If you’ve been following our “Move Right Monday” feature for any length of time, you know that I believe it doesn’t take an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment to develop your stability, flexibility, and motor control, and build a slim, toned physique. You can “Move Right” anywhere.
Case in point: stairs.
Now, I know that stairs can be hard to find in Southwest Florida, but they are here and it’s worth it to find a set, and not just because it makes you feel like Rocky Balboa races up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum. This week, I want to show you a couple of very important benefits you can get from running stairs once or twice a week.
Powerful Cardio Workout
Running stairs creates a unique aerobic and anaerobic exercise because you are effectively doing squats, lunges, and cardio all at the same time. It works the quads, calves, hamstrings, and lower core muscles in a way that few exercises can, plus research has long shown that short, high-intensity bursts are much better for your heart and lungs than long, slow exercise routines. Dr. Joseph Mercola has an excellent series explaining the cardio benefits of high-intensity training over more conventional long-form exercises. In a nutshell, running stairs makes your heart work harder as your leg muscles demand more oxygen faster.
According to John Honerkamp of Runner’s World:
“Speeding up stairs takes a lot of explosive power, so you quickly reach your anaerobic threshold (AT), the point where your body creates more lactic acid than it can process. Training beyond your AT leads to an improved threshold level and ultimately a faster pace before you ‘feel the burn,’”
Over time, you will find that you have more stamina and can run farther without gasping for breath. As your capacity improves, your overall strength improves with it.
Strengthen Your Legs
Most of us spend all day in a chair at work, to the detriment of our lower back and core muscles. That’s where you see injury in people who are trying to fulfill their New Year’s Resolution to run more. Running can be very good for you, but one set of muscles that is often neglected when running is the gluteus medius, which is one of those all-important stabilizing core muscles. Remember that the key to the core is balance: when your core muscles are unevenly balanced, it hurts your posture, your flexibility, and can cause lower back pain.
The extra exertion involved in balancing your frame while running up stairs strengthens all of the leg and lower back muscles in a more even and consistent way.
Add Variety To Your Workout
What’s more, adding stairs to your workout routine gives you a little variety to look forward to. If you’ve been following our “Move Right Monday” channel on YouTube, you know that there are over a dozen different moves to work specific muscle groups, but they are all designed to be moves you can do at home, at work, or anywhere you go. This is a great addition to that program, and it changes up the scenery a little. Plus, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing when you run up stairs, so it’s a great way to get your mind off other things that may be tying up your attention.
If you want to add stairs to your routine, I suggest you start once or twice a week, depending on how often you do other exercises. If you Move Right daily, you can try running stairs twice a week. Otherwise, start with once.
- Warm up with other Move Right exercises or an low-intensity run for about ten minutes.
- Run as hard as you can up the stairs for thirty seconds, keeping your back straight and your shoulders back. Raise your knees to drive the cardio up. If the stairs are uncomfortably close for your stride, skip every other one.
- When you get to the top, turn immediately and walk back down (pay attention to where you put your feet!!). As soon as you get to the bottom, turn and charge up the steps again.
- Repeat this pattern for ten minutes. As it gets easier to do, add five minutes. It won’t be long before you’re up to 30 minutes and asking me for something more challenging to do.
Give it a try this week and leave a comment on our Facebook page to let me know how it went. Your results might encourage someone who is on the fence to try. It might be the health breakthrough they were looking for. I look forward to hearing from you.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas