Running is a vigorous cardiovascular workout that can keep you slim, trim and sexy-looking. Whether you are an athlete or run in the park on the weekends, it's important to keep your leg muscles strong to reduce the risk of injuries. Strengthening your leg muscles, from the hip to the ankle, can help improve your speed and endurance. Strong leg and hip muscles help to stabilize your hip and knee joints to prevent overuse injuries, such as runner's knee.
Warm up your muscles before you start lifting those legs. Warming up before working out can help reduce your risk of injury. It gets the blood flowing and helps improve your flexibility. You should warm up before running also. Running on concrete, pavement or other hard surfaces puts a lot of stress on your joints. Warming up can help your joints and muscles better absorb the shock of running.
Side Lying Lift
Any exercise you can do while lying down has to be a good exercise. The side lying leg lift will strengthen the smaller, but functionally essential, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus at the outer hip and thigh. Get comfortable on the floor on a mat or on a rug. Support your upper body on your elbow and forearm. Stack one leg on top of the other. Lift the top leg up toward the ceiling about 1 foot above the other. Hold it for 30 seconds, and then relax. Do eight to 10 repetitions on each side. Gradually increase the number of repetitions to 20.
Straight Leg Lift
Stay on the floor and do some straight leg lifts to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. Bend your right knee and place your foot on the floor. Try to get your heel as close to your butt as you can. Straighten out your left leg and then lift it toward the ceiling as high as you can. Slowly lower your leg back toward the floor, but don't touch the floor with your heel. Do 10 repetitions with each leg.
Standing Forward Lift
Standing forward leg lifts, also called standing hip flexors, are easy to do. You can do this exercise just about anywhere, anytime. This exercise strengthens your hip joints to help prevent running injuries. Stand up straight and shift your weight to your left foot. Slowly lift your right leg upward. Don't lock your knee when lifting your leg. Lift your leg as high as you can, and then slowly lower it back to the floor. Hold onto a chair if you need help keeping your balance. Do eight to 10 repetitions with each leg.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.