We’ll be leading the warmups for the Hitchin Hard Half Marathon on the 26th June, so we thought we’d share our top tips for runners and how Pilates can help you:
When you’re a runner, whether it’s a short jog or a full on marathon, there are 3 things a runner is looking to do:
- Run faster and for longer
- Avoid injury
- Run more efficiently
The good news is that running is no doubt a great cardiovascular exercise to keep you fit and healthy but the bad news is that it often leads to muscle imbalances, which not addressed can scupper your chances for those three things you strive to achieve.
Body asymmetries develop because of poor body mechanics which in turn cause certain muscles to become overused (a common trait in runners), while others become underused. This unfortunately can result in all sorts of issues for you the runner from lower back pain, IT Band issues, knee and hip problems.
Whilst we can’t change the fact that running does use these muscles over and over again, we can look at ways to help address the imbalances so we’re less likely to get the injuries, finish the race and shave off valuable minutes from our time.
In Pilates, we love our bums (and yours!) and whilst we strive to helping you achieve the balance between weak glutes and over tight hip flexors, in running there is an important reason why!
One of the most common issues we see a lot in all sorts of people but commonly in runners is the internally rotating knee/thigh. This is where the knee falls into the midline rather than tracking straight forward. Finding and then strengthening the glutes effectively allows us to stabilise the pelvis and stop the constant battle of your knee being pushed and pulled inwards and outwards.
Love your glutes
Some great exercises to target all those glutes are:
- Shoulder bridge
- Swimming – 4 point kneeling
- Side Clam
- Side leg lifts
Lengthen the tight hip flexors
Tight hip flexors are a very common ailment that runners suffering from. This along with a weak “core” often leads to a forward and downward tilt on the pelvis, again resulting in more loading to the knees and excessively arching the lower back
Some great exercises to target the tip flexors
- Dynamic Lunges- ensure good activation of the glutes
- Swan dive- opens the whole chest and lengthens the front of the body, abdominal wall and hip flexors whilst strengthening the glutes
Get stronger from inside out
It’s no good just hoping to target your tight spots with some static holding stretches that only temporarily release the problem, only to find after your next run it springs back. It all comes back to the muscle imbalance and poor body mechanics thing we mentioned earlier. The spine plays a huge part in ensuring the pelvis stays in an optimal position and limits the stress and load placed on other areas.
Luckily Pilates is all about this strength from within. It’s not a list of individual exercises and stretches but more a method of full body moves that will condition the whole body from head to toe with a full awarenesss and use of your inner stabilising postural muscles (known as the core) to work the limbs.
In short this kind of exercise programme will target everything at once, a perfect system of exercises created with flow and precision to ensure good alignment, form, breathing, strength and stability whilst allowing your body to naturally correct the war between your tight muscles and weak muscles.
Recently a lady came to us to start Pilates with hip and knee pain that was preventing her continuing her running, so much so she was having to give up her training and pull out of the Paris marathon. In just 4 weeks of regular Pilates, she felt so much better she decided to keep her place and within 8 weeks she completed the run pain free with over 1/2 hour shaved off her time.
Written by Michelle Smith,
Director The Pilates Pod