Running the Harvard Stadium steps is definitely one of my favorite alternative/free ways to work out. I went with my buddy Dan who coincidentally was the last person I did this workout with way back in August. It certainly crushes your calves and quads, but in a good way…
A view of the Harvard University Stadium from the first of 37 bleacher sections.
Just as I was about to leave for Harvard, I realized that I had left my running shoes at work so my best bet was to take my hiking boots. If you can manage to see in the picture above, there are two different ways to do these stairs. There are short stairs which are technically the isles that are good for “running” and then there are the bleachers which are twice as high and twice as deep as the isles that are good for “hiking”. We decided to hike the bigger sections which I’ve done a few times before in training for various events (Presidential Traverse, Spartan Beast Race, etc). Running the short isle stairs in my hiking boots just didn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do. When we arrived we saw a group of three who were just finishing up the 37th bleacher section while wearing large hiking backpacks. The Harvard Mountaineering Club must be getting ready to crush something this summer, cool.
A picture of me just over halfway through the workout. All we were missing was the song The Eye of the Tiger blasting from a boombox.
Sometimes in fitness training nothing compares to just going upward; getting your body to the top of a set of stairs, ski slope, or mountain is hugely gratifying and very hard to replicate in a gym. In a workout like this there’s no gear, clothing, or equipment that will help give you an advantage; it’s just you, your will power, and a set of stairs. You can run all day long and have great cardio but if you don’t “go upward” in your training then hiking mountains or running races like the Spartan Beast and the Tough Mudder (both on ski mountains) will murder your quads. About halfway through my legs started shaking but after doing a few more, the shaking went away. We did 37 stair sets in about 45 minutes and I had an average heart rate of 150, a minimum at 84, and a maximum at 170. Loved it.
This was the first night of our three day camping trip in the White Mountains. We had hiked into the base of a 4,000 footer, walked the requisite 200 feet off the trail and pitched our tent and brewed some warm drinks. It gets dark around 5:00pm so we had dinner and were in bed by 6:00, no doubt that I’d be getting my 8 hours of sleep. However, I woke up at 12:00am fully rested and read to go, I then looked at my watch, realized what time it was, muttered some expletive under my breath and went back to sleep realizing the next six hours until sunrise might be tough. My dreaming was fairly fitful because I seemed to wake up every few hours. In my dreams I was continually aware that I was sleeping on the ground in a tent in the woods. I’m not sure whether or not it was the camping or the excessive amount of sleep that caused me not to have any solidified dreams.
This example reminds me of an article I recently read (and tweeted about) that talked about debunking the 8 hour/night myth of sleeping. An anthropologist spent 10 years studying sleep in various countries throughout history. He said that it was very common before the advent of electricity for people to have a first sleep and a second sleep. They would go to bed after dinner (around darkness) and sleep for four hours. Then they would wake up and read, eat, make love, etc for two hours and then go back to sleep for what they called “second sleep”. This may have been exactly what I needed on this trip. I went to bed at night and then woke up in the morning both times without electricity. Is it really possible or practical to sleep from dusk until dawn? In the northern states in the winter that time frame can be a solid 12 hours. No wonder I didn’t feel well-rested even after 12 hours of “sleep” my body clock just wouldn’t allow it.