Sprint stairs: Getting the rundown

Sydney Schwartz

Collis Brown was running up the stairs at Norwell High School to teach an anatomy and physiology class when he realized the secret to sprinting success.

Brown, owner of the Workout Garage athletic training center in Pembroke, had been teaching athletes sprint techniques by having them run over hurdles.

But the Marshfield resident realized that action of running up stairs was exactly what he wanted his athletes to mimic on the field.

‘‘I realized that what I teach in the Workout Garage for speed training for sprint technique was happening without me thinking when I was running up the staircase,’’ he said. ‘‘The staircase was promoting all the proper mechanics.’’

The problem, he realized, was running down the stairs, which, he said, could cause bad running habits and injuries to joints.

So Brown designed Sprint Stairs, a set of stairs and a slide, side-by-side on the back of a GM truck. After two years of brainstorming, design and production, it arrived this summer outside his Oak Street workout garage.

‘‘We’ve been training on stadium stairs since Roman times,’’ said Brown, who left his job as a teacher to focus on his Sprint Stairs and Workout Garage businesses. ‘‘We haven’t thought of it as a biomechanical tool for sprint training, but more a cardiovascular piece of equipment. ...The slide was the missing ingredient to people who have run stairs all their life.’’

And since it’s on the back of the truck, the 13-foot stairwell can be driven to athletes on high school, college or professional teams when they train.

Brown plans to drive it around New England this fall to market it to universities. He plans to sell it for more than $100,000, including the cost of the truck that carries it.

Brown said people climbing stairs have their knees at 90 degrees and come down on the ball of the foot. Coming down, people have their knees at 45 degrees and land on toes.

The more surface area you push, the faster you run, he said. By running up the stairs and sliding down, athletes’ muscles can get used to the up-the-stairs motion without the bad habits of going down, he said.

Brown came up with the idea for the staircase when he was at a Home Depot store and saw someone on a set of portable stairs. He decided on a side-by-side contraption when he saw a stairwell used for luggage on a runway.

The staircase is jointly manufactured by Sea Glass Technologies, a boat maker in Bristol, R.I., and D.C. Bates Equipment Co., a hydraulic equipment supplier in Hopedale.

Brown said the stairs can also be used for coaches to stand on as they coach or film athletes, to get a better view. They can be driven with teams to away games.

This June, when the stairs arrived, he had his students on it immediately. ‘‘Pump you’re arms, pump your arms,’’ he shouted as they ran up the stairwell. ‘‘Drive your knees straight up.’’

His students said it really does make a difference. He has had about 60 clients run on it this summer, from age 9 to 54, including varsity college athletes.

‘‘It was fun. It made it a little more hard,’’ said George Williams, 11, of Norwell. ‘‘That can really help us.’’

‘‘You feel it in your legs a lot more than anything else,’’ said Ryan Otis, 18, a graduate of Whitman Hanson Regional High School who plays football at Plymouth State University. ‘‘It will definitely help my explosiveness. The thing it does to your legs, it just kills you. It’s fantastic.’’

Sydney Schwartz of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at