Pilates Motivation

Pilates and Running Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

Over the past couple weeks I have attempted to integrate some light jogging into my workouts in order to get in more cardio. I used to play soccer and run track, and I loved it. Then over the past several years I was plagued with IT Band Syndrome and a bone spur on the back of my heel from running and other high impact exercises.

Q: Why would I put myself through the pain of running if I received so many intense injuries from it?

A: Pilates exercises have helped to stretch my IT band and build strength in the muscles surrounding my knee. Pilates exercises have also offered me low impact options to build flexibility and strength in my ankle.

My injuries were mostly caused by overuse and muscle imbalances. I was not exercising in a smart way. I was not practicing Pilates regularly. I was doing a lot of kickboxing, bootcamps, and running. There was no balance to my work out and my body suffered the consequences.

Pilates is the perfect complement to running. Let's run through some major benefits of the combination of Pilates and running, and then review Pilates exercises that you can do to aid in your running. These benefits also ring true for cycling and the ellipitical machine.

Runners Need Core Strength

If you run you need a strong core. As we've talked about before the core is a compilation of your back muscles, deep abdominals muscles, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles. Your core is the origin of movement and supports your body.

Your pelvis and low back are the pivot points for movement. When you walk or run your pelvis and low back are moving substantially. If this area is weak then the rest of your gait and technique are greatly affected. The main purpose of the core is to stabilize, so that your limbs (arms and legs) can move in the most efficient and effective way to get you from point A to point B.

Q: How can you get a strong and supportive core?

A: Pilates! Why? How? Check out a previous post on that here and here.

Running alone will not strength your core to the point that you need. Running is not just about strong lungs and strong legs. Pilates gets to the deep core muscles and that's where the magic happens. Strengthening your six pack muscles isn't going to cut it. You have to go deeper in order to make real changes to your posture, balance, and core strength.

A weak core puts you at risk of injury. If you have a weak core then your legs and arms are not supported during your run. Your spine is moving a lot, and without the proper musculature to keep you stable. You are more likely to accrue injuries like bursitis, tendonitis, low back pain, and stress fractures.

Plank Pilates

Runners Need Flexibility

Tight muscles do not equal stable muscles. Tight muscles are the opposite of what you need during a run. You need to have enough flexibility in your body to allow your joints to move at their optimal range.

Pilates builds functional flexibility. This means that Pilates is building strength and muscle endurance while simultaneously increasing your range of motion.

Every time you do a side leg lift you are aiming to increase the height of the leg while maintaining hip stability. The next time you do a leg lift maybe it's a little higher, but the muscles are also stronger. Your hips are becoming more flexible without sacrificing strength.

Pilates Teaser

It's Time to Do Pilates

Pilates has greatly helped me as I add in a little bit of jogging. Pilates can complement your running regimen whether you are a marathoner, jogger, or something in between. So, what are some Pilates exercises you can do? Well, they aren't different from the moves you'll see in class. Every Pilates class focuses on breath, flow, control, balance, coordination, and strength. You will naturally improve your running as you take more Pilates classes.

What if you can't make into class? What if you don't have equipment? Well, here are a few moves you can do at home without any equipment necessary.

1. Pilates Hundreds

What To Do: Pump your arms by your side. Count to 5 as you inhale and count to 5 as you exhale. Do this until you get to....100!

Feet can be down on the floor. Want more? Legs at table top. Want more? Legs straight on the 45 degree angle (pictured).

Benefits: You are working your inner thighs and abdominal muscles in this movement. The coordination with the breath is also important here and you can improve your lung capacity. You are using your body weight as the resistance here to challenge your core muscles.

Pilates Hundreds

2. All Fours: Balance

What To Do: Reach one arm out in front and opposite leg out behind you. Gently pulse arm and leg up to the ceiling (8-16X). Then reach elbow to knee under your belly (4-8X).

Benefits: Engages the back body, strengthening and lengthening your back muscles. Focuses on building your balance holding arm and leg out long.

Pilates Balance

3. Side Leg Lift

What To Do: Your back is lined up with the back of the mat. Hips are stacked. Your legs are slightly in front of your torso. Lower and lift the leg without letting the hips go backwards or forwards (8X). Hold leg up and pulse (16X). Repeat this sequence. In the picture this is done with a band. You can do this move without a band.

Benefits: Build strength and flexibility around the hips and side of the thigh. These muscles can be relatively weak compared to quads and hamstrings. Running is a forward motion, so naturally the quads and hamstrings will grow stronger, but the hip muscles will not benefit as much. This move helps to increase range of motion into the hips while also adding strength.

Pilates Side Leg Lift