Updated: Feb 1, 2019
I have a lot of sympathy for all you runners out there that have suffered from the aches and pains brought on by the demands of running – I too have had it pretty bad in the past. It is no surprise as running has an unbelievable impact on our bodies and whilst a lot of people think the ankle and knee joints take on most of the stress, the spine and of course the strength of your core play a very important part in it too.
Running is repetitive in its nature, which means that any weaknesses or imbalances in your body could potentially surface because certain muscles are overused whilst others are underused. Pilates can help benefit your muscles and joints by changing the way you use your body. Pilates exercises can help by activating the lazy muscles that haven’t been doing their bit, lengthening the tight muscles (e.g hamstrings or hip flexors!) and creating better, more aligned movement patterns so that the affected area doesn’t have to take on so much stress.
To expand a little, pilates benefits runners by…
Increasing core strength
Your core encompasses your entire torso, including your hips, abdominals, back, shoulders and neck. Think about how when we run our bodies endure constant impact – the force of each step travels up from the legs to the lower back and rib cage. The core strength that is acquired through pilates exercises not only helps make those vulnerable areas better able to deal with the impact, it also improves body alignment and balance and will help you distribute the force of running throughout the body more efficiently, instead of just dumping it all on to a few muscles.
Correcting postural imbalances reducing the risk of injury
Since pilates encourages proper movement patterns and teaches correct posture, you are less likely to re-injure the same area or hurt something else through compensation. Additionally, pilates helps you identify your weaknesses that inhibit your gait. You learn muscular cues to help you fire and strengthen muscles that help you maintain a better running posture. Always remember - stability first, movement second.
Improving endurance and speed
Most runners understand that a strong, balanced body helps you maintain proper form as you fatigue. Pilates helps you loosen your hips, legs and back, all helping you keep a fluid, long stride. Also, it is important to keep your psoas (abdominal muscles that connect the spinal column to the femurs and assist in flexing and rotating the leg and flexing the trunk on the pelvis) in optimal condition by keeping them flexible as well as powerful.
A quicker and more comprehensive recovery
Pilates will decrease your recovery time after injury or a strenuous workout by increasing joint mobility, improving flexibility and body awareness. With a regular pilates routine, your muscles are in better condition, so you will feel less fatigued, sore and tight after a long run.
Breathing patterns are essential to performing pilates movements correctly, and breathing practice easily translates into running. Pilates teaches you to fill the lower sections of your lungs more fully, to engage your diaphragm more consciously and to use breath with increased awareness to assist your movement patterns.
One of the fundamentals of pilates is to emphasize balance along with mobility and breath control. Balance decreases with age and those who regularly practice pilates see dramatic gains in balance and have an easier time maintaining it as they age. If you’ve ever tripped or stumbled on a rocky trail while running, you understand how crucial it is for your core muscles to come to the rescue.
If you have found this useful or inspiring I’d love to hear your comments – just hit me up on Facebook/Instagram @lydiapilates
“The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit”. Joseph H. Pilates