Climbing the tall, narrow stairs at the Joe Lewis Arena helped Ettaflyy Thomas drop 50 pounds in less than a year. Call it steep, step cardio.
Thomas, 35, co-owner of Sweet Potato Sensations in Detroit, rides her bike to The Joe on her days off and runs or walks steps because she loves exercising out of doors, whatever the weather.
“Get your body moving and stay moving, so when you get older you won’t be in a wheelchair or a walker,” she says. Indeed, studies find a 150-pound person can burn 544 calories by walking up stairs for an hour. That is double or triple the burn from playing volleyball at the gym, and the view of the river is outstanding.
Throughout Detroit, people are looking to stay fit throughout fall and winter and stair climbing is a great resource, whether indoors at the office building or outside in the fresh air. Climbing requires no special equipment and can be performed by just about any exercise patron regardless of fitness level.
Stair climbing works the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and core body. Your breathing improves from the effort needed to keep climbing at a consistent pace. For an even better burn, keep your hands off the stair rail.
Michael Dallen, a lifetime resident of Green Acres neighborhood in Detroit, drives around the corner into Woodlawn Cemetery and runs up and down the stairs to the James Couzens mausoleum. Couzens was one of the earliest investors in Ford Motor Company who later became mayor of Detroit, then a U.S. senator, then one of the most imposing limestone structures in the memorial garden.
“Stair climbing is good for your lungs, I can get a good workout close to home,” Dallen says. The former lawyer, now founder and executive director of First Covenant Foundation, an ecumenical group, finds climbing gives him stamina to create programs and write books about spirituality.
For a couple years, Anytime Fitness Detroit led 50-story treks up the Penobscot Building at 645 Griswold Street every Friday in spring and summer and guided by personal trainers. But the building owners put a stop to the program because of privacy concerns of tenants.
People are practicing their climbs in parking structures, skyscrapers and StairMasters at the gym to get ready for the 2017 Fight for Air Climb at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. The American Lung Association set February 26 for its annual fundraiser inside the 71-story RenCen. Go to www.climbdetroit.org to sign up for practice climbs with other participants.
Thomas uses climbing as one part of her daily cardio-routine. She works with Aaron Scott, a personal trainer, who promised if she gave him one year of disciplined workouts, he would give her back 10 years of good heath. Diabetes runs in her family, but she hopes to outrun it.
“I’ll walk or jog the Detroit RiverWalk and ride my bike along the Dequindre Cut. But nothing gets me going like the stairs on the Joe Lewis,” she says. Thomas will savor the experience as long as the Joe is still standing.
Editor’s note: Stair climbing is a quick and easy way to drop pounds fast. A 150 pound person will burn about 544 calories just walking up the stairs for an hour, according to CaloriesPerHour.com.
Photos by Paul Engstrom