Hitting the well

Posted on April 7, 2012

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With less than three weeks before my next event in North West China, a 100km very mountainous course at altitude, I’m starting to sweat a little at the distinct lack of specific training I’ve been doing.  In fact, replace ‘lack of’ with ‘absence of’.

Time then to get back into the stairwells … if you don’t have the real thing on your doorstep, stair climbing is really the only option to train your legs for big hills.  Getting going is tough … this morning I procrastinated long enough in Costa, chatting to anyone and everyone that I vaguely recognised … but once you start, it can be quite enjoyable … just you, a long way up, a long way down and then the satisfaction after that rivals any great run!

Besides, now that it’s getting hot here in the desert, if training for a long race or a multi-day and you suffer from the heat, the stairs should be your very own playground.

My last stint of stairs was pre Racing the Planet and at the time, I wrote a post on how to pick your stairwell … here it is again for those up for a little vertical action!

For all you other closet stair climbers out there, picking the right building can mean the difference between a soul-destroying hum-drum session and a spirit lifting, uber-energising, secret smile-inducing one.

My observations on the whole ‘well’ choice boil down to these:

  • The higher the better.  Of course, it you are counting by storey, it doesn’t really matter but the longer the ‘intervals’ between going up and going down, the better
  • Pick a building that has well-lit stairwells.  Some are so brightly-lit that you get a mind-numbing headache before long. Others are so dingy that you risk the onslaught of SAD!
  • Always use a building with two sets of stairwells (most do) and interchange between each so that you alter your inside knee when turning corners
  • Pick a stairwell whose lights don’t switch off on a timer.  It’s no fun being half way up a storey then having to soldier on in pitch black whilst playing touch and feel with cold concrete
  • Choose a stairwell whose doors are opened with enough frequency to get some cooler air circulating.  Some get as hot as an oven and make you overheat so much that you feel drained for the rest of the day
  • Find a building with some buzzing goings on to keep you entertained.  My current choice gives me occasional greetings with guys going from floor to floor trying to sell cheap stationary … and the odd dude choosing to tuck into their lunchtime curry on a random step.  Meeting and greeting creates excitement when stair-climbing!
  • Next.  Choose a building where litter is kept to a minimum.  Some, despite being in plush commercial or residential blocks, are awash with ciggie butts, old newspapers, empty bottles … perhaps a good idea to start collecting all and giving my buns an extra little push with all that bending over?
  • Make your building of choice one where there’s a treat in store at the end! I’m climbing in the twin towers in Media City at the moment (53 floors) so I reward myself at the end with a Costa for that all-necessary post-stairwell caffeine fix and a little trip up to Fitness First DMC … sometimes for a Body Balance class or sometimes just for a lie down on the mats and a natter with the boys!

Finally, a note re all the cleaners you see in said stairwells.  I have yet to come across one who doesn’t greet me with a huge smile and a gesture, admittedly, of my being slightly insane.  They work tirelessly in dark and dingy surrounds day in day out for a pittance. This morning I found my usual guy sleeping on a laid-out cardboard box.  No justice.  I left AED 100 in his shoe as a little surprise.  I hope it gave him a spring in his step today …

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