Strength Workouts for Your Legs
If you’re like me, you may downsize the need to do daily stretches and daily strength workouts. Oh I’ll run out that kink later, or Today’s my rest day (nevermind the fact that you’ve already had two in a row). These are excuses we tell ourselves to get down to the fact that we don’t really believe in the impact that daily stretches and exercises have on our body and on our running.
One day in a Strength and Mobility for Runners class, my running coach stated the single most valuable piece of information on the topic that I have heard to this day. He said, “You spend half of your time running on one leg… and half of your time running on the other leg.” This might seem like a, “Duh,” sort of situation but the fact of the matter was this… I had truly convinced myself that running was a full body workout and I didn’t need to do much else to improve speed or power because, “If I want to be a better runner or even just an everyday/no fuss runner, surely I just need to run.”
Of course there is and has been a plethora of research around cross training benefits, but I personally wasn’t willing to listen to any of it until the value of strength and mobility was thrown into my face in that one simple sentence. Now, the bulk of my belief on my daily runner accountability relies on this premise. Strengthen each leg. Strengthen them separately. Strengthen them often. Strengthen them and then feel your power as a runner increase.
This is true of life too, right? We strengthen our physical health separate from our mental health, and separate from our spiritual health. Our daily habits create in us a stronger faith, a stronger body, a stronger mind. Sure there are some things that strengthen us in mind, body and spirit, but I feel that it is when we truly focus on targeting a specific need that we come out a stronger person on the other side. Similarly, by focusing on strengthening each of your legs separately, it allows you to come out a stronger runner on the other side.
Three Favorite Single Leg Exercises:
Single Leg Deadlifts: The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it anywhere but it can also be done with equipment. When I have a free moment just about anywhere, I will stop what I’m doing, balance on my left leg (remember to keep a slight bend at the knee), slowly extend my right leg straight back, and reach my right arm to the floor. I will do between five and ten reps, before switching to my right leg. My middle school cross country students couldn’t do five without falling over, but by the end of the season they were jumping for joy that they could do twenty without losing balance.
This exercise can also be done with exercise bands, or with a kettlebell (held in the same hand as the extended leg).
Single Leg Squats: These are a doozy. No joke. But you can feel every muscle in your leg working as you just attempt to do even one of these. Extend a leg out in front and bend at the knee of your standing leg. Keep your arms straight out in front of you and remember to hold your core tight. Focus and keep at this one. Your range of motion will increase as each leg grows stronger.
Single Leg Step Ups: These can be done on a bench, on a chair, on a box, or pretty much anything that has a solid foundation. They can be done with weights or without weights (held either in both hands or the hand of the leg that moves from the ground to the step up). The main thing to remember with single leg step ups is to do all reps on one leg before switching to the other. As you grow stronger, you can even add a hop at the top!
Nicole Rodgers teaches middle school at a title one school in Northern California. After accidentally inviting herself on a seven mile run with coworkers in 2014 (who does that?!), she quickly came to love the joys and demands of distance running despite a prior twenty four year belief that running was solely a softball punishment. Now a three-time marathoner, she coaches cross country and track and enjoys reading, hiking, and backpacking. Nicole believes in the miraculous power of a daily rosary and has a passion for Theology of the Body and all things purity and chastity.