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Climb To Success: Stair Workouts for Runners

Combine cardio, strength and explosive power with these workouts


Stair workouts may conjure up memories of your high school sports teams’ punishment—not of one of the most effective running workouts around. But, if you want to get stronger, faster and avoid injury, it’s time to put that screaming coach to the back of your mind and embrace the burn.

In addition to being a great cardio workout, running stairs doubles as strength training, targeting some of running’s most vital muscles—core, hips and glutes. What’s more, the act of pushing off of each stair is similar to power training exercise, meaning that not only do you reap the injury-prevention benefits of additional strength, but you also increase your legs’ efficiency so you can cover more ground faster.   

Your local football stadium is a great place to start your workouts thanks to the ample number of stairs, though any stair-heavy location (even your office building!) will work. Be sure to warm up for 10-15 minutes beforehand to avoid pulling a muscle, and be realistic about what your body can handle—if you haven’t done much vigorous exercise recently, start with fewer repetitions or a shorter amount of time and add on with each passing week.  

Pay particular attention to your form. Keep eyes ahead, and lean your body slightly forward. Drive both arms and knees as you quickly pick up your feet from one stair to the next. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and let your heart rate return to normal if you’re struggling to keep good form—injuries often happen when you’re tired and start to drag your feet.  

Try these simple workouts to get started. One stair workout a week is good at first—and then work your way up to two each week as your fitness improves. Depending on the length of the staircase, modify accordingly. 

Stair workout 1:

  • Warm up 10-15 minutes jogging
  • Run continuously up and down the flight of stairs for 2 minutes
  • Take a 30 second break
  • Run continuously up and down the flight of stairs for 4 minutes
  • Take a 1 minute break
  • Run continuously up and down the flight of stairs for 6 minutes
  • Take a 2 minute break
  • Run continuously up and down the flight of stairs for 4 minutes
  • Take a 1 minute break
  • Run continuously up and down the flight of stairs for 2 minutes
  • Cool down 10 minutes

Stair Workout 2:

  • Warm up 10-15 minutes jogging
  • Run between 20 seconds-1 minute hard up the stairs, depending on the length of the stair case and your fitness level
  • Jog back down
  • 15 push ups
  • Run between 20 seconds-1 minute hard up the stairs
  • Jog back down
  • 30 sit ups
  • Run between 20 seconds-1 minute hard up the stairs
  • Jog back down
  • 1-minute plank
  • Run continuously up and down the stairs for 5 minutes
  • 10 minute cool down 

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Stair workouts are effective when you want to strengthen your glutes, core and hips. But, always do remember that when doing a stair workout, you must wear comfortable running shoes that will support your weight well. Going down the stairs will hurt your knees but with comfortable shoes, you are able to protect yourself and lessen the danger of hurting your knees.