Winter Training: Tempo Runs vs StairMaster and Staying in Shape When its Cold Out

StairMaster Work Out vs Tempo Run

Mid October… a runner's dream come true. All of those hard hot months of training during the summer are finally starting to show some results and you don’t feel like death with every step you take. If you are training for a fall marathon you are probably just weeks away from your race and in top shape for your next PR, but what happens after you finish your BIG fall race?

THE COLD sets in…no longer do you enjoy getting up early in the morning and going out for a run, that cozy warm bed is calling your name. So what does one do during the winter to maintain fitness, especially on those snowy days when running outside is basically impossible?

Well most people will just run on a treadmill, which works great but can get incredibly boring. Our bodies crave change and changing up your workouts (muscle confusion) is proven to help you improve at quicker rates. This is where the StairMaster comes into play. Separate studies conducted by California State University, Northridge and Trinity College Dublin have shown that an exercise routine similar to a tempo run conducted on a StairMaster increased runner VO2max by comparable amounts compared to a person running at the same intensity.

Pace Note: If you are returning from injury and are looking for a lower impact exercise to help improve your VO2max the StairMaster tempo is a great option as well.


So…Armed with this knowledge, how should you integrate this into your workout? We suggest to our runners to replace one of their weekly intensity training days, during one training meso-cycle (3-4 week training block), with a StairMaster workout. This will help keep your mind fresh during those indoor sessions, and maintain or improve your VO2max during those cold winter months. Here is how we structure our tempo StairMaster workouts.

A Typical StairMaster Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes @ Easy Pace (50-60% of Max Heart Rate)

  • Tempo Stairs: 15-30 minutes depending on fitness level @ Tempo Pace (85% -95% of Max Heart Rate)

  • Cool Down: 5-10 minutes @ Easy pace (50-60% of Max Heart Rate)

If you would like to read more about the research studies that we found you can find them on the NCBI website below

Physiological changes following a 12 week gym based stair-climbing, elliptical trainer and treadmill running program in females. (

Department of Physology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Effects of stair-climbing vs run training on treadmill and track running performance. (

Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Northridge

Now Step it up, hit the gym, and Don’t Forget!