Does climbing stairs leave you winded? You exercise regularly and feel fit, yet when you sprint up the steps you are totally breathless. This can be a frustrating and rather perplexing moment for many active people. So why is flying up a flight of stairs so fatiguing?

When you go from a steady-state walk to an activity such as climbing stairs, your muscles are not prepared for the sudden burst of speed. The result is a lot of huffing and puffing as your lungs work overtime to supply more air to your body.

By warming up before a workout, you slowly acclimate your body to exercise. This time is like an aerobic appetizer priming your body for the workload to come. A warm-up helps to increase your heart rate, which then pumps oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and joints.

If you are feeling breathless when you hit the top of the stairs, it does not necessarily mean you are out of shape. However, if it takes your body a while to recover after a flight of stairs, this is a good indicator that your heart, lungs and muscles would benefit from a pulse-pounding fitness routine.

Stairway to heaven. The best way to improve your stair-climbing ability is, you guessed it, to climb stairs. Whether you are practicing at work, at home or in a hotel, begin this circuit by briskly bouncing off the balls of your feet as you make your way up and down the stairs for 10 minutes.

Step it up

  • Firmly place your right foot on top of a sturdy bench, chair or box.
  • Without using your arms for momentum, step through your right heel to elevate your body onto the surface and bring your left leg up so your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position until you feel balanced, then return your left foot to the ground. Repeat on the right leg for 25 repetitions, then switch legs.

Not your average squat

  • Using a soft surface such as a mat or carpet, start on your knees.
  • Keep your back straight and gaze upward. With your right leg take a large step forward, landing on your heel. Follow this by taking an equal-sized step with the left leg so your body is positioned in a low squat. Keep your body weight in your heels and hold for two breaths.
  • Return your right leg so you are kneeling on your right knee, followed by your left leg. Repeat this up-and-down sequence for 60 seconds.

Calf crushers

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and carefully pull your toes up toward your shins. If necessary, use a wall for support and balance.
  • Shift your weight by pressing the balls of your feet into the ground and elevating your heels. Squeeze your calf muscles for two breaths then release and lower your heels. Repeat this calf pulse for 15 repetitions.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

If you want to take your endurance level to new heights, you must step it up.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.