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The Stairs

March 22, 2014

There’s a place near my home known to many simply as The Stairs. It has become a Mecca for fitness enthusiasts. It may have saved my life.

My earliest memories of the place harken back to my childhood. I remember my dad taking my brother and I to the toboggan slides at Swallow Cliff Woods in Palos Park, IL. The woods are several square miles of forest preserve woods, trails and picnic grounds. The entrance, off of Rt. 83 just west of LaGrange Road in Palos Park, IL, has a large field which leads up to a steep natural slope with woods and trails at the top. The slope is a natural steep hill – perfect for sledding.

When I was a kid there was a building at the top with chutes heading down from it. People with toboggans and sleds would line up for their turn to sled down the hill for a good long, fun ride. It was great fun. I run into people who reminisce about their own sledding memories there from their own childhood days. The chutes have since been removed, but the building at the top, a hill for sledding, and The Stairs are still there.

When I was a young adult, I would meet up with friends at the place to run The Stairs that ascended next to the old toboggan slides for some intense exercise. Pat W. and Dave W. were a couple of my best workout buddies). We would run up the steps to the top. It was intense cardio. You could feel the burn in your legs and it felt like your lungs wound burst as you approached the top. We would run the stairs a half dozen times until our weary legs felt like spaghetti and we couldn’t do anymore.

I moved away from the area for several years, but when I moved back around age 40, I sought out The Stairs as a free exercise resource. By then, The Stairs had become a Mecca for people seeking to get or stay in shape. Sometimes The Stairs were crowded with 50 or more climbers at any one time. Some would run. Some would walk. I was a walker now. At my age, running them was a bit too intense for my body.

There are 125 steps at The Stairs. Going up and down once is 250 steps. Going up and down 4 times is 1,000 steps.

Climbing The Stairs is an intense workout that burns calories, breaks a good sweat to get out toxins, strengthens your legs, opens your lungs, improves blood flow, and strengthens your heart and will. It’s not for everyone though – consult your doctor before you try The Stairs or any intense physical activity. And if you try it, listen to your body and ease into it. And bring and drink lots of water.

Climbing The Stairs also helps clear your mind as you get in touch with your body, mind and soul. I think, listen to music, or pray as I walk.

When the divorce started, I was in bad shape. Pressure at work and now at home were depleting my health. I had lost a lot of weight and had difficulty eating. I needed exercise as a means to restore my health. Besides running and weight lifting I began going to The Stairs with more frequency. I would walk up and down them 6, 8, 10, 12 times…always pushing my limits. I thought I was doing pretty well when I climbed The Stairs 20 times one day. Then I talked to some people that said they did 40 or 50 flights and started setting my goals a little higher. I climbed 24…soon after 32. I kept at my conditioning as time allowed. Some days I only did 12 again as that was all the energy I had. Every chance to exercise helped me to escape from the emotional and spiritual pain of the divorce, relieve related stress, and get in the best shape I had been in for many years.

I pushed myself one day and ascended The Stairs 40 times. That is 10,000 steps (5,000 up and 5,000 down). I calculated it and it was like climbing up and down the Sears Tower, er, I mean the Willis Tower, 2 1/2 times. Since then I’ve done 40 flights one other time. It is my personal best, and a heck of a workout over about a 3 hour span. Here I am in 2012 when I did it the first time.


My kids would go with me to The Stairs sometimes. Last year Canyon came with me one time, and while I climbed 16 flights and then rested, he kept going…and going and going. With no training at all, except maybe his soccer team conditionIng, Canyon climbed The Stairs an amazing 50 times (12,500 steps) over several hours, making me feel like an amateur climber compared to him. His feat was amazing to me. I knew how challenging 40 flights were, and he climbed 50 out of the blue with no training. (Great job, Canyon! You are an amazing athlete!)

Yesterday I went to The Stairs for the first time this year. I climbed 12 times (3,000 steps). I thought it was a good start to the season. Here I am at the top of The Stairs after my first flight of the year.


Sometimes I can’t help but think that The Stairs may have helped save my life. They definitely helped restore my health. Maybe I’ll shoot for Canyon’s record of 50 flights this year to celebrate it.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll see YOU there?

Do you have a favorite memory of The Stairs? Please share it in the Comments section below.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Uncle John permalink
    March 23, 2014 10:14 am

    Eddie I look for your blogs always interesting


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