When I first started running at age 13, my vision of what would happen to my legs was something of a fantasy. I dreamed that my calves and thighs would evolve into something the girls all loved.
My teammates often had legs that generated envy. One had what seemed like apples stuffed into his calves. In track, he was more of a jumper, sprinter, hurdler, and pole vaulter than a distance runner. I should have learned something from that example.
All through high school and college, my legs remained pretty much the same. Chicken legs. Thin and often pale.
There should have been hints that this was not all bad. During high school a girl named Penny worked the long jump pit at track meets. She had a trace of lust for legs, it seems, and what better place to see boys in their short shorts than the long jump pit!? She once told me that I had nice legs. I should have listened. In my numb high school mode, I missed that compliment in the moment.
On to college and ever more miles. By then I was all the way up to 140 lbs. Wow. On a six foot frame, that’s not very much. But my thighs had grown a bit with all that training. Still, my slightly bowed legs were not that awe-inspiring. Or so I often thought.
My college girlfriend seemed to like things well enough. It had taken years of running to gain the self-confidence that I had something other than chicken legs. Sometimes that’s what life is really all about, becoming comfortable with what you are rather than what you think you ought to be. But that doesn’t stop an entire industry from selling penis enlargement products. So it’s apparently not a lesson easily learned by quite a few men.
Beyond college, my legs actually did fill out a bit. Mostly that was the product of heavy miles, weight work, and squats. But some of it was just plain age and testosterone.
And so it largely went until I became a cyclist. That first summer at the age of 45 I noticed a new look about my legs. Now they rise and fall every summer depending on the type and degree of miles I put in. That ability to actually enlarge my thighs was something of a miracle to a guy that had lived so long with really lean thighs. Muscle! What a revelation!
But along comes age. And that makes it harder to build muscle. So there needs to be some calculated effort. Weight work during the winter. More protein in the diet. Strength work and speed. These are the techniques for counteracting loss of muscle mass due to the aging process.
The interesting byproduct of the muscle weight gain in the legs that I have achieved was the ability to put some meat on my upper body and shoulders as well. If I had chicken legs most of my life, well, my arms were even worse.
So there’s a benefit to all this cross training. That’s the message here. Yesterday I spent most of my time in the pool doing kicking drills. I could feel the hip flexors working hard, and my thighs got tired. That’s going to produce benefits on both the bike and the run.
The tough part is always planning the time necessary to get all that fitness work done. Getting rid of chicken legs or a bulldog butt takes time. If only it were easy to get rid of turkey neck as you get older, life might be fair.
So there are some animal attributes that come with the territory. But the secret to working through chicken legs, it turns out, is not being chicken to try new things.