Want more yoga and exercise? Become a woods warrior, try this lower body workout, then end the day with bedtime stretches that relieve lower back pain. Check out my 200hour yoga teacher training experience and read about the school I attended here.
Growing up, I’ve always been involved in some type of activity, whether it was playing tag with my neighbors, going backpacking with my father or running around on the soccer field. Because of this, my legs have always been the biggest part of my body and I admit, I used to feel a little insecure about it. Struggling to squeeze into skirts and skinny jeans that my friends easily slipped on with their cute little bird legs and knobby knees. Now that I’ve grown up a little bit and realized that Barbies and models are far from average, I love my muscular legs. Are they proportionate to the rest of my body? Sometimes no, but it’s cool, thunder thighs are where it’s at. They take me everywhere I need to go, even if it’s twenty miles from point A to B, I know they’ll carry me. Climbing up a volcano? Yep, they were there. Walking three miles home from class carrying a twenty-pound camera lens? No biggie. Taking dozens of photos while frozen in the same pose for an hour during this tutorial? No problem they say! They even requested a yoga class afterwards. They’re that good. So, after years of self-doubt and twirling in the mirror wishing they’d shrink up a bit, I decided it’s time to give my legs some love and some more exercise. Time to cherish those limbs and treat them right. This lower body workout is really basic, but can be easily modified if you’d like it to be a bit tougher. I designed it to be easily remembered and equipment free that way you can add it to the end of a hike or a walk. These moves target your thighs (especially the inner thighs), glutes, calves and even your abdominal muscles. Read through all the exercises so you’re familiar with proper form. You’ll find a concise workout routine at the bottom of the post.
A few quick tips:
- Wear sneakers or supportive shoes
- Stretch out for a couple minutes before you begin
- Breathe consistently throughout each exercise
- Engage your muscles, especially your abdominals
- You are your own trainer. Do what feels best for you. Don’t push it unless that’s what your body wants.
- If you’re not accustomed to strenuous exercise, consult your physician before you begin.
Basic High Lunge
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart. Engage your abdominal muscles and step forward with your right foot until your knee is bent at a 90° angle. Your thigh should be parallel to the ground or as close as you can get to parallel. Your need should be directly over your ankle, never over your toe. Your left heel will naturally rise off the ground. There should be a slight bend in your left leg. Stand up, bringing your back foot to meet the lead foot and switch legs. Continue lunging forward for a total of 20 lunges.
- Modification: Bring your hands in a prayer position and use your abdominal muscles to twist slowly to the left and then the right. This strengthens your core and improves balance.
Calf Raise Three Ways
- Super simple, but don’t let that fool you, these work and you’ll feel the effects instantly. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart. Rise up onto your toes and count one Mississippi, two Mississippi and lower down. Repeat twenty times and do a quick set of ten. Rise up, down, up, down as quickly as possible. Make sure your rising up on your toes as high as is comfortable. Now point your toes in towards each other and repeat, twenty slow, ten fast. Finally, point your toes away from each other and repeat again, twenty slow, ten fast. Your calves should be on fire at this point. No need to wear heels to have defined calves anymore.
Basic Chair Pose
- If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you’ve probably done chair pose. Stand up straight with your feet hip’s distance apart and your arms raised over your head. Simply exhale and sit back as if you’re sitting down in an invisible chair. The goal is to have your thighs parallel to the floor. Your knees will protrude over your feet a little bit, but your weight should be in your heels. I lifted my toes in the photo above to demonstrate that, but you should keep your feet flat on the ground. Keep your chest and arms lifted, look up and keep breathing. Count to ten or twenty and stand up straight. I like to sprinkle in chair pose between all of the other exercises.
- Modification: Instead of feet shoulder length apart stand with your feet together and challenge yourself to bring your thighs parallel to the floor all the while keeping your chest and arms lifted.
- This is very similar to a high lunge. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart. I like to hold my hands at my heart’s center in a prayer position, but you can also hold them overhead or down by your sides. Engage your abdominal muscles and step forward with your right foot a little further than you would for a regular high lunge. At this point, your knee should be behind your ankle. You are balanced on the ball of your back foot. Roll forward onto your toe, which propels your body forward so that your knee is now directly over your ankle. Your knee should never be over your toe. That is why you take a bigger step in the beginning. Rock back onto the ball of your foot, that’s one repetition. Roll forward slowly onto your toe again and back, that’s two. Complete 15 on each foot.
- Stand up straight with your feet a little wider than shoulder’s length. Engage your abdominals and bring your hands in a prayer position at your heart’s center. Lower down slowly until your thighs are parallel (or as close as you can get) with the ground and your elbows touch the insides of your knees. Keep your weight in your heels and as you lower your knees will track outwards instead of forwards. Your knees should never track out over your toes. Slowly rise back up. Repeat 15-20 times.
- First make sure there are no strangers around because this is one sure-fire way to creep them out. Take a wide stance with your legs with your toes pointing outwards; I like to pretend I’m making the letter A. Then squat down so your thighs are parallel with the earth. Keep your head and chest lifted and take 6 small steps forward and 6 small steps backward. You should feel it in your inner thighs. Continue six-steppin’ for about a minute.
- Stand up tall with your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee with your toe pointed towards the ground. Keeping your back straight, lean forward bend your right knee and kick your left leg out behind you. Your fingertips should be pointing towards the earth and your right knee will track over your foot a little bit, but never past your toes. Pretend you’re speed skating in place. Do 15 reps without letting your left leg touch the ground and repeat on the other side.
- Find a tree with a smooth surface. Make sure there aren’t any poison vines growing on it and lean with you back against it, thighs parallel to the earth. Sit up tall and count to thirty.
- Modification: Try lifting one leg for 15 seconds and then the opposite for 15 more.
Lower Body Woods Walk Workout 1-3 sets
- Basic High Lunge x20
- Basic Chair Pose 10-20 seconds
- Calf Raise Three Ways: Slow x20 Quick x10
- Lunge Rollover x15 each leg
- Prayer Squat x20
- Squat Walk 40-60 seconds
- Speed Skater x15 each leg
- Tree Squat 30 seconds
There are dozens of modifications for each of these moves, but rather than overwhelm you I thought it’d be great to start simple and go from there. You’ll see these basic exercises being built upon in future posts. Exercise doesn’t always mean putting on bright workout clothes, paying for a gym membership and fumbling around with machines. Sometimes the most effective workouts are the simplest because we’re more likely to be consistent. I hope you’ll try out some of these moves this week while you’re out walking around or hanging out at home.