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Stair Training

Welcome to the X Gym stair page! This page is for everyone, ranging from pro tower racers to first-time climbers. If you are into stair training and tower running, you will eat this page up! If not, it will be WAY more information than you ever wanted to know, but feel free to surf the page to glean any tips or trick you might be able to use. All our "secrets" to championship stair racing are below!

Here in Washington, we have three fantastic stair climbs that are incredibly well put together. Our first climb of the year is the Big Climb in March (www.bigclimb.org) up the Columbia Tower. This fundraiser benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It is the largest stair climb event in the world, selling out every year with over 8,000 climbers between the firefighter climb and the civilian climb. At 69 floors, it is a very challenging race and draws serious tower running competitors from all over the world to get points for their world rank. The course record is 7:08, so obviously there are some hard-core racers who show up! This person - Shaun - is an X Gym team runner of course and The X Gym team also holds the team course record and has won overall fastest team seven years in a row. We also hold the female course record - Kourtney - with a time of 8:45.

Seattle's next climb, the iconic Space Needle is equivalent to about 50 floors and usually takes place in the beginning of October or late September. This climb benefits the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center. The stairs are enclosed by a chain link fence, so you can see out the stairwell most of the way up and can feel the nice fall breeze, which is another way this climb is so unique. Go to base2spaceseattle.com for more info on this fun climb!

Our third climb, in November, is the 56 floor run up the old WaMu tower. They now call it the "Tower at 1201 3rd Ave," but it will always be the WaMu building to us locals. This race benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If you are new to stair climbing or would like more tips an tricks, come to the Big Climb stair clinics! These are mainly to teach you climbing and rail techniques to make you faster on race day. For conditioning tips, keep scrolling down this page to see those.

To sign up for clinics, just email pj@xgym.com. Before the stair clinic, however, you can watch the videos below to see the previous boot camp lectures and learn some inside tips and tricks!

The X Gym stair clinics are free and hosted by elite racers from the X Gym. The advice you will get is coming from racers who have proven themselves and know the secrets to a fast, fun, safe and successful climb. To register for free for any or all of the clinics, just email kelli.fagan@lls.org.

Prior to the stair clinics, it will help a ton if you watch some or all the videos below, where you will learn:

  • How to pace yourself.
  • How to start out and when to "pour it on."
  • What not to wear!
  • Pre-race nutrition and hydration.
  • What "Track Hack" means and how to reduce it.
  • How to get lighter, stronger and leaner before the race!
  • Training exercises to do at home.
  • Helpful rail techniques.
  • Stair routines to do on your own.
  • Climbing methods to save time and energy.
  • Passing etiquette.
  • And more!

Just a warning: While climbing up stairs will not make you sore and is even lower impact than walking, going downstairs will make your muscles very sore and can be hard on your knees and/or hips, so if you have joint issues or don't wish to get sore, avoid the stair clinics listed above (or any outdoor stair training for that matter) and stick to training in a building where you can take the elevator back down.

Click the videos below to see the stairs at our clinic locations.

Below are the vids of the Seattle clinic lecture (part 1 and part 2), plus additional tips from the Kirkland clinic:

And here is even more great info from some other past stair clinics: http://www.llswa.org/site/PageNavigator/SeattleBigClimb/BigClimb101.html

Here is a rail technique video to help you learn how to use your upper body muscles to make you faster (and climb easier):

Here are some stair climbing exercises:

For those who find the above exercise too difficult, and would like to work up to it with some intermediate steps, see the video below:

A strong core is key for stair climbing too! Check out the following exercise which targets all four ab muscle layers:

Adidas tower running documentary:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Here are some great articles in the press about stair training:

Intro to stair climbing: http://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/Intro-to-Stair-Climbing.htm

7 day training plan: http://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/Your-7-Day-Stair-Climbing-Workout-Plan.htm

24 hour world record: http://www.active.com/running/Articles/The-Epic-24-Hour-Stair-Climb.htm

Here are a few of the many great testimonials from previous boot campers:

I just wanted to send you a quick note to thank you for the stair training info and classes that you put on. The most important tip you gave was not to stop. That was going through my head the entire climb. This is the first year I have done stair climbing and although I do workout about 5 days a week, I certainly wasn't ready for this but it was your stair climbing tips that helped me train and get ready. I am also enjoying your book and workout video, which I do twice a week. - J.M.

Our "PATH to Victory" team also did quite well, placing 4th overall. Our top 3 finishers either attended one of the X Gym 's boot camps, or participated in your practice sessions. We really appreciate the information you were willing to share with us, which definitely helped our team's performance. Thanks again PJ for everything, and congratulations on your team's outstanding performance. - D.O.

Hi PJ, just wanted to let you know that I finished at 26min. Last years time was 54 or 56min. Thanks for the training at Forbes Creek, it really helped! - S.M.

PJ, my climb was great. I did exactly what you told me and trained going slower than I thought I should but it was worth it because in the end, I made it to the top. Before I had your class, I was lucky to make it halfway before I had to stop. By time I made it to the top, I was energized but wasn’t panting. I took it slow and steady and didn’t stop a single time (I took water on the go a few times.) making my time under 30 minutes climbing. I wasn’t going too fast but just to make it up and I made that goal. I look forward to doing this again next time and am really excited that I got to be a part of it. - C.C.

And lastly, for Xtreme stair nerds and competitive tower runners, here are some stair diagrams of some popular buildings to geek out with: http://www.1134.org/stan/Stairs/