Firm legs and buttocks with this routine from Cooking Light Expert Gin Miller. 

October 22, 2008

 Reader: Mary Kaufmann, Portland, Oregon

Her challenge: "I want to maintain my lower body's summer shape year-round."

Her story: "My husband and I are avid backpackers. Each summer we take three to four weeklong backpack trips in California's High Sierra mountains," Kaufmann says. "We are usually at 10,000- to 13,000-foot elevations and cover about 40 miles each trip. It's like being on a stair-climber six hours a day," she says. "This kind of workout helps my lower body―my greatest challenge―stay in shape, but come fall and winter, I find it difficult to keep those muscles toned, even though I go to the gym regularly. My current workouts consist of 45 minutes of cardio, usually the elliptical trainer, and 20 to 30 minutes of weights, alternating upper and lower body. However, my routine seems stalled, and I need to take it to the next level."

Gin's prescription:

Strengthen your legs. "The lower body strength-training workout I developed for Kaufmann uses body weight resistance, so it requires no extra equipment and is easy to perform anywhere," Miller says. "It will tone and firm her legs and buttocks, while also reinvigorating her currently stalled workouts."

As Kaufmann becomes more familiar with the plan, she can increase her intensity level by adding weights or trying the alternative exercises for each move. Many of the alternates feature a core challenge that mimics the workout Kaufmann receives when hiking outdoors over uneven terrain.

Add intense cardio. "Every workout needs a cardio plan to reap the best results, so I've designed a climbing workout that can be done on a treadmill or an elliptical trainer with incline options, which is similar to the legwork and cardio effects of hiking," Miller says. Walking on an incline versus flat ground can increase your calorie burn by 20 percent or more, provide a better workout for your buttocks and thighs, and help improve heart and lung strength. "This program incorporates both steady climbing and intense intervals to help maintain definition in Kaufmann's legs year-round."