The Stadium Challenge

Tomorrow (23rd March 2019) I will be climbing all the steps at Twickenham Stadium along with a fantastic group of my clients (all my clients are amazing but these are the ones crazy enough to do the challenge with me)! This is the first event of its kind to be held at the “Home of Rugby”.

The Challenge

There are 3 options for this challenge.

  • The Family: An accessible route suitable for everyone – no steps
  • The Classic: The entire lower tier of the stadium – 3,200 steps
  • The Ultra: The whole stadium (3 tiers) – 7,600 steps (apparently the equivalent of climbing up and down the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai)

The event was set up to raise money for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices,take a look at their website and read about the amazing work that they do. If you have any spare change, please donate: justgiving.com/fundraising/hhlifefit 😊

The Team

Training

Although the website states that no training is necessary, it’s a whooooole heap of stairs that we’ll be climbing so a certain level of fitness is advised (N.B: the Family route does not include any steps so it truly open to all). The great thing is, as it’s a stair climbing challenge the simplest and most useful thing to do it climb stairs… Lots of them!

As you’d expect, stair climbing formed the basis of our preparation, climbing every single step we came across. From walking up the office block stairs and choosing to walk up escalators, to wilfully ignoring the warning signs at Covent Garden Station, and climbing the steps on the trail up to Macchu Picchu. Ok that’s a pretty unique case, but my team are AWESOME! In the gym, we used the Technogym’s Excite® stair climber, with its workout programs (to vary it up a bit), outdoor graphics and “infinity stairs”. [ Other stair climbers/step machines are available it’s just that the Technogym equipment is what we have at our gym (Snap Fitness Debden), and it just happens to be pretty great tech 🙂 ]

As with any kind of sporting event, cross training is a really good idea. This means to vary your training in order to build up the supporting muscles, and work on your cardiovascular endurance.

The primary muscles 💪 recruited for stair climbing are:

  • Quadriceps – the big muscles on the front of your thighs. Made up of 4 (quad) different muscles; the Rectus femoris, Vastus intermedius, Vastus lateralis and Vastus medialis. Your quadriceps, along with your hamstrings are utilised to help you bend and straighten your knees.
  • Hamstrings – Made up of 3 different muscles (semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris).
  • Gluteal Muscles – aka: the glutes. These are your bum muscles… Made up of 3 muscles (the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus), the gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the body so it’s always a good idea to make sure that’s strong!
  • Hip Flexors – these are a complex set of muscles that run across your hip joint and allow the flexion of your hip joint (allowing you to sit, stand, walk, cycle and of course… Climb stairs!). The main muscles that make up the collective hip flexors are: Psoas major, Iliacus, Rectus femoris (one of your quad muscles), Pectineus (one of the groin muscles), and the Sartorius muscle (the longest muscle in the human body).
  • Calf Muscles – a pair of muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the large, meaty muscle that you will commonly refer to as your calf, the soleus is a flat muscle that lays underneath it.

As you can tell from that list, although the act of climbing stairs seems simple, there’s a whole lot going on in your body. The muscles mentioned above are just the primary muscles enabling you to physically climb the stairs, never mind all the other muscles and movements that are involved. Your back and core muscles keep you upright, and your arm muscles give you a bit of extra momentum!

Ok… Enough of the science for now…

Useful training exercises

  • Quads – Squats, lunges, leg extensions, wall sits
  • Hamstrings – Deadlift, hamstring curls, good mornings
  • Glutes – Squats, lunges, kick-backs, glute bridges
  • Hip flexors – Glute bridges, lunges, mountain climbers
  • Calves – Calf raises
  • Core – Planks

Cardiovascular fitness is also going to play a major part in this challenge, with breathlessness causing people to stop waaaaay before their muscles fatigue. In order to counter this, you could increase your daily step count, speed up your walk or take on a more cardio focused training program. Incorporating things like jogging/running, cycling/spinning or rowing into your fitness regime will also help improve your cardiovascular fitness so that you have the stamina to go further without needing a break.

How to tackle this challenge

Lots of people have asked me what my technique is going to be. I have to highlight here that this is a challenge, NOT a race. Although I am ordinarily fairly competitive, we’re completing this one as a team, I imagine I will be mixing up my stride so that I don’t get complacent and trip!

Depending on the step height (DISCLAIMER: I don’t think I’ve ever been to Twickenham Stadium – apologies Rugby – I will come and watch you soon!) I will be taking the steps in singular or 2 at a time… I will update you after I’ve done it!

Note: Due to the steepness of the steps, the organisers have advised participants to walk down the steps, so the aim will be to not fall on the downwards bits!

How to aid recovery

It can be easy to forget to plan what you’re going to do after the challenge, one word of advice… STRETCH!

As well as post workout nutrition, and hydration – take on plenty of water, it’s important that you cool down properly. This includes not coming to a dead stop once you’re done. Slow down, but keep moving for a while… Then stretch.

Good stretches after an intense stair climbing workout

  • Quad stretch – holding onto something/someone, find your balance on one foot. Bend your knee, and hold your foot near your bum, taking care to keep your knees together and hips forward. Hold this stretch for at least 10 seconds, then switch legs.
  • Hamstring stretch – step one foot in front of the other and slowly bend forward and reach towards the front toes, you should feel the stretch down the back of your thigh. Hold for at least 10 seconds and then switch legs.
  • Glutes – lay on your back and bring each knee individually towards your chest, hold for 10 seconds, then pull both knees towards your chest and hold. Place one foot on the ground (knee bent) and cross the other ankle over the bent knee, wrap your hands around the thigh of the grounded leg and pull it towards your chest. You should feel the stretch in the glute of the bent leg. To intensify the stretch, apply light pressure to the knee that is bent over the leg.
  • Calf stretch – step one foot forward so you are in a high lunge position, lean your body forward and push the back heel towards the ground – you should feel the stretch in the rear calf. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds and then switch legs.

Take home message: Be prepared but don’t be put off – Get a team together, support each other, have fun, and STRETCH!!!

Wish us luck! 🏃‍♀️👍

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