If you’re a gym rat like myself, living in Southern California, you probably experienced the same frustration I did when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of local fitness centers.
The move, made to limit potential spread of the novel coronavirus, forced many of us to create new fitness regimens. Some took to hiking trails. Others flocked to group exercise classes in the park. Those of us who enjoy the burn of muscle building scurried to the nearest sporting goods store to purchase dumbbells and other home fitness products.
Working out from home or outdoors became a new way of life for thousands of people in the fitness community until the gyms reopened – only to close down again about two weeks later. It was a punch to the abdominals. We were just getting back into the rhythm of training with the machines, weights and cardio equipment when a spike in COVID-19 cases led government officials to again shutter the gyms.
I was disappointed. The second shutdown challenged my motivation to work out. But after a few days of moping, I reminded myself that I did not need a gym to achieve my desired health goals. Once again, I was forced to become innovative with my exercises, this time using a workout tool many of us take for granted … stairs.
Yes, I said stairs. They happen to be the foundation for one of my favorite workout regimens. You can do many exercises using stairs – running or walking up multiple flights, various jumps, and lunges. You can also incorporate push-ups and sit-ups on the stairs to give yourself a full-body workout.
The benefits of running or walking stairs are many. In addition to burning fat, stair exercises strengthen the lower body and tone the glutes, thighs and calves, while trimming your midsection. More importantly, stair workouts do wonders for your cardiovascular system and lungs.
If you’re looking for a good outdoor stair workout in Los Angeles County, there are many to choose from.
The ever-popular Santa Monica stairs, at Entrada Drive and Fourth Street, are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. But a smaller flight of stairs on Entrada at Ocean Drive, south of the concrete staircase, remains open to the public. I have frequented the smaller staircase for plyometric and sprint workouts during the pandemic.
Regardless of where you live in Southern California, you can break the monotony of isolating at home by visiting a different set of outdoor stairs every week and changing your workout.
There’s the Culver City Stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, a 282-step climb that’s rugged and uneven. If you're near the San Fernando Valley, consider taking a drive to the Calabasas Stairs. This 375-step narrow climb leads into the Santa Monica Mountains.
Avid beach runners who enjoy adding inclines to their routes may want to test their stamina at the 369-step Castellammare Stairs in Pacific Palisades. Or if you enjoy heel-striking in the city, make your way downtown to Fifth Street and top off your run with a 101-step sprint up the Bunker Hill Steps.
I could go on and give you details about the likes of the Baxter Stairs in Echo Park or the East La Presa Stairs just south of the Hollywood Bowl, but I think you get the point. Some athletes are even using the stairs in their apartment complexes to strengthen leg muscles and increase stamina.
One last note: Stretching is necessary before each workout. It gives your muscles better flexibility and you’ll have improved range of motion in the joints. Also make sure you do a pre-stretch warm-up to loosen the body. You can do a 1- to 2-minute jog, run in place for a few seconds, or do a plyometric warm-up (short bursts of movement) such as jumping jacks.
Our gym memberships do not define our fitness and health goals; there are many exercise routines we can add to our repertoire without access to a fitness center. At some point, the gyms will reopen. Until then, throw on a pair of your best kicks and step out of your comfort zone.