ST. LOUIS — The Gateway Arch is visited by hundreds of people every day of the week. Most people go there to enjoy the sights or take a ride to the top.
But John Wilmas goes to the grounds to take his fitness to a higher level. What he does to accomplish the goal gets mixed reviews from passersby.
“Some are like, ‘great job.’ Some people are like, ‘that is insane,’” Wilmas told 5 On Your Side.
The reactions are to his relentless climbing of the stairs under the Arch. The effort earning him the nickname “stair ninja.”
“Started climbing over 10 years ago,” he said.
Wilmas has gotten to know every detail about the concrete steps over the years.
“I can tell you where every crack is. They are a few degrees hotter than the concrete the new arch grounds is built on,” he said.
When he first started his workouts on the steps, Wilmas could only go up and down a handful of times. He does much more now.
“Now I’m able to, after 10 years, climb it 30 times with no ache,” he said.
He is committed to his training and does his climbing no matter the weather.
“Rock out the stairs no matter what. Nothing. It can be 110 I’ll be out here or zero,” he laughed.
The workouts are nothing to laugh at, they are no joke.
“I have the motto of ‘never stop moving’ so I try doing new things,” he explained.
The moves Wilmas does as he goes up and down the steps include flights of jumping jacks, hops, sprints, crossovers and bear crawls. He often does push-ups and planks in between flights.
“I came up with an overall body workout to condense into 30, 35 minutes,” he said.
The minutes he spends working out can look grueling but Wilmas comes away feeling good.
“It’s like a runner’s high they call it. With stair climbing, it kind of kicks in more,” he said.
Wilmas hopes the onlookers eventually see his passion to climb not as an oddity but as a motivation.
“A part of that passion is inspiration. Set the example and then others will follow,” he said.
He also wants people to see the challenge of taking on the concrete steps as an example of how to face life. A reminder for them to keep moving forward no matter the obstacles.
“Don’t stop. One step at a time. It really is a one step at a time,” he explained.