I have a love-hate relationship with running stairs. Today it hurts to sit down and it hurts to stand up. I limp around slowly, but still feel a bit smug about having had a great workout three days ago.
Nothing gets your heart rate up and your lungs burning like sprinting up a real hill or a real set of stairs. The stairmaster doesn’t even come close. Fortunately there are real stairs everywhere: I’ve run stairs in apartment buildings, up the sides of highway overpasses, in firehall towers, and in the great outdoors.
My favorite set of stairs when I was doing that fairly often were the “Wreck Beach” stairs, consisting of about 400 steep steps going down to a nude beach (this is the West Coast, after all).
One sprint up these stairs took a little less than 3 minutes, and after 3 repetitions I’d be completely, utterly done. It’s been years since I lived in that area, though, and getting to there now takes too much time to do it regularly.
And yes, despite the fact that those stairs led to a nude beach I was always fully clothed whenever I ran them…
Recently, while out and about, I found myself with a half an hour to kill. I saw some steps heading down to the ocean and decided that it was time to do some anaerobic work. I walked down the stairs, and then sprinted up as fast as I could, trying not to chuck my cookies near the top.
The trip from bottom to top took about 2 minutes, so I walked back down and did 2 more sets. Recovery time plus walking to the bottom of the stairs took about 4 or 5 minutes each time, so the whole workout took less than 20 minutes. I’m not exactly what my final heart rate was, but it was probably between 180 and 190 beats per minute after each sprint.
The reason my legs are killing me is because my legs are essentially unaccustomed to this kind of work. You can do all the lunges, running, squats and stairmaster you want, but none of it simulates the extreme stress of uphill running.
Running stairs is fantastic conditioning for the legs, heart, lungs, and fighting spirit. Try it – it hurts, but it works!