We've all heard it. "Just take the stairs" is a typical comment from people when us couch potatoes whine about trying to find free and easy ways to get in shape. On the other hand, my Jillian Michael's workout video tells me that's a false message of lethargy. Well, no offense to Jillian since I truly believe that she's incredible at what she does, but in the right context "just" taking the stairs can be a decently intense workout.
A couple of weeks ago my co-workers approached me with the idea that we should use one of our breaks to go climb the stairs in the tallest wing of our building. The concept appealed to me on multiple fronts. 1) It would get me away from my computer. I'm one of those people who, unless given a compelling reason, spends most of my breaks continuing to stare at my screen. 2) It's a free and convenient way to involve fitness in my day. 3) There are other people involved to keep me accountable.
I should mention, the tallest wing of our building happens to be 19 stories. We've calculated it to be somewhere in the range of 390 steps.
So we began. We're all at different fitness levels, so within a few flights we had started to separate with our speedy rabbit at a near jog and our couch potatoes (yours truly) huffing and puffing at the rear. I'll admit, that first day I was already hating myself for agreeing to such a massochistic activity by the time we reached the fourth floor. (Actually, that would be the fifth flight. Our building likes to call the basement "-1"). By the 19th flight I thought my lungs were going to burst out of my chest. I was clutching the handrail the entire way down for fear that my legs would give out from under me and I would roll in an uncontrollable heap to the bottom. When I got back to my office (just 15 minutes later) my legs were trembling in a major way. I felt pretty pathetic.
But it's getting better. I don't start cursing the jerk who created stairwells until the 10th floor or so now. And it only feels like someone is stabbing my lungs with a pitchfork for a minute or so. As horrible as it sounds still, it's nice to see progress.
Maybe one day I'll be as crazy as these guys and compete in the Empire State Building Run-Up. But I doubt it.