Stairs: The Secret to Success – Physically & Mentally

Flights to Success

Stairs. I love them.

These days they are a regular part of my training program, regardless of where I am.

I feel super blessed to have what I consider a set of the world’s best at my doorstep…Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point Cliff Stairs. But wherever I am, if I can find a set, I’ll run ’em!

Why? Well it’s simple. Stairs are a HIIT session in your pocket as well as being a beautiful metaphor for life.

In a nut shell, HIIT (high intensity interval training) is a type of training that pushes your heart rate sky high with rests interweaved between the peaks of intensity. Studies have repeatedly shown this type of training to is not only an amazingly, effective use of training time (calorie sizzling) but also has a more positive effect on your metabolism (super yay!).  It renders greater fitness gains than a steady rate cardio session of the same timeframe.

Plus there’s nothing I love more than an inner challenge to conquer. And stairs fit that bill sublimely.

You only need look at the hoards of people who will line up to squeeze into an escalator over ascending the wide open staircase to the side to know that moving your frame against gravity vertically must take some work!

And it does take serious work.

The beauty of stairs is that assuming you can take one stair you have the ability to taken many. Perhaps you don’t have the capability just yet but there lies the beauty of your journey with stairs.

It’s an easy way to measure the progress of your physical and (definitely) mental strength and fitness.

Make no mistake, even though you will get fitter at stairs the more you do it, it will still burn like crazy at times – in the calves, glutes and quads.  Chances are, there comes a point where your body wants to stop and the conversation that ensures in your mind starts. And, that’s the gift.

Do you fortify yourself or do you surrender? Do you encourage, buoy and cheer yourself on for one, two or a few more steps?

Or do you give way to the pain created by your physical body riding it’s edge?

Somedays you will surely rise like the phoenix and reach the top of the stairs triumphant like Rocky Bilbao. Other days you will surrender and stagger your way – arms dragging at the side rails to lessen the load on your legs.

Either way, whatever the day, if you’re running (or even walking) stairs your physical frame is rising against gravity. Just as in life. We don’t need to look to the top or always have a predetermined end or amount in sight. We can trust it’s there and that one single step taken in it’s own time, one after the other, will absolutely get you there.

So don’t psych yourself out by thinking you gotta do X number of sets or X number of total steps.

Just take one step and a time.
Keep moving.
And you’ll get there. Just like in  life 🙂

M xox


It’s such a worthwhile goal! I’ve found nothing quite like stairs to boost my fitness and help tone my legs and toosh!!

ONE:  Find a set of stairs…oddly essential for this process : )

TWO: Run the stairs single step at a time to the top of the set, turn and walk down. Resting as needed in between. When you are not able to run to the top, run as many steps as you can then walk the remainder. Complete as many sets of stairs as you can manage (note how long it took to complete that number – aim for min 30 minutes including rests, up to max 50/60 min total time)

THREE: The goal now is to start to increase the number of sets you run before you start walking. The name of the game is prolong the run and push back the walking. It might only be a few extra steps but that’s what you’re looking for!

FOUR: Decide on your base number of stairs after a few sessions.. I.e. 5 – 15 sets (will depend on your fitness level and the stair difficulty and length)

FIVE: Start to stretch your base number. Perhaps one set at a time or a couple depending on how you feel.

SIX: Now start a clock on your session.  Let’s say 30 minutes. Goal now is to complete as many sets as possible in this time frame. You’ll need to minimise rest periods and start to increase speed of each set to begin fitting more sets into your allocated time.

Now you are officially a stair runner!  Fast or slow who cares. Run them at your max speed 2-3 times per week.

Welcome to the burn, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A could extra tips to keep it fresh and help with mindset:

*Vary your sets: Run some single step sets and some double step sets.  Somedays run non-stop top to bottom for as long as you can and other days do full out sprint to top with rests added.

*Chunk chunk chunk. I write about it extensively in my book ‘The Lean Mumma System’, chunking can massively help you mentally.  For instance, when I run 20 sets of the Kangaroo Point Cliff stairs I actually run 4 sets of 5 stair sets.  5 in a set is great because the number is palatable and odd which gives me 4 ‘hump’ sets of stairs. The  third set in every five. So mentally it’s the first stair set, the second, the third (hump~yay I’m past half way),then only four and five to go…easy. First five done. And I only have three more sets of 5 to go. Try it. You might like it or you might not ….

Alrighty then. One, two lace your shoes. Three, four…head out that door 😉 xx

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