Many runners are unaware of the importance of a strong core, which in a bio-mechanical sense is the anchor of your running technique. Without it, running form and technique tend to go out the window when you’re tired and that can lead to stress related injuries. But if you hit the Pilates mat, your centre and indeed everywhere else, will be strengthened, physically and metaphorically. When doing Pilates, you are constantly engaging your core. You may think you run mainly with your legs, but you also use your psoas muscle (lower abdomens). Having a strong core is key, especially when running uphill, so your lower back doesn’t take over.
How can you benefit from pilates?
- A stronger core, back and pelvis are the main rewards, as well as increased flexibility, strength and range of movement. The emphasis is on defining and strengthening key muscle areas and if you do it properly, you can really feel the burn.
- Running is performing the same movement over and over. This receptive motion leads to overdeveloped muscles such as the quadriceps, but also leads to weak and tight underdeveloped muscles such as the hamstring and gluts. With pilates exercises, we can strengthen the back-side of the leg and supporting hip muscles. This corrects muscle imbalances and therefore makes the legs stronger and able to handle more exertion!
- An improved posture is often the result for people who do Pilates regularly, as it makes you aware of how you stand, walk and sit and a stronger core supports a straighter spine. All of these factors will reduce susceptibility to injury when the miles start to stack up.
- A lot of coaches talk of the importance of breathing properly. Many runners breathe from the chest, especially when they pick up the pace, when really they should be breathing from the diaphragm. Pilates teaches deep diaphragmatic breathing, which will help your breathing pattern and rhythm in your running.
- In terms of your lower body your knees take a hammering when you train regularly. But Pilates can help here by strengthening the quads and hip abductors, which support the knee and hips when you run. Anything that you can do to strengthen weak areas will help prevent injury and ultimately provide greater running power.
- A lot of runners talk about greater flexibility in muscles and joints after they‘ve regularly attended a Pilates class and the fact that there can be a resistance element, really helps toning and sculpting of certain areas, especially those abs.
- You can clear your mind too, perhaps not in the same way as a yoga class which tends to focus more on re-establishing your relationship with your spiritual core, but certainly enough to leave refreshed and reinvigorated. If you have been using it as an active recovery session, you won’t be disappointed and your body will soon start to show the signs of a Pilates tone.
How can pilates decrease a flare-up of IT Band injuries or prevent any other type of injury?
If there is weakness in the hip, it can present itself as pain in the knee. Runners and cyclists tend to have a very weak gluteus medius (bottom muscle!) which is the primary cause of IT band issues. When the gluteus medius is weak, we recruit other small muscle groups around the hips, like the Tensor Fasciae Latae. That muscle is not meant to do all of the work during running. When that muscle is weak and asked to carry the full load, inflammation and injury occur. By strengthening the gluts and back of the leg, pilates reduces injury and improves running efficiency.
Why not give ONE LEG CIRCLE a go || This is perfect for runners, however it looks deceptively easy but is challenging when performed correctly! To perform this exercise in this position perform knee circles away then towards your body. The goal is to lengthen your leg away from your center to open the hip joint and keep your quadriceps out of the equation which will help you gain the most benefits from this exercise. By finding the balance of engaging the abdominals, pelvic floor and low back simultaneously you will improve torso stability which will consequently allow greater hip mobility.
We currently run pilates classes at Kingswood Health Centre these include lunchtime classes. If you are interested in joining or finding out more information please contact us on 0117 961 2060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.