Simply Stairs

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Stairs
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

There is no race or long run that does not benefit from postural elegance. Head aligned with your spine, a moving inclination that leaves you leaning slightly, just a little forward of your feet in a fashion that encourages efficient forefoot-strike and quick leg turnover. This gait allows gravity to pull you continuously forward. At the same time, your arms are held comfortably crooked at your side, hands relaxed, shoulder blades held back and down leaving your chest up and able to access the volume of oxygen necessary to fuel the mechanics of your perpetual movement.

This is a strength neither natural, nor a given, in the latter parts of any race — quite the contrary. The further and the faster most of us run, the quicker this stabilizing structure unhinges. Degradation, cracks in the armour occur continuously and incrementally until finally we find ourselves striking the ground heel first, torsos directly over our feet, arms high and tight, bent over, breathless. Our early race determination for a personal best traded in for the promise that if we finish, just finish, we’ll give our bodies whatever they ask for — massage, ice baths, ice cream, wine, whatever and the promise we’ll train harder next time.

It’s happened to me more than once and here’s the promise I keep: I run stairs, it is simple, simply stairs.

There is a caveat. This is an advanced workout, so unless you already run marathons, ultra-marathons or stage races the workouts described with weights are overkill. Much like ultras or stage races themselves, this overload is potentially crippling.

Simply running stairs in the fashion of the first four weeks of this progression is sufficient, a brilliant way to improve your 5K, 10K, half and marathon times.

Early in the season find a set of stairs that will be your training ground once a week for the next 12 to 18 weeks. That staircase should take you approximately 2 minutes to get up and 1:30 to get back down.

The Workout

Weeks 1-4

  • Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running. End at the foot of the stairs.
  • Lean into the stairs and do 10 push-ups, run to the top and do 10 more push-ups, then jog back down.
  • Repeat eight times.

Weeks 5-9

  • Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running. End at the foot of the stairs.
  • Do 20 push-ups, run to the top and do 20 more push-ups, then jog back down.
  • Repeat eight times and alternate running single steps on the odd flights and double steps (2 steps/stride) on the even numbered repeat.
Stair Repeats
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

Weeks 10-18

This advanced workout involves carrying progressively heavier weights up and down the staircase. You will need 10lb., 25lb., 35lb. dumbbells or weight plates.

  • Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running. End at the foot of the stairs. Do 25 push-ups on the bottom stair. Run one set up and down (without weights).
  • Do 20 push-ups, run to the top carrying 10lbs. and leave weights on an open stair. Do 20 more push-ups and jog back down. Repeat set with 25lb. and 35lb. weights.
  • Do 20 push-ups, run to the top without weights, do 20 push-ups and carry 10lbs. to the bottom stair. Repeat with 25lb. then 35lb. weights.
Weights
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

Stretch. You’re done!

 

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