Try this hotel-stairwell workout next time you're on the road

Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport
Traveling often imposes serious constraints on runners' fitness routines. Sue Olsen, an IBM manager who travels at least six days a month and also races ultramarathons, stays in shape despite her hectic schedule by walking hotel stairs ? 16 flights at a time.

Olsen uses the top 16 flights for a 30-minute interval workout. She begins gradually then builds steam, doing five to eight 16-flight sets, briskly walking up, two steps at a time, and single-stepping back down.

Her first ascent usually takes about two minutes, her last as little as 1:47. Olsen "cools down" by walking up the full 26 flights, one step at a time, then walking back down.

Olsen says this quirky workout strengthens her calves and quads, providing her with greater leg lift for ultras.

"I won't stay in a hotel that has fewer than 26 floors," she adds.

Following are seven hints to help you step into successful stair workouts:

1. Consider your safety first. Tell the desk clerk what you're doing and how long it should take. Promise to call when you return to your room, and ask the clerk to investigate if he or she doesn't hear from you by a certain time. Remember, stairwells are soundproof. You cannot expect hotel guests to hear you if you call for help.

2. Enter stairwells cautiously, especially if you are a woman. Olsen usually slips into them unnoticed, waiting until the hall has cleared before she heads through the door.

3. Start on an upper floor, where traffic is minimal.

4. Tote along a towel and two containers of water. The towel marks the floor you start and stop on ? and soaks up the sweat when you're done. The water quenches your thirst at the bottom and top of your workout.

5. Walk the stairs, taking two at a time. Swing your arms to power your ascent; avoid using the handrail to haul your body upward.

6. Devise a way to keep track of the sets you've completed. Olsen's "good citizen" solution: After each set, toss debris from the stairs, such as a rubber band, into a corner of the stairwell to mark the number. Then when you're done, gather up your pile and toss it into the trash.

7. Keep you stair walking to a minimum. Olsen visits the stairs only once a week.

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