A year ago, started running stairs on Wednesdays with my buddy Eric. We are out there almost every week and only miss if it is crazy raining or one of us is traveling out town. There has been many times where I didn’t want to go, but since I was meeting Eric out there, I showed up. Once we got going, I was glad I went. Here are the 5 biggest benefits to start running stairs.

1 – Great for developing leg strength

Whether you are running or walking up a set of stairs, the first thing most people notice is that their legs feel it. This is because as we step up each step we use our quads, gluts, hamstrings and calves. The majority of benefits comes in our quads and calves because we have to lift our entire body weight up on one leg each step. The faster we go up the stairs the more our legs burn and the more benefit we get from it.

2 – Dramatically increases your lung capacity

Running stairs is like sprinting. You get all the same benefits in terms of rapidly increasing your heart rate and the physiological response to interval training. You sprint on the way and recover on the way down. As the frequency and consistency of your stair running increases you start to notice you can run longer and faster not only on the stairs, but running on flat ground will get easier too.

3 – You can make it as hard as you need it to be

Stairs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are really step, but only cover a short distance. Others are spread out more and cover longer total distances. My favorite are the ones that are step and really long. Find a set you enjoy doing and start slow and gradually increase speed and volume over time.

4 – It’s great training for hiking

Living the Pacific Northwest, we have access to some many great hikes and trails. However, they can challenging to beginners and well trained individuals alike. We can strengthen our legs and run for cardio, but those two things along do not prepare you for the elevation gain. Stairs are one of the few things that allow you to build the leg strength together with the lung capacity needed in order to do all the great hiking in our backyard. Doing stairs was really my only training for The Enchantments and I had no problem leg wise getting through Aasgard’s Pass.

5 – It gets you outside

I am huge proponent of getting outside. Whether you’re a hiker, climber, runner, biker, or even a dog walker, getting fresh air is huge for us as humans. Often it is easy for us just to go from our house to our car to work, back to our car and back home. Whenever I get a chance to exercise outside, I always feel amazing. Even for me, during the work week this can be hard, but running stairs is my excuse to exercise outside mid week. You don’t have to travel very far to find a great set of stairs and they can be done rain or shine. 

I love running the Blaine Street stairs in Capital Hill. They are my favorite because it is about 300 steps up with very little breaks. What is your favorite set? Let me know, by emailing me at [email protected], I would love hear your story about running stairs.