Running and Pilates are two vastly different disciplines – running involves a rather high-impact, repeated motion while Pilates is low-impact and varied. Pilates is an excellent way of complimenting your running regime, both activities working together to create a better more balanced you. Here I will take you through how Pilates can improve your overall running ability.
Pilates can improve your posture by strengthening core muscles. This provides increased awareness of the body and creates a confidence in movement as you run. This knowledge of the body’s alignment and posture can lower a runner’s risk of injury. Transitioning through stretching is an integral part of Pilates and the reinforcement of the benefits of stretching to the athlete will also help. Being aware of correct posture can also reduce or prevent pain that may result from running. In other words, Pilates can help you run more effectively and safely.
A fundamental goal of Pilates is strengthening the core muscle groups. A common misunderstanding is that your core is simply your abs…my clients will know this is not true. Yes, your core is made up of the abdominals, but we can’t forget the other members of the family, iliopsoas, erector spinae, pelvic floor muscles, deep gluteal muscles and the quadratus lumborum. These are simply the muscles in the trunk hips, and the deep back muscles. They help you keep your balance when sitting or standing – in other words, you use them all the time without even realising it. In class I am forever talking about that big elastic band around your waist and visualising everything coming together to increase strength and promote stability. If core muscles are weak in a runner, it may increase his or her risk of injury. It also might affect endurance adversely. Giving those core muscles strength may enhance posture and overall body stability.
Pilates teaches body awareness – that is, you learn to recognise your body’s position in space, how your muscles and joints feel, and how you can correct any problems. Being aware of one’s body in this way may help runners gain insight into weaknesses that, if unaddressed, could increase the risk of injury. For example, a runner who is unaware of his or her body may keep running when there is a physical problem, or something a bit “off.” This can result in injury. A body-aware runner, however, might be more attuned to the body’s warning signals and slow down or stop the run before the problem becomes an injury. The increased knowledge of stretching may also help identify which muscle to correctly work to keep on running if you have to stop to deal with an injury.
Surprisingly, breathing in a health-promoting way is something many of us must be taught. The Pilates breath is a simple in through the nose and out through the mouth. Ideally your breath should flow as taught in Pilates and it shouldn’t be laboured. The deep breathing of Pilates may help runners with their overall lung capacity and function. A fundamental element of running is taking in Being in oxygen and use it efficiently. This is key to a successful runner.
Pilates works all muscle groups, so your runners’ muscles will get a workout, too. It stands to reason that any activity that strengthens the muscles would help another activity that requires those muscles, but it’s more that. Pilates promotes the strength of specific muscles and emphasises flexibility. Having muscles that are both strong and flexible can help prevent running injuries and improve overall performance.
Improving your posture & breathing, strengthening your core and increasing flexibility are huge benefits that runners will experience by adding Pilates to their exercise regime.