Ahhh…too many stairs!

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Any day that starts with an LOLCat is a good day in my book. Those grammar-challenged critters can usually make me grin. This particular “kitteh” made me want to reflect upon some of the points that were brought up in a post that Sweet Machine made a while back on Shapely Prose about stairs.  Then perhaps a bit of elaboration upon said points or taking the ideas a bit further in my own direction.

[E]veryone gets tired going up stairs!…The point of this post, then, is to remind us all of the obvious: Human bodies sweat. Human bodies get tired. Human bodies do some things with ease and some things with great effort…Find an activity that your body really likes to do — whether it’s yoga, walking, gardening, or Dance Dance Revolution — and give yourself a break on the other stuff.

Stairs. Climbing them takes the wind out of people.  Not just fat people.  Not just out-of-shape people.  (Bear in mind too that while those two groups may intersect; they are not necessarily one in the same).  Stairs aren’t by any means the most energy efficient means of getting from a lower Point A to a higher Point B and yet they persist as architectural design for climbing to upper levels across the globe. And we humans continue to huff and puff our way to the top of each staircase we have to mount (if we’re able); equal in our inability to run them without at least a bit of extraneous effort.

How much simpler (putting aside astronomical costs of retro-fitting the world) would it be to remove all stairs from the world to replace them with ramps and elevators? Devices and structures of that nature would not only render every area accessible to those not ABLE to huff and puff up the staircases of the world, but would reduce the waste of excess energies our bodies spend on climbing repetitive stairs.

I’m not so much advocating for some sort of Wall-E-esque age when humans float around in self-contained entertainment chairs, oblivious to the world around them.  Instead I’m suggesting that the idea of spending our body’s daily allotment of physical energy on better things; more interesting things; activities that (dare I say it?) may actually be ENJOYABLE or FUN.

Perhaps I’m just really sick and tired of those weight loss tips suggesting that I “Simply” need to add in a few more rounds of staircase jogging during my day to Lose The Flab. Thanks for THAT “I’d never heard it before” tip.  But I’ve tried that.  Been there.  Done it.  Didn’t get a T-shirt.  All I ended up with by adding stairs to my daily physical regime was a greater loathing for them and a sweatier start/end to my day.  My lung capacity didn’t improve at all and I certainly never stopped feeling the “Burn” in my legs when I would force myself up staircase after staircase.  For weeks, months, whatever.

Screw that. I’d rather save my energies to swim another lap or two at the pool or to dance another few minutes in class or to lift a few more boxes at work without getting fatigued.  All of those (even the box lifting) sound vastly more pleasant than hiking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator (location permitting).  Give me an elevator, escalator, ramp or one-level location to roam please.  I’ll spend my energy in the physical activities that I WANT to do; not in that sort of begrudging “Well, this must be great for my lungs/legs/fat body” torture that we call “Taking the Stairs”.  There is no shame in choosing where to spend your energy.

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26 thoughts on “Ahhh…too many stairs!

  1. Yeah, I also had a “Wow, almost everybody gets winded after 3 or 4 flights of stairs!” epiphany when I was in grad school. 😉 I thought it was my fault for being fat; apparently, it’s because climbing a lot of stairs is exertion for nearly everybody. I don’t know what I was thinking, that thin people somehow scale mountains without so much as breathing hard.

    The fat people should take the stairs thing is so ingrained that even though I know better, I still feel like I need to apologize when I take the elevator for trips of less than 3 or 4 stories. I enjoy exercising quite a bit, and I usually walk about 3 miles on mornings when I teach, before I go to campus. Then I shower and get all clean and purty, and head off to work. Sometimes I take the stairs, but if I’m teaching on the third or fourth floor, I’ll usually take the elevator. I just spend about 45 minutes working out, and don’t feel like lugging a 20 pounds backpack up several flights of stairs. I’ve found myself making excuses on the elevator: “Yeah, I was really tired this morning,” “I had a long workout this morning,” “I’m not feeling well today.” It’s crazy! I mean, it’s not like anybody is asking me to justify when I’m on the elevator: I’m on the smaller side of fat, so it’s not like people are staring at me with disgust when I enter the elevator. It’s all me, feeling like I somehow need to prove that it’s acceptable to be taking the elevator. It’s totally irrational, and once I realized what I was doing, I stopped.

  2. Every time I hear that old chestnut about taking the stairs to lose weight, I want to punch something. I lived for two years in a fourth-floor walkup flat in Prague, and the last year I lived there, I carried a baby and stroller up and down each and every time I wanted to leave or come back to the house. By all that is right and good (and calories in-calories out) I totally should have been skinny. Um, no. I remained stubbornly fat–with a tremendous dislike of stairs.

  3. I can run up twelve flights of stairs without getting winded – it is an exertion, but I don’t sweat much and I’m still breathing normally. I did this four times a week last semester because of the location of my math class 😄

  4. I equate stair climbing with hiking; unless you’re some athlete and not an average Joe, you’re going to be puffing after a few flights. One flight? Probably not. Two, probably not. Three or four? Yeah. Puffy puff puff.

