Weighing In: Stepping Up Your Workout

DSC_0027-3If you’ve been breathing a little heavier since being back on campus, you’re not alone. And no, we’re not talking about seasonal allergies or your uncontrollable (and frankly uncomfortable) reaction to the amount of cute boys per square foot.

Whether you’re walking to the library, class, or just trying to walk back to your room, Penn State is vertically challenged in the worst way possible. That’s right, it’s time to bow our heads for a moment of silence in recognition of the obscene amount of stairs we have to battle on a daily basis. Taking inspiration from Penn State’s seemingly endless flights of stairs, we’re going to talk about taking steps of a slightly different kind. Next time you’re trying to decide on which gym class to attend, Valley challenges you to take a Step, so you never have to fear the stairs again.

“Distance” Makes All the Difference

Although the White Building now only offers a Step class once a week, Penn State fitness Coordinator, Jill Garrigan argues there is still a lot to be gained by giving the class a try (and thankfully, she’s not talking about weight). Step is a cardiovascular workout revolving around a 4-inch platform that can be raised up to 12-inches (although 8-inches is typically the highest recommended) using 2-inch risers. “[The setup] is designed so that you can get vertical lift as well,” says Garrigan, pointing out that there’s actually some physics involved when it comes to burning calories (but don’t freak out, you’re not being graded). “When I’m marching I don’t have to cover much distance – my 140 pounds over one foot,” says Garrigan. “But when I’m using the step, I’m covering two feet of distance, adding a vertical as well as horizontal factor.”

For the Coordination-Challenged

You would think having to master left-right foot movements on the ground is tough enough, but then add in a platform to somehow not trip on? How about we don’t do that. “Some people think that it takes more coordination because you have this thing on the floor now,” says Garrigan. “But if you don’t treat it as an obstacle, it’s the exact same thing that you’re doing on the floor, just with that lift.” For those with two left feet, take comfort in this: Step classes are often done at a slower pace to give you time to transfer your body weight effectively and also involve less fancy footwork than other fitness routines.

Cardio is Key

You’ve squatted your glutes out and lunged yourself into tomorrow, so why does taking the stairs still leave you breathless? It’s not you, it’s your workout. Step classes are great for toning up your quads and hamstrings, but it’s not really about training those muscles. “It’s a lot more cardiovascular,” says Garrigan. “It’s designed to make you sweat.” Heavy breathing is a sign of a cardio-intensive workout, meaning stair-climbing is a heart-rate climber as well. “Runners and joggers like to go to Step classes because it helps them with hills,” Garrigan points out “We all know people who walk from here to there and don’t get winded, but when they walk up stairs, it’s another story,” says Garrigan. Ladies, don’t be one of those people. Get off the couch, put some pep in your step (pun intended so hard, I can’t even), and make those stairs your beyotch.

Photo by Skylar Yuen