Step After Step

Scott Johnson pushes his way to the top.

Online CommunityBy Scott Johnson

November 2010 — I like stairs.

I like exercising my leg muscles, and stairs are usually an easy and accessible way to do that. I love when I have time and access to a tall building where I can jam out to some music and march the stairs up and down.

I was in Florida last summer for the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference. I spent about a week at the hotel. The schedules were packed, and there were many late nights spent visiting with friends. It was difficult to prioritize exercise, but I was able to work out once with Ginger Vieira early in the week.

Later in the week I was feeling the urge to do something, but had trouble squeezing in an official workout. So I decided to walk some stairs. The main tower of the hotel went up twenty-eight floors. The most I had ever done in the past was nine or ten. Twenty-eight is a big jump from nine or ten. Could I do it?

I wanted to try. I figured that I could go at my own pace, that I could rest if I needed to, and that I could always stop anywhere along the way; the elevator was right outside the fire door on each level. I entered the stairwell on level two, and started by going down to the bottom. I wanted to make it official, and felt that starting on two wasn't the same as starting on one. I wanted to go from the absolute bottom to the absolute top if I could. "A1" was painted on the white brick wall, and I snapped a quick camera phone picture of it.

At the bottom, I turned around and started marching. Step after step after step. I worked hard on my form, being sure to lift up with my calf muscle at the top of the stride, and also worked very hard to not use the railing to help pull me up. I wanted my legs to work hard!

After a few floors my heart was pumping, my lungs were sucking in oxygen, and my legs were feeling the burn. It felt sort of good, which sounds crazy. I just kept going. Step after step after step. I fell into a rhythm of sorts along with my music. One flight, turn, next flight, turn, one more floor done, I just kept going and going. I was tired and thought of quitting many times along the way, but I wanted to say that I got to the top. I wanted to accomplish it so I could say I did twenty-eight floors of stairs.

On the way up, I didn't really see much of the stairwell. I saw a lot of stairs, as that is what was in front of my eyes as I was marching up them. Hundreds of bland, gray concrete stairs. They were flecked with sparkly rocks here and there, like poured concrete sometimes is.

After what felt like forever, I reached the top. "A28" was painted on the white brick wall; I slapped it with my hand, like some sort of locker room tradition and then took a picture of it. I took a couple deep breaths and then started back down. I was sweating like crazy, and my legs were trembling and felt like they were on FIRE! I made sure to hold the handrail on the way down, just in case.

The view going down was so much different. As I turned on each landing, I could see the single light fixture mounted high on the wall, shining a smoky yellow tinted light through the textured light cover. There were big chalky tablets of something on top of many of the lights—what the heck? After seeing a few I thought they might be boric acid tablets. My grandfather used to talk about putting boric acid tablets in the basement to control the centipede population. That gave me the creeps, and I started to wonder if Florida also had centipedes, or other, maybe nastier, critters.

I started looking around the rest of the stairwell. I had a higher perspective coming down, and noticed all of the utility pipes and wheel-turns for big valves and nozzles somewhere. Many had chains and locks on them, preventing unauthorized people from turning something off (or on?).

The stairwell wasn't dirty, but it was far from welcoming. I thought about the atmosphere being a little isolated and how that might be scary for some people. I kept thinking about that as I made my way back down to A1. Once there, I took another picture. Then I chuckled, because these pictures didn't prove anything. I could have taken the elevator up and down, getting off to take pictures inside the stairwell at the top and bottom.

I walked back to my wing of the hotel, breathing hard and sweating like a fool in my business casual clothes. I wondered if more people would take the stairs if they were prettier and more welcoming. I decided that yes, more people would use the stairs if they were more welcoming. Make the stairs pretty I say!

Visit Scott's blog. 

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: December 06, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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