Why is Pilates beneficial for Runners?
I’ve gotten quite a few questions from students and friends of mine as to why Pilates may be beneficial for athletes, specifically runners. Although it may seem like a “dancer’s exercise” or an exercise “just for women”, I can assure you, it is not! Pilates was built by an athlete (Joseph Pilates was a boxer!) for other athletes. Think of it as the ultimate cross training, for sport and for life!
Benefits of Pilates for Runners
“Cross training for sport and for life”
Working in other planes of motion
As many of you runners already know, cross training is incredibly important for runners. In a sport that primarily exists in the sagittal plane (moving front and back), it is vital to move in other directions (side to side, rotationally etc) to help develop muscles uniformly across the body. Without uniform development, working on strengthening stabilizers, runners can be imbalanced and injury prone. I’ve found that sticking to a routine and finding a type of exercise that naturally incorporates these movements is the easiest way to keep up with cross training. In a Pilates class, you won’t have to think about it but, you will be cross training! Make sure to find an instructor or studio that understands the needs of runners and incorporates multiple planes of motion.
So much of our workouts revolves around pounding the pavement, track or trails. Running, inherently, is a high impact exercise. Cross training and adding in more low impact exercises gives your body a break. Pilates strengthens and stretches without adding in extra impact so, it is a great form of exercise to add in, even on a day where you are running. Because it doesn’t add extra load, it is easy to include in your routine.
This is a hard one for us runners out there. We have perpetually tight hamstrings, backs, hips, upper backs… the list goes on. Let’s just say, flexibility is usually not our strong suit. Pilates helps to stretch and strengthen you at the same time. Unlike Yoga (which I am a fan of, by the way), it encourages you to put a little muscle behind your stretch and to continually move through stretches so they are active. Off the top of my head, I can think of multiple stretches for our backs (upper and lower) - short spine, monkey, tower, push through bar, shoulders - reverse push through, teaser on wunda chair, long back stretch, hamstrings - tree, stomach massage, russian splits and hips - front splits, side splits etc. Joseph Pilates created Pilates to uniformly develop muscles and keep muscles pliable and supple instead of large and bulky.
At the end of a marathon, you’ll see many runners with shoulders hunched over, arms moving from side to side, legs slapping to the ground. It’s only natural but, the majority of runners’s form breaks down over time. Developing and working on key postural muscles to keep your body upright is key to being able to maintain form despite being tired. Pilates instructors will help you what feels right to your individual body - think shoulders back, belly and ribs in, hips open, pelvis neutral. These are all important factors in perfecting your running gait!
Finally, as many people already know, Pilates is touted as one of the best core workouts out there. There’s truly nothing more focused on the core than Pilates. Expect to feel strengthen and balance your core. Many athletes and trainers believe having a truly strong core is the key to staying injury free. Now, a “strong core” isn’t about how your stomach looks. It’s about how stable your muscles can keep your body and limbs and how connected you remain despite circumstantial imbalances. Pilates is a series of movements that create imbalances and challenges you to stabilize, connect and stay balanced despite them.
So, what do you think? If you’re a runner, whether amateur or competitive, I’d love to see you get into the Pilates studio! As a runner myself, I love working with other runners. If you’re interested in starting Pilates for the first time with me, please contact me here. I’d love to start helping you start your Pilates practice.