Fight For Air Climbs are unique fundraisers. Prominent skyscrapers, stadiums or arenas provide the setting for a "vertical road race," where participants walk, run or race up hundreds of steps. It's a great way to challenge yourself physically, and often participants use the climb to set (and break!) fitness goals.

Whether you're a first-time climber or an all-star alumni—to climb successfully, it's important to train before the big event. Stairclimbing is a great sport that improves the fitness level of each participant and burns more calories than walking or running. But like with any athletic activity, you need to find what works for you. As always, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine. Consider these expert tips as you get started:

  • Start slow. If you are new to climbing stairs, then start slow and build up your pace.
  • To reduce the risk of injury, place your entire foot on the stair each time.
  • Experiment with climbing techniques. For example, some climbers prefer to keep their arms by their sides, while others prefer to use the handrails. You can climb one or two steps at a time, depending on your comfort level. Use your training climbs to find what works for you.
  • Carrying water with you can impede your climbing. Keep in mind that on event day, there are water stops and water available at the finish line.
  • Consider a light snack a few minutes before the Climb begins. This will help you maintain your energy level without feeling sick.
  • Cool down. When you reach the top, take a couple of minutes to cool down and stretch. This will help keep your muscles from being too sore.

We also checked in with a few of our Lung Association staff climb veterans for their advice to help get you to the top.

According to Neil Ballentine, National Vice President of Digital Strategy and IT, it's best to learn your limits before the event. "The worst thing that can happen is going too hard, too quick. If possible, find a stairwell to practice in prior to the climb and learn how to set your pace there."

Neil has participated in six climbs, and last year at the Presidential Towers event in Chicago he set three personal records: fastest tower climbed, best 4-tower time and highest finish position for 4-tower climbers. Of course, he's training to beat these times in the 2016 climb! Here are some additional tips from Neil:

  • Pay attention to your breathing on climb day. The stairwells you'll be climbing in won't have the same amount of oxygen you might be used to during your practice runs.
  • If you have a heartrate monitor, this is a great event to use it for. Don't burn out your engine by going anaerobic too soon!
  • Leave the cotton clothes at home and wear something breathable for the climb (such synthetic fabric that wicks away moisture).
  • While using the StairMaster at the gym is good training, don't expect it to compare to climbing in an actual stairwell.
  • If you're a cyclist and have strong quads, you're going to be a natural on the stairs.

Kim Lacina, National Vice President of Marketing and Communications made her first climb in 2011, climbing the U.S. Bank Center in Milwaukee—47 floors, 1034 steps. Kim suggests, "One of the elite climbers told me not to climb on the balls of my feet but to use the whole foot on the stairs, to avoid burning out the calves. I took that advice!"

Also, Kim points out that folks with different fitness levels can be successful.

"Don't be intimidated if you're not a hard-core athlete. It's only a race for the people who want to beat their own time or do the Ultimate Climb," she said. "I had a very full morning of work before I started my climb at about 11:45 a.m. I was nervous about getting half-way up and getting too tired to continue, but I went at a reasonable pace, stopped at all of the water stations and made it!"

Lastly, Kim states, "Let the energy of the event motivate you. There were so many people there, including firefighters and first responders, completely excited up about the event, climbing for loved ones and all having a great time. It's REALLY fun to do—and the great energy is very motivating!"

Learn more at

Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise routine.

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