Calf raise and bounce
Stand up straight, holding on to a door handle or chair. Pull yourself up on to your tiptoes then lower yourself all the way down until you’re sitting on your heels. Then, when you have reached the ground, bounce on your heels four times. Slowly pull back up to a standing position. Repeat four times. Concentrate on using your legs to do the pushing: don’t be tempted to let the door handle take the strain.
Single leg raises
Still holding on to the handle, take the leg furthest from the handle and lift it out to the side, pausing in three places on the way up, about 15 cm (6 inches) apart each time, and then again on the way down. As you lift your leg, remember that the third stage is supposed to be the hardest. Swap sides. Repeat each side four times. Keep an eye on your posture throughout: don’t lean forward as you lift your leg and put it back down.
This is another good exercise to do when you’re out performing your walking exercises. Tryskipping for a while instead of walking – it will increase your heart rate and will also give your legs a more strenuous workout. The higher you bring your knees, the more work they will be doing. Even though you will be raising your legs quite high, try to keep the skips fairly close together so that you can fit in the maximum number.
You will need about 20-30 m (65-100 feet) of unobstructed grass in order to do this properly. Start on all fours, then jump your feet in so that they’re next to your hands, then spring your hands forward another length, bring your feet up to join them and so on. Aim to do around twenty bunny hops. This exercise will also give your arms a bit of a workout, but it shouldn’t be attempted if you have weak wrists: if in doubt, jump on the spot or skip instead.
In the gym
This exercise works the hamstrings (the muscles situated at the backs of the thighs). Your legs should be fully extended, ankles on top of a cushioned pad and your back at right angles to your legs. Slowly bend your legs so that you’re in a normal sitting position, pause, then return your legs to their outstretched staring position. Remember to exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you lower them. The whole exercise should take around four to six seconds.
This works the quadriceps (at the fronts of the thighs). With your ankles secured behind the cushioned pad and toes pointing straight ahead, slowly extend your legs until they are stretching straight out in front of you, hold and then lower them back down. To get maximum benefit, go slowly and exhale as you’re lifting your legs up. Do as many reps as you can manage. After two or three sessions, see whether you can slightly increase the ‘hold’ when your legs are stretched out.
At work – under the desk
Extend one leg so that it is parallel with the other knee. Flex the raised foot, then bounce the raised leg up and down. The smaller the movement, the more effective it will be. Aim for about twenty small bounces, then slowly squeeze the leg back to its original position and swap legs. To target the inner and outer thigh muscles, repeat the exercise but move your leg out to the side and back instead of up and down. For the inner thigh muscles specifically, turn your foot out to the side when you flex it; your ankle should be pointing towards the ceiling.
Lower leg stretches
Lift up your leg so that again it stretches straight out in front of you. Imagine you are pulling your foot back in towards your body, so that your heel is the most protruding part and your toes are almost pointing backwards towards your body. This should enable you to feel a strong stretch in your calf; make sure that this is a comfortable stretch for you. Now, keeping that stretch, point your toes forward and count to ten.
Repeat twice on each leg.
Stretches – anywhere
Yoga downward facing dog
Position yourself on all fours, your palms flat to the floor, slightly further apart than your shoulders, fingers spread wide. Your feet are on tiptoes. Your spine is arched and your head hangs towards the floor. Feel your spine lengthen and stretch out because of the weight of your head. Now, slowly lower your heels to the floor and feel the stretch all the way down your leg. Taking each foot in turn, lift the heels off the floor and then as it hits the ground again, lift the other foot off simultaneously. Stay like this, or with the heels flat to the floor, for a minute or so, or as long as is comfortable.
Yoga dancer’s pose
Standing straight, focus on a spot on the wall to help you balance. Lift your right arm, fingers pointing forward, until it is just above shoulder height, and lift your left leg out behind you, as far up as you can, until you can balance easily. It takes practice – focusing on a fixed spot certainly helps.
For a great leg workout, you need to warm up with some light cardio first. Walk, Run, or ride a bike for about 10 minutes to get the blood pumping and to loosen up.Stretch your legs out and get ready for the hard work to come.