Thursday, October 14, 2010

Climb Your Way to Fitness

A workout that doesn't require a gym membership? A training session that can be completed in 20 minutes or less but offers the good kind of hurt that's more common among sessions three times the length? A lung-testing, calorie-blasting, cardio-burning fitness challenge?

The answer? Stairclimbing. And we're talking from your traditional stairclimbing, those few steps you take in and out of the car, up and down your front porch, and more, to stairclimbing where you're running up and down flights day in and out, exercising on the stairclimber to get that taut tush, or racing from bottom to top in the stairwells or some of the tallest buildings in your city.

A few weeks ago, you may have caught some information about SkyRise Chicago, a stairclimbing event that takes you to the top of Willis Tower. You tackle 2,109 steps to ascend 103 floors that take you 1,353 feet into the air. I might be a self-professed crazy endurance athlete, but looking at those numbers is exhausting me. And I thought the 94 floors to reach the Observatory at the John Hancock Center was rough--quads burning, panting, lungs nearly gasping for air. Don't let that description scare you off. Those are some of the joyous parts of stairclimbing.

OK, joyous may not be the proper word to use, but when you feel those sensations as you near the final floors of your stairclimbing adventure, you know you're doing your body good. You're not only increasing your lung fitness but you're also improving your overall fitness. All with an exercise that burns you out much faster than say a walk would, but yet it rivals the walk's benefits.

I knew stairclimbing was a good exercise--word of mouth, feeling the burn through my own body, convincing my mom to try the StairMaster and then listen to her complain about its toughness. But the "how good" facts were new to me. Did you know...
  • if you climb stairs for two minutes and do it five or six times per day over the course of eight weeks, you can increase your heart-lung fitness by almost 20 percent
  • that means you'll up your odds of a longer life (who doesn't want that?), reduce your bad cholesterol by 8 percent, raise your good cholesterol by about the same amount, and shrink your risk of a heart attack, stroke and even early-onset wrinkles
  • the fitness gains from 11 minutes of daily stairclimbing over eight weeks rival those from 36 minutes of walking over six months
Hmm, I'm no number-cruncher but I'm sure the cost-benefit analysis would be off the charts. Those numbers would also explain why I was so sweaty in the 16 minutes it took me to finish the Hustle Up the Hancock, why my legs felt like Jell-O when I tried to do crazy Workout Sunday and rush off to Spinning afterward, why my lungs and heart felt ready to explode at the top, why the color drained itself from my face and why I was so dazed, why I can feel a StairMaster session in my legs the following day.

And I'm leaving out the obvious fact: Stairclimbs are easy to train for, as long as you don't have locked stairwells or reside in a ranch home. Go Rocky style outside the Philadelphia art museum. Scale a stadium's steps. Run up and down flights in your home--an even easier option when you're living in a high-rise--or at work. Skip the hotel elevator and track down the stairs. You get the idea....I even tracked down a list of races around the country--albeit it's a little outdated with its list of 2009 and 2010 events, but the event links still work--to check out here.

I'm sold on the stairclimb. Are you?

Photo grabbed from Jose C Silva at flickr.

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