Stair Workouts for Runners: Indoors and Outdoors Ideas!

Stuck at home and looking for a good cardio workout that isn’t reliant upon a machine? Do you have a set of stairs? If you do, you’re in luck! There are stair workouts you can use to help maintain your cardio base, increase strength and burn calories. Climbing stairs in a workout is remarkably effective.

If you’re not stuck at home and can get outside, that opens up even more possibilities!

Benefits of Stair Workouts

Running stairs forces you to work against gravity, which will equal a build-up of strength and power. In addition, stairs force you to breathe harder and that will impact your VO2 max. Stair workouts can also increase your speed and agility, if you are “quick stepping” the climb, touching every step on your way up.

Since stairs are steeper than most hills, stair running will likely help you to run hills more efficiently.

According to the British Journal of Medicine, walking 400 stairs a day (which translates to about thirty-three flights) can, “increase your endurance and give you a 17% bump in your VO2 max.” Sure, we can all choose to take the stairs at work or when going about our daily business as a small change to improve our overall fitness, but that doesn’t equate to a big daily bump. So what does that mean?

stair exercises

What researchers are implying is that using the staircase at your apartment building, house, or an area museum is a great fitness choice. Who hasn’t seen that epic scene in Rocky where he ascends the stairs of the museum in Philadelphia? Even if you have seen it, check out the short YouTube video for some inspiration to start your own staircase workout journey!

Where to Run Stairs?

Many athletes run stairs at a museum, stadium or another public place. Since COVID-19 has closed down the museums, that means less foot traffic and a quiet place for you to get your workout in. Many stadiums are probably locked up, but you may be surprised to see the local track at the nearest high school is being left unlocked for people to use. Voila! Stairs!

running up stairs

Other thoughts include your apartment building; although that might be cramped and you may encounter more people than you care to running in a public, indoor facility. Some people have a staircase in their own home which makes it even easier.

If you’re doing your runner’s workout in your home, if you have options, I would suggest running on wooden stairs over carpeted ones for better footing.

Getting Started With Stair Exercises

If you are looking to run stairs for the first time, no matter how good your cardiovascular base, plan to start small. Warm-up properly and plan a relatively short workout. An example of an introductory workout for someone just getting started:

Basic Workout:

3 minutes warm-up walking briskly up and downstairs.

Time how long it takes you to ascend the staircase you have, plan that equal amount of rest time for each descend (and wait time if applicable, before starting again).

Plan how long you want to work out. If you are planning on 12 minutes and the stadium stairs take you :90 to go up, hammer up the steps in your 90 seconds, then work your way down. If your decent takes less than 90 seconds, wait until it is time for your next repeat.

Repeat until your workout time is complete.

Walk around and stretch for a few minutes after your workout.

Changing It Up

Some stair workouts change up the ascent to better work different types of the body. Please note that these types of workouts involve more advanced movements and should not be rushed into.

In the example illustrated below, the athlete runs up steps touching every step, then touching every second step.

go sally go stair exercise
Go Sally Go

As the workout gets more challenging, you squat jump up the steps (first one at a time then every other), then hop up steps.

This workout is sure to create a good burn!

HIIT The Stairs

In the HIIT workout illustrated below, you do a set of stair runs then incorporate a strength move, then another stair run, then a second movement. Once you have done this through once successfully, you can add a second, third or fourth repeat.

HIIT the stairs

Stairs and More

Similar to the workout above, this one adds strength movements to the stair workout. This one adds the strength to the top and bottom of the flight of stairs. Try this one on for size!

climb stairs exercises
DC Refined

Engaging Videos!

YouTube has a vast array of videos illustrating workouts involving stairs.

Top 9 Stair Exercises takes you through some excellent workout ideas.

Stair Workout for Fat Blasting! This ten-minute video gives you a great workout, and shows how you can accomplish a lot on a relatively short staircase!

Switch Up a Stair Workout With These 5 Exercises! This instructional video is an educational piece, showing you ideas to add a new dimension to the stair workout.

Pulling It All Together

It turns out that you can pack a whole lot of awesome workouts together with very little material and just a bit of ingenuity. Whether in your own home, in your apartment building, at the building where you work, or outside at a public museum or stadium of some sort, you can find access to a staircase someplace.

You can hammer up and downstairs in the traditional manner for a heart-pumping workout. For more challenge in your workout, you can add more difficult moves such as jumping, hopping or bounding upstairs one or two at a time. Other workout suggestions have you completing some type of exercise between traveling up and/or down the set of stairs.

Whether you are running, jumping or skipping up the stairs, stair exercises will help you gain speed, agility and strength, while also building cardiovascular fitness and burning calories.

That sounds like a win-win-win!

Stair Exercises
Stair Running Workouts to Build Speed and Power

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