Well Being: Step Up Your Cardio
My weekly wellness routine involves cardio, weightlifting, yoga and pilates. I intend to elaborate on each one of those in future well being posts but I am starting with arguably my most favorite form of cardio: bleacher running. On any given hot summer night, I’m my happiest at the bleachers. There are many reasons I enjoy my time on the bleachers but mainly because for cardio in general, I prefer interval training or HIIT (high intensity interval training), and the particular bleachers I run, the work to rest ratio is perfect. As a reference point, each row has 60 steps, they are fairly steep and I would consider my pace a moderate run, making the work segment exactly half of the rest period (:30 up, 1:00 down to the next row). Personally, in my body, I don’t see huge gains from steady-state cardio (such as running), although it may work for some people. Secondly, I think the bleachers do wonders for building and toning the entire leg – from the calves up to the glutes – so it’s like a two-in-one exercise where you get cardio along with a tremendous aesthetic benefit to the legs. Lastly, I recommend it because it’s accessible to everyone, no matter your fitness level. You can walk, jog, run or sprint — depending on what you need on any particular day. You can also alternate walking one, running one. I’m posting here my most basic workouts I do, although there are many variations and I’ll post those in the future. So, where does one run bleachers? Some college stadiums will let you in without question and some are on lockdown. Some high schools have decent size bleachers. If those aren’t an option to you, think outside the box — for example there are steps at a local park I use on occasion. Traveling? No excuses. Every hotel has a stairwell. The bigger the hotel the better: bigger = more floors. Have a gym membership? The stepmill/gauntlet in any gym will do as they have an interval setting. I aim to do at least two bleacher/step cardio sessions each week, along with two cardio sessions using either the Arc trainer, treadmill (incline speed walking) or spinning.
Some useful tips for the steps:
- Remember to keep your core tight and lifted, and let the core help you lift your legs. When the legs get tired (and they will), it’s easy to compensate by using the hipflexors (a combination of 3 muscles that reside between the core and the quad on the front of the pelvis area) to lift the legs – and we don’t get any benefit from building our hipflexors. Plus you get the added benefit of a little extra core work – especially the lower section of the core which is where most of the work will come from to assist the legs.
- If you want more benefit to the hamstrings and glutes, focus more on getting the heel down on each step and pushing up through the heel. If you want more calf and quad, stay more on the ball of the foot as you run up.
- When doing the sideways runs up (see photos), keep your whole body facing to the side, keep the core engaged (obliques especially) and try to stay in a squatting position the whole time as you run up, especially getting low in the squat when both feet land each time.
- Pump your arms to help you move more efficiently.
- Feel free to take rest at the top but try to use the walking down time as your recovery.
- If you have any knee issues, be mindful as you walk down. Walking straight down makes the knee joint go beyond the ankle and puts a lot of forward pressure on the patella. I am someone with minor knee issues from years of running so I go down the steps in a sideways/angled direction. Obviously running down will be the “worst” in terms of impact on the knees.
- I highly recommend stretching your calves really well right afterwards and maybe again the same night before bed. There were days when I first started running the bleachers that I couldn’t walk for a couple days afterwards due to extremely sore calves. You don’t realize it but the calves do a ton of work!
Workout 1: Around the world (circle the stadium doing every row) – for me this is 28 rows and takes approximately 45 minutes
Workout 2: Run 12 straight and run four sideways (I LOVE the sideways runs — great for the outer thigh, outer glute area). The way my bleachers are set up, it is broken up as three straight runs, one row sideways with the right leg, one row sideways with the left leg, then three more straight runs, and I do that twice. This takes me approximately 35 minutes.
Search out some steps! Thank you for reading.
Be well xo