  5. I have always made myself take the stairs unless I was going to at least the fourth floor, or unless someone with me insisted on an elevator. I have been active all my life & have in fact done battle with several periods of three to four years in my life when I exercised compulsively, three to four hours every day. Also, I am nearly 60 & out of those years, I have lived about 39 of them in a house where either I lived in a second-floor apartment or my bedroom was on the second floor, so I have taken a LOT of stairs. I live in a small city which is similar in some ways to a small San Francisco; you cannot really go anywhere without climbing up & down hills. I also have never had a car or license, so I walk almost everywhere. Stairs are not impossible for me, but they are never easy.

    Of course, I should also add that I was born with cerebral palsy & have arthritis which seems to spread to more joints & become more intense all the time, so I not only ‘take those stairs’ to be a ‘good’ fat person, but to prove that I am still a mobile, independent disabled person, just as I resist using any kind of scooter or motorized chair unless & until I can barely crawl on my hands & knees. I am, as my father used to tell me, “independent as a hog on ice”, but I guess that is no reason to put myself through pain & struggle, take a real risk of a serious fall, etc., just to prove that I can make it up those stairs, by God! The things we put ourselves through trying to prove that we are not lazy, or self-indulgent, or just gluttonous, sloppy old couch potatoes! Those who matter will know better, those who don’t know better don’t matter, & we shouldn’t live daily life as if we must constantly prove our worth.

  6. I freely admit that I’m a very strange person. Every now and again, I race up and down the stairs in my house just for fun.

    Like I said, I am NOT normal. I’m very, very odd.

    Then again, I can think of millions of things I’d rather do before I start gardening. The plants are also greatly relieved that I don’t want to mess with them. I kill them with a look.

    That said, I absolutely agree that everyone should base their choice of physical activities on enjoyment first. For goodness’ sake, that’s got to be part of the reason why there are so many things to choose from. The very concept of jogging makes me break out in a cold sweat, but I can walk for hours with a smile on my face. You hate stairs, I enjoy them. I love to swim. Mr. Twistie sinks to the bottom of the pool.

    It’s all about finding what works for you.

    • I’m glad that there ARE some people who enjoy or at least get through stairs without an eye-rolling sort of dislike. But, as you say Twistie, it IS all about finding what works for each individual. I think the sort of general generic and blase “oh, just walk up a few more stairs or park father away” bits of advice just really get under my skin because those are certainly NOT how I choose to be more active in my day. Either way, as Patsy suggests, we shouldn’t live daily life as if we must constantly prove our worth; especially with such mundane and arguably boring things such as mounting the stairs!

  7. Oooh, know what else would be a great idea? Conveyor belts. To traverse long distances! Instead of assuming everyone has it in them to induce wear and tear on knees and joints with stairs and fast-paced walking inane distances for no enjoyment; we could allow that there are some people who can’t and others who don’t want to do so.

    Because you know what? Whether or not someone takes the stairs or not; whether or not someone chooses to race up one side of the escalator or stands to ride it up; neither of those things are ANY of someone else’s business. See how that works?

  8. Hate stairs (shudder). Perversely, I do time on the stair climber at the gym, because I like to hike and there are sometimes stairs involved. I’d rather hate the StairMaster and build my stairclimbin’ muscles so I can love the Skyline trail. But “real life” stairs? Pass. Bad shoes, sweat in my nice clothes, mascara running, undue knee strain — Do. Not. Want.

    I could not agree more that (given a finite amount of physical energy) one should first spend it on joyful movement.

  9. I only take the stairs because I fear elevators. =D They are just waiting to do something horrible like leave me trapped between floors panicking for hours or drop me to my death. Pointless exertion usually seems better than irrational fear and my stomach doing that weird floaty thing.

  10. Stairs. Climbing them takes the wind out of people. Not just fat people. Not just out-of-shape people.

    It is interesting to see how my asthma meds change this. For the last few weeks 1 flight has had me puffing; now I’m back to a couple flights before I’m breathing hard. Note that’s asthma medicines that increase my lung capacity NOT exercise that is making the difference… 🙂

  11. Whenever I get the stinkeye in the elevator for going only 1-2 flights, I tell the person with the stinkeye that I have an old football injury and can’t take stairs, not that he asked. Oh, and it’s always a *he*. And he never knows what to say since it’s so clearly a lie (since when do women have football injuries?), and I then get to leave him confused instead of judgmental.

  12. I love stairs! Don’t get rid of them. Elevators make me feel rather claustrophobic. It’s just getting from A to B–I don’t think about it much, I guess.

  13. When we moved into our new house (2 years ago) before I found FA, I was thrilled that the new house was 2-storey… having to climb up stairs to get around in my own place was surely going to make me lose weight! After all, if you change nothing else but add a few flights of stairs, you’re gonna lose weight, right?

    Not so much. Also, after climbing them regularly for 2 years, my legs still feel it when I get to the top!

