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Is running stairs good for runners?

running stairs
Running stairs has many benefits for runners (Image credit: Getty)

There are plenty of different sessions that you can include in your running training to help you to improve performance, running pace and overall fitness. These might include running faster intervals or hill running. Many experts believe that another useful session is running up stairs.

The benefits of running stairs include strength, aerobic fitness and keeping you motivated. Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate running stairs into a running program.

running stairs

All runners will benefit from running up stairs (Image credit: Getty )

First, find a set of running stairs

It doesn’t really matter which flight of stairs you choose. They can be indoors or outdoors and include 20 steps or 400 steps. 

Ideally, the steps will feature on a regular trail running route so that you can use the run to and from the steps as the perfect warm-up and cool-down. 

It is important that you don’t just launch yourself into running stairs without doing some kind of warm-up. Dynamic exercises and a jog are a good way to prepare muscles and joints for the steps session. 

running stairs

Choose stairs near a regular running route (Image credit: Getty )

Benefits of running stairs

It doesn’t matter whether you are a regular 5k runner or training for a long-distance race, running up stairs will be a benefit to runners in a range of ways

Build stronger leg muscles

Strength work is really important for improving stamina and pace for runners. This is especially true of leg muscles. 

You can include strength and conditioning sessions at the gym in your run training plan but if you want to improve leg strength while out on a run, it is a great idea to run up stairs.

When running stairs, you are strengthening all of the muscles in your legs. 

Each step up that you take is pushing you to fight gravity and activate muscles to propel you on. 

Running stairs is an exaggerated form of a runner's gait and, as such, helps to strengthen all the muscles and joints involved in running. 

Improve bone density

Running up – and down – stairs has other benefits for your physical health, especially for bone density. Running up and down steps is a form of plyometrics and if done regularly this will help to improve joint strength but also bone density.

Bone density is especially important for women in the peri-menopause and menopause stages of life, when hormone reduction can have a negative effect on bone density.

Boost fitness

If you choose a set of steep steps or a long staircase, you’ll find yourself out of breath when you run up the stairs. 

Running stairs hard requires your cardiovascular system to work harder so as to get more oxygen to your legs.

This means that if you regularly run stairs you'll boost your aerobic capacity, while improving overall strength. 

Better motivation 

Running the same old route or following the same running program each week can lead to boredom. Adding in stair running will help to keep things interesting.

Runners are more likely to remain motivated if they have a mix of sessions to do.

Whenever you see a set of stairs, whether indoors or outdoors, you could try running them. Why not do a few sets each time?

Runners: The best way to run stairs

After a warm-up jog, run up your chosen stairs pushing yourself to work hard. You can then walk or jog back down – and repeat. 

If you want to track progress or build up your stairs running, it's worth setting out a plan. The fort time you could aim to do five running sets of a minute each. Then add a minute to the plan each week.

Monitor your speed and heart rate to see how your body reacts to the stair running.

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.