Stairway to Fitness

Trevor Folgering bounds up a staircase, taking it one, sometimes two, stairs at a time.

While Folgering looks like he is in a hurry, he is not late for anything. He is participating in a sport.

It is a sport you truly have to take one step at a time. Though, for those who enjoy it, each step is one in the right direction.

While the act of climbing up the stairs, even for exercise, is hardly a foreign concept, the actual organized sport of stairclimbing is something much newer in Canada. While it has some popularity in other parts of the world, stairclimbing only started to be officially recognized here in 2009.

“Stairclimbing is such an amazing activity to get involved in, because it allows you to actually work muscles more efficiently than any type of cardiovascular activity,” says Folgering, a 31-year-old Regina product who has been involved in stairclimbing since 2006. “In stairclimbing, you’re pushing your body vertically all the way up to the top of a tall building or a lot of stairs. You work a lot of different muscles and work your muscles harder. It’s a lot more efficient workout.”

In 2009, Folgering founded the Canada StairClimbing Association in Toronto, where he was living at the time before later moving back to Regina. The organization is dedicated to “getting as many people fit and healthy using stairs as possible.” And when it comes to stairclimbing, Folgering insists there is more to it than just climbing the stairs.

“If you climb with your toes, it could injure your knee, especially if you have a knee problem,” says Folgering. “We’ve developed systems or techniques that actually help you climb stairs more efficiently. The one technique is pushing with the heels of your foot to fire your hamstrings and glutes and put less pressure on your knee. Another technique involves crossing your legs over one another as you climb the stairs.”

Right now, the CSCA has stairclimbing groups in Toronto and Regina. In Regina, there is currently one group which meets at the Delta Hotel three times a week. During each session, the group goes up and down the stairs. More experienced athletes do more floors, go faster, and rest for shorter periods of time.

For those who have attended the stairclimbing groups, and worked hard on the technique, the results have been outstanding.

“One of our members started the program about four weeks ago and she had never done any kind of physical activity,” said Folgering. “She was extremely intimated by physical activity and I told her to come try stairclimbing. The first time she climbed a total of 15 floors and was hooked. She is now climbing about 64 floors in an hour.”

Along with stairclimbing groups, Folgering is trying to get more competitions going. Right now, there are only a select few. In these meets, there are different tiers for people who plan to go up the stairs once, twice, three and four times. The competition gets more intense in the higher tiers. To avoid crowding up the stairwell, racers have chip timers which stick onto their shoelaces. Once the stairclimber crosses the starting mat, the chip timer goes off and it stops once they get to the top. This allows athletes to start at different times.

Regina is hosting a mini-stairclimb run up for local stairclimbers on Sunday at the Cornwall Centre from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. At this meet, eight heats of five athletes will race up and down the stairs for five minutes at time. The top three winners in each group will earn a spot in the finals, where there competitors will go 25 times up and down. To register for the free event, visit www.stairclimbcanada.com.

Folgering’s ultimate dream for the CSCA is to have stairclimbing groups across Canada. There would be regional stairclimbing tournaments, with the winners advancing to a national championship in Toronto with a possible world championship after that. However, Folgering is taking things slowly.

“It’s still a bit too early for nationals,” says Folgering. “Right now, we’re just trying to get the meet up groups happening and get people involved in stairclimbing. As that grows, we can start introducing more events. I think we could have a national event in 2012.”

For some stairclimbers, like 30-year-old Reginan Andrea Belitski who attends Folgering’s sessions, stairclimbing will never be about the competition even if more meets are introduced.

“(Stairclimbing) has so many benefits for you without competing in tournaments,” says Belitski, who lives in Regina with her husband Kevin, son Ashton, five, and daughter Ayva, three. “I just do it three times a week for recreation. I’m not a very competitive person, so for me it’s fun.”

After attending a stairclimbing practice, it is not hard to see why Belitski has fun. Even when the group is panting up the stairs, they always joke around and encourage one another.

“We all have a really good rapport,” says Belitski. “Most of us have been climbing together since January and we motivate each other. You can come and do the stairs on your own, but it’s just not as fun as when you have a big group of people.”

To get involved in the sport of stairclimbing, the first step is to attend one of the practice groups. It costs $100 for 20 sessions or $60 per month. For more information, contact Folgering at 543-4598, 1-877-51-CLIMB or trevor@stairclimbcanada.com. To learn more about the CSCA, visit www.stairclimbcanada.com.

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