How To Have Lovelier Legs
Well, ‘Hi’. Hello, you pasty, maybe flabby limbs – which have probably been lurking under Wolford opaques since last autumn. It’s time to come out and play. To be shown off, in shorter skirts, Capris – maybe (if we’re really daring) shorts and a cossie.
If the thought of abandoning tights and trousers has you feeling low on the leg confidence-o-meter, though, we’re striding – literally – to the rescue. Because there are great cheats, on the leg front. And there are ways to shape up legs which don’t require a gym membership (or any great lifestyle changes, really).
Of course, genes do go some way to determining the length of your legs (the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Elle MacPherson having won the DNA lottery, on that front) – but there’s plenty those of us who are less blessed can do about their shapeliness. In fact, you can literally add some tone-up exercises to your regime right now this minute – by skipping the lift/escalator and taking the stairs. According to personal trainer Jolene Matthews, ‘Don’t underestimate this simple activity.’ She recommends ‘skipping’ steps (i.e. taking two at a time, if knees will permit) if you’re taking a dozen or so stairs; not only does this shape your legs, but your abdominal muscles and derrière. Matthews also recommends something many of us like to do without even thinking about its leg-sculpting benefits: dancing. ‘There’s a reason why dancers all have amazing legs,’ she says. ‘It’s the perfect activity. It gets your heart up and shapes the legs.’
The legs feature the largest group of muscles in the body. Along with core muscles (around your middle), they are the absolute foundation of your power and strength. There are three key areas to work on: calves (which help to make your ankles appear shapelier, too), hamstrings (at the back of the thighs, which work to move your hip and knee joints), and quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thigh, which help to extend the knee). So…
Work those calves… Try a basic calf raise. Stand up straight, sideways on to a bookshelf or another sturdy piece of furniture. (Don’t use a chair, unless it’s a hefty armchair.) Stand straight, without leaning. Slowly flex your calf muscles and lift your heels off of the ground to balance on the balls of your feet. Hold for five seconds and lower; repeat ten times.
Work those hamstrings… Turn to yoga for a great hamstring exercise: the bridge posture. Lie on the ground on your back with your feet flat and knees bent. With your hands flat on the ground and your abdominal muscles engaged engaged, slowly lift your rear off of the ground (you should lift as far as ‘bra level’) and hold for ten seconds. Then lower it back down, starting at the shoulder and descending vertebra by vertebra until the small of your back is on the ground again. Do five to ten repetitions. Next, try a resistance band curl: lie face down with a resistance band (like a large elastic band, available from sports shops) hooked under the ball of your foot . Hold either end of the band with your hands. Extend your legs straight out, then slowly lift the leg with the band while bending your knee. Do 10 ‘reps’ and then repeat with the other leg.
Work those quads… Squats are great for this. (The above knee caveats apply, NB.). While standing straight, lower your rear as if you are going to sit in a chair. Continue lowering until your knees are completely bent, and keep your torso as straight as possible. Hold for five seconds, then repeat ten times. To start with, lean your back against a wall to do this, until your legs are stronger – and there’s absolutely no need to get as far as a seated position; start gently and build up. (Your legs will love you for squats though.)
All of the above takes care of the shape – but what about the pastry pallor? Our go-to products, frankly, are godsends – two from This Works, and hard to beat in our book. (Oh – and in our actual books!) If you’ve got a bare leg S.O.S., nothing beats This Works Perfect Legs Skin Miracle, which is an instant tint in the form of a really easy-to-apply serum, which gives an amazing golden glow in a flash. (It’s budge-proof until removed with soap and water. This Works Perfect Legs Gradual Tan is (as the name says) a gradual tanner, adding a whisper of extra colour day by day. Just ‘build’, until you’ve got the golden glow of your heart’s desire, and then re-apply every few days.
We’re also converts to TanOrganic Self Tanning Oil, which is also incredibly easy to apply, in the form of a ‘dry oil’ (nice lemony scent, too), which blends in beautifully and is really streak-proof. And a last ‘cheat’, to make legs look longer? While we’re on the subject of Princess Diana, apparently she used a little shimmer on her shins to make them appear elongated.
So now who’s afraid of shorts…? Not us!
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