Stairs vs. Trails | High Sierra Topix  

Stairs vs. Trails

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
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Stairs vs. Trails

Postby BSquared » Wed Nov 30, 2005 5:09 am

I think of myself as having pretty strong knees for a 60-year-old, but oddly, I can't really work out on a stair-stepper for very long. I find that after a few days, one or the other knee begins to hurt, and it hurts going up stairs in the house too after this. What's really surprising (and enormously relieving!) is that this pain does NOT seem to transfer to the trail! In 2004 just before my son and I did the JMT, I was having a real problem getting up the (very steep) stairs in a house we were renting in Vermont, and of course was very worried about the trail, but there was no pain at all once we were out. Maybe I should figure out how to set the stair-stepper for smalle steps? Anybody else have problems like this?



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Postby copeg » Wed Nov 30, 2005 8:57 am

I have noticed my knees a little on the stairstepper and bike. I have a bad tendency to bend my knee too far when I put the most pressure on them. In my experience with them and watching people on them, I do not think they naturally duplicate how we would actually walk up stairs or hills - partly because natually you are going forward as well as up - and our bodies may pay the price. A less impact machine (for the knees) I have found is those 'orbital' riders that really seem to replicate walking/hiking better. Although, there is nothing more natural than just getting outside every chance you get to get a hike or run in on the flats and uphill (whether it be on trail or off).
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Postby quentinc » Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:49 pm

I had noticed the same thing. Of course, everyone's knee problems are different, but one thing my orthopedist recommended was biking -- either stationary or real -- in an easy gear/resistance level. The theory is that the complete bending of the knee stimulates the production of synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates the joints). It has definitely helped. You could do, say, 10 easy minutes on a stationary bike as a warm-up, before moving onto something more challenging.

I also agree that the elliptical trainers put less stress on knees than stair steppers, but unless you really push it, you don't get a very tough workout on them.
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Postby BSquared » Thu Dec 01, 2005 6:42 am

Good idea about the low-resistance biking -- think I'll try it. I think I disagree about the eliptical trainers though, at least the ones we have at the college where I teach. Ours have heart-rate monitors, and I find no trouble at all getting my heart rate well up into the "cardio" zone. Also, the total calories displayed after a half-hour workout are quite similar to those displayed for half an hour at 6 mph on the treadmill (yes, I know it's slow...;)). Sweat coefficient's about the same, too...
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Postby Guest » Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:02 am

I tried the elliptical trainers a couple of years ago and agree that the workout isn't as good as on the other aerobic machines. I think the stair mill is actually the best workout at the gym to train for hiking.

I haven't been going to the gym lately because I've been riding my bicycle to keep in shape for hiking. The bike riding does get to knees at times though.

I do need to add some weight training during the week - I know that will help.
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Postby quentinc » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:41 am

I originally had that problem with bike riding too, until I learned that it's best to spin fast in an easier gear (like at least 80 rpm), rather than slog away in a harder gear. Especially up hills!
Also, while bike riding will get you there from a cardio perspective, it doesn't use the same muscles (or not in the same way) as weight-bearing exercises, so I wouldn't rely on it alone for backpacking training.
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Postby Skibum » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:12 pm

I live at 6500 ft so I acclimate very easily. I have only had AMS once and it was while skiing on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i. I started to suffer from back pain and touches of arthritic type joint pain it seemed like the day I turned 40. I was introduced to Yoga a few years back and have become quite a devout practicioner ever since. Back pain, Gone. Joint Pain, Gone.

Yoga, trail running, and a healthy diet works for me.
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Postby Rosabella » Sun Dec 04, 2005 7:45 am

Hey, Skibum, you're back! How was Shasta?

(I know, off the subject, but... oh well)
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Postby Skibum » Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:02 pm

What a cool mountain! Lots of snow. An interesting note I picked up from the USFS backcountry patrol guys is that Mt. Shasta actually has an advancing glacier!? I was very dissapointed that I did not encounter any Lemurians, space ships or anyother of the various mystical beings that inhabit the mountain.

Tommorow off to Mexico to surf and dive! be back on Dec 24th!

Hopefully we'll have some snow by the time I get back!
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Postby Take-a-Hike » Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:17 am

For What It's Worth: I'm over 50, in fairly good shape, have an arthritic knee, and have always heard that "stair steppers" "Stair Masters", or the likes, are extremely hard on knees and should be avoided. I used to do road work, tough on the body, gave it up around early 40's. Now I stick to things like elipticals and treadmills. I officiate local high school and college sports, football, basketball, so I have to stay in year round shape. I've found that with age, flexibility is an issue which can also hinder my golf swing. I work hard on light weights, stretching, flexibility and cardio workouts. I've found that 30-45 minutes on an eliptical machine 3-4 days/week will work wonders for your legs and also your ability to not get winded. The elipticals I like are the ones that change elevations, no arms, and have various programs. I increase/decrease resistance levels depending on my desires that day.
Also, my wife, who is terribly non-athletic, and responsible for getting me/us into backpacking, slipped on our stairs last December partially tearing her ACL. It postponed our planned Whitney trek from Sequoia last summer. After months of therapy and working out, we did a 5 day trip, our second backpack trip ever, leaving VVR, going to Graveyard Lakes and up Graveyard Pass to Peter Panda area, back down the JMT to the ferry again. We cut it short one day due to too many rainy days and running out of dry clothes. Her only problem was the talus field coming down on the Panda side of Graveyard Lakes Pass. It was a drizzly, cold, wet miserable day, and it took her forever to traverse those things. However, we may have pushed her recovery a bit, as right now she's telling me that she feels she's 50% better than she felt last August. She's also over 50 and doing a lot of weights, back to doing lunges, which are really good for building quad and glute strength, and some eliptical work too.
As bad as my knee feels sometimes this time of year after 3 football games on weekends, or 6 basketball games in 3 days in December, I had no problems what so ever on our trip. I use no medication, (well, sometimes on a Saturday nite in the fall I'll take one Naproxen pill), but I take a lot of Glucosamine, Condroitin, MSM and fish oil. So after watching my wife and with my own experiences, the best advice I can give is stay away from stair steppers, take real stair steps one careful step at a time, build up quad strength, and use elipticals to get a good cardio workout. If you don't get a good workout, you're not trying hard enough or long enough.
Fairways, Greens and No Talus!!
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Postby paul » Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:23 pm

If you tried to train by climbing real stairs you'd probably have the same problem. On the trail your'e not going up as steeply - each step is not as high, so it's easier on the knees. If you can control the size of the steps on the machine you use, that might be a good idea.
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Postby Allyn » Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:14 pm

Not sure what trail you are talking about here but, no offense, last year I got real tired of doing "steps" on the JMT. I wished real hard I did the stair exercises my brother did as it wooped me out going up and down the Sierra "stairs".
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