Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Taking it to the Stairs




Have you ever taken it to the stairs? I have, faithfully.

I kind of stumbled (no pun intended) onto the sport of stair-climbing all on my own. I had seen the Fight for Air Climb on the news (always after it happened), and I was intrigued. A lot of people shun taking the stairs (and opt for the elevator), but I've always been a little less main-stream. The fact that there was a national stair-climbing event (with local venues all over the country), and participants would not only pay a registration fee to climb lots of stairs (but also be required to raise an additional $100  to participate) was something to behold.

I have done the Fight for Air Climb (affiliated with the American Lung Association) four times (three times in Des Moines and once in Chicago), and  my fifth Climb is happening in April (also in Des Moines). I take this event seriously, which means a little extra stair-training is in order in the months prior.

Although I do a lot of my training on the stairway in my house, occasionally I also head downtown and train on the stairways of  an office building. Like with running, it's best to change-up the routine now and then. When I train at home, I have only the one stairway (which gets a little monotonous, especially when I have 50+ flights on my agenda). Utilizing a place where I can run multiple flights (before having to run back down) gives my stamina a little more of a challenge.

Recently, I have been faithfully taking it to the stairs on a weekly basis.

My first official "training session," happened in early February. It was my first time doing multiple flights (in awhile), so I chose a random number of "total" flights to do (100) or a maximum time limit (30 minutes) as my goal. I'm a tall gal (5'9), so it's easier for me to take the steps two-at-a-time (instead of single-stepping). Also, come Climb day, I'll be taking the steps two-at-a-time as well, so it just makes sense to do most of my training that way.


The building I use is a four-story office building, but also has a basement....for a total of five flights of stairs. I refer to each five-story (basement-to-top floor) climb as a "set." To get to 100 flights, I'd need to do 20 sets (5 flights X 20 "sets" = 100 total flights).

I started out taking the steps pretty fast, and by the time I had done four sets, I concluded that I needed to slow down. Even though I climbed the steps by "two's," once I reached the top floor, I took my time descending.

All went well, but the strain in my quads was a little much. Hoping to conquer 100 flights for my first official outing was pretty aggressive (and...how do I say this....STUPID). I decided on 16 sets (instead of 20), for a total of 80 flights (instead of 100), and called that good.

Despite the usual endorphin rush, my body did feel somewhat tired (but in a good way). The next day, however, was a much different story. It was around (approximately) the 20-hour post-climb time...and the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) set in. Not itty bitty baby DOMS, but big Momma Bear DOMS. And they were angry. My calves (on both legs) felt like knotted-up golf balls, and hurt with every step. I've experienced a similar calf pain a few times when I've had to walk during a long race (like a half marathon). The muscles would seize up and hurt worse than labor during child birth (I've given birth three times...I know what that feels like).

Fortunately, the pain didn't last long. Within a couple days, I was back to walking like normal without wincing.

The following week, I went back to the office building for another stair-training session. Afraid of over-doing it, I decided to not do as many sets. Instead of 80 flights, I did 60 instead (12 sets of climbing). I kept a decent pace, took all of the steps by two's and was able to "run" most of it.

The DOMS were a no-show this time around. Thank Goodness!!

For my third session, I mixed it up a little. I had been wanting to do a brick workout (of sorts). Run first, stair climb, then run again. The weather had been unseasonably warm, so I left my house and ran downtown, literally, to the office building (approximately 3/4th of a mile). Once inside, I ditched the jacket and started climbing.

The climbing seemed to go fast (again, I took the steps by two's). Not sure how many sets to do, I settled on doing 14 (70 total flights). I wanted to attempt 80 flights (like I did that first time a couple weeks ago), but I still had that run (to get me back home) awaiting me when I was finished so I thought it best to not be too ambitious on the stairs.

I finished the 14th set, and took my time descending the steps back down to the bottom of the building. I put the jacket on, and headed outside. I started running, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't feel too difficult following the 30+ minutes of stair climbing.  


My fourth session also had me doing 16 sets (80 flights). I was starting to already see some results. The climbing no longer felt like a challenge anymore, so I started to work a little more on my speed. As mentioned, I always take the steps by two's (going up), but coming down is a different story.  I take the steps one at a time for the descents...and it actually takes longer going down than it does going up, which gives me a great opportunity to catch my breath and have a mini recovery between sets.

The next morning, the husband and I left for a mini vacay in Florida (to support our son and his team at the NJCAA swimming/diving finals in Fort Pierce). As luck would have it, our room was on the 9th floor of our hotel. The elevator was also very slow-moving, so after that first ride up to our room (after check-in), I didn't step foot in the 'vator again.


