Shrinking Calves?

SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
I'm hoping for some thoughts about my big paranoid issue/obsession. I apologize in advance for whatever portion of my story many of you have already heard: My calves are a hideous 19" at their widest point. Between trainers and pt's, opinions are split over whether my calf composition is mostly fat (which is largely fixable) or muscle (which largely is not). I'm the only "big legged" woman in my entire family (no genetic predisposition) but I'm also the only one whose calves had to be strong because I was quite overweight for fifteen years. When I lost all the weight my calf size did not budge. Thus, the obsession began in earnest. Then I developed a left adductor problem that caused off-and-on issues leaving me mostly benched for two years. Of course, I gained back most of the weight I lost before a pt (with training in Functional Movement Screens) fixed me. As I start my return to activity I'm reevaluating my objectives (first, work to slim my calves; then, my legs; then work on all of me with cardio and weights) and scrapping everything I used to do (a lot of weight training, very little cardio) until I at least get the legs slimmed down.

I know my focus for what I'm after now should be on endurance exercise. Just starting back, I'm doing A LOT of walking which is definitely having an impact. I see new definition and my super-curvy lower legs (small ankles... then the big BULBS!) are looking even curvier, which I would never have believed possible. I'm also seeing chub coming off the area above my knees... As I take my long trail walks I'm passed by runners, bladers, and cyclists and, naturally, I automatically calf shop ('I wish I had those...'). That's when I started wondering 'What IS the best endurance activity for slimming legs with the least likelihood of building more calf mass?'

I'm really hoping to hear from people who've slimmed their legs (calves, especially) and what worked best. Please please please. I welcome your opinions and I ain't too proud to beg!

Again, thanks in advance.
 

jldx2in2000

Cathlete
I don't have any real-life advice for you but I feel your misery. I have huge cankles that I cannot get rid of. I tend to melt fat from the top down. So I have decent looking arms and abs but then you get to my thighs and below and yuck! I have big thighs that do not curve in towards the knee so I have nasty knee fat that spills over the inside of my knee. My calves are large but there is no tapering towards the ankle so I can't even tell I have ankles. (Are you picturing tree trunks yet? ;))

I have a feeling that my biggest downfall is my eating. I can control my eating well enough to look good from the waist up most of the time. But then I slip up and fall back into less than desirable eating habits. I know if I could eat healthy all the time, the fat would eventually melt from below my waist. I just have to get there.

I have heard that running and cycling are the best exercises for slimmer legs but hopefully others on here can share what worked for them.

Good luck!
 

cakebaker

Cathlete
Feelin' your pain!

I have large calves, also, and know I will never be able to wear skinny jeans! What has helped are body weight exercises - pilates, especially - and spinning. Also, the gliding discs are great, too. Once I gave up weights in conjunction with lower body exercises, I saw an improvement.
 

RapidBreath

Cathlete
Its mostly fat. In terms of not building more muscle in your calves, I think thats really hard to avoid. I too have the big calves. I'm naturally muscular, have huge bones (I'm 5'2" and my ankle bones dwarf my mother who is 5'5"). Running has improved my lower body/thigh area and ankle. My calves are just as strong as ever. Until you are at a very low body fat percentage I don't think you will know whether or not it was mostly fat or not. I did lose some fat off that area a few years ago with an injury (on my butt for 4 months). If what you are doing now is moving fat, just keep doing it until it stops working. I would suggest avoiding any plyo workouts such as the IMAXes or Cardio Core Circuit. Jump rope seems to build the calf area.

Btw. I never know when to write calf or calve. So, sorry in advance for the grammar.:eek:
 
'What IS the best endurance activity for slimming legs with the least likelihood of building more calf mass?'

Hi Stacey!
I would say walking is the best for slimming the calf muscles. Definitely don't do any calf work unless it's high reps, no weights. Sometimes just doing BW calf raises can help slim them down a bit by getting rid of some of the fat in that area. It depends on how your calves respond to direct calf work.

Also, try stretching them a lot. This helps elongate (sp?) the muscle instead of having it sitting there like a ball. Does that make sense? Stretching muscles make them pliable and appear more lengthened rather than shortened and enlarged.
 

SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
I have heard that running and cycling are the best exercises for slimmer legs...

