Jenny Cromack, personal trainer and Director of motive8 North, gives us the lowdown on Pilates for runners
I’ve run for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until I became a Personal Trainer that I realised there was more to running than just running!
In order to become a better runner you need to develop other components such as flexibility, core strength, lower body and upper body strength. Something I’d highly recommend for runners is Pilates – a great class for developing your core strength, muscular endurance and mobility. If you can’t get to a class then you could try following a DVD, but if you have are new to Pilates I would recommend joining a class so that you master the techniques under the mindful eye of an instructor.
What are the benefits?
Most people associate Pilates with core strength, but Pilates has many other benefits such as developing overall strength and muscular endurance, flexibility and good posture. A knock-on effect of these benefits is not only a more efficient running style, but also a reduced likelihood of injury. Many Pilates exercises emphasise engaging the core muscles as they are being performed. Core strength is also developed by strengthening the muscles in the torso, hips, pelvis and shoulders. This leads to a better posture when running and also improves stability in these muscles, leading to a more effective running technique. Runners’ muscles can often be short and tight. Pilates exercises focus on lengthening and mobilising these muscles, which results in a more effective running style with less risk of injury. Pilates is amazing for improving range of motion in the hips and shoulders. Think of how many runners you see with rounded shoulders, especially when they get tired. This is likely to be due to muscular tightness which taking part in regular Pilates can help alleviate. Many of the exercises you learn in Pilates should also be used as part of your warm up and cool down routine.
Decreased Risk of Injury
Poor biomechanics can lead to muscles being over or under used which in turn can lead to injuries. Unfortunately our sedentary lifestyles (apart from when we are running!), the amount of time we spend sitting and also the fact that many runners just run and don’t do any strengthening activities, means that many of us have biomechanical imbalances.
Running, running, more running and no strength training mean that these imbalances will often result in injuries somewhere down the line. Research shows that those who run on a regular basis have a 37-56% chance of becoming injured. 50-70% of these injuries are overuse injuries. The exercises performed in Pilates assist with balancing out any imbalances and therefore will reduce the likelihood of injuries. All of these benefits combined together result in a more effective running style. In turn this means we use less energy and get less fatigued, and the extra energy can be used to run faster instead of being wasted on poor running biomechanics.
What To Expect
Pilates can be performed just using body weight exercises (mat-based Pilates) or using equipment such as reformer machines. Whether you attend a mat-based or equipment-based class, Pilates exercises are performed using controlled, flowing movements which focus on using the correct technique. Specific focus is often placed on engaging the core throughout the movement patterns and also being mindful of which muscles you are using to execute the exercise. If you have never done Pilates before, then depending on what your balance is like, expect to be a little bit wobbly at first. You will probably find you are stronger at some of the exercises and movement patterns than others. This will probably show you where your imbalances lie! From my experience, people sometimes shy away from a class like Pilates because they worry that because they aren’t sweating they aren’t working, but be prepared to feel the burn in other ways as you fire up muscles you may not have used effectively for some time!
Do I Need Any Kit?
Pilates is often performed barefooted. You don’t have to invest in any special gym clothes, a pair of leggings or joggers is absolutely fine and I would recommend wearing a long sleeved top. For those of you who are a bit more hygiene conscious, I’d also recommend investing in your own mat, although most classes will have their own mats for you to use.
How Often Should I Do It?
If you don’t do any other resistance or strength training I would recommend doing Pilates twice per week. If you already hit the gym and do strength training then you can reduce this once per week. Once you are confident with the technique, I find that 20 minutes of Pilates twice per week is really beneficial for runners.
Jenny Cromack is a personal trainer and Director of motive8 North, a health and fitness company specialising in personal training and exercise classes in Leeds, formed through of Jenny’s successful personal training company, Jenny Cromack Personal Training, and motive8 Group Ltd, a London-based health and fitness company.
motive8 is a global market leader in the design and installation of bespoke residential, corporate and private health and fitness facilities, offering a complementary range of wellbeing and personal training services to ensure users and clients have access to a full turnkey health and fitness service.