We stayed there for five days. Over the course of that week I climbed a total of 300 flights (which includes the 80 flights from the night before we boarded the plane). It became a bit of a contest, affectionately dubbed "Race the 'Vator," where I'd take the stairs and the husband would take the elevator in a contest to see who would make it to the room first. 


Our hotel had 16 floors (actually 17 floors, if you count going to the roof), and I spent several minutes each day taking advantage of them.


Back in Iowa, the following week I returned to the office building. For my fifth session, I did 15 sets (75 flights). Again, all of the climbing was done by taking the steps by two's.


Last week, my session had me doing 17 sets, for 85 total flights. Similar to marathon training, it's a fun challenge to see just how many flights I can do at a time. Realizing that all of these sessions have been pretty intense, it's probably time for me to have a scaled-back week (also similar to marathon training). Also, I have not done any "strength-building" sessions....doing a small number of sets, but taking the steps by three's. Yes, I have done that in my own house. It goes much slower because it requires a lot more focus on balance, but it's every bit as intense.



So, why all of this crazy stair-training? Why not? Stair-running is a great (indoor) alternative to running hills, or doing hill sprints. It combines strength work with intervals, and gives you a great aerobic workout as well. You can vary the speed (walking or running), intensity (taking the steps by singles, doubles or triple "stepping"), and the duration of the workout can easily be altered if fatigue sets in.

The Fight for Air Climb is a fabulous event. It's a great challenge to climb the stairs for all of those who can't. Personally, I know a lot of former smokers who have "kicked butt," and it's in their honor I climb all of these stairs. Also, my mother-in-law suffered from COPD, and passed away last May. She had been a lifelong smoker. Even though she had quit smoking in recent years, the damage had been done. I think of her with every step I climb.

Any interest in participating? Here's a link to the Fight for Air Climb, so you can find an event near you. Or, if you don't feel like climbing yourself, you can donate to those of us who do ( Like ME ) and together we all can work towards cleaner air and healthy lungs for everyone.

Have you ever taken it to the stairs? Ever participated in a stair-climbing event?

I'm linking up with Deb from  Deb Runs for the Wednesday Word....which, for today, is Faithful. Head over and see what everyone else is saying about it.






















41 comments:

  1. Good for you! I've always been tempted to do the climb in the John Hancock building--I think it could be a fun adventure! but I get winded going up the 2 flights of stairs in the parking garage, so there's that...

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    1. You would probably do a lot better than you think! I did the four Presidential Towers (2014), and that was tough, but we had that break in between buildings. I'd love to do a single building, a TALL building, sometime. Let me know when you register ;-)

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  2. At work I always take the stairs rather than the elevator but that's it. Good for you!

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    1. I usually take the stairs (over an escalator), too. It's not that much harder work ;-)

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  3. AMAZING!!!

    I have never heard of a climbing event....sounds very intriguing!

    I usually take the stairs if I am by myself but I am with others, I will take the elevator. The knee get a bit tricky after a while too, so I have to be mindful and aware of that.

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    1. I'm lucky to not have any knee issues (yet). That would make it much more difficult;-(

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  4. I am trying to go up and down the stairs we have at work a few more times a day lol I am going to have to build to 60 or 80!
    That is a hard core work out! I get winded doing a few.

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    1. Just keep climbing, just keep climbing ;-) It doesn't take long for your endurance to increase. ;-)

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  5. I am not sure I could do all those stairs! Looks intense

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    1. It's as tough as the climber makes it....I usually start out "running" the stairs, but slow down (substantially) towards the end.

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  6. That looks super intense! You must have buns of steel! LOL! thanks for sharing a little more behind it :) Good luck with the training!

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    1. Ha ha...I didn't realize how many "buns" shots I had until I hit "publish" LOL

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  7. Wow! 17 floors in your hotel? I'd probably not take advantage of them. Lol Kudos to you for getting them done! I do use the Stairmaster aka Helllmaster at my gym. Stairs are an awesome workout!

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    1. Stairs are a quick & effective way to get a good burn! I do stair workouts routinely, even when I'm not training for Climb event.

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  8. Stair climbing is no joke! You are a rock star! I want to do the Empire State Building Run Up some time. You'll have to help me train :)

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    1. I'd LOVE to do the Empire State Building Run Up, too! ALL the Climbs I've done have involved multiple buildings...I've never done a really tall building all on its own (yet) ;-)

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  9. Wow you have really been kicking butt on the steps!! I love your dedication. I've done the ALA stair climb in Philadelphia for several years since 2009, sadly we can't get as many people to sign up anymore. I wish more people realized what a great workout it is, and a great cause. Can't wait to hear how it goes for you!