I have heard this, also. I may start back to running soon and I'm hoping to get a bike soon, also. All the female Rollerbladers seem to have big calves so that worries me a bit, though I think that may be an optical illusion from the bulky skates.

I feel for you, too. I know what Leg Envy feels like, especially in the winter, when I cannot find boots that will actually zip up over my calves. And I understand that because I know my calves are freakishly huge and rare.
 

SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
I have large calves, also, and know I will never be able to wear skinny jeans! What has helped are body weight exercises - pilates, especially - and spinning. Also, the gliding discs are great, too. Once I gave up weights in conjunction with lower body exercises, I saw an improvement.

Yep. I used to hardly ever do cardio because everybody said my emphasis should be on weights (building muscle burns fat... blah blah blah) and that cardio is old school. Yea, right. I've heard or read all kinds of stuff but I've yet to see one endurance runner with big legs - and I've see many on the trails. Back when I first tried losing the weight my legs just got bulkier from all the weightlifting, especially since the fat wasn't budging. I even split a pair of jeans across my right quad. I mean, who DOES that?! Just when I started cutting out all lower body weight training and replacing that with running I got hurt and everything stopped. I had planned to weight train abs and upper body and use running as my lower body slimmer, figuring I'd slim down my legs first, and then reintroduce lower body weight training. Now that my injury is fixed that is, again, the plan.

I've heard A LOT about the elongating effects of pilates and yoga. And I've heard a lot of die-hard gym rats scoff. But I've decided they're mostly full of it and you really have to figure out what works for you. Any suggestions for good pilates and yoga dvd's (apart from the obvious... ;))?
 

jldx2in2000

Cathlete
I have heard this, also. I may start back to running soon and I'm hoping to get a bike soon, also. All the female Rollerbladers seem to have big calves so that worries me a bit, though I think that may be an optical illusion from the bulky skates.

I feel for you, too. I know what Leg Envy feels like, especially in the winter, when I cannot find boots that will actually zip up over my calves. And I understand that because I know my calves are freakishly huge and rare.

Ah yes! Boot envy! I cannot wear rain boots because of my calves but I actually got lucky and found a pair of winter boots that tie instead of zip. I so wish I could wear those cute just-below-the-knee boots that most women can wear with dresses. So cute! :(
 

SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
Its mostly fat. In terms of not building more muscle in your calves, I think thats really hard to avoid. I too have the big calves. I'm naturally muscular, have huge bones (I'm 5'2" and my ankle bones dwarf my mother who is 5'5"). Running has improved my lower body/thigh area and ankle. My calves are just as strong as ever. Until you are at a very low body fat percentage I don't think you will know whether or not it was mostly fat or not. I did lose some fat off that area a few years ago with an injury (on my butt for 4 months). If what you are doing now is moving fat, just keep doing it until it stops working. I would suggest avoiding any plyo workouts such as the IMAXes or Cardio Core Circuit. Jump rope seems to build the calf area.

Btw. I never know when to write calf or calve. So, sorry in advance for the grammar.:eek:

This is very encouraging. Just knowing that running has really improved somebody's legs gives me hope. Still got the calf bulbs though...? I was afraid of that. I can't get into a pair of boots and am at least hoping I can get that bulb down enough for wide-calf boots. Have you had that experience? I'm loving the walking but want a bike so I can explore more of the trail, like all the Two-Wheelers who pass me... but I am surprised how fast the fat moves when you have a daily one hour walk. Never fast enough, though ;). Thanks.
 

SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
Hi Stacey!
I would say walking is the best for slimming the calf muscles. Definitely don't do any calf work unless it's high reps, no weights. Sometimes just doing BW calf raises can help slim them down a bit by getting rid of some of the fat in that area. It depends on how your calves respond to direct calf work.

Also, try stretching them a lot. This helps elongate (sp?) the muscle instead of having it sitting there like a ball. Does that make sense? Stretching muscles make them pliable and appear more lengthened rather than shortened and enlarged.

Okay, that's two votes for walking and stretching/pilates. I am going to look into pilates/stretching dvd's (apart from Cathe, do YOU have any other recommendations?). Thanks so much.
 
Okay, that's two votes for walking and stretching/pilates. I am going to look into pilates/stretching dvd's (apart from Cathe, do YOU have any other recommendations?). Thanks so much.

