Climbing Stairs at the Hollywood Bowl

CHECK IT OUT – I’m on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl!


Okay, okay, I’m actually standing on the barrier that separates the audience from the orchestra pit, but that’s practically the stage. And even though I’m a sublime tenor (that’s a lie) and a virtuoso tuba player (another lie), I wasn’t at the Bowl to showcase my musical abilities. I was there… FOR A WORKOUT!

The Hollywood Bowl is a giant outdoor amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills that dates back nearly 100 years and has hosted tons of giant names in music. It seats nearly 18,000 people, and from many of the seats, you can see the Hollywood Sign way off in the distance, near the top of a ridge.


I’ve been to the Bowl a few times before. A few years ago, I wrote a blog about how difficult it was attending the bowl as a 400-pound patron (read it here). The Bowl is a fantastic place to hear a concert, and the setting is gorgeous. You forget entirely that there’s a major freeway and the second-largest city in the country just a half-mile down the hill.


In addition to the illustrious history and the beautiful surroundings, the Hollywood Bowl also has a lot of stairs. There are stairs everywhere. How else would you get to most of those 18,000 seats? Since I’m in training for a downright terrifying race that’s happening in less than three weeks, I need to practice. So I met up with my friends Jeff and Madeleine to climb there.

SIDEBAR: Read about my debut on the Food Network, happening this Sunday!

I love this photo with all the audience seating (and all the stairs) behind me:


Here’s an even wider shot (click on it to see it larger) of Jeff and me that Madeleine took…


…and a much closer selfie of all three of us!


Whoops, Jeff got a little cropped out. I bragged about Jeff’s accomplishments when I wrote about our recent stair workout at High Tower Court (he’s ranked #8 among all men in the US) (I’m currently #440), and Madeleine is also a stair-climbing force to be reckoned with. She’s #4 among all women in the US, and #10 among all women worldwide. Yup, there’s only nine women on this entire planet that are ranked higher. Incredible. What’s more, Madeleine and her husband Steve (who’s also a beast in the stairwell; he’s ranked #50) have made stair climbing a family affair. They have four kids, all in elementary or middle school, and the three oldest ones compete in stair races, often winning medals for their age groups.

We got another group selfie, with the bandshell above us:


Jeff and I both wore our Shwings (decorative shoe accessories in the shape of flames, wings, and lightning bolts) than Madeleine gave us at a race earlier this year:


OKAY, SOCIAL HOUR IS OVER. Time to talk workout!

Despite having 18,000 seats, the Hollywood Bowl only has two aisles that extend in an uninterrupted path all the way from the edge of the stage to the very last row in the nosebleed section. (There are plenty of other aisles, but they’re shorter and chopped up.)

We started our workout by climbing one of those aisles a few times to warm up and get familiar with the stairs. We also counted the stairs – 168. They alternate between steep and not-so-steep sections, which means they change just as you’re finding your rhythm. Jeff’s GPS calculated the aisle as being .13 miles long. We switched to the other major aisle at one point to stay out of the way of the dozen or so construction workers that were slowly, over the course of a couple months, replacing every single audience bench there – and there are thousands of feet of benches.

After three warm-up climbs, the sprints began. I made it to the top of 168 steps in 1:32 seconds on my first sprint, and Jeff did some calculations and gave me a goal of doing it in under 1:20. I like a challenge, so thanks, coach!  Second sprint: 1:23.  Getting there!  Third sprint: 1:24. Not quite. Here’s an action shot:


After an longer rest period, I gave it another go. Because of construction, we sprinted up a new aisle – one in the middle of the house. It had 169 steps (one more than the other aisle), and the course zigged and zagged a little bit, so it was slightly longer, but I gave it my all, and finished it in… 1:19. Woohoo!

After the sprints, we did a few more moderate climbs, but sprinted the final third of the way. The sprint began when we hit Section S – “S is for Sprint” – but I didn’t time them.


By the final climb, I barely had any energy left, and while I tried to sprint, I couldn’t physically move any faster. The sign of a good workout! Here are some stats:

  • TOTAL TIME: Roughly 90 minutes, with about 47 of them being active (as opposed to resting)
  • TOTAL NUMBER OF STEPS: 1,680 (give or take a few, depending on the aisle)
  • TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: 2.9 miles (this includes walking to and from the parking lot)

An excellent workout, indeed! Before we parted ways, Madeleine invited Jeff and I to join her and Steve for a workout in a downtown building. And later this week I’ll be climbing a different building… in a different state! Stay tuned for those posts, and…

Keep it up, David!


6 Responses to Climbing Stairs at the Hollywood Bowl

  1. Sarah Van Houten says:

    That’s so cool!!

  2. Mom says:

    Very Fun blog post!

  3. G.M. Grena says:

    I am so jealous! … Oops, wrong post–I meant about you getting to eat with Giada! … Okay, just kidding. If I had the choice between a meal with her, or a stair-climb session at the Hollywood Bowl, I’d take the latter in a heartbeat! Glad to hear y’all had a fun time & excellent workout!

  4. The Hollywood Bowl always makes me think of Anchors Aweigh!

    • David says:

      I had never seen that before! Thanks, Amanda. There’s so much I love about it. Of course the setting, but the performance, too. Hungarian Rhapsody #2 is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, and I’ve never heard it played on dozens of pianos!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: