nicki stairsHow is everyone getting on? In our house, with almost three weeks of lockdown now complete, there is a sense of the ‘new normal’ creeping in.  It was my birthday on Monday and if I’m honest, it felt really lovely to be surrounded by people I love. My son has been living in Glasgow since he left for uni 8 years ago so it’s unusual for him to be here on the morning of my birthday. That in itself was all the gift I needed.

This, I think, illustrates the growing sense of gratitude that we’re all beginning to feel. It’s not everyone who has the luxury of their loved ones around them and I feel fortunate that I do. My sister is self-isolating because she has stage-4 cancer – which is why her girls have been staying with me – and is living on her own. 

And I know we're not the only family to be dealing with something like this. I won’t be the only person worried about someone they love and she isn’t the only vulnerable person without the comforting sounds of her loved ones on the sofa next to her.  Lots of you reading this will be in the same situation and it is tough; we’re all becoming acclimatised to it, but it’s tough. 

For me, the small routines help this hugely.  Exercise has long-since been proven to help mental health and in strange, unknown situations like the one we’re all in, it can be really grounding. And, if you let it, a good laugh and great fun.  If you start to feel anxious or worried then taking some time to belt out a bit of cardio, or slow down with some gentle stretched will really help.  Set those feel-good endorphins free and you will lift your spirits at the same time.

Enter week two’s challenge! Easter.

As kids we’d climb Buckie Braes or Kinnoull Hill, or head north to the Hermitage to roll our crazily-decorated eggs down a big Scottish hill.  There would usually be five of us – Me, Tracey, Ian and our cousins Wendy and Graeme – and come rain, hail or shine, we’d run like the clappers down the hill after those eggs.  My nostalgic Easter memories could only mean one thing – this week had to be Lucy’s Hill Challenge.

If you’ve not seen it, Lucy climbs the equivalent of Ben Vrackie on her stairs at home. Check it out on the Live Active Facebook Page here >>>  For her, that means 325 flights of stairs.  I’m thankful my nearest hill is Kinnoull, and after a quick Google search I establish that at 222 metres it stands only a quarter of the size of Vrackie.  

20200412 102022

I realise my first challenge is maths based – how do I know the number of flights I need to climb? Cue me with a measuring tape and my calculator open at the foot of the stairs. Here’s how I worked it out (pic below if you’re reading on a mobile). There may be an easier way and if you have one, do feel free to comment on the LAL Facebook page.

41 flights of 30 stairs seemed very doable. I do a few stretches in the kitchen to limber up and get started. As you might imagine, I’m off to a great start. It’s not difficult running up your stairs once or twice. In fact, it takes all of 10 seconds from bottom to top on my first go. I’m feeling a bit Smuggy Smuggerson until about flight 8 or 9... and unfortunately its not all downhill from there. I’m getting short of breath and my thighs are beginning to call out to me.

So just why is this simple task so quick to take effect?

Cardio And Toning

When you walk normally your body moves horizontally; when you run you experience only a slight vertical movement. With stair climbing, your muscles try to resist gravity while moving in a vertical motion. This puts higher demands on your legs, forcing your muscles to stabilise and balance – hence the killer workout.

rsz 20200412 104423Because of this, stair climbing burns twice the fat of running and three times more than walking. In fact, one hour of stair climbing will burn approximately 1,000 calories depending on how vigorously you hit your stride. Other benefits include:

  • Burns fat and calories – go for an hour to hit 1000
  • Great cardio – it really does increase your heart rate
  • Build and tone and muscle – think of that butt!
  • Helps your mental wellbeing – dial back the worry and bring on the feel-good
  • Increases stamina and energy – anyone who is locked down with kids will agree this is essential right now!

Climbing two steps at a time will give your leg and bum muscles more of a workout and as you might imagine, will also burn more calories.  But do be careful - the longer stride can be dodgy if you have knee problems - or short legs like me! If you want to mix it up, switch from single-step to double-step climbing but slow down a bit while you do it.

How Did I Do?

rsz 20200412 104830My thighs were burning and my face was bright red. I felt almost as knackered as I did when I climbed actual Ben Vrackie on Hogmanay. I may be having exercise-induced false memory to be fair, but I am feeling all the effects of a GREAT workout. Not surprising really; when you think about it, they didn’t decide to recreate stair-climbing in a gym machine for no good reason.

  • I got more breathless, more quickly than I thought I might. But this is good – I want a workout.
  • I took 25 minutes to do 41 flights (21 up and 20 down). That’s a perfect burst of cardio!
  • I took a couple of breaks. I figured that to authentically recreate Easter I needed a stop to eat my chocolate egg. (see pic!)
  • My son has just pointed out that if I’d climbed Kinnoull Hill today I’d be at the top, needing to come down. Therefore, I should have done 41 flights up and 40 flights down. He’s right of course but I’m now in typing mode – next time!

Other Activities This Week

- Daily walks around the North Inch

- Yoga in the sunny spot by the bedroom window

- Kneading pizza dough! Thouroughly recommended

- We ordered a badminton set from Amazon to play in the garden

If you have an activity idea that we can recreate at home, we’d love to see it. Tag it #WeLiveActive so we can find you!