I joined with a group at my company and on Saturday, March 23rd I will be doing the Fight for Air Climb at the Metropolitan Building in downtown St. Louis. It will be my first tower run and I am excited!
One thing that is very cool about this race is that it benefits the American Lung Association.
First off it is a cool name for a sport.. we will be running up a tower! Tower running has its own World Association and there are races all over the country and the world. The sport involves running up man made structures. It doesn’t have to be skyscrapers but usually is. It has been popular in Europe for some time (and having lived there for a year and a half I can attest that they have very cool towers to run up.. many of the castles have spiraling towers with very narrow stairs that would be quite a test!) and the top men are all Euorpean but the top women are Australian and American (interestingly enough).
I remember hearing about this sport when I lived there but since then never really gave it much thought.
When the invite went out to do this race downtown.. I didn’t hesitate at all. This is my kind of race!
Short, hard and with anaerobic power and strength being a big factor. This is an entirely different undertaking than a Marathon… as if that wasn’t obvious.
I was lucky to have a team lead that has done this in years past (but not at my company) and we set up training sessions twice a week in two of our buildings. Both buildings have six floors of stairs in their stairwells. We would run up and take the elevator down. This is a sound approach for two reasons: 1) The race is only up and race specific training is a solid principle 2) Running down the stairs is a great way to get crazy sore when doing dozens of floors and potentially do some significant damage in the process.
We started this training about 5 weeks ago and do it on Mondays and Wednesdays. The first time we did 24 floors and the second 30. I have to say… My hamstrings were so sore after that second session that they actually hurt to the touch! I was slightly concerned but it was just soreness and it indicated that I was onto something significant! Since then we have gone up in volume over the weeks and everyone on my team is just great! Everyone is giving it their all!
Last Wednesday was my highest volume workout yet and I completed 66 floors. What I try to do when I do this training is stay strong for the first 4 floors and then see if I can push it the last two. My thinking is that it will help me when the legs get super heavy late in the race.
I am excited about the race and will post a race report here for certain, but to be honest I am more excited about the training. I feel like it is a phenomenal adjunct to running and the gym and I plan to keep it up twice a week after the race. I have already seen my ability to stay strong on the hills during my runs increase. I know it is helping me in many ways and I will detail next why that is…
This post’s second title is “Putting the steam in the Caboose” and what that means is that this form of training engages and strengthens your glutes in a unique and exceptional way. The act of lifting your legs in the way that stair climbing requires (in a significantly more effective way than a Stairmaster) engages and utilizes your entire posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back) in an intense way that running does not. This is a key takeaway… running utilizes your glutes but it isn’t very effective at training them (doing hard hill repeats can work but stair climbing is more fun and a better overall workout). A good friend of mine who is one of the top Sports Injury Chiropractors in the City told me that he believes weak glutes are the biggest overall cause of running injuries. We talk about the “weak link in the chain” and the glutes are at the top of the chain in your posterior locomotion and if they are weak and under utilized it has an affect all the way down the your legs. In addition strong powerful glutes stabilize each stride in a way that no other muscle can. Their effect on your power in climbing hills and hammering the flats… etc etc. They are a very important muscle for most sports and stair climbing has a profound way of working them.
This type of training also works your hamstrings in a unique and aggressive way. After my second training session, my left hamstring was actually sore to the touch. I was fine but I wasn’t so certain at the time! Climbing also engages your calves, achilles and ankle tendons in a way that other forms of training can’t. If you are in reasonably good aerobic shape, what you notice most when getting higher and higher in the floors is how muscularly fatiguing it is (even more than the anaerobic breath taking affect). This was somewhat surprising and another reason that I really like this for crosstraining. I have found that I can run or go the gym in the morning and I am ok to do the stairs after work. It works similar muscles but in a different enough way that I am ok.
I have talked with some great trainers and sports med friends of mine about this topic and one gave me advice on some ways on vary this type of training to get even greater results.
My Chiropractor friend was the chiropractor for Adam Archuleta when he played for the St. Louis Rams football team. Adam was having some issues with his back, so he went out to Arizona where he was training and helped him out but also got to learn many of the training methods that his trainer Jay Schroeder was working with Adam on. Jay is one of the few trainers (I have been in this game long enough and worked with enough world class athletes that very few trainers impress me) whose methods I found intriguing and unique (I may do a post on him someday). How this relates to stairclimbing is that Jay had Adam work on one legged stair hops with weight and I am going to incorporate these into my training. They are utterly brutal but when worked up to slowly I believe can have a dramatic affect on ones stability, dynamic power and explosive one legged push off. They are easy to describe but hard as heck to perform with any amount of volume. You stand at the bottom of the stairs and hop on your right leg to the end of that flight of stairs.. then you hop with your other leg up the next flight and back and forth up the floors. You are not running or moving quickly (it takes a lot longer to get up the stairs than running obviously), you are hopping. Doing this without any weight will be quite challenging. Work up to doing 6 floors total (6 flights for each leg) and then start to do it holding dumbells in each of your hands. Adam was able to do six flights carrying 50lb dumbells in each hands (for three sets)! My friend told me that he was able to do 11 steps with those dumbbells and he is in good shape. Working up progressively in weight and longer in volume (along with regular stair climbing) I believe will take my stability and anaerobic power to a new level. I am excited to try this form of training. I suggest you try it too. I will let you know how it goes.
I will be writing a race report with photos from the Fight for Air in 8 days! I am excited but am even more excited about finding a form of cross training that I think will benefit me and you my readers in many, many ways!
Best of luck in your training,