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Stairs offer great workout, historic L.A. tour

May 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
When you combine a little history and hiking, you have a great combination for a workout. A local author has chronicled the secret staircases located throughout the L.A. area. Here are the steps you can take to get fit for free."The staircases are almost like a trail that runs through the city of Los Angeles into kind of a backyard Los Angeles that you'd ever see otherwise," said author Charles Fleming.

To Fleming the stairs of Los Angeles are one big free playground.

"Staircases were built for people who didn't have cars, kids who needed to go to school, moms who needed to go to the market," said Fleming. "Really they were built specifically for a time when Los Angeles was filled with people who walked all the time."

Fleming discovered them after a painful back surgery as a way to make healing more interesting.

"This staircase is the beginning of a walk that goes all the way up and around the Griffith Park Observatory and back down through the Roosevelt Golf Course," said Fleming.

Not only has he walked them, but he mapped them and counted them for "Secret Stairs," his book that features 42 circular walks using the stairs as a principal trail.

Beginning to advanced, one to three miles in length, they give many a leg up on their fitness program while enjoying unsung areas of L.A., well beyond those Santa Monica stairs.

"Right across canyon from those very famous stairs there are about five others that go up the other side of Rustic Canyon that are just as difficult," said Fleming.

And while some think a stair workout is simply putting one step in front of the other, some trainers say there are a few steps you need to take before you hit the pavement.

"The stairs put a lot of stress on your calves, on your ankles, hip flexors, so you just got to make sure you get a proper warm-up before you start running them," said personal trainer Mike Donavanik.

Donavanik says walk five to 10 minutes to get core temperature warm. To run them, stay on the balls of your feet and vary movement, like stepping laterally or taking huge leaps.

"Take two three stairs, depending on your leg length," said Donavanik.

At landings, try dips, push-ups or lunges to cross-train.

Donavanik cautions that running down is rough on knees and is ill-advised.

And after your climb, "Stretch your calves major, a good soleus stretch," said Donavanik.

We climbed Glendower in Los Feliz, Edendale in Silver Lake and Echo Park, but there are 330 sets from Pasadena to the Palisades.

In addition Fleming leads a free guided tour on the first Sunday of every month so there's plenty of ways to step it up if you are so inclined.


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