You're asking, and I'm answering.
I am working really hard to lose weight and get in shape for the first time ever. I've been working on this goal all Summer, and I've lost 21 pounds and many inches. However, I'm trying some forms of exercise for the first time and need a little help. I've heard that using the elliptical machine and spinning class are easier than running; however, I find it much easier to run three miles. After about 10 to 15 seconds of those activities, my quads can't take anymore. Is that unusual? Or am I just extremely weak? What can I do to improve?
Thanks so much!
— Not a Thigh Master
Congratulations on getting in shape and losing both pounds and inches. I think it is great you are trying to diversify your cardio workouts. To see what I have to say about your quads, just read more.
Since you are running, which tends to strengthen and tighten the hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thigh), having weak quads puts you at risk for developing runner's knee. Runner's knee is an overuse injury that causes pain around the knee, especially when going down stairs. It is a condition you want to avoid, for it can seriously derail your fitness regimen. For this reason alone I strongly recommend you strengthen your quads. Also, the quads are an important muscle for everyday activities like lifting, since you want to lift with your legs, not your back.
I would begin with basic quad strengthening exercises like the wall sit, which you can do anywhere there is a wall to lean against. I would start with three sets of 20 seconds, and do two sets during a workout. Each week add five seconds to the sits. The leg extension machine is a great quad strengthening exercise since it works the quad muscles through a large range of motion. Squats, the classic exercise many people love to hate, are a great exercise for strengthening the legs. Start with no weights, and gradually work to holding hand weights while squatting. Since you are looking to try new forms of exercise, yoga is full of many poses that work the quads. You should try Warrior One or Fierce pose.
Also, don't avoid the elliptical (press with your toes to work your quads more), the StepMill, or spin class. You need to take these classes to build endurance in your quads as well. If spin class is too intense, work on an exercise bike to build up to the class.
One last bit of advice: make sure that your hamstrings are not overly tight. Since the hamstrings and quads are opposing muscle groups, if the backs of your legs are tight, your quads won't be able to work through their full range of motion. Here are some stretches for your hamstrings. Good luck and keep up the good work!
If you have a quad exercise to share, do so in the comments section below.