Posts Tagged ‘Stair running training’

Suzy Walsham tower running

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

Reigning tower running world champion, and a nine-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.

Coming into the 12th year of her stair running career, she remains practically unbeatable and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In March 2019 she will head to Paris in an attempt to secure a fifth straight win at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel. Then in May, all eyes will be on the Empire State Building, when Walsham will go for an incredible 10th title.

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



Piotr “Showtime” Lobodzinski, the reigning tower running world champion, shares some race advice and training tips in this video from Physique TV.

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

A short insight into the thinking and training of competitive stair runner PJ Glassey. PJ runs Seattle’s X-Gym, which is the training ground for a lot of the worlds leading climbers.

“You have to have a screw loose to do tower running, and to be competitive you have to have a couple screws loose”

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.”