As runners, we all know that Pilates is good for us and that we “should” do it. But why?
Pilates is much more than ab exercises and hamstring stretches. It is both a training and treatment program that addresses overall body alignment, injury rehab and prevention, movement patterns, recovery from your sport and any muscular and postural imbalances.
A properly working core contributes to good alignment and quality movement while running. But how?
A good relationship with gravity.
“If you don’t use gravity, gravity will use you.”
A properly working core helps the body to ‘float’ and ‘fall’ forward like a well-controlled hovercraft, even while running uphill. Imagine the way Kenyan distance runners move – gracefully floating over the ground at impossible speeds, seemingly without effort.
The inner core provides the support necessary to move in a way that is more efficient, more connected and stronger.
This not only feels great and improves performance, but also prevents injury. A strong core and good alignment minimize unnecessary impact on joints and the legs, as the core becomes your ‘shock absorber’.
A properly engaged core while running also holds the trunk in a position that allows for the best possible airflow. More room for air in your lungs will result in well-nourished muscles, better running performance, increased endurance and likely more enjoyment.
How do you do this?
‘Lead from the heart’ while running, almost ‘falling forward’ with each stride. Stay open through the chest and shoulders. Keep the chin up, look straight ahead. Staying ‘lifted’ through the trunk allows for lots of air to fill the lungs.
Many of us have to sit at a computer screen for our jobs, and this wreaks havoc on body alignment. When we try to run after sitting all day, the shoulders are likely still rounded forward, the neck is forward of the shoulders, the hips may not be extending properly.
The answer to this is not to force the chest forward and arch the back, but to gently open and stretch the muscles that have been tense or shortened (often the hamstrings, chest and shoulders) and to strengthen the muscles that have been inactive during the day (usually abdominals and glutes). A workout that combines shoulder and hip mobilization, as well as core and hip stabilization exercises can make a big difference in improving how your body moves when running (ie moving more efficiently, with less perceived effort or discomfort).
Another piece of the puzzle is body awareness – learning what quality movement and good alignment feel like and noticing early on when your posture or movement is ‘off’ in some some way. The goal isn’t to think constantly about your posture, but to create healthy, habitual movement and patterns of core activation that become subconscious over time.
I will be leading two Pilates for Runners workshops at Pilates Nelson—one Saturday 19 November and one 10 December, both at 2:30pm. The first is an introduction to the core as it relates to running form, treatment and prevention of common running injuries through Pilates, and a mat workout with runner-specific stretching and strengthening exercises. The second workshop will include an extended Q & A, a closer look at injury prevention and running form, and a mat workout. A take-home manual with the information covered, as well as illustrations and descriptions of the exercises is included in the cost of the workshop.
For more information or to book, please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 021-045-2277
Nelson Pilates: Kate@pilatesnelson.co.nz or 027-366-2213