Several weeks ago I made a spontaneous decision (after returning home from a WOOT run on Mt. Ishikawa) to register for the Kunigami 19k Trail Race later this year. I was still feeling the “high” from having run some tough trails on Mt. Ishikawa and I felt motivated and pumped to do the Kunigami race. Now, a few weeks later and no longer on that high, I’m feeling a little panicked! I have never run the Kunigami trails before and from what some of our WOOT members have said about them, I’m feeling “pretty bloody” scared!
WHAT was I thinking? I’m way behind in my training; I’ve been averaging 3 to 4 runs a week over the summer break, and my longest run has been around 12 miles (which incidentally, was last week, and I only managed to run 10 of them before the heat and humidity forced me to walk/run the last 2 miles home). On top of that, very few of my runs have been on trail! So, with that in mind, and the intimidating fact that some of my close running friends are well ahead of me in terms of being race-ready, I’ve changed up my runs a little to at least partially prepare me for race-day.
If you’re in the same boat, then check out this strength/endurance workout that I recently built into my weekly training plan. It’s what I call my 30/30/30 workout: a 30-minute run, followed by a 30-minute progressive stair workout, followed by another 30-minute run.
The concept: 1. to exhaust my legs, then continue running so that I learn to endure under tiring conditions, and 2. to build strength.
1. Run 30 minutes at an easy pace – run to a decent set of stairs that you will use for the strength portion of your workout. If you don’t know a good 30-minute route to and from the stairs, then simply start your run at the location of the stairs, and either do an out-and-back (15 minutes each way), or run small loops near the stairs for a total of 30 minutes. Lucky for me, I know a couple of great 30-minute routes from my house to the stairs that I use.
2. Get straight into a 30-minute progressive stair workout, divided into three 10-minute segments. Each segment consists of 8 minutes of non-stop up-and-down stair exercises, followed by 2 minute walk/rest recoveries, and each segment gets progressively harder. By the time you have completed all three sets of exercises, your legs should feel pretty heavy and fatigued.
Segment 1: Single step up as fast as you can, and walk back down. Catch your breath as you walk back down and be ready to turn around and run back up as soon as you reach the bottom. No stopping until you reach 8 minutes. Take a 2 minute walk/rest break, them move straight into the second set of exercises.
Segment 2: Jog up and jog down. Alternate between single and double steps on the way up and take slow, single steps back down. The key with this second set is to pace yourself so that you can jog up and down for the full 8 minutes without stopping. Take another 2 minute walk/rest break and begin the final set of exercises.
Segment 3: Walk/lunge up (every 3rd stair), and lateral-jog back down. As you walk/lunge up the stairs, use your arms as leverage to propel you upwards. On the way down, do a lateral jog on one side and switch sides at the halfway point. Do not take a break when you reach the bottom; turn around and immediately start walk/lunging back up. This final set is where you will be tested; your quads, glutes, and hamstrings should start to feel really fatigued by this point, but don’t give up – keep going. When 8 minutes is up, take a final 2-minute walk/rest break (or a little longer if you need it).
3. Now that your legs are heavy and tired, start your 30 minute run back home (or finish with an out-and-back 30-minute run, or 30-minutes of loop-running near the stairs). There are a couple of routes I can choose for my run back home, one of which is mostly flat and the other which includes a couple of short but steep hills, as well as a set of stairs. I could opt for the mostly flat route, but since my goal is to improve stamina and endurance, I take the hilly route back. Ultimately, I hope to eventually produce an adaptation that will enable me to keep running when my muscles feel depleted of strength and energy.
So that’s the workout, and to help you out, I’ve also included a video clip that demonstrates the stair exercises. Also, this workout is completely versatile and can be easily modified; you can shorten the length of running time, and/or the length of time on each stair exercise, and you can even limit the number of stairs to just one or two levels.
[Don’t be fooled – the workout may look easy, but you’ll be surprised at how tiring it actually is]
A few final comments and tips:
- Do not pause your garmin during the entire 90-minute workout; push yourself to keep moving the entire time.
- Take regular sips of sports drink; it’s still really hot and humid and you’ll struggle to complete this workout without water and electrolytes.
- Because each set of stair exercises is different, various muscle sets are being used. You’ll strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abductors, adductors, and core.
- In addition to building strength and endurance, the HIIT-style training on the stairs (heart rate goes up with intense bursts of energy, and goes down with short recoveries), means that your body will become more efficient at fat-burning.