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    1. I agree...it's a great workout, but more importantly it's for a great cause. A lot of people are intimidated with the multiple buildings (at least in Des Moines, where we have four buildings for a combined 86 flights). Even doing just the first building is a great contribution to the cause ;-)

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  10. I'm impressed with your stair climbing. They have an event in Gulf Shores each year. It's a Race to the Top of the Tower. It's 31 floors to the top of Turquoise Place. I've never done it, but it looks like a challenge you would enjoy if you're ever down this way.

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    1. Absolutely! That event sounds like a great one!!

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  11. This is awesome! We have one of these events in town, but there is no way for me to really train. There are no major office building anywhere near me, and all I have in my house is one flight of stairs. Good luck!

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    1. Actually, this is the first year that I have done so much training in the office building. In years past, I'd just use the stairway in my house and do numerous reps up & down. It's pretty difficult to mimic the actual "race day" environment because the event buildings are off limits except for the day of the event itself (private office buildings)...which, I think, adds to the excitement of the challenge ;-)

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  12. Good for you! I've never participated in a stair climbing challenge. I used to live in an apartment on the 10th floor and the elevator was slow so I climbed those stairs a lot.

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    1. That would be great...except for grocery day LOL

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  13. I do try to do just a little bit of stairs -- like 3 flights (up & down -- does that count as 6?) occasionally, but not since my ankle started to bother me.

    When I was a college freshman, I lived in a dorm that also housed most of the deaf students (there was a technical school for the deaf there). Since fire alarms involved flashing lights, they got pulled often. I lived on the 11th floor one year, 12th floor the next.

    Oh, how I dreaded those fire alarms! I'm a lot fitter now tho. :)

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    1. ha ha....I love taking the stairs, but it's probably because I'm CHOOSING to do so. It's a different story when it's "required" LOL

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  14. I'm impressed with how fast you progressed with stair climbing. Your Race the 'Vator sounds like fun. I did that while on vacation recently, but I only raced up the stairs once!

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    1. thanks! I do a lot of stair training just on the single flight of steps in my house, so adding all these multiple flights isn't that big of a change...after the first couple weeks LOL

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  15. You're a stair climbing beast! We live in a three story townhouse, so I try to take advantage of all the stairs as much as I can, especially while holding the baby. It makes for a great workout.

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    1. and holding your little man also requires a different kind of balance...so that ups (no pun intended) the challenge!

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  16. Way to go lady!!!! I take the stairs when I can, but have never done a stair event!

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    1. The stair events are so much fun! I especially like seeing all the fire fighters dressed in full gear....the usually get a standing ovation as they line up!

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  17. awesome on the stair climbling! ive always wanted to do the empire state building run! i take the stairs up to the 3rd floor every day, not much but still every stair helps right ;)

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    1. I'd love to climb the Empire State Building, too!

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  18. awesome on the stair climbling! ive always wanted to do the empire state building run! i take the stairs up to the 3rd floor every day, not much but still every stair helps right ;)

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  19. You're awesome. I take the stairs at every opportunity, and honestly, it feels better than standing in an elevator. Get the heart rate up at work. I park as far as I can at stores (my kids hate it!), but I've never thought about a stair event.

    Do they have the stair equivalent of a fun run to try it out first?

    Glad I found you through Deb's Wednesday Word linkup.

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    1. Not sure if there are any "fun climbs" to test out the activity, but the Des Moines venue offers a practice climb to participants who have surpassed a certain fundraising minimum (I think it was $250). The practice climb was a few weeks ago, when I was on vacation in Florida, so I wasn't around for that opportunity. I think a lot of the Fight for Air Climbs involve multiple buildings, and participants are not required to climb all the buildings, but they do have to climb them in a certain order (so you have the option of quitting early if it gets too tough). I have recaps from all of the climbs I've done (in the blog archives)if you have any interest in reading about it (March 2015, March 2014, and April 2013).

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  20. Have you seen changes in your quads and glutes ?
    They are starting to have stair climbing events here but I have not looked into it in a lot of detail.
    Thanks for sharing, very interesting !

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    1. I've noticed a lot more strength, also some "puffiness" (??). When I first did an intense strength program (several years ago), I noticed a similar thing for the first six weeks or so....something with all the muscle activity & water retention, I think. It's not gonna stop me!

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  21. I've never done a stair climbing event, but I usually take the stairs when it's just a few. I love that you raced your hubby to the room at the hotel. :-)

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I'm all about a little competition among the household dwellers ;-)

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