Lately Shirley and I have taken to running the stairs near where we live. It’s horribly painful. By the time we get to the top our hearts are pounding, our lungs are burning, and our legs are shaky and rubbery. It’s not a pretty picture.
Then we get to jog back down and slowly things start to fall back into place. Our breathing slows down, our heart rate slows down, our legs feel like they belong to us again. And then we get to the bottom of the stairs and do it all over again.
There’s something perverse about the whole process - inflict pain, ease up, repeat. The only really good thing about it is that you can pack in a great workout in a very short time. You can get your heart rate up, really work your legs and lungs, in about 20 minutes or less.
Now you don’t even need a huge staircase on your street to get that benefit, you can do it on a hill, you can even do it on the flat. For instance, if you workout at the local school running track you can run sprint intervals; you warm up and then when you are ready - not that you’ll want to admit it knowing what’s coming up - you sprint or run as fast as you can for 100 meters; then jog for 200 metres to catch your breath, and then sprint for 100 meters, jog 200 etc. (100 metres is 1/4 of a running track)
You can do that on the beach, in the park, on the street - sprint one block, jog two etc - in fact you can do it pretty nearly anywhere. The point is to get your heart rate up and your body pumping, then slow it down again, then back up, then back down.
It’s not much fun while you are pushing hard, but you know that it’s only going to be for a short time.
For Shirley and me the reward lies at the end of the run, when we get back down to the bottom of the stairs for the last time. It’s not just that we can stop. It’s also that that is where our favorite coffee shop is. There’s nothing like an ice cold cup of water, a good cup of joe, and the morning newspaper to make you appreciate being alive. Out of breath yes, but definitely alive!