In my practice, I have seen firsthand how Pilates benefits athletes in so many ways. It is especially incredible for runners.
Pilates focuses on six main principles: concentration, centering, control, breathing, precision and flow. When practiced regularly, the benefits of Pilates include increased core strength, improved efficiency of movement, strength and coordination, proper posture and increased energy – all of which will advance your running. Pilates also improves breath control, enhances flexibility and improves balance, helping you get faster, stronger and more comfortable in your runs.
It’s best to schedule a session with a local Pilates trainer – he/she can create a personalized plan that will complement your running regimen – but you can also do some exercises at home. Here’s a series I give to my running clients. It will move your body in all directions, stretching and strengthening each muscle. Don’t forget to breathe through each exercise, keep your abdominals engaged and your shoulders and jaw relaxed. If at any time anything hurts or feels uncomfortable, stop the exercise.
1. Lie on your back, lift up your knees into tabletop position (knees and legs at a 90-degree angle, lower legs parallel to the floor).
2. Point your toes, squeeze your heels together and extend your legs out.
3. Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, extend your arms straight out, palms down.
4. Pump your arms up and down in small, sharp movements.
5. Inhale for 5 arm pumps; exhale for 5 pumps. Continue to 100.
1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms overhead.
2. Tuck your chin into your chest, reach your arms up and slowly – vertebrae by vertebrae – curl your shoulders and back up and follow your arms towards your toes. Slowly roll back down to the floor.
3. Repeat 3 times.
1. Lie flat on your back, legs together. Raise one leg into the air and flex your foot.
2. Slowly trace 5 small circles in the air. Reverse the direction for 5 circles.
3. Repeat with your other leg.
SINGLE LEG PULL
1. Get in a push-up position. Lift one leg up about 6 inches, foot flexed.
2. Shift the weight of your body back onto the heel of your bottom foot. As you shift back, point the toe of the foot in the air. As you shift forward, flex the upper foot.
3. Repeat 5 times, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat.
1. Lie on your stomach with your legs together and hands by your head.
2. Lift your abdominals away from the floor, pressing your tailbone down to the floor.
3. Press through your hands, lengthening your spine and neck. Release your arms straight to the side as chest and thighs lift up off the mat. Slowly release back down to the mat.
4. Repeat 6 times.
1. Lie on your back with your legs together.
2. Curl your upper body away from the floor, reaching your arms towards your ankles.
3. Let one leg extend toward the floor while you gently pull your opposite leg toward your chest.
4. Switch your legs in the air to create a scissoring motion for 6 sets.
1. Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. As you exhale, curl your tailbone off the floor one vertebrae at a time, weight distributed evenly between your shoulder blades.
3. Inhale, then on the next exhale slowly curl back down to neutral position on the floor.
4. Repeat 3 times.
1. Sit tall, lengthening through the spine with legs together and feet flexed. Raise arms to the side at shoulder height.
2. Inhale and lengthen through the spine, exhale and twist your torso to the right, pulsing two times. Inhale and return to center. On next exhale, twist torso to the right, again pulsing two times.
3. Repeat 3 twists on both sides.
1. Lie on your side, resting your head on your hand. Place your top hand on the floor in front of your chest. Bring your legs forward a bit, keeping your shoulders, hips and ankles aligned. Flex your lower foot.
2. Point your top foot and slowly kick up towards the sky for 1 count, keeping your pelvis stable. Slowly lower back down.
3. Repeat 10 times on each side.
1. Kneel with hips above knees, shoulders above hips and shoulders and jaw relaxed. Keep arms low or stretched out in front.
2. Tuck your tailbone under, exhale and lean your whole body back from the knees, inhale and hold for 1 count, then exhale and slowly return back to upright.
3. Repeat 3 times.
1. From standing, roll down – vertebrae by vertebrae – until your hands are on the floor. Walk your hands out until you are in a plank position.
2. Bend your elbows and lower down to the floor as far as you comfortably can, then push back up. Walk your hands back and slowly roll back up to standing.
3. Repeat 3 times.