I'm not a big pilates fan so I can't help you there. Any of Cathe's stretching segments are good, her Stretch Max is good and Yoga DVD's might help too.
 

Gobias

Cathlete
Hi,

I have the absolute opposite problem from you. I am a stick and my legs are sticks. I have envy of your curvy calves! I guess we want what we don't have.

It sounds like you don't know if it is fat or muscle but I will tell you what I have noticed on me. I have barely any fat on my legs (upper or lower) and my calf muscles usually look puny (if you can see any muscle at all). But what has CAUSED great calf definition (as well as thigh definition - quad, hamstring & around the knee) has been step aerobics, floor aerobics that have a lot of jumping and HiiT. I really have nicely shaped legs rather than sticks.

What did NOT cause great definition was running, elliptical, stair master (stepper) and step mill (the machine that looks like rotating stairs). I used to do these workouts on a daily basis at the gym and saw absolutely no muscle definition.

Once I started working out at home with mainly step aerobics and HiiT, I saw great calf definition.

I'm thinking if you do the cardio workouts that did NOT cause me calf definition, they will NOT cause more calf definition on you. Those workouts did give me awesome cardio results without the massive muscle definition. I thought stepper, step mill, running would be great for defining my legs but I just didn't see any definition (I could feel the hard muscle, I just couldn't see it).

In other words, you and I would do the opposite cardio sessions to get opposite results. Just a thought. Also, my S.O. does major biking / spinning and is also a stick. But some of his friends do the same major biking/spinning and have massive and toned legs. Lots of genetics going on.

Good luck.

(Just know that us sticks are envying your sexy curvy legs!)
 

jldx2in2000

Cathlete
I was thinking about this issue some more and was thinking I remembered reading about high heels shortening your calf muscles which would add to the bulb effect you are describing. I am not sure what type of shoes you wear the majority of the time but if you do wear high heels often, I would strongly suggest switching to flats every once in a while and make sure to stretch your calf muscles for several minutes after a day of wearing heels.
 

slysam

New Member
I have kind of sturdy claves for my size but I don't have "kankles" and mine look muscular. When I was smaller they were actually bigger than now and I wasn't doing any maor strength work at the time--just lots of walking, lots of climbing up and down stairs, a few dance classes a week (including some plie's, etc), and pilates. I could not wear the boots that are fitted and zip to the knee. I did later gain some weight and dieted to lose it. Interestingly, when I lost weight my calves decreased a little, just a little but enough that I could squeeze into boots that zip for the first time! (and I was still bigger overall than when I could not, go figure).

I am still losing a little more as I am about 10 pounds over a healthy BMI and am working slowly to get there. But a couple things I've noticed. My calves were there biggest when I was doing a lot of weight bearing activity, now some of my cardio is swimming and water aerobics and they seem to have shrank a little more. (I still dance, walk a lot and jump rope but I think this cut down on overall weight bearing). When you lose some weight, some just may come off from there thought maybe not for the best reasons (as sometimes we lose muscle too). Perhaps leg strength exercises that don't bear a lot of weight might help but I can't say as I love deadlifts, squats and step ups. Also, I feel less engagement in them going up stairs and such as I have strengthened my glutes, quads and hamstrings so perhaps they were taking more than their fair share on. (perhaps that is why swimming seems to help--the calves are relaxed but the work comes from the hips, glutes and thighs). Also, I notice my calves and shins feel tight quite often, so I make a point to stretch and foam roll them often. I don't know that this can effect their appearance, but they seem to look better maybe just because they don't feel as tight so I am not a fixated on them. Maybe they are not retaining as much fluid for some reason? Hard to say, but they have shrank enough that I can comfortably wear fitted boots and I feel a lot better about them. Strong calves are a good thing!
 
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hokypoky

Cathlete
I have the same problem area - when I was in college, I joined some friends at the gym, not really knowing (or caring) what exercises did what. I thought I was so cool at the leg presses, kept piling on the weight .... until I realized how tight my pants were in the calf area! Now when I'm doing weight-bearing exercises, I work my calves without weight, not wanting to skip a body part altogether.

I've been spinning regularly for 4 years and would not say it's a calf slimmer. But I think if mine had less fat, at least you'd be able to see the muscle!
 

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