  14. I work on the 10th floor and was determined to take the stairs to get some physical activity in my day (I went from a physical job to sitting in a car for 2 hours and a cube for another 8-10.) I have to tell you it never got better and I finally just stopped. Although I have to say it did improve my mood to start the day with my heart racing. I’d rather make that happen with my husband, but taking the stairs only makes me 5 minutes late. 😉

    • Irrational Thinker I end up the same with stairs. Winded no matter for HOW MANY YEARS I might take them; everyday no less. I feel they are not my favorite form of getting my heart racing at all either 😉

  15. And the able-bodied who love stairs need to remember that many of us do not have that option. Please also remember that being able-bodied can be a temporary thing for anyone & that, if you live long enough, eventually the aging process will make stairs a less attractive option for virtually everyone. I am not fond of feeling as if I must be an inferior lifeform because I cannot RUN upstairs when I take them. I would advise anyone to appreciate physical abilities & never take them for granted as a birthright. I feel grateful for the fact that, so far anyway, I CAN still climb some stairs & get around under my own power. That may not always be true.

    • Well put Patsy. I feel that the comments I’ve been getting very clearly show how vast the capabilities and enjoyment (for stairs) can range. Some people hate stairs. Others LOVE to run up them. And some of us don’t realize how either of those two extremes completely ignore those people who CAN’T feel either way because they are unable to climb stairs the same way or at all. While my original post was going to address how easy it is for people to condemn a fat person for declaring she hates stairs (which is evidenced by comments I’ve been getting) I really find that folks are resistant to trying to adjust the world in a way that would make it more accessible. As if accessibility is some sort of privilege to be held only by those fatties willing to beat themselves up enough and “Use those Stairs” and people not completely unable to USE said stairs (whether they are fat or not).

      @beta – First, I am all for using personal energies to avoid using up the resources on our earth. However, fossil fuels don’t really power escalators since they run on electric motors (unless electricity is a fossil fuel and I somehow missed that?). Second, simply “Choosing” not to WANT to expend energy and wishing that the world would catch up to the current century to accommodate all levels of ability in accessing said world is not merely my means of saying “I’m LAZY! I don’t want to EXERCISE my LEGS!” (See part about wanting to use energy for OTHER activities) like some spoiled and privileged little fat girl. When this world does not accommodate the people in it then hells yes I think it should be re-engineered. Claiming that the world of stairs as we know it is not denying vast numbers of people access and instead arguing that I “just don’t want to be short of breathe” is ignoring that while I might simply not LIKE going up or down a set of knee harming stairs; there are plenty of other people who don’t have that option.

  16. Thanks, April, for understanding what I was trying to say. I also do realize that I am often over-sensitive & feel, because I HAVE been abused & criticized & “othered” a lot in my life, as if someone is treating me as if I am an inferior person & as if my concerns & limitations or the limitations of others who are much MORE limited than I are not real, valid, or worth consideration. I have a problem at times with ‘projecting’ & reading more than is meant into what someone says or writes, & I get touchy when it seems as if someone is suggesting that, if we say stairs are difficult for us (& for me, it is mostly the pain in legs & knees, the wobbly balance, risk of tripping & falling, & the breathing is not a serious issue), we are being lazy &/or making excuses for not wanting to take advantage of an easy way to add more ‘fitness’ to our lives. I have in the past ten years or so had increasingly more moments when my ankles or knees start to wobble & threaten to collapse under me while I am out walking, with no advance notice. It is scary enough on level ground. When it happens on stairs (& it has more than a few times, as I just moved out of a second-floor unit 6 months ago), it is downright terrifying. I still take some stairs & will likely do so as long as I can manage them at all, but if I do not, it is not laziness or because I am a self-indulgent fat slob, but because I am trying to minimize considerable pain &/or avoid serious injury or even sudden death.

    And, just for the record, I think that running & using a stairmaster are exercise forms that MUST have been thought up by orthopedic surgeons, because they are so damaging to the body & those who do these things often find themselves under the knife of the orthopedists. Many people greatly exaggerate the health benefits of exercise, but such benefits as there are can be found in 30 minutes of moderate walking or swimming some laps, with a lot less stress & joint damage. I think I have finally outgrown the need to see how long & hard I can exercise just so that I can ‘prove’ something or make an impression on someone else.

    • ((Patsy)) I love your last thought especially; about trying to “prove” something. Perhaps this sort of physical martyrdom mentality we all seem to internalize is a throwback to puritanism (you don’t complain, God gave you these trials for a reason; you must endure without complaint and try to do MORE) that is really damaging to a lot of minds and therefore bodies as we each try to push to do things we really shouldn’t/can’t without causing ourselves harm; just to prove that we are invulnerable; not mortal. Hmmm perhaps a topic for a future post even…

  17. Sounds like a great idea for a post, April. Part of mine is the lifelong struggle to prove that I was TOO a ‘normal’ woman even if I did have a disability, which also goes along with the thing most of us who are fat have about proving that we are as good as thin people, etc. Most of us seem to believe that we have to EARN the right to live.

  18. Pingback: Earning the right to live « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  19. Stairs wipe me the hell out. I can’t bend my right knee, so I have to climb each riser by stepping up with my left leg then dragging my right one up behind me. I live on the third floor of my building, the stairs aren’t very wide, and I’ve had to stop on landings to let people go up in front of me because it takes so damn long. Screw stairs.

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