Posts Tagged ‘Stair climbing tips’

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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