Time to Step it Up

You may be aware of the benefits of hill training incorporated into your running or workout routine, but what do you do when you live in the 904 with very few hill options and the main street bridge loop is under construction? Consider peppering in some stadiums or stair climbing to spice up your training!

Stair climbing is a great form of cross training for running or cycling, with numerous benefits but here are just a few.

Increased VO2 Max 

Enhancing your VO2 max enables you to train harder and maintain that intensity for longer. Because stairs (average 60% grade) are generally steeper than most hills, your heart rate is accelerated much quicker, rapidly raising heart rate and requiring a sharp intake of oxygen to meet the increased demands on your body. Compared to Boston’s renowned Heartbreak Hill (4.5%) or Jacksonville’s own Hart bridge, the infamous Green Monster (6%), stair training can provide a safe and effective alternative.

Hart Bridge Running

Increased Strengthjulie stackhouse unf climbing up

Many runners inquire whether or not they need to be weight lifting with their legs. Stair running is a great alternative or progression for those who may be wary. It uses and strengthens all of the major muscles of the legs, glutes, quads and hamstrings, the same muscles as squats or lunges.

Improved Hip Stability

Climbing stairs requires you to perform weight-bearing exercise in a single leg support phase much like running but requires greater glute and glute medius activation to stabilize the hips. This increased glute activation reduces stress on the TFL and IT-band minimizing the risk of injury while running. An added benefit comes in the form of eccentric loading while descending the stairs. You will gain better muscle control, balance and agility.

Enhanced Physical Aesthetics

If these physiological benefits of stair training don’t “peak” your interest, there’s always the added caveat that running stairs will make your backside look better in your favorite pair of jeans. Don’t take my word for it try the workouts below on for size. As with any activity always exercise caution if trying something new for the first time. I like to follow hard efforts with an ice bath or 110% compression gear. 

Fight for Air Jacksonville

Fight for Air Climb

Every year from October to February the Downtown Bank of America Building stairs are open to the public to climb. Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:00 – 6:30PM Saturdays 9:00 – 10:30AM. There is no cost but we encourage you to sign up for the event.

Jacksonville’s Fight for Air Climb takes place February 7, 2015, 8:00am at the Bank of America Tower where you’ll race up 42 flights of stairs, 838 Steps reaching 617 ft.

904Fitness will be awarding 500.00 to 1st & 2nd Place!!


Workout #1: Plyometrics (for the power athlete)

Dynamic warm up for 10-15 minutes. Complete multiple rounds of:

Single Leg Hops then walk back down,

Double Leg Hops then walk back down,

Alternating Leg Hops then walk back down

Lateral Hops then walk back down,

Medial Hops then walk back down. Cool down.

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Workout #2: Stadium Circuits (UNF, JU or any suitable football stadium)

Warm up for 10-15 minutes. Weave your way through the stadium stairs – run up, focusing on form (flat foot, ball of your foot push off, knee up, toe up, pump your arms, shoulders relaxed). Jog across to the next set of stairs for recovery then run or walk down. Go to the next set of stairs at the bottom and repeat, snaking your way through the stadium steps until you reach the opposite end. Reverse your course. When you are back to where you started – that is one circuit. Take a 2-3 minute water break. Complete 3-4 circuits. Advanced: add a lap or two on the track or around the football field in between circuits. Cool down.

Workout #3: Track Workout Addendum (for the endurance athlete)

Warmup 10-15 minutes. Execute your track interval workout, i.e. mile repeats or repeat 400’s. Follow with a set of 3-5 times hard stadium sprints. Walk or jog back down in between. This will help to improve neuromuscular coordination in a fatigued state to boost your finishing kick in races.

Workout #4: Indoor Stair Climber (for the gym rat)

Warmup for 10-15 minutes. On the stair climber, go 20-30 seconds at a harder effort followed by 30-60 seconds of recovery. Repeat this cycle for 20-30 minutes. Another alternative is to do a tempo type of effort where you sustain 30 minutes at a reasonably hard effort. Cool down.


Julie Stackhouse

Julie Stackhouse

Julie Stackhouse is a USATF Certified Level I and II Instructor in multiple event areas. She's coached Division I collegiate cross country and track & field teams for over a decade before making personal training a full-time pursuit. Her entire life has been devoted to health and fitness, obtaining both a bachelors and masters degrees in Health and Exercise Science while competing as a scholarship athlete at Furman University. Julie's passion is sharing her expertise in the field, training individuals from novice to elite, youth to masters to achieve their personal bests, no matter their fitness goals!

1 Comment

  1. Nana
    March 8, 2018 at 2:53 am — Reply

    I’m new to Jacksonville and live in Arlington and wanted to know if there are nearby public places to climb stairs.

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