The First Lady

Take the Stairs!


Running stairs is a great way to get yourself into shape, and these sessions are by no means limited to runners. In fact, rumour has it that stair sessions are what keep celebrities such as J-Lo in shape! The most important thing to remember is that these sessions must be attempted with great caution. If stairs are not run correctly, you could injure yourself badly. Running stairs takes some practice and concentration, because the slightest misstep and you could end up taking a nasty tumble.


The bottom line is that when adding anything new to your training, it is crucial to add it gradually and to ease into it. If you experience any sharp pains while running stairs, stop immediately and give your body a few days to recover before attempting the workout again. Before any stair workouts, make sure you warm up properly with an easy 20 to 30min jog, then start by walking up and down the stairs a few times before you begin the stair workout.



There are a number of benefits that you will enjoy by running stairs:

?         It’s a great cardio workout and won’t take much to put your lungs into oxygen debt.

?         Because you go into debt quickly, you’ll be working hard to keep your rhythm, pace and form, which is great mind training for the last few kilometres of your next race.

?         Leg power is a key ingredient in many sports, not just running, so you will certainly benefit in your other disciplines.




1. Find a suitable set of stairs: If you are a Gautenger and live close to Westcliff, then the 400m Westcliff stairs are a good choice. Other options would be a stadium or school in your area (just make sure you get permission first.) If you travel a lot, use the hotel stairs, because most people in a hotel will take the lift, which leaves the stairs traffic-free for your workout.


2. Focus on your form: Running stairs is about building leg strength and power, so focus on leg extension and driving yourself up the stairs with a high knee-lift while pumping your arms. Don’t lean forward from your hips, rather keep an upright posture with a slight lean forward from your ankles, almost like you’re falling into the stairs.


3. What goes up, must come down: Be very careful coming down the stairs, because it’s the descent that can cause damage and injury if too much strain is put on your knees and lower back. When running back down the stairs, try to focus on using your quads and hips to absorb the impact and not your knees. For the first few sessions, rather walk back down. You can start jogging down the stairs once you start getting fitter and more comfortable and confident on the stairs. The walk down is a good recovery before you go bounding back to the top.


It is not necessary to include a stair session every week in your training, but these sessions are a great way to mix things up every now and then by replacing a hill session.



Here are some workouts to try, but feel free to let your imagination run wild:


Workout 1

Workout 2

Workout 3

Workout 4 (Westcliff Hills)

20min warm-up, then walk 2 to 3 reps up and down the stairs.

20min warm-up, then walk 2 to 3 reps up and down the stairs.

20min warm-up, then walk 2 to 3 reps up and down the stairs.

20min warm-up, then walk 2 to 3 reps up and down the stairs.

Run 3 x 10-20 flights of stairs, then walk back down to recover.

Run 5 x 10-20 flights of stairs, skipping every second stair, then walk back down to recover

Run 3 x 5 x 20-50 flights of stairs, skipping every second stair, easy jog down to recover

Run 3 to 4 reps to the top with a slow jog down for recovery. (Initially you may need to stop halfway for a breather) 30-90min

15-20min easy cool-down

15 -20min easy cool-down

15-20min easy cool-down

15-20min easy cool-down

Ray has run five Comrades Marathons, with a PB of 7:18. He was club captain at Bedfordview Running Club from 2009 to 2011, then became captain of the Bedfordview Performance Squad.