Pilates for Runners

Pilates is an amazing tool to help runners stay both injury free and build endurance. My journey to train for an Ironman back in 2007 brought me to Iron Butterfly. The rigorous training schedule along with the number of miles is tough to achieve staying injury free. As I was increasing my mileage, I could feel every stride in my hips and knees and I knew I needed to add something else to my exercise routine to stay healthy. That is when I was introduced to Pilates and knew it would be the answer. Pilates not only changed my running but allowed me to find an amazing career to help other runners achieve the same success. I have run 1 Ironman, 3 full marathons, and over 35 half marathons since then, and I continue to run everyday pain free.

Running basically is the same repetitive action over and over again. The miles strengthen your quadriceps but tend to lead to weak and tight hamstrings and glutes. By incorporating Pilates into a runner’s routine, you can correct these muscle imbalances by strengthening them through the precision body movements and breathing that each exercise requires. Not only are you helping correct imbalances, but improving posture, balance and flexibility. Runners also tend to have weak side glute muscles (gluteus medius), which is the primary cause of IT band issues. When these muscles are weak they tend to recruit other muscles around the hip (tensor fascia latae), which is the connecting muscle to the IT band, a runners most common injury. Pilates allows us to work those muscles on all the apparatus to strengthen and keep those muscles healthy, as well as stretch them to keep range of motion. When all these things work together, your stride and fluidity of movement improve. Consequently, your breath is steadier and stronger, because you do not have to work as hard. When we are in pain our breath is affected by either holding it or by taking shorter, quick breaths. By learning deep controlled breathing, we allow a lot more oxygen to enter the bloodstream which helps with endurance. The end result is finishing a race feeling stronger, no matter what the distance is. All of this is true for our football and basketball players, walkers, rock climbers, golfers, cyclists, and dancers as well.

Pilates and running are an incredible combination. Runners who incorporate Pilates into their training routine are usually the healthiest runners. Every exercise focuses on the whole body regardless of the primary muscle used. This helps strengthen the abdominals (core muscles), which keeps a runner’s posture strong and tall, and prevents lower back issues from the miles of pounding. At IBP, I have started the Cardio Reformer class, which is meant to build endurance and strength for those wanting a more challenging Pilates class, and providing a more challenging weight bearing option as well. For our runners this is a great option to incorporate into your weekly routine. By building strength into our hip adductors, abductors and quadriceps (with perfect alignment), our knees and hip joints become stronger supporting more efficient running. If you are new to running or a veteran runner, Pilates is a great way to help you continue your journey.

Kelly Walker