Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nice stems! Get the legs of a runner and keep 'em...


As a runner, I'll admit that my legs have to be my favorite body part. Not just the way they may look but what they represent; what they allow me to do, what they have accomplished, the times we've shared. (haha...that sounds a bit odd, but the little buggers have been to some pretty awesome trails, gutted out some tough track workouts, and been troopers!) But in regards to aesthetics alone, it's pretty safe to say that runners have killer legs...that's what logging miles upon miles each week religiously will do for you! Yet pounding out straight miles at a leisurely pace isn't going to do the trick alone; in a cruel twist of fate yes, even aging runners can be burdened with some jiggling.

To keep those legs taut and those muscles toned you have to have a certain degree of power involved in your workouts. Think harder intervals, speedwork, explosiveness. In contrast to straight medium effort cardio, intense workouts break down the muscles much more; that may sound like a bad thing but it's not because you HAVE to break down the muscles in order for them to build back stronger.

What does all of this mean to you? Well, my friends, it means that if you want to keep those legs looking long, lean, and firm you have to include some explosiveness or power moves. There are a few ways to do this, but for the sake of brevity (and the fact that not everyone has the luxury of a ton of extra time to run lots of miles AND do lots of drills, plyo's, interval workouts, etc.) here's a quick routine that will get those quads, hamstrings, and glutes working overtime.

  • Bounding for Distance: Take a trip back to the playground; while it may look like exaggerated skipping, bounding is actually a plyometric move that hinges on explosiveness. Push off as hard as you can each time, extending your legs, trying to cover as much distance before the next foot falls. Go for 40 meters, allow yourself a full recovery, and then do another 40 meters.
  • High Rabbit Hops: Just as it sounds, with both legs together jump as high as you can off the ground and reach your knees up towards your chest. You want to not only try to get as far off the ground as you can, but speed is also a goal; try to get your knees up and then back down to the ground for the next hop as fast as you can. Do a total of 15 hops, rest, and repeat.
  • Lunge Exchange: Standing legs together, jump down into a lunge position with your right leg in front; then in a single motion jump up, bringing your left leg in front and your right leg in back, back down to a lunge. Keep doing this, alternating legs. Do this for a total of 20 lunges (10 on each side), rest, and repeat.
  • Step-ups: Find a bench or chair and put your right foot up on it, you want your knee to be bent about 90 degrees. Keeping your right foot planted, shift your body up off the ground and extending your right leg until it is straight; in a fluid motion you'll also raise your left leg up with you until it is bent about 90 degrees. Once there lower yourself back down to the starting position and back up again; do a total of 15 step-ups for each leg, rest, and do a second set for each leg.
These are great to do AFTER you have warmed up from your cardio. They are plyometrics and your muscles have to be warm and loose before doing them; also, the key is to do each move correctly and the old saying of quality over quantity applies. Finally because they are to be done at a near maximum effort, give yourself a full recovery between each set and exercise. Add them in twice a week after a run and you'll see results not only in muscle tone and strength but they will help make you faster too! And heck, even if you aren't necessarily a big running fan, you'll at least have the legs of one! :)

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