Posts Tagged ‘stair running tips’

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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If you haven’t put in the training you won’t be winning anything, but fitness aside there are a few things to know that could give you a bit of an edge as you take part in Vertical Rush.

The event is organised by the charity Shelter and is by far the most popular and well-established stair running race in the UK calendar.

In 2018 it will have over 1,600 participants, which leads to our first tip.

Get There Early

To facilitate the large numbers of runners, the day is split into hourly waves with the first going at 7.30am and the last at 4.30pm. From experience there is less hype and razmatazz early in the morning, which will allow you to keep focused on the task at hand. The later sessions have press, cameras, filmed warmups and more standing around in the early March cold. Plus the later you leave it the more hands pass along the bannisters and the greasier they get. There also seems to be less people in the earlier waves, which leads into the second tip.

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Would Boris and his horn help keep your head in the game?

Get To The Front

Unlike at other races around the world, many UK races don’t have a designated ‘elite’ start. If you email in advance and express a desire to start at the front, it will be accepted, but you won’t always find there’s someone on hand to ensure you are brought to the front of your wave of runners.

This is certainly the case for Vertical Rush, where the people involved with registration are not the ones bringing you through to the start. So, the onus will be on you to get to the front. At Vertical Rush the registration desk and bag drop are in a separate building to the stairs. You will be led a short walk outside between the two buildings and into a small basement type area with a central pillar. The entrance to the stairs is through a door on the right hand side as you walk into the ‘holding area’. Get in line at the entrance to the door immediately.

An organiser will give a brief talk and then point to the start line, after which a slight rush happens, as people queue up. If you are not in position, you will likely end up several dozen places back and be faced with the task of passing slower climbers on the way up.

Another reason to start at the front is the haphazard staggering of runners. At previous events, runners should have been spaced by a minimum of 5-10 seconds. This does not always happen, and it is not uncommon for the excitement to overcome some people and for them to just pour onto the stairs in groups.

If you are not at the very front, or at least in the first five, you will almost certainly lose precious seconds on the early floors as you weave past others and wait for the numbers to space out a bit.

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The madness of a mass start at one of the earlier Vertical Rush events.

Details About The Stairs

This may not matter to most, but certainly matters for some, so is worth mentioning. The stairwell at Vertical Rush is left turning and goes up in blocks of nine steps per flight. Each floor should be numbered so you can keep a check on your pacing. The railing is flat topped, which can make gripping slightly awkward, but it does curve nicely at the landings, making turns fairly smooth.

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At the competitive level stair running success is mostly mental. After that the lungs are most important, followed by the legs, core and arms. Making sure you have trained all those elements well will go a long way to helping you achieve a good time.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at these five aspects in more detail, and pointing you in the right direction so you can start to build strength in each area. For now we will touch upon them briefly to give you an idea of the direction you want to be heading in.

Arms: Just as with flat-level running, the arms are a vital tool in stair climbing. This may be in the form of pumping back and forth to drive you up each flight of stairs hands free or more likely it will be through using the banisters as an aid to your climb. We will have more on using the banisters to help you climb soon, but it’s generally used like a rope to help pull you up the stairs during the climb. To build the necessary strength and endurance in the biceps and latissimus dorsi (the muscles on each side of your back), you will want to work on rowing type moves. This can be done on a rowing machine, pulley rack, or seated rower in the gym.

Core: There are loads of exercises to choose from to target this area of the body and it’s really a case of taking your pick. The classic crunch is a good one to start with, but we will point towards some more advanced techniques in upcoming posts.

Legs: These get overloaded pretty early on in a stair race so it’s vital to have a good base of muscular endurance in them to ensure you stay strong right onto the higher floors. Squats and lunges (both can be done with or without weights depending on your existing fitness level) are the key exercises for great leg development.

Lungs: Assuming you have a solid base of cardiovascular fitness, we would recommend you begin incorporating some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into your schedule to get used to pushing your heart and lungs hard. Tabata is one of the most popular forms of this type of training and we recommend you try it on an upright bike, rower or inclined treadmill for best results.

Mental: Your mind will always tell you to quit, stop or slow down before your body is really ready to. When the lactic acid burn really takes hold you will want to stop, but it’s vital you don’t. Pushing yourself past this point in training is a great way of building up the mental strength to handle pain during the event itself. If you want to be competitive then this is the element that will separate you from the rest.

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1. Stair running is a low-impact form of exercise that is easy on the joints. It is, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a suitable training method for people with problem knees and is enjoyed by people well into older age. Many of the world’s top-level tower runners are in their 40s.

2. Flat level running doesn’t have much crossover benefit for tower running, but stair climbing has great crossover potential for running. We have found this to be true in our own experiences. Having taken time out to train exclusively for stair running events, we returned to flat-level racing for a one off pair of 5k and 10k races and clocked PBs in both.

3. Stair climbing is one of the best, and quickest ways, to improve your cardio endurance. In terms of the benefits you get, a 15-minute session of tower running is equivalent to about an hour of flat level, steady-state running.

4. Vertical training provides a balanced workout for the legs, engaging the hamstrings and glutes more effectively than many other forms of cardio. Overemphasis on the naturally stronger quads, which is common in some forms of exercise, can lead to imbalances and injuries. Stair climbing can help combat this.

5. Stair climbing burns more fat than most other forms of training. PJ Glassey from Seattle’s X-Gym explains it like this: “If you push hard when you train and don’t let up when your legs and lungs tell you to, your body will assume you have moved to a very hilly area with lots of saber-toothed mountain goats and you must be running away from them for survival. It therefore adapts by making you lighter. It also realizes that you need stronger muscles for faster escape, so it selectively chooses the fat to burn off since that is a non-contributing tissue when it comes to retreating from the saber-tooth mountain goat attacks.”