The Benefits of Stair Climbing for Runners

Rocky was on to something. Remember that epic moment in the film where he’s sprinting up the steps as part of his fitness programme? He didn’t just do that to look cool. Stair climbing is a really effective exercise, especially for runners.

There seems to be a lot of stairs on my favourite running routes and they always seem to be the toughest part of the workout. On top of that, we live on the 3rd floor of a building with no elevator. So that’s 58 steps up, every time I come home. Add a couple bags of groceries or my bicycle to that climb and it feels like one hell of a workout. Getting up those steps the day after the marathon was like summiting Mount Everest.

But every time I curse those stairs, I channel my inner Rocky Balboa and remind myself of the benefits. The plyometric motion of stair climbing strengthens the same muscles as lunges and squats. It also works your lungs and heart building strength and power.

Stair climbing for runners

Here are a few more reasons to put a little pep in your step:

  • Stairs tone muscles in your legs and butt. I mean, I could probably just stop the list here because this is a pretty good benefit. But, there’s more…
  • Even going down stairs is good for you. While you don’t burn as many calories, it tones other muscles. Hello calves! It also helps with balance and coordination
  • Stairs force you to use stabilising muscles that you neglect in running helping to reduce the risk of injury
  • With stairs, you burn way more calories per minute vs. running.
  • Because stairs are so much steeper than most hills or treadmill inclines, climbing them quickly accelerates your heart rate. This helps improve your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you use during intense exercise)
  • Stair climbing is efficient. It’s like a cardio workout and light weight session rolled into one!
  • Finally, stairs are often a great place to stretch. Placing one foot against the step is a great calf stretch, while railings provide the perfect opportunity for a back stretch!

Stair climbing for runners

So, why not find some stairs on your next run, OR, forget the elevator and take the stairs instead!

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