The Exorcist steps, located in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., are famous for being featured in the film The Exorcist.

Added “take the stairs” to my resolutions

exorcist steps in georgetownThe worst workout when I was a college rower at GWU was running the Exorcist Steps in Georgetown off of Water Street. We flowed up and down, first thing in the morning, as a team, with folks powering up and streaming back down. It was a terrestrial vomit comet, worse than suicides, burpees, and wind sprints combined. 

exorcist steps in georgetown

I wrote out my 2018 New Year’s resolutions here just yesterday but I believe I forgot a very important one that I missed (and I will be adding to my resolutions right after this): taking the stairs!

I am never going to bolt up or down the stairwell here at my apartment building. Let’s call what I plan to do this year Slow Stair Climbing akin to my Slow Jogging and Slow Rowing/Slow Erging resolutions: just get up them stairs without passing out or killing myself.

And, I am giving myself permission to transition from stairs to elevator if and when I either swamp-out or puss-out. I am going to start it slow.

Slow Stair Climbing

Most of the time, I will be climbing the stairs just as part of my day–most likely in street clothes as part of my day. At first, it’s going to be very hard for me and I am sure I will hate it. And I am also sure I will feel a little shaky going down the stairs as well since I am pretty big and rotund and actually climb and descend stairs very similarly to how our president, Donald J. Trump, handles stairs. I don’t have any Secret Service agents to help me so I need to make sure I always keep a hand free so that I can steady myself using one or more of the handrails. And I allow myself time to rest and to stop and to even sit down on the stairs if need be. Whatever it takes.

I’m Carrying Around Two 45-Pound Olympic Plates All the Time

I know for a fact that we humans are extremely adaptive and adaptable so I always need to remember that it’s not always going to be this hard for me and I won’t always be so sweaty or so out of breath. The soreness in my quads and calves and glutes and even in my core will soon pass as I become stronger. And I must always remember that I have 100 extra pounds on my body so all of my stair climbs and descents are effectively weight-assisted: basically two 45 lb Olympic plates attached to my body everywhere I go. Be sure to give yourself some permission to be impressed by how well you’re doing considering all the extra weight that you’re currently carrying around like a farmer carry.

Milo and the Calf

Both you and I are our very own Milo and the Calf fable: in order to become the strongest Greek hero, Milo would borrow a new born calf and carry it around the Greek city of Croton day after day, week after week, and month after month.  As the calf grew, so did Milo’s strength, until he was the strongest wrestler in Greece and could carry the now full grown bull upon his back. With all of our extra weight, we’re like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button version of Milo of Croton! As you get stronger, your bull of body fat slowly becomes a calf over time, becoming lighter and lighter!

Even Climbing Stairs Slowly Offers Many Health Benefits

exorcist steps in georgetownAccording to the Step Jockey, taking the stairs:

  • Climbing just eight flights of stairs a day lowers average early mortality risk by 33%
  • Seven minutes stair climbing a day can halve the risk of heart attack over 10 years
  • Just two minutes extra stair climbing a day is enough to stop average middle age weight gain

Climbing eight flights a day lowers early mortality risk by 33%? Hell, I live on the top floor of an 8-floor apartment complex and I never take the stairs! I feel like this is kismet! There’s more good stuff. According to GOQii (my emphasis):

  • exorcist steps in georgetownIt is totally free and just about all of us can get access to a set of stairs.
  • It leverages gravity and the heavier we are, the harder we’re forced to work and the more calories we burn.
  • It is a relatively intense exercise that quickly increases our heart rate and in doing so can greatly improve our cardiovascular fitness.
  • It helps strengthen and shape our most common problem areas like calves, thighs, buttocks and tummy.
  • It is a very efficient way of burning maximum calories and is great for those of us with limited time to exercise.
  • It can easily be mixed with other exercises, like walking, skipping and weight training, to maximize results and stair climbing workouts are easy to build progression into.
  • It can be done by almost anyone, regardless of fitness level.
  • Because it is weight bearing, it helps build bone strength.
  • It is low impact and safe for the knees (providing correct technique is used and a preexisting condition doesn’t exist).

Eureka Climb, from Australia, shares 10 benefits of stair climbing:

  1. You’ll burn more calories for every minute climbing stairs than you will jogging
  2. Stair climbing produces endorphins
  3. If you’re doing stairs to lose weight there’s good news in it for you because the heavier you are the more calories you’ll burn
  4. Stair climbing is like a cardio session and light weights class rolled into one. 
  5. It’s a myth that taking two stairs at a time burns more calories–slow and steady wins the race here by burning energy over sustained periods
  6. 10 minutes of stairs a day is about 500 kilojoules
  7. Going down stairs still burns calories, just not as many but works and tones different muscles
  8. Climbing stairs can lead to improved cardiovascular health and stronger joints and muscles
  9. Using the stairs requires no special skills, equipment or clothing and it burns twice as many calories as walking
  10. Just 2 minutes of climbing stairs a day can keep off the pesky 900 grams that most adults gain in a year

Well, those Aussies has me until they started going on about kilojoules and grams–but I get it and I appreciate it!  And even Duke–Harvard of the South–supports the health benefits of stair-climbing (my emphasis):

  • No special equipment is needed
  • Stair climbing can be accumulated across the course of the day, making a significant contribution to the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity
  • There is a significantly lower risk of mortality when climbing more than 55 flights per week
  • Stair climbing requires about 8 – 11kcal of energy per minute, which is high compared to other moderate level physical activities
  • Active stair climbers are more fit and have a higher aerobic capacity
  • Even two flights of stairs climbed per day can lead to 6 lbs of weight loss over one year
  • There is a strong association between stair climbing and bone density in post-menopausal women
  • Climbing stairs can improve the amount of “good cholesterol” in the blood
  • Stair climbing increases leg power and may be an important priority in reducing the risk of injury from falls in the elderly
  • Stair climbing can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Stair climbing can help you build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints

While this article and this advice is more for running stairs as part of your high-intensity workout and cross-training, Health and Style magazine has some tips for stair climbing:

  • Start by warming up with exercises such as skipping or jogging, and cool down with stretching
  • When it comes to stair climbing, like any other type of exercise, practice good form. You’ll be able to workout harder and reduce the likelihood of injury
  • Don’t just use your calf muscles to power you up the stairs and avoid stepping just on your toes
  • Focus on using your larger leg muscles. With each step you take, make sure you lift your leg high, put your foot on the step and push off with your heel. This will help reduce strain on the knees and transfer the force to the hamstrings and glutes
  • When climbing down stairs, it’s safest to descend using each step. Also, ideally walk, don’t run down the stairs as this stresses the knees and ankles. You can also do like some stair climbing experts suggest and walk or run up but use an alternative means (e.g. elevator, sloping path) for your trip back down
  • Slow down and walk when you need to, or take a break. And remember to hydrate, especially in the summer
  • Look for long, straight, wide staircases for your workout. Some narrower staircases have many tight corners to negotiate and spiral staircases may be equally troublesome
  • Remember that stair climbing is a strenuous form of exercise so check with your healthcare professional before starting a new workout routine. Once your doc has given you the all clear, start off slow and easy and only increase the intensity and duration of your workouts gradually

Remember: you don’t have to hammer it, you can take it slow and use the handrail to keep everything safe and secure for you. I know I don’t ever want to fall down stairs!

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