Four Steps to Your Best Stair Workout Ever

With longer days and warmer weather, getting outside to run the stairs can be a great change of pace. Here are four steps to spare your joints while getting the best results:

1. Warm up. People skip this step because it doesn’t “feel” important, but nothing is further from the truth. Five to 10 minutes of dynamic warm-up will give you a safer and more effective workout. Nothing derails fitness like an injury.

2. Train smart. For fat loss, knee health and improved cardiovascular fitness, continuously running up and down stairs is actually not the best choice. This continuous work pace is inefficient for fat loss and fitness, and running down is very stressful on your knees and feet. Using the stairs for interval training, however, will spare your joints and boost results.

Example: Find a length of stairs you can sprint up in about 30 seconds. Walk down slowly and catch your breath at the bottom. Try 10 repetitions at this pace. If you push the intensity, this will be plenty. When you start slowing down to about 40 seconds, you either need longer rest breaks or your body is done for the day. To progress, you can add reps, going up to 15 or 20, cover more ground in the same 30-second time frame or take shorter breaks.

3. Focus on technique and breathing. To run faster and safer, focus on three things: pushing the ground away harder, getting your knees and toes up and moving your arms faster. The faster you move your arms, the faster you’ll be able to move your legs. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth at a steady pace. While it may feel like panting gives you energy, the opposite is true — it’s actually an energy-expensive (exhausting) way to breathe.

4. Cool down. Going straight from an intense workout to a sitting state places unnecessary stress on your cardiovascular system. This is because your heart needs the assistance of your leg muscles pumping to get the extra blood from your legs back “home.” Sitting makes your leg muscles dormant and places your body weight on your blood vessels, which makes the blood’s return very stressful. Cooling down is simple: just walk around for five minutes or until your heart slows down to its near-resting rate.

A best-selling author and fitness expert, Josef Brandenburg owns True 180 Fitness in Georgetown. Information about his 14-Day Personal Training Experience may be found at


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