The Runner’s Regime: Tips from student athletes

By:  Brennan McDavid and Nicole Esplin

The recent spate of warm weather has had students substitute jeans for shorts, ditch their jackets, and dig out their beloved flip flops from the back of the closet.  Whether you are part of the first wave of students to show off your legs at the hint of warm weather or you savor the last weeks you will be able to wear jeans without breaking a sweat, summer’s heat is sneaking toward Elon and shorts will be inevitable soon.

The cross country team is here to share our secrets for toned legs, so no one on Elon’s campus is even a little nervous to pull their jean shorts on this spring.

Authors Brennan McDavid (right) and Nicole Esplin (left) show off their toned legs in the Elon Invitational. Photo Courtesy of Will Simon.

Incorporate these exercises into your routine twice a week, starting with 3 sets of 10 of each exercise.

Calf Raises

 Find a stair case and perform calf raises for toned, strong calves that you can show off.  There is no equipment needed for this exercise, so it can easily be done at home or at the gym.

Begin by hanging your heels off a ledge (stairs work well).  You can hold on to a railing for support, just keep the majority of your body weight under your heels.

Then drive your heels up, so you are standing on the balls of your feet.  As you increase your strength, you can add 5-10 lb dumbbell weights to this move.

RDL Hamstring Exercise

 Strengthen your hamstrings and tone your glutes by performing reverse dumbbell lifts, holding 10-25 lb weights in each hand.

Begin by standing upright, knees slightly bent, with weights in both hands. Look straight ahead and slowly bend from the hips.

Glide weights down the front of the thighs (without touching legs).  Once there is a 90 degree angle between your legs and back, reverse the motion and slowly stand back up. Keep your back straight, and parallel to the ground.  Repeat the exercise 8-10 times, remembering to keep knees slightly bent for each exercise.

Adductor Exercises

 Strengthen inner thighs by performing adductor squeezes using the machine.

Begin by sitting with legs apart on the adductor/abductor machine, pads on inside of knees.  You will have to use the knob under the leg bars to set the width so your legs are at a comfortable distance apart.  Set the weight so it is hard but not impossible to squeeze legs together.  A good starting weight is 30-40 lbs.

Once legs are together, slowly reverse the motion, and repeat.  Make sure you are in control of your movements during the entire motion.  The slower the movement, the harder the resistance is on your muscles, and the stronger you will become.

Back Squat

When looking for an exercise that not only tones your legs, but also increases your power, try the back squat. The back squat is classified as a compound exercise because it trains multiple muscles of the legs. It primarily focuses on glutes, quads, and hamstrings, while also strengthening bones, tendons, and ligaments throughout the lower body.When performing the back squat, it’s important to do it correctly; otherwise, it could lead to injury.

Be sure that your hands are evenly placed on the bar to maintain balance. Rest the bar in between your shoulder blades at the base of the neck, with your hands slightly wider than shoulders. To ensure that your head remains aligned, look up at a 10 to 20 degree angle. Avoid rounding your back; keep it as flat as possible. Lastly, check that your feet are shoulder width apart.

To receive the full effect of the back squat, you should lower yourself to a 90-degree position. The more you practice, the more weight you can add to the bar.

Box Step-ups

Have you ever heard of a gym offering step classes? That’s because the simple motion of stepping up and down, actually makes for a great workout. Step-ups incorporate your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, as well as your knees and hips. Foot placement is essential when performing box step-ups.

Make sure that your heel is clear from the edge of the box and always aim to place your feet in the middle to avoid tipping over the box.

When you step up, drive the opposite knee forward to a 90-degree angle and bring it back, stepping down. Alternate using both legs as the step leg, to ensure an even workout. As you become more advanced, feel free to increase the height of the box or hold dumbbells at your side as you do them.

Box Hip Raises

Get ready to feel the burn during this exercise. Box hip raises focus on your hamstrings while simulating the same movement used in running.

Lay flat on your back; just like box step-ups the higher the box, the harder it gets. Keep the angle between your thigh and upper body at 90-degrees. Also, keep the angle between your thigh and shin at 90-degrees.

Propel your hips upward, lifting one leg off the box. Try to raise your hips as high as possible and alternate which leg is lifted. Be sure to maintain your body angles, by not sliding away from the box. Lowering your body slowly to the ground will guarantee you better results.

Spring is just around the corner, so it’s time to hit the gym and put these moves to practice. Doing these six exercises on a regular basis will tone and sculpt your legs, but if the gym gets boring, go for a run!  Running works out your entire lower body, plus it’s a fun way to enjoy the warm weather. You’ll be trading in those baggy sweat pants for some short Daisy Dukes in no time.


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