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.

You might also be interested in:

 

tube_map

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.

You might also be interested in:

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

83fda72a-63617360-1200x630

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.

You may also be interested in:

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

You may also be interested in:

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.

 

 

You might also be interested in:

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).

16831856_10154849324540999_4210814132973125614_n

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.

 

You may also be interested in:

 

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

You may also be interested in:

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.

11846693_1196208523737903_1334962298345501438_n

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.

11692692_1174485135910242_8895554918480225758_n

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.

MG_41461-1024x682

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.

 

11693939_1174485189243570_3853115205327947075_n

“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??

1538931_10153093927133202_1532835102868545480_n

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.

Like us on Facebook for updates on results and upcoming events.

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?

VR2013A0101

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:

 

Like us on Facebook for updates on upcoming events and all you need to know about tower running here in the UK.

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 be interested in:

GherkinChallenge_2018-476

Stair climbing is one of the best fitness activities you can do, but it’s not always clear exactly how to get started if you’re a complete beginner.

If you’ve signed up for Shelter’s Vertical Rush in March 2020, your training should be getting under way soon, so you might be looking for some ideas on how to approach the race and how to train for it.

To steer you in the right direction we’ve put together this quick guide to stair running, which has training tips and techniques to help you prepare.

Why stair climbing?

Stair climbing is the perfect workout as it’s free, low impact and high-intensity, which means you get a great fitness boost in a short space of time. No big long runs or expensive fitness classes here. You’ll likely burn as many calories doing a solid 15-minute stair workout as you would doing a much longer steady state jog.

Sign up for a stair race

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve already signed up for a tower running event. But if not, there’s nothing like the draw of an upcoming event to keep you motivated and committed to stair climbing.

London skyline

If you’re in the UK, our tower running race calendar has every upcoming UK stair race listed, so you can pick an event and plan well ahead. It’s regularly updated as new races are announced, so if you don’t see anything that suits it’s worth checking back at a later date for updates.

If you’re outside the UK, the race calendar on the Towerrunning World Association website should have you covered.

Where to run stairs in London?

So you’ve signed up for a stair race. What now?

If you’re in London your best bet for an easily accessible training venue is to go to the Tower Wing of Guy’s Hospital. There you’ll find 700+ steps on a quiet stairwell (if you go in the evenings) that’s open until 10pm (note the doors into the stairwell close to the public at 8pm, so you’ll want to get inside by then. Once you’re in, getting out isn’t a problem).

If you can’t get down to Guy’s Hospital, there are other options available in the capital. Check out our guide on where to run stairs in London.

If you’re not in London, you should be looking for hospitals and hotels as your go to training venues. If you work in an office with 6+ floors, or have access to a block of flats, that will be perfect, too.

Campus-Guys-hospital.x3d1f55a0

Guy’s Hospital alongside the Shard

Take two steps at a time

If possible you really want to be taking two steps at a time while your training for a stair running event, and when you’re racing. If you’re hoping to make a fast time at Vertical Rush this is essential. It can feel harder but try single stepping the same distance and you’ll see you actually expend more energy, especially if you’re not just walking.

Double step as many flights as you can and then build from there. If you make it five floors in your first sessions, aim for six or more in the next one. You’ll find you body will adapt really quickly and you’ll probably surprise yourself with the gains you’re making.

Of course, if for whatever reason you can’t double step, you’ll still get an excellent workout taking one step at a time. The important thing is to get on some stairs and start climbing.

Use the railing
espnw_e_frey01jr_576

US stair running legend Kristin Frey demonstrating a great rail technique – hand over hand like a pulling a rope

We see a lot of newcomers to stair climbing not touch the railing, but it’s far more efficient if you do. Not only does it keep you stable and straight, thus focusing your energy on going up, but it also helps you to take the turns on each landing a little quicker, which will save you time overall in a race. Add to that a decent upper body workout and pulling on the railing is a no-brainer.

Coming down the stairs

Ideally you always want to get the lift back down after you have done your stair climb training sets. All the non-impact benefits are undone if you have to keep descending stairs once you reach the top. It will likely leave you with sore calves and quads for a couple of days after too.

If getting the lift down is simply not an option then try and spread the load around your muscles by using different descending techniques each time (sideways, backwards, feet turned in and then out), or even each flight.

article-2286513-185E0937000005DC-224_964x959

Should have taken the lift – avoid descending the stairs when you can and be careful when you can’t.

How to train for a tower race without stairs

If you can’t find access to stairs on a regular basis for your training, don’t worry. There are plenty of options available.

As long as you’re taxing your legs and cardiovascular system in each workout, you’ll be well prepared for the demands of a stair race.

If you have access to a gym then a step mill, Jacob’s Ladder or stationary bike are all solid options for replicating the demands of stair running.

Incline walking or running are also excellent alternatives to climbing stairs. This will elevate your heart rate quickly, simulating the effects of a stair race, and will also engage the key muscles of your glutes, quads and calves as well.

You can alternate between steady, endurance-building workouts and ones where you do short bursts of sprints, such as 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.

If you don’t have access to a treadmill, then hill runs outdoors will get the job done, too.

You may also be interested in:

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.

12621139-essay

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.

 

Like us on Facebook for updates on upcoming events and tower running news from the UK and around the world.

Pre-race nerves

In the right amount, pre-race nerves can sometimes enhance performance, but when they get out of control they can really suck the enjoyment 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.

Read on to find out three of our favourite methods for tackling pre-race nerves.

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 head into your race with only one thing on your mind…giving everything you have in the stairwell, just like world number one Suzy Walsham.

Visualise the race

The importance of visualisation for success in stair running is more important than for any other running discipline. How so?

Well, 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 you had managed to sign up to every stair race in the country last year, you would only have raced less than 15 times. Most of 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 tall tower 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.

usain-bolt-visualisation

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.

You might also be interested in:

stock-london-skyline-view-of-City

Preparing for a stair climbing race can be tricky if you don’t have access to a tall building.

But even if you don’t live or work in a high-rise tower, there are still options available to get in some great, specific training.

Read on to find out some of 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 often 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 even 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 it will likely be deemed a security concern and 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 gloves because the railings are very sooty and will leave your palms filthy.

The only downside to training on the Underground is that it can be quite difficult to get a good rhythm going on the spiral staircase. 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!!’

For more information, check out our guide on the best Tube stations for stair running training.

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 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.

Check out its location here.

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.

London-Hilton-Park-Lane

‘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 or your WhatsApp group chats 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.

Found some stairs, but not sure what to do now? Read our guide on stair climbing for beginners to find out some training tips and advice.

You may also be interested in: