Pilates & Running: A Great Combo
Five Pilates exercises that have helped me become a stronger runner
I started running the summer of my eighth-grade year. I was desperate to make my high school soccer team and thought increasing my speed and endurance would give me an advantage over the other girls. Turns out I wasn’t gifted with soccer talent, but I have continued running into my forties. While twenty years ago, I could go for a run at any time of the day or night even after eating a greasy breakfast, recovering from a girls night out, or wearing ill-fitting shoes that hadn’t been replaced in over a year, lately I’ve noticed my body protesting more. In fact, in 2019 while training for my first marathon I developed a painful case of plantar fasciitis. Determined to not let this injury derail my training, I endured weekly, painful deep tissue massages. While I often had to will myself not to scream during some of those so-called massages, they did the trick and I soon found I wasn’t hobbling in the morning and was back to enjoying my runs relatively pain-free. But I didn’t just want to treat the injury but prevent it from reoccurring. That’s what got me adding twice-weekly Pilates classes as part of my training schedule and eventually to signing up for a Pilates teacher training program.
Pilates is a great complement to running because the exercises are designed to strengthen your core and increase flexibility and mobility. All of which can lead to decreased injuries. And the fact that Pilates is low impact makes it perfect for off days. Here are five Pilates moves that I do every day to gain strength and prevent injury.
The Roll Up
It has been said the roll up is the equivalent of six regular situps in terms of taxing core strength. While it will certainly challenge you, the movement itself is relatively simple. You begin by laying on your mat with your feet flexed and your arms to the ceiling. You then raise your head to look at your feet and roll up to stretch over them. The hamstring stretch at the top is an added bonus. Complete five repetitions.
Single Leg Circles
What runner doesn’t need to increase hip mobility? To perform single leg circles, lay on your back and leave your left foot on the mat with that foot flexed. Then raise your right leg to ninety degrees. Keeping your right leg straight and your pelvis steady, circle it over your left leg, down in front of you, and back up to ninety degrees. After you complete five circles, reverse the direction. Then switch legs.
The Shoulder Bridge
The shoulder bridge is a great exercise for your spine and glutes. And it is easy to perform. Lay on the ground with your knees bent and arms at your side. Then roll up slowly through your spine raising your hips. When you reach the top of your hip extension, squeeze your glutes and roll back down. Five to eight of these should really fire up your booty.
Leg Pull Front
Leg pull front is another exercise that really works your core and glutes. And since it starts from a plank position, it is an easy exercise to understand. Simply get into a strong high plank and lift your right leg as you rock forward and back on your left. Place the right leg down and switch. Try to complete ten reps. The calf stretch you get from rocking is an added bonus.
Side kicks are a great exercise for your inner and outer thighs. Lay on your side, with your head in your hand, your other hand in front of you for support, and your legs together toward the front corner of the mat. Keeping your pelvis steady, lift your top leg up to hip height and kick it forward and back. The movement should be slow and controlled. To hit your inner thighs with a second move, lift your top leg up to hip height and then raise your lower leg to meet it. Perform 8 reps of each move.
These five moves have really increased my core, glute, and thigh strength while increasing my hip flexibility. And, even more importantly, I’ve remained injury free the last two years while running an average of twelve hundred miles each year.