Pilates for Runners

Approximately, 10 years ago I became a certified Pilates mat instructor and taught a weekly class when I used to work at Marathon Physical Therapy in Massachusetts.

That was the same year after I had run 2 full marathons. While in preparation for my marathons, I neglected regular strength training. My form suffered from the prolonged distances. It was noticeable in my race photos. By 20km I was leaning into the hip of the weight-bearing leg with both knees knocking. This repetitive form during high impact can result in compensatory wear and tear throughout the kinetic chain.

This is an example of an elite athlete demonstrating what is called genu valgum. You can appreciate even the trained professional can have dysfunctions late in the stage of a race, emphasizing such importance for strengthening your core and hips during training programs.

Pilates has found its way into mainstream fitness and is closely associated with the same pop cult as yoga, but its fundamentals are on core stability and fine motor control. Fine motor control is so important in protecting your joints when your bigger, grosser muscles are firing. You may think you are activating these smaller muscles but they require a proper sequence of firing to become efficient and not over or under activate these muscles.

Examples of the stabilizers include the diaphragm, transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, multifidus, glutes min/med/max, obturator internus/externus. Pilates fires this collective group along with creating tension on the posterior and anterior fascial systems, creating a powerhouse surrounding your solar plexus.

Here are some Pilates moves you can try to incorporate: perform each exercise once for 8-12 reps, 1-2x week for 20-30 minutes. The form is much more important than quantity.

Transverse Abdominus


Tighten abs as if you were contracting to protect yourself from a small punch to the gut. Maintain contraction but breathe in and out for 2 breaths.

March


Maintain engaged abs and bring both knees to tabletop (both hips and knees to 90 degrees). Exhale and lower one foot to ground maintaining 90 deg at the knee. Inhale and bring to top. Alternate with the other leg.

Bicycle


Maintain engaged abs starting in tabletop. Exhale and extend one leg a few inches from the ground, inhale and return. Alternate with the other leg.

Bridge


Engage abs and peel your bottom-up from the floor, one vertebra at a time and slowly return, maintaining C shape with the spine, starting from shoulders to pelvis.

Hundred


Peel head and shoulders up from the floor and lower straight legs, as low as you can maintain good form. Pump hands by sides as you inhale for 5 pumps and exhale for 5 pumps working up to a hundred breaths.

Full roll up


Lay flat on back with arms overhead, inhale and roll up keeping C shape in the spine to a seated position, exhale and roll forward. Repeat reversing steps back to laying flat.

Teaser


Start seated balancing on the tailbone. Exhale and extend legs out and arms out to the side. Inhale and return to start position.

Scissors


Start with legs extended to the ceiling. Angle one leg to 45 degrees while pumping the other leg to floor 2 times. Alternate legs while keeping abs engaged.

Corkscrew


Start with both legs extended to the ceiling. Slowly draw a circle with both legs. When you get to the top of the circle, use your lower abdominals to create a small lift of your tailbone off the floor. Reverse the circle and repeat it.

Sidelying hip series (abduction/flexion and extension/bicycle/double leg lift/circles, clamshells)


Lay on side and try to maintain stacked hips and do all 6 exercises for 8-12 reps, consecutively, without break. Repeat on the other side.

Bird/dog


Start on all fours. Inhale and extend one arm and the opposite leg away from the body. Exhale and draw the knee and elbow together. Alternate sides.

Swimmers


Lay on stomach, keeping gaze toward floor, raise both legs and arms in the air. Start to flutter your arms and feet while inhaling for 5 and exhaling for 5 breaths.

Saw


Start in a seated position with legs apart. Bring arms to shoulder height, inhale and twist body to one side, exhale and reach towards the foot with the opposite hand. Inhale back to start position. Alternate sides.

Supine happy cow


Lay on back and cross one leg over the other. Grab both ankles toward you. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

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