Unable to Complete Stair Workout: Tips?

  • Creator
  • #67243
    John H

    Summary: My dad can’t complete a 90-minute stair mill workout due to lack of leg strength. He got about halfway and succeeded in keeping his HR low (probably too low) but couldn’t swing it. Any tips?

    Full background:
    I’m coaching my 68-year-old father to get in shape to climb South Sister (OR) with me in the second week of July. I bought him the 8-week mountaineering training program to give him some structure. He’s always had an acceptable level of aerobic fitness, e.g. he recently ran a 5k in 36:20. But he has zero history of strength training and lives in a pancake-flat locale. He has completed two weeks of the program (week one, repeated because we have more than 8 weeks), plus a few general-strength-type sessions before the program began and a history of a few moderate aerobic efforts per week.

    I’ll be modifying the plan as we go, most likely to make it a bit easier once things ramp up. He’s old, and South Sister is just a one-day effort with 5k’ of vert. I have read TFNA and plenty of articles on here, and I have a background as a serious (but not exactly fast) recreational runner for a few years using Daniels Running Formula, so I feel like I have a solid grasp of the principles, applications, and pitfalls of training.

    However, I’m looking for advice on how to get my dad to the point where he can do the prescribed “long effort” stair machine workouts. I’ve instructed him to do the weekly long efforts on a stair mill, and to do at least one other aerobic effort at a 15% grade on a treadmill. But he was recently supposed to do 90 minutes on a stair machine and could only manage half that time due to leg fatigue. His heart rate was pretty low the whole time – it was heavy legs that held him back.

    I suspect this was partly due to having spent an hour at Z2 at 15% grade the day prior. I’m going to split up those longer Z2 workouts for the next few weeks instead of having them back-to-back. But otherwise, I’m not sure – this seems like mostly a strength deficiency. Should he just split those long efforts between treadmill and stair machine going forward, making the portion on the stair machine longer and longer as he can manage it?

    He’s been doing two general strength workouts per week for the past few weeks – perhaps drop one of those to keep the legs fresh? Or conversely, keep the focus on strength for now and even introduce some max strength/hypertrophy workouts a bit earlier than the plan calls for? The first one is scheduled for June 9.

    Long-winded explanation of the problem, but I just wanted to see if anyone had any suggestions. Thanks!

  • Participant
    Shashi on #67352


    The eight-week plan starts off with about seven hours of training per week. Based on what you shared, I am guessing this volume is much higher than what your dad has been doing before starting this plan. You should scale down the weekly training volume to a level that your dad would be comfortable with. Once he is used to a structured training plan, then you can gradually increase the volume.

    smarshall54 on #67369

    If he can do 45 minutes, it’s not a strength issue. I think it’s a training volume issue. A 45 minute session a few times a week sounds like more than enough to get you up south sister. If he is interested in building towards 90 minute sessions, it should be done over several weeks, or months. Throwing a high volume of training at someone not prepared for it is likely to result in injury.

    John H on #67415

    Thank you both. Makes sense that initial training volume is too high, and I’ve reduced it a bit but probably not enough. Will revisit and make sure to cut down some of the workouts some more and also ensure at least two full rest days a week.

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