the signs of fatigue and the rate of perceived exertion are exactly the sorts of effects they could benefit from.

Yes, you may look a bit odd standing in the lobby before a race, rubbing essential peppermint oil across your top lip and smelling like a sickly child who’s been slathered with Vicks vaporub. But who’ll care when you’ve taken 10+ seconds off your personal best time at the top? Worth a shot, for sure.

Beetroot juice

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Beetroots, like many vegetables, are high in nitrates. When ingested, the nitrates in these items go through a set of conversions within the body until they become nitric oxide.

Increased levels of nitric oxide in the body have been shown to increase blood flow, improve lung function, and strengthen muscle contraction.

For example, a test on masters age competitive swimmers found they significantly increased their anaerobic threshold after beet juice supplementation compared to testing without. This means increased oxygen capacity allowed them to swim longer before reaching exercise failure after drinking beet juice.

In another study, ‘competitive cyclists who supplemented with beetroot juice improved their performance by 0.8 percent in a 50-mile test. Significant improvements were observed during the last 10 miles. Both oxygen efficiency and time to exhaustion were greatly improved after beet juice consumption.’

The ideal way to supplement with it is still a bit of an unknown. In some studies, the best results came from drinking beet juice 90-150 minutes before commencing exercise. But other findings suggest supplementing for as long as 15 days in the run up to a race.

Perhaps the best approach is to regularly boost your nitric oxide levels by including nitrate dense foods in your diet, such as celery, rocket, spinach and lettuce. Then you can top up on race day with beet juice.

If beetroot juice is not the one for you, you can up your nitric oxide levels with other supplements. Terry Purcell, one of the top stair climbers in the USA, makes use of the Kiyani Nitro Xtreme supplement which is derived from the noni fruit.

It’s worth keeping in mind that findings from one study indicated that caffeine can interact with beetroot juice and mask its ergogenic benefits. So you’re better off choosing one or the other, instead of doubling up with both before a race.

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Suzy Walsham ESBRU

Suzy Walsham is one of the greatest tower runners of all time, so who better to hear from to find out more about the sport of stair climbing?

In this episode of the excellent Everyday Running Legends podcast, Suzy chats with Brodie Sharpe and discusses her journey from an elite track and field career to stair climbing super-stardom.

The episode also covers how she trains for a tower run, the differences between stair running and flat running, and her tips for those looking to start out in the sport.

Click the link below to listen to the full podcast:

Everyday Running Podcast – Reaching the top of the world in tower running with Suzy Walsham

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Suzy Walsham tower running

Suzy Walsham is one of the greatest female tower runners of all time.

Reigning tower running world champion, and a ten-time winner of the famous Empire State Building Run-Up, Walsham is the most consistent stair runner on the circuit, very rarely finishing in anything other than first place.

A former track and field star for the Australian national team, Walsham won four national titles (3 x 1,500m and 1 x 800m) and competed in both distances at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, before taking the sport of tower running by storm in 2007 by winning the Empire State Building Run-Up at her first attempt.

Heading into the 14th year of her stair running career, she remains practically unbeatable and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In March 2020 she will head to Paris in an attempt to secure a sixth straight win at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel. She will also likely be heading to the Empire State Building (date TBC), to go for an incredible 11th title.

In the video below Walsham gives some insights into her training routine as well as what she eats to fuel her greatness.

 

 

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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 once again on the US stair climbing scene for the past couple of years. 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 2018.

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

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