Tag Archives: core

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.”



Transverse versus six pack!

Well, after a short week after Easter everything was back to normal this week and i had a week concentrating on flexion and the Transverse abdominus!.

After the last few months of starting classes with standing and the hunter gatherer squat, I thought i would get back to some classic flexion exercises.  If you ask  people what part of the body they would most like to work on, they will say the tummy,  the muffin tops, beer bellies, post natal flab and just general overeating part!.  I have no problem with this as Pilates exercise is invariably concentated on the tummy muscles.  To be exact the ‘Transverse abdominus’ muscle, which has been  nicknamed the ‘girdle of strength’.  And yes it is true to say, this muscle is helpful in strenghening the core.  The muscle is fairly large and acts a little like a girdle,  wrapping round the lower torso and attaching to the spine.  An underused Transverse abdominus can mean a  weak core and can ultimately lead to lower back problems. So exercising can indeed help strengthen the muscle and tighten the tummy…..but, it has to be done properly to reap the full benefit.

So many people doing, a sit up or hundreds will engage the wrong set of muscles by lifting the tailbone and planting the lumbar spine into the mat.  This, although not ‘wrong’, uses the rectus muscle….which is a more ‘cosmetic’ muscle and yes, no doubt it can look good,  but it doesn’t use the lower deeper core stabialising muscle of the Trasverse abdominus.  To use this muscle correctly, the ‘tailbone’ should be lenghthened away rather than lifted, so the lumbar is just off the mat.  The feet should feel light on the floor and the pelvis heavy.  The back of ribcage should be down on the mat, the neck lenghenend away from the tailbone with the chin tucked in slightly.

In a sit up the fingers are linked and the head (not neck) cradled in the hands, the elbows are where you can see them just in your peripheral vision at all times, even when NOT curled up.  Look down the body before you curl up and keep the feet light on the floor…….don’t lift the tail bone, stay heavy in the sacrum.  Feel the difference between doing a sit up with and without lifting the tailbone, the work is in the lower transverse abs, and strenthening the deeper core muscle when not lifting!

The classic Hundred exercise also lengthening through the tailbone, not lifting it, using the transverse muscle.

Hundreds with Jackie Brealey

Have a go at home using your transverse muscle.  Don’t forget to use the pelvic floor muscle too!