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Friday, February 24, 2012

My Leg Makeover with FITNESS Magazine

Back in December, I saw a tweet from an Editorial Assistant at FITNESS Magazine saying that they were still looking for women in the NYC area who wanted to participate in a leg makeover project with the magazine. I sent a reply figuring, why not? I went home, had my husband take some pictures of me in workout clothes and sent my information in to the magazine. A few days letter, I found out that I was selected as one of the leg makeover participants! It's the second installment of FITNESS Magazine's Body Lab project where they take a deeper look at a different "trouble zone" each month - the anatomy behind the muscles, influences muscle shape and how we can work to reshape those areas. 

So why do this? I will admit that having access and the services of a personal trainer for free was a factor. But the truth is that I have never loved my legs. I consider my legs to be "thick" and athletic. My sister and I would always joke about how hard it was to find a good pair of boots that would comfortably zip up over our calves or how our ski boots would pinch our legs. Over the years, despite running and swimming and cycling and lifting weights, my legs wouldn't show much increase in definition. I've worked with personal trainers in the past and haven't seen the results I was looking for. I could focus on my upper body for a week and see a definite change but my legs are a different story. They are stubborn but, then again, I also don't like working my legs all that much. After all, aren't women predisposed to storing fat in their thighs and hips?

When I walked into my first session at an unassuming New York Sports Club in Times Square, I was expecting a hard workout. Probably plyometrics, maybe some high intensity intervals, maybe medicine balls or kettle bells. I walked downstairs and met my trainer Monica along with the other women who would be participating in the project. As we got to know each other, Monica showed us the exercises that we would be doing over the next four weeks. 9 exercises. One set of 12 reps. 20 minutes. We would meet with Monica twice a week and then complete the exercises on our own once a week. That's it?!? Are you kidding me? How would completing one set of 9 exercises, three times a week over four weeks "transform" my legs? Many of the exercises were ones that I was already doing like walking lunges, split squats, squats. I was skeptical. Clearly there would be airbrushing involved. 

However, after the second session, I was sore. As we progressed, we added more reps (topping out at 20 reps per leg) and added weights to increase the impact of the exercises. It was a lot of fun working with the other women and Monica kept us honest - correcting our form to make sure that we were getting the greatest impact from each exercise. While I didn't necessarily diet during the four weeks, I did pay closer attention to what I was eating and incorporated more lean protein into my diet. There was an after photo shoot to think about after all!

It's easy to start accumulating fat in our legs without knowing it which in turn causes our legs to look bulky - not by strength training the lower body like I know many women fear. Changing the strength and endurance of our legs, like we had been doing over the past month, can change how your legs look. After completing the program, I definitely feel like my legs are firmer/tighter and stronger. I lost half an inch in the circumference of my left thigh and three-quarters of an inch in my right thigh. I am also starting to see a bit more definition on my legs and calves. I also feel more confident about my legs.

Before and After shots - Kind of a nerve-wracking experience. I admit, I'm a little self-conscious about the fact that they chose an ass shot for me. By the way, those numbers at the bottom aren't the circumference of my calves, thank goodness. They are my thighs.
You can now read about our little makeover project in the March issue of FITNESS Magazine. The print edition has the full article and exercises while the online and iPad versions have the profiles of each of our "success stories." The "Before" and "After" photo shoots were also a funny experience. Nothing like parading through the lobby of a big midtown office building in booty shorts and bright purple sneakers.

Thanks so much to FITNESS Magazine for letting me participate in this project and Samantha for coordinating everything. Of course, thanks to Monica Vazquez for kicking each of our asses into shape - no joke. #myassthanksyou

Sexy Leg Exercises
You can see a full explanation of each exercise in FITNESS but here are the exercises that we did:

1. Walking lunges
We started with 12 reps per leg (24 lunges total) and ended with 20 reps per leg (40 lunges total) with 10 lb dumbbells in each hand.

2. Three-way lunges 
Um, probably my least favorite of the nine exercises. Forward lunge, forward lunge at a 45 degree angle, side lunge = 1 rep. I dislike side lunges with a passion. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 15 reps per leg with 10 lb dumbbells in each hand. Switch sides.

3. Single-leg dead lift
These were fun and challenged your balance along with your legs. Basically, hinging forward at the hips while extending your right leg behind you until your body - from head to right heel - are parallel to the floor, like your body is making a T and your arms hang down. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg with 10 lbs dumbbells in each hand. Switch sides.

4. Good mornings
Deceptively simple. With feet slight closer than shoulder-width apart, hold a single dumbbell at your chest with elbows bent and at the side of your body. With legs straight, press butt backwards and hinge forward at the hips until back is parallel to the floor. Squeeze butt and hinge back up. We started with 12 reps with a 10 lb dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps with a 20 lb dumbbell.

5. Goblet squats
I LOVED the goblet squats. Hold a single dumbbell with both hands with elbows bent and pointing slightly outwards. Squat down until your elbows touch the inside of your knees. We started with 12 reps with a 10 lb dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps with a 25 lb dumbbell.

6. Hamstring curls on swiss ball
We started with 12 reps and progressed to 20 reps. As you pull the ball in towards you butt, make sure to hold it for one second. Yeah, that burns.

7. Split leg squat on Swiss ball or bench
Also a favorite of mine because the exercise recruited your core muscles to balance and stabilize you. With the toes of one leg on a bench or a Swiss ball, do a single leg squat. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg.

8. Calf raises on step
We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg.

9. Calf raise on ball
Sitting on a swiss ball, hold a dumbbell on right knee do a calf raise by lifting up onto your right toes and lower back down. Switch sides. We started with 12 reps per leg with a 20 lbs dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps per leg with a 25 lb dumbbell.

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At February 25, 2012 at 7:29 PM , Blogger Surfing Grandma of OC said...

Awesome.. we both made cool magazines. I dont know how to scan my article and post like you did! or is this a photo?

At February 25, 2012 at 11:32 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks! I took a photo of the magazine and iPad feature - didn't scan it. I've been looking for WSSM to see your article but haven't been able to find it :-( Would love to read it and hoping that I find a copy while I'm here in California.

At February 26, 2012 at 7:06 AM , Anonymous martha@ running in mommyland said...

Christine! That's amazing! And you look great! I think that after the race I'm going to incorporate more strength training. It really can transform a body! p.s. Thanks for the shared tweet.... kind of exciting!

At February 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Martha! It was a bit of a nerve wracking process but lots of fun in the end. I'm a firm believer in strength training, especially as I'm getting older (Boo!). After doing these leg exercises for four weeks consistently, I really did feel a big difference in my running. I felt a lot stronger and faster.

At February 29, 2012 at 9:43 PM , Blogger The Preppy Girl in Pink said...

What an awesome experience and I actually have this magazine in my house right now! How crazy is that?! I am definitely more apt to try the workout now. So cool!!

At February 29, 2012 at 11:38 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks! It was a really fun experience. I'd never done anything like that before. You should definitely try the workout. It was a lot harder than it looks at first glance. It definitely took 3-4 weeks of consistently doing the workout to see a difference.

At June 8, 2012 at 9:05 AM , Blogger Krysten said...

THIS IS SOOO COOL! What a fun experience!
PS You look too cute in the photos! xox


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