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The One-Month Challenge Every Runner Needs To Try

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    When we initially think about it, the idea of a leg workout seems a little, well, unnecessary. After all, we've been tottering around for well over 20 years, using our legs to get from point A to point B countless times per day. Not to mention we make a point to take the stairs as often as possible.

    “When you walk or take the stairs, yes, you’re working your legs,” says running expert and Tone House trainer Tamara Pridgett. “But you do that all the time, so your body gets used to the routine and level of intensity. When you make a conscious effort to work out your legs, you're breaking down the muscles and forcing them to fatigue, which makes them stronger.”

    That’s where Pridgett’s 30-day leg challenge comes in. The three effective moves and simple running routine ahead target three major muscle groups: the glutes, the hamstrings, and the quads. Each anaerobic exercise raises your heart rate to increase your burn, so not only are you strengthening and toning your legs, you’re also working your heart and lungs. Plus, stronger legs will make you a better runner — and who doesn't want that?

    Lace up a pair of adidas PureBOOST X sneakers, tap into your inner athlete, and get on your marks. It’s ready, set, go time.




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    The Plan
    Follow this calendar to build stronger, more powerful legs. Anywhere you see an “x” followed by a number, complete that number of sets. Be sure to alternate between moves (instead of doing multiple sets of the same move in a row), and take two minutes between each set. Too much at first? It’s fine to take longer breaks — up to four minutes — as you build your strength and endurance.

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    Broad Jump
    We'll jump-start this workout by showing you the toughest move first. Targeting the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and core stabilizing muscles, it requires a mixture of power, coordination, and sticking your landing.

    Start off with feet parallel and hips-width apart. Lower your body into a quarter-squat position with feet flat. Don’t round your spine or hunch over. You may feel like your back is arched, but you want to have your shoulders open and your butt slightly back. If you engage your core, your back will flatten, your shoulders will open, and your butt will be in the correct place. Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle by your sides.

    Push off the balls of your feet, using the power from your hips and swinging your arms to propel you forward. Test out your first jump to perfect the technique. Once you’ve got it down, begin a series in which you move into the next jump as soon as both feet touch the ground.

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    Walking Lunge
    In order for this quad- and glute-busting lunge to be effective, you need to keep your shoulders back and core engaged. “For the average person, my tip is to pretend like you’re 6 feet tall,” says Pridgett. “People naturally tend to hinge at their hips, but you want to keep your body upright.”

    Standing in place, bring one leg forward into a lunge. Drive your back leg up and over the front knee, like you're trying to step up onto a stair. Keep your toes flexed — you're using the ball of your foot to land and step. Both knees and arms should move from one 90-degree angle to another, mimicking a running stride.

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    Wall Claw
    This move affects each leg differently. Your striking leg feels the burn in your glutes and hip flexors, while your stabilizing leg feels it in your calf.

    To start, stand parallel to a stationary object such as a wall. Begin with your left hand on the wall, standing tall on the ball of your left foot (think about wearing a too-tall pair of high heels). The left leg will remain in this position for the entire set. Drive your right knee up to create a 90-degree angle, then extend the leg out in front with the ball of your foot striking down next to the left foot. Fire your leg back up as soon as the foot connects with the ground. Use your core to stay stabilized, and repeat on the other side.

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    Sprints
    “Everything you need to build stronger legs can be accessed through running of some kind,” says Pridgett. “I like hills, because no matter how strong you are, you will find a place where you feel fatigued. Any incline will build leg strength while allowing you to access your power.”

    For this routine, divide your running time between sets of 40-second runs (about 6.0 to 8.5 speed on a treadmill) on a low hill (about 4.0% incline on a treadmill), followed by two-minute periods of walking at a comfortable pace, approximately 3 miles per hour (about a 3.0 speed on a treadmill).

    As far as form goes, focus on striking on the ball of your foot. This allows you to switch feet more frequently, thus increasing your speed. “Especially on a hill, it’s not efficient to strike with your heel,” says Pridgett. “Make sure your legs are coming up in front of you as you move forward — helping to insure you don’t put too much stress on your hamstrings and increase your risk for injury.”