Pilates For Runners - 8 Reasons You'll Benefit
Whether you are a running aficionado or you have just started Couch to 5k, Pilates will help you to become the best runner you can be. Promise!
And here are just some of the reasons why Pilates should be built into your weekly routine.
1. Injury Prevention
Whether new to the game or a long time runner, it makes perfect sense that preventing an injury is a lot easier than recovering from one. Runner’s World reports that 20-80% of runners get hurt each year.
Pilates highlights imbalances in the body which if left unchecked, can lead to injury.
Awareness of such imbalances and the correct training and exercises practiced to rebalance them, encouraging the correct muscle usage, means less chance of injuries occurring.
2. Enhanced Performance
It’s not a joke, Pilates can help you run faster! As mentioned in point 1, Pilates highlights any weaknesses and imbalances that occur in the body. These can negatively affect the running technique, so by targeting these areas and building strength in weaker areas, you will be aiding that running gait.
Awareness of your posture is crucial to your running and body awareness is a key benefit seen in Pilates participants, again, leading to a better technique and greater running efficiency.
And being in the best running posture for your body will ensure that you are not tense and your form will suffer less with fatigue, meaning you can run faster, and longer!
3. Improved Core Strength
It’s not surprising that with good core strength, you will be a better runner. But don’t be fooled that it is all about the abdominals.
Core musculature strength and endurance has been shown to provide reduced risk of lower extremity injury or low back pain in athletes (Leetun, Ireland, Willson, Ballantyne, & Davis, 2004)
Your core strength is made up of the muscles in the back, the bottom and the hips, in addition to the abdominals. In a Pilates class, each of these areas are worked on - strengthening and activating them so that they can assist you when you run.
4. Improved Breathing
Pilates teaches you to breathe well. Seems an odd thing to say, but most of us are shallow chest breathers which doesn’t allow the body to breathe efficiently and effectively.
During Pilates, you are taught to breathe diaphragmatically which allows the diaphragm to expand fully and effectively which increases the amount of oxygen available in the bloodstream - again, leading to increased endurance.
You are also trained in synchronising the breath with movement to be able to move more effectively.
5. Shortened Recovery Times
As Pilates is a low impact exercise, it doesn’t put stress on the joints, where running does. The NHS website suggests that “The best time to stretch is when the muscles are work and pliable. This could be during a yoga or Pilates class…”
Its aim is to lengthen the muscles, not shorten them which occurs in running.
Both of these factors mean that you will benefit from improved joint mobility and flexibility. “Too little flexibility may increase the risk of muscle strain injury, as the muscles are unable to lengthen and absorb this energy” says Dr Antony Kay, Associate Professor of Biomechanics, University of Northampton.
Through regular Pilates practice, your muscles are left in a better condition meaning that they do not become so tight, sore and tired after your training runs.
6. Better Balance
If you find that during your runs you often lose your footing and your balance, Pilates will help.
Working on both sides of your body, challenging each side, your body awareness and balance is improved as muscles are strengthened. As well as the average Pilates student, improved balance and flexibility has also been proven to be greatly beneficial for older adults, particularly when it comes to preventing falls.
A 2014 study by Daegu University in South Korea examined the effects of mat-based Pilates on the balance ability of elderly women. Participants in the study exercised three times a week for 12 weeks, 40 minutes at a time.
It was concluded that Pilates exercise has a significant effect on the static and dynamic balance of the women, as well as an increased performed in the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Meaning that trips and falls are less likely when you are out on a run.
7. Improved Mobility
If your mobility is improved, you will be able to run with more fluidity and it will feel much easier, and you will therefore be able to run further and faster.
By targeting the areas where there is tightness in the body, your joints will be more mobile.
For example, runners are prone to tight hip flexors which will shorten your stride length - by targeting on lengthening the hip flexors and the surrounding muscles, you will see huge benefits to your running technique, as well as preventing injury.
8. Better Sleep
Pilates is a useful tool for sleep as it is such a mindful activity. The connection between the mind and body is so important to be able to perform even the most basic of exercises.
This allows the mind to switch off from the everyday cares and worries which can all help to promote a better night’s sleep, leaving you with more energy to continue your training.
So why wait?
Get yourself to a Pilates class - don’t be the person who waits for the injury to occur before being referred to a physiotherapist who then recommends Pilates for long term recovery.
Prevention is key and Pilates that is taught by an experienced, well qualified, passionate teacher, is the tool to help with this. Attending a good Pilates class once or twice a week, suitable for your ability, is going to be of huge benefit.
However, if you have access to a Pilates class designed specifically for runners, this will target the areas most impacted by the activity, teach you stretches and strengthen the areas integral to running, you will find yourself becoming the best runner YOU can be.
Raise Pilates offers a free trial class and runs regular Pilates for Runners classes, in addition to a full timetable offering Pilates for complete Beginner’s to Cardio Pilates.