Tag Archives: Core Control

Pilates for runners


Pilates for runners

Why runners should do Pilates
We’ve got the lowdown on all things Pilates and why it’s so good for runners.

by Georgia Scarr

“What is Pilates?

Pilates is often compared to yoga, but they actually have very different backgrounds. While yoga is a centuries-old practice with close links to spirituality, Pilates is a mind and body conditioning technique developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Classes feature exercises to improve core stability and encourage healthy posture. Various pieces of equipment such as stability balls, resistance bands, foam rollers and Pilates studio equipment, like Reformers, may be used.

“What we’re really trying to do is teach people how to move better,” says Lynne Robinson, co-founder and director of Body Control Pilates. “We have three fundamentals – the ABCs. One is correcting the alignment of the body (A), then working on your breathing (B) and centring (C), which is core stability.”

Why should runners do Pilates?

Core stability is essential for good running technique and to help avoid injury. “In terms of runners, sometimes a slight imbalance in the body will go on to create problems because it’s such a repetitive movement that you’re doing. Even a small adjustment in your posture or in your core stability can make a huge impact,” says Robinson.

What’s the difference between matwork Pilates and Reformer Pilates?

Both classes work the same muscles in the same way, but just with different challenges. Matwork takes place on the floor and can be done without any equipment or with small items to make it more challenging (such as balls, bands and rollers). Reformer classes use Universal Reformers (see one here). These are frame structures with springs and pulleys that provide resistance as exercises are carried out, and give a symmetrical grid to work in.

What are the benefits of each kind?

With Reformers, the closed chain environment provides a particularly effective workout. “We can really work on correcting hip, knee and ankle alignment, and improving the tracking of the knee”, Robinson says. “Particularly useful for runners with knee problems, we can focus on the vastus medialis obliquus, one of your quadriceps. Even though runners often get strong quads, this stabilising muscle can be weak. There’s also a Reformer attachment called a jump board, which is great for improving your running action.”

In terms of matwork, Robinson says the main benefit is “you can do matwork anywhere, in particular before and after your run. Unless you live above a studio you won’t have access to the equipment 24/7.” Additionally, Pilates accessories are widely available to buy if you wish to supplement your routine.

“With the Reformer, you probably get slightly quicker results than you will do just doing the matwork, however realistically most runners are not going to have access to a Reformer before and after they run. So, what they’ve got to do is come up with a few simple exercises to do.”



Core control

True core control is about stability rather than strength. As physical therapist Gray Cook says, “Strength is the ability to produce force, whereas stability is the act of controlling force.”
Many people can do hundreds of crunches and side-crunch variations but can’t pass a simple pelvic stabilization test.

Mark Young write’s in musclefitnesshers June 2009 

And he suggests this test!

Test Yourself

Here’s a simple test you can do right now. Lie on your back and lift both legs up in the air, making sure your lower back stays on the floor. Fold your arms across your chest and slowly lower your legs until your back comes off the floor. If your feet hit the floor before your back lifts up, you’re a certified badass.
If your back comes off the floor first, you have some work to do. Your core may be strong, but you aren’t able to control the very muscles you’ve worked so hard to build.
The easiest way to build your abdominal stability is to do a simple heel slide movement.
1. Lie faceup with your knees bent and place your fingertips on your external obliques. Don’t use a mat because you won’t be able to tell when your back lifts off the floor.
2. Contract your obliques and tilt your pelvis backward so that your lower back is pressed firmly against the floor. You should feel tension in your obliques. Keep your fingers on your obliques to monitor them.
3. Slide one leg out slowly until it’s straight or until your lower back lifts off the floor. Slowly return that leg to the start and repeat with your other leg. Perform this move in socks so your heel can slide along the floor more easily.
As your leg reaches full extension, it’s important to move slowly so your lower back doesn’t rise off the floor.
When you’re transitioning from one leg to the other, it’s important that you don’t shift your pelvis. The transition of force should be smooth and controlled. If someone had their hand between your lower back and the floor and had their eyes closed, they shouldn’t be able to tell when you’re switching legs.
One common error when trying to maintain a straight pelvis is pushing your planted foot into the floor, which causes a definite weight shift. To prevent this, make sure the heel of your planted leg rests only lightly on the floor and that your abs are tight the whole time.
You might also notice that it’s difficult to breathe during the move. Instead of trying to breathe while you move, take a breath at the top before switching legs. This isn’t an excuse, however, to let your abdominals relax or your lower back rise off the floor.
If this exercise is easy for you, I guarantee you’re doing it wrong. Most trainees with “strong abs” are humbled by this little exercise.
Start with 2-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions and your control will gradually increase to the point where you don’t look like such a wuss on the leg-lowering test. Aside from that, the new stimulus might just bring about some unexpected abdominal development.
Consider that a bonus.