How We Got In Shape for The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is a famously grueling show in which teams of two travel the globe conquering physical (and sometimes mental and emotional) challenges. In our mid-40s, we knew we’d be some of the older competitors. We wanted to be as ready, physically, as possible and in the next few weeks we’re going to be sharing some of our favorite Amazing Race workouts that can be done in a gym or at home. Even if you aren’t training for a grueling reality competition, these movements will help you feel more equipped to handle the challenges of everyday life. 

We did a lot of backpack runs and even did things like carrying kettlebells down the street, but we also worked with trainers at Chain Effect to get ready. The team at Chain Effect crafted workouts that helped us get ready for every situation the Race threw at us. And now Taylor Pope, DPT, FDNP, Owner of  Chain Effect is sharing these workouts with you! 

The Best Shape Of Our Lives

We interviewed Taylor for a podcast to launch this series and here’s the headline: YOU CAN GET STRONGER AS YOU AGE. Statistically, yes, we’re at a disadvantage to gain strength and improve athletic performance with every time we circle the sun but IT CAN BE DONE. 

Mentally and physically, Penn and I felt like we were in the best shape of our lives when we left for the competition. We knew a big component in The Amazing Race is thinking and solving challenges when you are tired or under pressure. We would do these workouts then take a one minute rest to complete one of the puzzle apps I installed on my phone. It was BONKERS.

But, this week we’re going to share how we got ready for ALL. THOSE. STAIRS. (Enter Leg 5.) In this show, I feel like there are always challenges where contestants climb a ton of stairs carrying weird things. Even if that wasn’t going to be a challenge, we knew it was an incredible workout and we wanted to be ready. Spoiler alert… we were right.

What you did see: 

In Lugano, Switzerland in Leg 5, not only did we climb what seemed like an endless flight of stairs THREE TIMES, we had to do it carrying 12 bottles of wine and bags of chestnuts. 

What you didn’t see: 

Every single other leg of the race had a lot of running they didn’t have time to show and in most cities it meant we were climbing a ton of stairs. 

We were so thankful we prepared for this type of challenge. And even now that the race is long over, we still incorporate these movements into our training sessions. Here is how you can do it too.

It’s The Climb

Try this workout at home or at your favorite local staircase (or if feeling really ambitious, a stadium, or parking deck.) For this workout, it is helpful to have:

  1. 1-2 sets of dumbbells or kettlebells but if you don’t have those, plastic ½ gallon or full gallon milk or water jugs refilled with water works just fine. 
  2. A watch/phone or something to keep track of work/rest intervals is preferable and will keep you moving. There are many free interval timers apps in the app store. 

Before you start, incorporate a good functional warm up. You can start with 5 minutes of intervals of these unloaded movements to get the body warm: 

  • 30-45 seconds of air squats, 15 seconds rest, 
  • 30-45 seconds of jumping jacks, 15 second rest
  • 30-45 seconds of stepback or retro lunges, 15 second rest
  • 30-45 seconds of mountain climbers, 15 second rest
  • 30-45 seconds of down dog to up dog transitions, 15 seconds rest

From Taylor:

“To get Kim and Penn race ready, we knew there would be an element of carrying strange things upstairs. So to start this workout, they climb the 7 floors in an office building carrying kettlebells. Walking down the stairs can put a lot of strain on your knees so proceed with caution. Also, we had them use a box in the gym to do a series of step-ups. Kim would hold a sandbag to practice for those eventual odd carries and Penn wore a weighted vest.”

Building Strength 

If you don’t have access to an office building, there’s a way to build strength to complete these movements in your own house. Remember, when exercising on the stairs, safety should be your top priority, so use handrails to steady yourself as needed, and don’t rush going back down the steps. Set up the interval timer for 40 seconds on 20 seconds off:

  1. Alternating jump toe touches (switching feet in the air) on the first or second step.
  2. Incline push-ups on the 1st or 2nd step.(Or incline push ups on the 3rd or 4th step. More incline makes it easier. If still too difficult, find a sturdy countertop to create a big angle to assist the motion.) 
  3. Facing away from the stairs, do rear foot elevated split squat on 1st or 2nd step holding 1 weight in the same hand as the foot on the step or 1 weight in each hand (framing the front foot) for added resistance. 
  4. Holding weights or water jugs either in each hand in “the rack” (shoulder level against the chest with the arm tucked in) or in each hand at your side (“the farmer carry”), go up and down the stairs (be careful going down) for 40 seconds. 
  5. Holding the weights in either the rack or holding 1 weight in the “goblet” position perform squats, being sure to keep your chest and torso tall. 
  6. Repeat number 4. 
  7. Mountain climbers with your hands on the 1st or 2nd step. 
  8. Repeat 4. 

For more about our workout and our discussion with Taylor, check out this week’s podcast. Happy listening and we will have another series next week! 


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