Running, especially outdoors is a great way to stay both physically and mentally fit and I absolutely love it! I have been a keen runner from an early age and ran competitively for many years, but now simply enjoy running for pleasure. It helps me to de-stress, unwind and to feel more energised.
Why running and Pilates work so well together
Runners run in one plane of motion, often not practicing their full range of movement and as a result some muscles like the quads become strong from overuse and other muscles like the hamstrings and glutes become weak and stop firing correctly. Other muscles will then overcompensate which often leads to injury. Pilates can help to readdress these imbalances. It’s performed slowly allowing you to connect and isolate supporting muscle groups, creating muscle balance and their ability to work correctly.
The importance of core control
Pilates places a huge emphasis on core strength and endurance This is often weak in runners even though it’s important in terms of efficient running posture, technique, and injury prevention. Pilates will strengthen the trunk, back, deep core muscles, hip flexors, iliotibial bands, and hamstrings which are all areas responsible for running related overuse and muscle imbalance injuries.
In running the main purpose of the core is to stabilise and support the spine and trunk, giving you a strong centre for the transfer of forces. It helps to make the lower limb movements as efficient as possible and a strong core will help to maintain good posture, maximising performance, and again minimising injury.
Poor core stability could result in excessive movement in the trunk, through over rotation and this poor running form may lead to fatigue and reduced performance as energy is wasted due to excess movement and poor control.
The benefits for runners
As well as developing a stronger core Pilates has many more benefits for the runner:
- Pilates likes to concentrate on the neck, shoulders and back which are areas that can be prone to tightness, especially in runners. The focus on spinal and joint mobility as well as flexibility is therefore most beneficial. If less tight and more balanced, you are likely to have less discomfort during runs.
- Pilates also concentrates on strengthening the inner thighs and glutes which again can often be weak in runners.
- Injury prevention is the biggest contribution of Pilates and focussing on the spine and its posture, gives better balance, ensuring movements are the most efficient possible. Pilates exercises will highlight weak and tight areas which can then be stretched and strengthened to decrease the risk of injury.
- The Pilates Breathing encourages the use of the diaphragm and control of the inhalation/exhalations to assist with movement and core control. It’s also more efficient and will mean more oxygen can be transported around the body and to the working muscles. Vital in running for efficiency and performance.
- A strong, balanced body will help you to maintain good running form for longer… even as you start to fatigue.
- Pilates helps to loosen your hips, legs and back, helping to keep a fluid, long stride.
- It helps teach muscular cues to help you fire and strengthen muscles that help to maintain better running posture, reducing the risk of overuse.
- You can perform Pilates exercises if injured to aid the healing process and for rehabilitation and recovery.
- It can help to build speed and endurance. Focusing on better movement patterns, the body can become more graceful and efficient in its strides.
- It offers a low impact, full body workout.
Pilates Classes for Runners
As a means of cross-training why not try a Pilates class on one of your rest days each week. Alternatively, you could do a few exercises before or after a run.
I have added 4 classes specifically for the runner to the on-demand Pilates library and if done regularly these will really help to build balance, and core control to the body.
There are running specific exercises, flexibility, and mobility work (including the Foam roller), as well as activation and functional exercises. If you are new to Pilates I would recommend that you start with the beginner classes to familiarise yourself with the Pilates principles and to find those all-important core muscles!