Running Series Week 9: Leg Exercises for Runners

By Alexandra Caspero on March 9, 2013

Let’s talk vanity for a moment.

Runner’s high, stress relief, and heart benefits aside, the other reason I run?

Sexy legs.

Shapely calves, tight quads, and developed hamstrings. I love the strong, defined look that says, “yeah, I work out.”

Do this series after your short runs, it usually takes me ~15 minutes to get through, then a stretch. All of the moves, except the single leg dead lifts, can be done without weights. This series was designed to target the main muscle groups that are engaged: calves, shins, quads, hamstrings, adductors, and glutes.

Don’t blame me if you start wearing your short shorts a little more often. ; )

Single Leg Dead lifts

A great balance and hamstring challenge. Stand holding weights in front of thighs and place left leg out behind you with the toe lightly touching the floor (beginner)  or lifted behind you (more advance).

Tip from the hips and lower the weight towards the floor. Go as far as your flexibility allows. You can bend the knee slightly if you need to. Engage your hamstring and press into your standing foot to return to start. Repeat until fatigued. Take a break and repeat 2-3 more time.

Keep in mind: To keep your back flat, look up as you lower down. Don’t bend the knee as you lower down. You want to use your hamstrings so the bend needs to come from the hip.

Walking Lunges

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Ask my 6AM body sculpt classes- I love walking lunges! I usually make them do some variation once a week. It’s also my preferred way to end a run. It’s a great way to work your muscles while slowly lowering your heart rate.

Stand with dumbbells on each side (if using). Step forward with first leg. Lower body by flexing knee and hip of front leg and bend back knee towards the floor.  Press into forward leg and lunge forward with rear leg. Repeat until fatigued.

Body Weight Squats

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Another favorite for after a run. I will usually do a good bit of walking lunges, stationary squats and then repeat until I am too tired to do any more!

Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and your toes turned out slightly. Engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button in and up to stabilize your spine. core muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep your chest lifted and chin parallel to the floor. Shift your weight back into your heels as lower your hips behind you.

Keep lowering, hinging at the hips and bending at the knees. Watch your knees- that shouldn’t go too far forward over your toes!

Go as low as you can, can you bring your thighs parallel to the floor? Return to start and repeat.

Calf/Shin Raises

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Great to do on a curb (after an outside run), on the side of the treadmill, or on the stairs. 2/3 of your foot on a raised surface, bottom 1/3 hanging off the side. Press into the ball of your foot, contract your hamstrings and lift up. Return down to start pressing your heels down, engaging your shins as well. Repeat until fatigued.

To stretch, press into the ball of your foot and press your heel down toward the ground. Hold for 30 seconds-1 minute.

Dancer Squat with Calf Raises

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One of my favorites! And no you will not get “bulky thighs” after doing this. Look at any ballerina for that myth exposed.

Stand in a wide squat, toes turned out. Press your knees out to the side and lower down. You want your spine to be neutral, the bend here comes from the knees only, not the waist. You should feel your inner thigh muscles engage as you lower and press you knees back. Hold in the lowered position and raise you heels off the ground. Lower heels and return to start.

You know the drill, repeat, repeat, repeat until fatigued.

What are your favorite post-run leg exercises?

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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