Over the past month I have been approached by clients in my mat classes on exercises they can do to help with their running technique. I have been running for a number of years, but stopped over the last few months. Part of it was due to the cold weather and the other that I was getting tighter than normal in my hamstrings. This made me review my workouts and to think what I needed to do to help myself which would allow me to further my understanding and help my clients.
I do a lot of leg exercises already via Pilates leg series (reformer and mat) and weights mainly dead lifts and squats, so my legs are strong, so I knew it wasn’t anything strength related. So my main issue was around having the time before I go running to stretch and perform some simple stabilizing exercises before I went running. I looked over the whole Pilates mat series and selected some straight forward exercises that would help and be easy to do and then added some active isolated stretching exercises, another area I have now got involved into.
So I have been doing Pilates for 8 years and teaching for a year, and using to do a whole load of other types of workouts to develop my core. Over the years and since becoming a teacher I know only do Pilates exercise for my core strength, I and have seen a massive improvement in my core strength, my posture is more upright and I have better breath control all that help in ever day life but also with my running.
There are many different kinds of runners. There are marathoners and other distance cravers who may or may not be competitive; there are short distance runners who also may or may not compete and then there are casual runners who just try to fit in a few miles a week to keep their cardiovascular systems in good working order. No matter which type of runner, the same muscle groups are used to propel the body forward. Primarily the hip flexors to pull the top of the leg forward, the quadriceps to extend the knee then tibialis anterior to flex the foot and prepare to plant the forward foot. Once down, that leg is pulled back using the glutes and hamstrings. The big issue here is that while in that running gait, the runner’s body is moving in the sagittal plane therefore the muscles that support movement in the horizontal and frontal planes are not challenged specifically.
It still early days but I’m already seeing a improvement I my running and not feeling like my legs are made of lead by the end of my run, and I think over time we all get some sort of imbalance in our body and it’s important to listen to what your body is telling you. Below are a few Pilates exercises that can benefit runners.
Mat Work Exercises
• Side lying leg series (strengthen glute medius & stabilize hips)
• Leg circles (stabilize hips and move legs through rotation)
• Swimming (thoracic extension, hip stability)
• Side bend (strengthen abductors, adductors and obliques)
Of course there are many other Pilates exercises that can complement a runner’s program.
The benefits runners have by using Pilates
• Increasing core strength and correcting postural imbalances
• Increasing balance in the muscles of the back and hips
• Reduce the risk of injury
• Assist with breath control