How to Train for American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb

climb for airTrain for a Climb

A climb event is a great way to challenge yourself—whether your goal is just to reach the top or to be the first to cross the finish line—you will walk away with a newfound respect for your lungs!

Tip 1: Work on increasing your aerobic capacity.

The key to dominating all 30 floors is making sure your body is up for the task. Think of getting to the top being the same as running a mile and a half without stopping. If you’re currently able to last through a mile and a half of running, your body is capable of rocking it all the way to the top.

Tip 2: Strengthen your legs

Your legs are the primary movers for climbing the stairs? Glutes (yes, your butt), quads, and hamstrings. The stronger these three muscle groups are, the easier it will seem to fly up the stairs. How do you strengthen these? Squats, lunges, and leg extensions. This will strengthen these muscles, and help increase your aerobic capacity.

Tip 3: Climb stairs

Every building has stairs, so take advantage of it! Try going up and down a set of stairs (multiple floors or a single flight of stars) for 5 minutes straight. Rest 2-3 minutes, and go for it again. This will help your body adapt to the stair climbing movement and increase your aerobic capacity.

Cadence – more steps, less injury

To understand why increased cadence could prevent running injury, let’s review running biomechanics. Running subjects the body to high-impact forces. With each foot-strike, forces 2 ½ times body weight travel from the feet and ankles through the body. These forces, combined with training errors, cause injury to the bones and soft tissues. Cadence is the number of steps taken per unit of time or distance. Whether we are short or tall, long- or short-legged, we tend to take 120-140 steps per minute when we run. The fewer steps we take, the longer the stride will need to be to run fast. The longer the stride, the more likely the heel will contact the ground first. If the stride is long and the heel contacts the ground far in front of the body, several negative things happen.
First, a spilt-second braking force occurs as the heel hits the ground. The forward momentum of the body moving over the contact leg is temporarily slowed. Next, a second impact force is generated as the rest of the foot contacts the ground. These forces are implicated in development of running injuries. Gait researchers have found when runners are retrained to land mid-foot instead on the heel, braking force is lessened and foot contact time is shortened. Force loading rates and impact peaks reduce up to 30%! But, when runners take a shorter stride landing mid-foot, they cover less distance and speed slows. To increase speed, cadence must increase.
Besides decreased force generation, increased cadence was found to be beneficial in unexpected ways. Decreased foot contact time improves running efficiency. This means less oxygen is required to power the body over the same distance. Mid-foot strike promotes better pelvic core muscle recruitment, meaning that the gluteals and other muscles supporting the hips and knees, contract stronger. In my clinic, many runners with knee pain have reported instant improvement just by increasing cadence during my treadmill gait evaluation.
So, increasing cadence seems to help reduce injury and improve performance, but, changing the way we run is difficult as it’s a fundamental motor skill. As I discussed in past articles, it takes time to adapt to new movement patterns. To avoid injury, cadence manipulation, like any other new technique, should be incorporated SLOWLY into a training program.
Cadence between 170-180 foot strikes per minute is the recommended target rate. Start by practicing increased cadence using an interval program in the middle of your regular run. An easy, safe way is to use cuing from a simple metronome app downloaded on a smart phone carried while you run. Run at your natural cadence for several minutes to warm up. Set the metronome for a rate between 170-180 and increase the steps you take using the beat as a cue. You will need to slow down a lot initially and it may seem like you are shuffling. Run at this increased cadence for 1 minute, then, go back to your natural cadence for 1 minute. Repeat this interval 5 times (a total of 10 minutes). Finish with several minutes running at natural cadence and a short walk to cool down. During the next run, do 6 intervals (12 minutes), the next run, 7 intervals (14 minutes) and so on for 1-2 weeks. Then, as it begins to feel more natural, run longer intervals at increased cadence and decreasing intervals at your natural cadence. In about 3-4 weeks, most runners can feel when they are running at increased cadence without the cue of the metronome and can complete training using increased cadence.

Marie-Christine Leisz, DO is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, with advanced training in the diagnosis and management of running and endurance sports injuries. She is medical director of the Running and Endurance Sports Injury Clinic at Courage Kenny Rehab Institute and collaborates with the Courage Kenny RunSmart PT Program. Learn more at and

Top 5 ways to survive a bonk

by Kris Swarthout

One of the biggest spoilers of a great long ride is a “bonk”. A bonk is the point when your body simply starts to run out of fuel. When the glucose levels in your blood serum drop below normal standards your body starts to react as a way of self-preservation. Bonking does not have to signal the end of your ride or your day, these tricks will help get you back in the game and back on your bike.

1. Learn to recognize the symptoms. If you know a bonk is starting to hit you, you can most times fight it off without stopping your ride. Common symptoms or signs that a bonk is knocking at your door are feeling extreme fatigue, hunger, dizziness, light headed or cramping.

2. After recognizing a bonk is starting, you need to first dial back your effort/speed/pace, then you need to get some fuel on board. If you insist on staying with the lead pack or holding your goal pace you will never be able to digest your energy and beat that bonk. The stomach needs blood to process food into energy and if all the blood is going to your legs, your food will simply sit in your stomach, slosh around and eventually come back out the same hole it went in.

3. The best way to refuel is to first get some high glycemic simple sugars in your body. Sports drinks, cola, candy or energy gels are perfect for this. Simple sugars burn like jet fuel in your body, hot and fast. If you planned ahead and packed these in your jersey pocket (yup that is what they are for), in your bento box or saddle bag, great! If you didn’t stop at a store or gas station and get something quick. If you’re at a race or organized ride, stop at the next aid station and load up.

4. Now it’s time to take in some complex carbohydrates to give you longer lasting energy. Energy bars with a 4-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio are perfect for this. A premade sandwich can also serve as a good source of sustaining energy. Avoid consistently taking in simple sugars. It will keep you fueled for a short time, but at some point your stomach will turn against you and fight back. Remember when you were a kid and you ate all your Halloween candy in one sitting? Do you remember what happened next? Yup, we don’t want that to happen again.

5. Don’t forget the water. Your body is made up of mostly water. Without it cramping and worse yet dehydration can set in which could spell the end of your day. Be sure at least half of your bottles are filled with water and always know how much you have left. Think ahead and refill when you can, running out can be fatal. The nice thing about water is you can always spray a little bit on your face to freshen up or cool down; you can’t do that with a sports drink.


Coach Kris has been a competitive presence in triathlons since 2001 completing six Ironman races. From 2004 to 2007 he was selected as a USAT All-American Honorable Mention athlete. Kris is currently the Midwest Regional Chairperson for USA Triathlon and is the head coach of the Minnesota Junior Elite Team. In 2010, 2012 and 2013 Kris was selected as the Official Team Coach for Team USA by USA Triathlon and accompanied Team USA to the ITU World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Auckland, New Zealand and London, England. In 2013 he was also coach and manager for the Team USA short Course Duathlon team in Ottawa, Canada. Kris has coached athletes ranging from professional to first time amateurs. He strives to help people achieve the ultimate balance of family and sport in their lives.