How Pilates can make you run faster, longer and pain free

Every runner at some point experiences the frustration of injury holding them back. Whether it keeps them from beating their personal best, takes the enjoyment out of training or worse still, prevents them from running at all, injuries are a pretty common occurrence that hang around both short and long term.

What if you could tweak your training slightly so you could strengthen your body against injury, run faster and help your body recover more quickly? With Pilates you can do exactly this! Pilates exercises create a stronger, more flexible spine and core, and also promote faster recovery from strains or injuries.

For a runner, posture is one of the key ingredients to success. Posture is very dependent on a strong core. Pilates develops a strong core by supporting and strengthening the muscles of the torso, hips, shoulders and pelvis. This can eventually lead to a huge positive difference in your posture, technique, balance and stability. It enables you to focus on where your head and neck are in relation to the spine and pelvis, on down through the legs and toes. This all adds up to more efficient movement and less chance of injury.

Pilates exercises will:

  • Build up the back muscles evenly

  • Elongate and align the spine for better stability

  • Expand the diaphragm

  • Increase overall flexibility, strength, and balance

  • Increase range of motion in hips and shoulders

  • Enhance concentration through focused breathing

  • Provide more upright running

  • Help bodies recover faster from injuries

Developing a strong and more stable core by including some Pilates exercises into your training routine each week will help you:

  • Run more efficiently uphill with a stabilised musculature

  • Run more efficiently downhill with a stronger and more balanced backside

  • Experience less tightening of the neck, head and shoulders

  • Focus on proper movement with better body awareness

  • Decrease fatigue because of less strain on the body

  • Shave seconds off your times because you move more efficiently

  • Run without pain!

Here are my top 3 Pilates exercises for runners that you can add in to your training:

Start with 5 to 10 reps of each exercise

Side Leg Lifts (helps increase strength in the glute medias to improve alignment and prevent injury)

To start lie on your side with your torso and head lined up along the back edge of the mat.

Flex the hips slightly so your feet line up with the front edge of the mat. Support your head on the arm which is either bent under your head or stretch it out on the mat, your other hand is in front of the chest.

Keep your shoulders and hips stacked on top of each other and your spine straight. The bottom leg is parallel with the floor.

As you exhale lift the top leg up toward the ceiling, creasing at the top of the thigh without moving the hip or shortening the waist. Keep your shoulders and hips stacked.

As you inhale lower the leg back to the start position.

The Bridge (helps increase strength in the glutes and hamstrings)

Lie on your back with the spine in a neutral position, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place the legs hip width apart and your arms extended along your sides.

Pressing the backs of your arms into the mat as you inhale press down through your feet to lengthen your spine and press your hips up.

Come to a bridge position on your shoulders with your knees, hips and shoulders in one line. Your abs and hamstrings should be engaged.

Roll down through the spine to return to start position

The Hundred (helps to develop controlled breathing so your inhales and exhales are balanced and builds strong abdominals)

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms at your sides, palms down.

Inhale and lift your head, neck, shoulders, and arms off the ground. Lift your knees and extend your feet so your legs are straight and at a 45-degree angle to the floor.

Take five short breaths in and five short breaths out. While doing so, pump your arms, moving them in a controlled up and down manner.

Do a cycle of 10 full breaths—each breath includes five inhales and five exhales. After you do 10 complete breaths, you will have completed 100 arm pumps.

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