This article was written by our amazing teacher Laura Baldwin – read about her on our instructors page:
” Some of you may know me and know of my passion for running.
I didn’t always love to run but I found after having children I embraced the time I spent running; for the head space and for helping get my body back into shape!
Soon after my motivations changed as I started to set bigger challenges for myself 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon (don’t mention the word ultra!)
There is real satisfaction in focused and committed training that pays of in a personal best or just a comfortable race where you cross the line feeling good to go again!
In the early days of my running efforts I had many familiar runners injuries; ankles, knees lower back. These injuries are not only painful but frustrating when you are trying to train and achieve your goals.
Fortunately for me I found Pilates and started seeing and feeling the benefits not just in my post baby body but also in my running.
Fast forward to now where pilates is a part of daily life for me and I have (now I’m tempted to whisper this bit lest I tempt fate!) non of the regular running injuries I experienced In the early days! With the exception of two weeks ago when Whilst running I thought that it would be fun to hurdle a fallen tree blocking my path! I had visions of par cor/free running gracefully jumping over this tree and continuing my run with elegance and ease…………I leapt, I landed and Did something far from elegant I’m sure. I had given myself a little jolt which giving me a bit of lower back pain.
The upside of that story is I was back to running after just a few days knowing the right exercises to be kind to my body and repay it for its efforts!
Pilates works at balancing the body and creating effective functional movements.
We do this by strengthening all of the muscles responsible not just for the large movements we make but also for the stabilising actions that not only protect us from injury but make our movements more efficient and powerful.
For example many runners experience knee pain. There can be many reasons for this and in different parts of the knee. Often however the causes generally revolve around poor tracking of the patella (knee cap) and/or overloading the joint through the repetitive and high impact nature of running.
Incorrect tracking of the patella can happen due to muscle imbalances one example is the the outer quadriceps are often over developed compared to the inner quad, causing the patella to be pulled towards the dominant muscle. As this muscle tightens the symptoms worsen causing pain and injury. This sort of imbalance is addressed in pilates and can be remedied in such a scenario by working at balancing the relevant muscle groups.
Pilates is amazing at isolating and strengthening individual muscle groups which (sorry to be repetative folks!) is essential for balance within the body in all meaning of the word.
Pilates also greatly improves body awareness. We talk about a mind body connection which ultimately means we are in complete conscious control of or bodies movements. Joseph pilates did after all name his exercise regime controlology. What this means for running is that firstly we are more efficient in our use of muscles and secondly we are more aware of how our body is feeling and moving. We notice sooner if we are at risk of injury and are able to address the area of concern before it turns to an injury and halts us in training.
There is much talk of core strength and this means different things to different people. A common misconception is that this is exclusive to the abdominal muscles. However we must not forget the multitude of muscle that hold us upright we should be thinking equally of the back of our bodies not just the front.
In modern life we are often rounded forward (in flexion) for example looking at screens as I am doing now writing this! Then when exercising we often think “best work the abs!” Which although important needs to be balanced with working the backs of our bodies; our back muscles (oh so very many neglected back muscles!); the triceps the hamstrings. If we get this balance right we hold ourselves upright , not stooping or shuffling. This is very relevant to running keeping us moving forward rather then downwards! Also by holding our spine in its neutral curves we take advantage of its natural ability and function of shock absorbency reducing the load on the knee s, hips and lower back. We are also able to breath more efficiently having created more space in the body for the diaphragm, lungs and intercostal muscles to contract and expand well. This enables more oxygen being delivered to the muscles which In turn can prevent stitch, cramping and delay fatigue as well as of course enhancing performance!
I think I could go on and on about the injury preventions and performance enhancing qualities of pilates for runners and I know for sure that I will have missed something out.
What I want to leave you with is this:
we tend to look to marginal gains to improve performance and prevent injury ( myself included) such as the correct trainers, compression socks, ultra cooling/warming kit, Heart monitors, fancy watches e.t.c but our biggest assist is our own bodies and learning how to harness and utilise the best from ourselves.
Pilates is not a marginal gain, it is a major one!
Pilates will help prevent injury if you commit to it regularly.
Pilates will help you recover from injury.
Pilates is what your body wants for running and for life!!!! “