Walking stairs or steps is a great exercise. It works the whole body, particularly the legs and hips. The muscles that hold us up, the extensors, are also used as is your “core”. The heart also gets a good workout. Consider adding it to your program over summer. It is also a fun way to include a good workout when on holiday away from your usual surroundings.
Fire Stair Fitness
For those working in a multi storey building the fire stairs are a great place to get a fantastic workout. You can time yourself, use your pedometer and set targets. Fitness is measured many ways. Recovery time is a standard measure – the time it takes for your heart and breathing to return to resting levels. The second is work done in a time limit. You can increase the work – another flight of steps, or reduce the time taken for the same amount of work.
Out door stadium steps
If there is a stadium near you running the stairs/chairs is a fantastic way to focus on stride length. There will be no little steps here, as the depth of the steps will make for a longer stride length and give another element of difficulty to this workout. The rows are commonly numbered or have letters, so it is easy to record your work level and then improve on that over a time period.
Take the stairs 1 or 2 at a time.
In the Blue Mountains the steps are often sandstone and they are not regular in size, so it forces us to work with different step height. This will work the muscles of the legs and hips over a wider range of motion. That is easy to change on stairs as in the illustration, by taking the steps 1 or 2 at a time on different runs up the steps. Running the track/steps from the Bridal Vail falls back up to the carpark at Govetts Leap in Blackheath is a good heart and body workout.
You will work your core and heart as you walk those stairs
A simple illustration of the muscles worked when climbing stairs. Do look up and keep your head high. We want the legs and hips to do the work, not your back. Think of pushing through your feet into the ground, as in the squat post a few weeks ago. This will keep your mind on your legs and not just on lifting your body up the stairs. Keep this good posture in mind as you get tired, it will help keep your balance, and keep the legs doing the work.
Is water a food? It is not on the food pyramid, however, you could say that the food pyramid should be floating on a pool of clean water! Clean safe Water while plentiful and free in Australia and most of the developed world, is not drunk at the levels that support good health.
Our cells are full of water, so it is an immensely important element of our body. There is with all things to do with out body, an optimal level and a level that we can function at, and then a level that if we go below or beyond there will be clear signs that all is not well. In the area of hydration, there are a few signs that we are beginning to “dry out”. Fatigue is one of the first. The cells stop functioning at their best and communicating with each other and our brain. Things slow down. We may notice that our skin looses some of its elasticity. The “tenting” test is a valid check of water/hydration levels. Gently pinch and pick up a fold of skin on the back of your hand. If it “tents” into a ridge then your body needs water. The degree to which it might tent and the time it takes to disappear suggest the level of dehydration. Check for height of the tenting and the time lag before the skin returns to its state before you pinched it. Your vet will use the same test to check for the hydration level of an animal, such as your cat or dog.
The quantity of water to drink is “more than you think”. In an adult 1 litre is probably not enough and more can be added depending on environment and activity level. Someone working outside in the heat might require between 5 and 7 litres a day, an office worker might be more at the 2 litre level.
The recent hot dry weather in NSW reminded me of the vital need for water. The low humidity is very drying, just look at the lawn brown off in 24 hours!. We don’t seem to sweat, as it evaporates so quickly. This makes it seem like we are not needing much water. In a high humidity environment, think Cairns, you can be in a pool of perspiration just sitting in a chair, so it is easy to think of needing more water.
Try an experiment of drinking an extra litre a day over the next week, and notice energy levels, and how your skin and eyes look. You may find that you don’t look back after increasing your consumption of this most essential need of every cell in your body.
The squat is regarded as the “king of exercises”. The principle reason for this is the manner in which it works the whole body. From the feet to the shoulders the body is working to stay strong and stable. This is also good for the brain and nervous system. Those with long legs will find the squat harder than those with shorter legs, however it remains as a great exercise that will build strong legs and hips, stabilise the knee joints and improve balance.
The How To: Looking at the pictures above, stand tall with feet comfortably about shoulder width, or a little wider. Feel your weight through your whole foot, and try to gently spread the floor under your feet – this switches on the leg muscles. Maintain this feeling as you drop your hips as if sitting in a chair, and control the movement on the way down with muscle tension in the legs. Keep your shoulders back and chest up. It is good to find a point on the wall just above your head height and keep looking at that as you go down. This helps you to not fold forward from the waist, especially when coming back up! Going down to the lowest point possible is best for creating strong supple legs and back. A goal would be to be comfortable at the bottom of the squat and be able to hold that position for 10 seconds.
The push out of the bottom of the squat is very important. Visualise pushing the floor away from you, this will keep the focus on the legs, rather than letting the hips do the work of getting you back up again. Aim to not lock the knees straight at the top of the rep, but start the next squat rep with a controlled “sitting” movement again.
How Many: If you are just starting or returning after months or years, start with 10 quality slow reps with body weight only and do 2 to 4 sets. The legs muscles have the capacity to become strong, so we can move the repetitions up to 20 and aim for sets of 50 reps!
Body weight or Weighted: A body weight squat done well is a good work load. For strength and power adding weight will have a dramatic effect. Squatting with 1.5 x your body weight is regarded as a good goal to aim for. Good form and working the muscles properly is much more important than lifting a big weight. Clearly using a big weight with perfect form for sets of 20 reps will see you at the tailor ordering new trousers!
There are a great many resources that can be helpful for those wanting to delve deeper into this area. A good coach or trainer will also be invaluable in instructing good form and setting goals.
Have a look at these links: http://www.benpakulski.com; http://www.bodybuilding.com; http://www.poliquingroup.com