EXERCISE: What I Learned From the Birthday Challenge

40Photo by: Andreas Cappell

On Friday August 7, 2009, I turned 40.  To celebrate, I completed 40 flights of stair lunges.  Here is what I learned from the experience…

Humans can sense weakness, even over the Internet.  Of the three challenges listed in the poll, 40 flights of stair lunges was the one that I was least prepared for.  I hadn’t actually done any stair lunges, before throwing that one in the mix.  It was the challenge that required the most preparation.  So, of course, it was the most popular choice.

I also learned lots about lunges.  From a guy’s perspective, lunges, (particularly stair lunges) are a great way to improve hip flexibility. Every time you drop down into a lunge,you are stretching your hips.  In men, as we age, loss of power in athletic performance can be correlated to tightening / loss of mobility in the hips.  Stair lunges are one way to work on hip flexibility, while building strength.

P1010776Photo by: Alex Stoffa (Beware: Stair Lunging Zombies are Coming for You)

Ladies, stair lunges will shape and tone your butt.  It’s true.  Which explains why every time I see a workout designed for women, lunges are prominently featured.

I trained for this challenge, by doing stair lunges at least three times per week.  This is a rough schedule for the five weeks leading up to the challenge:

Week One: Ten flights of stairs twice during the week and a 20 story session on the weekend.

Week Two: A ten story climb with a medicine ball, a 20 story climb, and a 30 story climb on the weekend.

Week Three: One 10 story session with a medicine ball, a twenty story climb, and a 35 story climb on the weekend.  The 35 story climb on the weekend was the most that I did during training.

Week Four: I started to taper with one 20 story session and a 10 story session with the medicine ball.

Week Five: One ten story session with the medicine ball and the 40 story challenge.

The ten story mark was easy, because from the gym to my apartment is ten stories.  So, I could finish up a gym workout and head to the stairs to lunge my way home.  With the longer climbs, I stretched in the apartment, then warmed up by walking down the stairs.  From my apartment to the lowest basement (B3) is fifteen flights.  Once at the bottom, I was warmed up and ready to tackle 20, 30, and ultimately 40 flights of stairs.

I found that I enjoyed doing the lunges and liked the stairwell environment.  It was nice to be alone after working out in the gym.  I also felt a bit like an explorer going from level to level. From a practical standpoint, I now have a really good idea of how the stairs are set up (a few of the flights are shorter and a few floors have extra steps on the turn).  I am much better prepared to find my way out of the building in the dark using the stairs.

There were other surprise too.  On the day of the challenge, I had planned to go from B3 to floor 39, just to make sure that I covered at least 40 full flights of stairs.  When I got to what I thought was the top, at floor 39, I discovered two additional flights of stairs.  They led to PH1 and PH2.  I was baffled by the floor designations, until Eileen pointed out that PH likely meant Penthouse.  Who knew, secret levels of luxury hidden within the building.

I will definitely stick with doing stair lunges.  Particularly coming back from the gym with the medicine ball.  For a whole ebook of stair based workouts check out Virgil Aponte’s Ultimate Stair Exercises.

Thanks to everyone who voted and encouraged me to take this on.   It is always fulfilling to set and meet a goal.  Now, what will your birthday challenge be?

P1010775Photo by: Alex Stoffa

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5 responses to “EXERCISE: What I Learned From the Birthday Challenge

  1. Hi Adam,
    I did not expect to get as many giggles as I did from opening up this read.
    “Stair lunging zombies” too funny…..
    First of all, I really can’t believe you are in this great of shape at 40!!! Actually, I really didn’t even realize you were 40 yet!!!!!!
    What building did you do these “stair lunges” in? … just curious. Ha I thought it may be at the hospital Eileen worked at, which is definitely where I would want to do them!
    My heart start’s acting weird when I do these certain outdoor stairsteps towards Geico insurance and I’m not sure why. I know I’m not in that great of cardio shape, but I can go up the same distance towards other places and my heart doesn’t do that. It’s just 3 levels!
    So you “like the stairwell environment” too huh? I busted out laughing when I saw that. I am a freakish claustrophobe!!!!!!! I almost have panic attacks in stairwells.
    That’s funny about Eileen saying the penthouse thing, & probably so true. Who would have thought… especially while doing stair lunges. No seriously, Rick taught me years ago that the best way a person could tone & shape their legs was by doing lunges. I have always had skinny legs and would try and shape and build them with lunges ‘occasionally’. I was usually so sore after 2 sets of 10 that I could barely walk the next day. Then it would be like a month before I did it again.
    Now at my age, (our age) you have to remember Adam that some of us suffer from knee problems and lunges are excruciatingly painful. You are very lucky to be 40 and have no knee pain from the incredible amount you do!
    More power to you! I think it’s awesome & I really enjoyed reading about your accomplishment!
    Miss ya’ll! “y’all ha ~Texas thing” gina
    ps I loved hearing about your bday on my wall 😀

    • Gina:

      *I did this in our apartment building. It is tall….taller than I thought!

      Q: Is it the stairs, or is it heading into an insurance company that makes your heart miss a beat?

      *I can sympathize with the skinny leg thing, but I thought that was not an issue with ladies. Eileen always tells me she would kill for legs like mine, which isn’t exactly a compliment on the guy side of the house.

      *I had a few sore days, when I did my first 20 story day for example. But, sticking with it meant that my legs adapted to the exercise and the soreness after that was the good kind, where you know you just worked out enough, but not too much.

      *You are right about joint issues. You always have to be careful about knees…hips, and shoulders too. I am very lucky. Somehow, I managed to avoid knee injuries even with water skiing, surfing, skate boarding, and football. I do believe that maintaining strength in the surrounding muscles can help stabilize joints and decrease pain in them, but if there is already a problem, you have to be very careful about how you do that.

      *I am no genius with facebook, so I am glad that the message about my birthday surprise made it to you.

      *Thanks for your encouragement! Comments like this mean a lot. They keep me trying new stuff and wanting to share it with “y’all”.

    • Good point. I hadn’t thhuogt about it quite that way. 🙂

  2. Pingback: EXERCISE: Birthday Challenge « STRETCH EXERCISE EAT

  3. This comment is from Darren :

    Happy Birthday!!!!

    Congratulations. 40 is the new 25. I do not see much of a difference.

    You should try a marathon for your 41st. 🙂


    *Thanks, it was a good day.

    *I hope you are right about the 40 / 25 thing, I would love to be able to hang out for 55-60 more years.

    *A marathon would be a tremendous challenge. I will think about it.


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