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running and the stairmaster

Indoor Training Tips – Running and the Stairmaster

The winter conditions as of late have pushed me to primarily training indoors and since my major A-Goal race of this season has a heavy vertical focus, running and the Stairmaster, and how these two things compliment each other has become a fascination of mine.

Running and the Stairmaster

In our gym, the Stairmaster is the largest piece of exercise equipment in our fitness room. It’s huge and I have to admit, due to its size, it can be a little intimidating. But it got me to wondering… can the Stairmaster really help me? How can I stay running fit or get a good workout on that thing and have it mean anything? And even more importantly, how can I translate the number of “floors” into meaningful data?

It all started out on a whim one Friday afternoon when I told one of my friends that I was going to workout on the Stairmaster that afternoon and do that and only that. My goal… two hours… he thought I was crazy. Also, I had NEVER been on a Stairmaster before in my life, ever. This was to be a completely new experience.

At first, well the first 20 minutes or so it was a challenge finding the right speed setting (6&7) and what not in order to keep my heart rate where I wanted it, as close to but under 145 as I could get it. But after I got settled in, to be honest, it was a lot of fun. A lot more fun than the hours I had been spending on the spinning bike and on the treadmill that week, that’s for certain.

After I was done though, it left me with a nagging question… Okay… running and the Stairmaster – yes, I busted my butt for two hours but in the end, what did I end up with? How do I even record this in Training Peaks as a workout beyond just recording my time and heart rate data?

So I did what anyone with a question these days does… I Googled it!

There is some math involved but it is quite simple to equate running and the Stairmaster and come up with your total vertical and even more importantly… the number of miles that you managed to accomplish. Let me explain…

Manufacturer dependent, each “floor” that you climb on Stairmaster is equal to ten to twelve feet of vertical climb. That being said, in my formula, I went for eleven feet figuring that was the average and I think that is an honest number…

So in my workout, I did 264 floors in two hours. 264 x 11 ft per floor comes out to approximately 2,904 vertical feet gained in an hour. Not too damned shabby really considering this was strictly done as an aerobic workout.

But what about the miles… ahh, the miles… well, Google revealed that each “floor” is the equivalent of 100 feet of running. Now mind you, this is approximate but I figure close enough for my purposes… 264 floors x 100 equals 26,400 feet of running. And just by doing a little more math (this is the end of it, I promise) by dividing 26,400 by 5,280 (feet in a mile) I came up with five miles of running. And yes I checked the math as an even five miles seemed a little suspicious and too easy of an answer…

To recap then, in two hours I did 2,904 feet of vertical over the equivalent of running 5 miles at the same time. This provided me with more “useful data” to populate the fields in Training Peaks for that workout and also keep my overall data for that week and month more accurate.

So, running and the Stairmaster, it can work as a great cross-training tool or just as an awesome workout in and of itself if you are looking to get something done with a strong vertical focus when the conditions outside are working against you.

As for me, I am sold in the Stairmaster now and will be using it frequently for the next few months or until I can get into the high country unimpeded by the snow.

Andy Wooten – Aspen Running Coach

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Photo by Andy Wooten 26 January 2017


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