Posts Tagged ‘Vertical Rush training’

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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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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 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 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 bannisters are very sooty and will leave your palms completely black.

The only down side 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.

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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.

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‘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 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.

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Soh Wai-Ching Vertical Rush 2019

If you haven’t put in the training you won’t be winning anything. But, fitness level aside, there are a few things to know that could give you an edge as you take part in Vertical Rush 2020.

The event, which is organised by the charity Shelter, takes place at London’s Tower 42 and is by far the most popular and well-established stair running race in the UK calendar.

In 2019 over 1,400 participants took part, and 2020 promises to be just as big, which leads us right into 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 8am. In 2018, Shelter introduced a night run so people set off as late as 8pm. This extended run of waves is expected to return again in 2020. From experience there is less hype and razmatazz in the morning waves, which will allow you to keep focused on the task at hand.

The later sessions have press, cameras, filmed warm-ups and more standing around in the early March cold. Plus the later you leave it the more hands pass along the railings and the greasier they get, which can cause your hand to slip as you pull yourself along. 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 of your wave.

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 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

Knowing a bit about the stairs in a building prior to racing can be a real help, as it allows you to visualise the event a lot clearer and keep pre-race nerves to a minimum (click through if you want more details on how to handle pre-race nerves).

The stairwell at Vertical Rush is left turning and goes up in blocks of nine steps per flight. Each floor is numbered so you can keep a check on your pacing. The hand rail running along the inside of the stairwell 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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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”