Emily O'Sullivan, Senior Pilates Practitioner at Centre for Mind and Movement has generously given us an insight into the benefits of Pilates and how perfect it is for us runners. Enjoy the read!
There have been two times in my life when I have most appreciated the Pilates Method. These were when I was pregnant and when I was running.
Like pregnancy, running can put the body under a certain amount of stress. What I love about the Pilates Method is it’s ability to make the body feel good again. Getting tight muscles, tired muscles, sore muscles never felt like a huge problem when I was running, as I knew that I would easily be able to make them feel less tight, less sore, more energised again after a long run … simply by practicing a few specific Pilates exercises.
A few of my favourite areas to address for the runner are:
*The Feet - Joseph Pilates who invented this method was a huge advocate for strengthening and mobilising the feet. He worked with many professional ballet dancers, who like runners, put a huge work load through their feet, so it is vital that they are strong. I particularly find benefit in focusing on increasing articulation of the feet, working on landing laterally on the feet -> articulating through the toes -> pushing off through the ball of the foot. Improving these mechanics can be game changing in putting less effort and load through other parts of the body.
*Hip Rotation - many people try and keep their pelvis very stable when running, leading to tight hips and lower backs. In fact, the pelvis should rotate slightly as the knee bends forward. This requires hip mobility, gluteus strength and often a little retraining if the hips don't do this naturally. Running movements are easily replicated on the Pilates equipment to strengthen the specific muscles and improve the specific movement patterns needed for the runner.
*Thoracic Rotation - similar to the pelvis, many runners hold their upper backs quite rigid when they are running. If the thoracic spine or chest area is tight and immobile, the thoracic will not move as freely as it should, to be able to remain relaxed in the upper body. A Pilates running program should absolutely work on increasing rotation in the thoracic spine, stretching the pec muscles and opening up the chest area to assist with this.
In my opinion, Pilates is a must for the serious runner. It will help improve your running technique, your overall strength and keep you injury free!
Senior Pilates Practitioner
Centre for Mind & Movement
(03) 9370 1888