Tower-running does exactly what it says on the tin: racing up the stairs of daunting sky-scrapers as quickly as possible. The radical running format was first introduced to the UK by Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, when it launched the Vertical Rush fundraising challenge back in 2009 at London's iconic Tower 42. Since then the sport's popularity has exploded. While it might sound pretty straightforward it's actually extremely tough, even for a running coach like me. And this year's event is no exception, with runners ascending more than 900 steps when the event takes place at Tower 42 on March 9th.
When it comes to increasing strength and endurance, tower running packs a serious punch. The equivalent of squatting and lunging at the same time, athletes run up an internal staircase, often hurling themselves up four or five at a time.
It doesn't just benefit your legs either; experienced tower runners use their arms to propel themselves upwards, using nearby banisters for leverage. Do this regularly enough and you'll be saying hello to strong toned arms.
The super-charged exercise makes you stronger, faster and leaner. It's a brilliant way to improve your overall fitness, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro. The best part is, anyone can try it - all you need to get started is a good pair of trainers and a decent amount of steps to run up.
If you're ready to have a go or just keen to know more, here are the answers to the questions I get asked most frequently...
What is the difference between normal running and tower running? Running is great for your fitness, and tower-running (i.e. running up lots of steps at one go) is a super tough, lactic-fuelled exercise. Gravity is against you so your legs will need to work harder to power you upwards, giving you an intense leg-burning workout.
How will I feel when I'm midway up a big tower? You'll be breathing hard, your heart will be pumping, and your legs will be burning - but you've made it half way. It's an intense rush, and it's over before you know it. Think of those calories you're burning, and the view from the top!
I love tower-running but want to race against other people - can you recommend any events? Yes. Vertical Rush is the UK's original tower-running challenge organised by Shelter. Now in its ninth year, it will see you race up Tower 42 against 1,000 other people. So you can get fit and raise money to help Shelter fight homelessness at the same time. There are still places left on this year's event so if you are interested, sign up now at www.shelter.org.uk/verticalrush.
How do I train for an event like Vertical Rush? Here are my top tips to help you reach the top in a speedy time:
- A-CLIMB-atise: say goodbye to the lift and take the stairs throughout the day to get your body conditioned, using your glute muscles to power you vertically.
- Build up gradually: when it comes to training, too much too soon can lead to injuries. So up the amount of steps you're running and time you're training slowly but surely.
- The only way is up: hill sprints are tough but they're a brilliant way to get fit quickly and strengthen your legs. Pick a hill that takes 30-60 sec to climb, sprint up it then walk back down to recover. Repeat 6-8 times and aim for a session a week.
- Power up: to conquer all 932 steps of Tower 42, you'll need super strong legs. Explosive exercises that focus on the lower half of your body - such as jumping squats or lunges - are a brilliant way to strengthen up.
- Keep it cool: Know your limits. Have rest days, vary your training, and be sure to give your sore muscles some TLC after a hard workout, with conditioning exercises, hot baths and even a cheeky massage every now and again.
Most importantly, have fun! And if you give it a go, good luck!
Shaun Dixon is the Founder and Head Coach at Let's Get Running. He's also an ex international long distance runner.
Shelter's Vertical Rush takes place on 9th March at Tower 42 in the City of London. For those looking for prime offices on the most flexible terms in the city, please visit http://www.tower42.com/.