Posts Tagged ‘training tips’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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“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??

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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.

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

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Kristin Frey is a vegan endurance athlete and elite stair runner from Illinois who came third in the 2013 Tower Running World Cup standings. She started her athletic career as a marathoner before transitioning into tower running in the 2010 season. She immediately began clocking up wins and has maintained her position among the world’s best stair runners for the last few years. She also has three top ten finishes in the Empire State Building Run Up (2011-2013), one of the classic events of the stair running calendar.

Last year, in the lead up to the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge, Tower Running UK got in touch with Kristin in order to get some insight into how the best tower runners train for an event. Kristin was very generous with her time and provided some great information about how she trains and her favoured techniques while powering up the stairs.

1. How do you pace yourself during a race?
“I usually try to start off conservative, or on the slower side, and pace myself during a climb. I will usually check my watch every 10-20 floors to see what kind of pace I’m on and I pick a “go-floor” where I tell myself to pick up the pace so I can finish strong.  I’m never actually running up the steps, some of the other top climbers can get away with that but I usually take 2 steps at a time and its a quick walk.”

2. What sort of rail grip/technique do you use?
“I usually use the rail like a rope, so I’m pulling myself hand over hand.  I find that to be best for me.  Other climbers may use both rails if the stairwell is narrow enough and some of the top climbers may run up the steps barely touching the rail, but I prefer to stick to the inside rail.”

3. Could you give us an insight into your training regimen, e.g. sets, length of intervals, pace, alternating two step and one step runs?
My favourite training building is 20 floors, it takes me about 2:30-3:00 to climb depending on my pace.  Sometimes I will do 5 climbs using my normal technique and a fast pace, my rest will be the elevator ride down (usually about 3:00).  I will also do 5-10 floor sprints where I’m running steps.  Whenever I’m doing a standard climb workout, I will always take two steps.  When I’m sprinting I will vary between one step running and two steps.  For sprints, I may do 5-10 floors then rest 1:00 then go again.  Maybe do 5-6 sprints. For cross training I do a lot of spinning and will also run on the treadmill with the incline set to 11-15%.  You could do intervals that will last the duration of your race, so 5:00 intervals if you think it’ll take you 5:00 to climb, etc.”

4. What one crucial tip would you give to a novice (but fit) stair runner to help them achieve a good time?
“I think the main thing is getting in some training in the stairwell so your familiar with it, and you can work on some technique.  Your heart rate will be high almost immediately and you’ll be breathing hard so start off conservative. Most people will start off too fast and then get tired after 5-10 floors!  It’s better to have extra energy and to pick up your pace along the way instead of crawling to the top”

If you can adapt some of these tips to your training schedule and be mindful of Kristin’s tip to pace yourself properly on race day, you stand a good chance of clocking a competitive time.

Tower Running UK would like to extend a massive thank you to Kristin Frey for her help and wishes her the best for the 2014 season, where she is planning to put most of her focus on ultramarathons. You can follow her progress at her blog: http://kristinfrey.blogspot.co.uk/

Interested in taking part in a tower running event? Check out our partners Total Motion Events or our race calendar to find out what events are happening near you.