Saturday, September 26, 2009
She's Got Legs, She Knows How to Use Them
Legs can be incredibly sexy. Something about them attracts the eye, and holds it for some time. I love wearing heels, mostly because of the way they lengthen my legs and make them look more sculpted. Part of having a well-shaped leg is genetic, but even if you are blessed with nice legs, you can make them look better by doing a few simple exercises every other day. They will only take you a few minutes, but will make a major difference in how your legs look. Best of all, you can do these exercises just about anywhere.
Follow this sequence every other day (your legs need a day to recover in between workouts) to create beautifully sculpted legs. Always check with your doctor before starting this or any new exercise program.
Start with what I call the Bar Method warm-up. It's what you do at the start of each Bar Method class, and it really does a nice job of warming up the body. Stand in place, and do forty leg lifts. With hands on your hips, shoulders back and down, chest high, and chin floating comfortably, lift legs one at a time with bent knees, trying to get your knee higher than waist level (think marching).
Now that you are warm, stand with feet wider than hip width apart, hands on hips, and sit back into a squat. Keep your chest broad, and look straight ahead. If you are not sure how to squat, place a sturdy chair directly behind you, aligning your heels with the front of the chair. Allow your seat to lead as you move backward, as if you were going to sit in the chair. Tap the chair with your seat without relaxing into the chair and rise up by engaging your glutes and hamstrings (squeeze your glute muscles). A good tip is to put your weight in your heels when pushing up; it will help to engage the back of the legs and glutes. Do 30 repetitions.
After your last squat, return to standing and find a sturdy place to rest your hand (for balance). Keeping feet hip with apart, toes facing forward, do 10 calf raises. How? Roll up onto the balls of your feet and slowly release back down. After doing ten on both feet, lift the right foot, wrap it behind your left leg, and do ten single leg raises. Repeat on the opposite side. End with ten more calf raises, keeping both feet on the floor. I've been doing this for months, and I still find this calf work to be incredibly challenging.
After doing this for a couple of weeks, you can increase the workout by repeating the entire program a second time, including the warm-up.
You may find that you are sore the next day, or even two days later. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). If you are notably sore, taking a daily thirty minute (minimum) walk should help; you can return to the exercises once the soreness is gone.
A note about heels. While many people say that heels are bad for your feet, I beg to differ. Most of my heels are at least 3" high, so I did research to see what I could find. Dr. Maria Cerutto, an Italian urologist, did a study with 66 women who wore 2" heels on a regular basis. She found that the practice of balancing on heels both tone and strengthen women's pelvic muscles. This provides bladder support (which may help prevent incontinence), and increases sexual satisfaction.
If you choose to rock out in higher heels, like I did last week at the U2 concert (4" heels for 9 hours) your feet might need a little TLC the next day. I tried an exercise that Kathryn Budig calls the "Post High Heel Yoga Stretch". Basically, you get onto your hands and knees (all fours), push your toes into the floor, and roll back up so that you are on tippy toes and your seat is resting on your heels, keeping your fingertips on the floor for balance. (Budig's explanation is much clearer, and her article is really wonderful - click here to read it). I did this exercise on and off throughout the day and felt relief during the pose and immediately after. I still found myself needing to return to the pose over the next few days, but I love doing it. Following this pose, I would reverse the stretch by kneeling on the floor with the tops of my feet meeting the floor and sitting on my heels.
I also really love wearing Yoga Toes. You don't have to do yoga to use them. Quite frankly, I don't even know why they are called Yoga Toes. They are actually for wearing while at rest. Basically, they look like the things you use to separate your toes when you polish them, but they are a bit bigger, and are used to stretch the muscles of the toes, increase circulation, and straighten bent toes. At first, they are tough to get on, and can feel uncomfortable, so just use them for a few minutes until you get used to them. The manufacturer suggested wetting them to make them easier to put on, though I haven't done that. I am wearing them right now, and let me tell you, they feel fantastic.
Give this exercise segment a try for a few weeks, and let me know what kind of difference you see.
Tiffany Palisi is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Fitness Coach, and Group Fitness Instructor. She has extensive training in Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness, and is a Johnny G certified Spinning Instructor. She trains women in their home, and offers Lifestyle Fitness Coaching in her home office (and by telephone). Palisi works exclusively with women. Visit her website at www.bellafitnessforwomen.com.