If you run, you know how important a strong core is. After all, not only does a strong core make your running more efficient, but it also helps you keep the good posture needed to lower your risk of getting injured. One great way to achieve this strong core is through doing pilates exercises.
What does your core do when you run? Well, as you run, your back, hips, and abs all work together to keep your body properly aligned and stabilised. Thus, you can see how having a strong core helps you keep your spine in a neutral position as you run, rather than leaning excessively backwards or forwards and putting stress on your muscles and joints.
Reformer or mat pilates?
So, reformer or traditional pilates? Which is better? If you’re a beginner, starting with a reformer pilates class is usually a good idea. This is because the machines involved in reformer pilates give you support and help you learn better posture. However, that’s not to say that standard mat Pilates is bad, either. As long as your routine helps you work on important running motion factors, such as leg mobility, rotation, back extension, hip extension, and core control, mat pilates exercises can help you with running too.
Pilates is a form of exercise that can help runners improve their overall strength, flexibility, and balance. By incorporating Pilates exercises into their training routines, runners can reduce their risk of injury and improve their performance. Here are some Pilates exercises for runners to try:
1. The Hundred
The Hundred is a classic Pilates exercise that works the core muscles. Many a Pilates instructor will begin their class with this well-known core exercise. Actually the first exercise in Joseph Pilates’ book, the Hundred is named after the 100 beats your arms will make as you hold your head and shoulders off the mat with your legs extended.
- To perform The Hundred, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and reach your arms straight out in front of you. Reach towards the far wall.
- Pump your arms up and down while keeping your core engaged.
- Breathe in for five counts and out for five counts. Repeat these steps for 10 sets.
What better way to warm up your lungs and abdominal muscles you use to run while also challenging your laterals and developing your trunk and scapular stability? Not only does the Hundred have a hundred benefits for you, but it’s also a handy exercise to modify for neck or back problems, or even to make it more difficult!
2. Leg Circles
Leg Circles are a great exercise to improve hip mobility and strengthen the core and hip muscles. They are also a simple, straightforward enough exercise to do on your mat at home. To perform Leg Circles:
- Lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs extended straight up towards the ceiling.
- Circle your legs to the right, down and around to the left, and back up to the starting position.
- Repeat this in the opposite direction.
Of course, Leg Circles are brilliant for your core. However, these exercises for runners are also amazing at strengthening the hamstrings and quadriceps that you use to run. On top of this, Leg Circles keep your hip joint healthy, and gives you the opportunity to work on your abdominals, while also introducing you to the Pilates ideas of centring, control, precision, concentration, and focusing on your breath and flow.
3. Single Leg Stretch
Single Leg Stretch is one of the exercises for runners that targets the abdominal muscles while also improving flexibility in the hips and legs. To perform Single Leg Stretch:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and bring your right knee towards your chest while extending your left leg straight out in front of you.
- Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.
The Single Leg Stretch makes another great warm-up, but it’s also a great beginner to a stomach series. It’s easy to modify, too
Swan is one of the pilates exercises for runners that strengthens the upper back muscles and improves posture. To perform Swan:
- Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders.
- Lift your chest and shoulders off the floor while keeping your arms straight.
- Hold for a few seconds and then lower back down.
You can see where this front-body opener exercise gets its name! The Swan move is great for restoring your hip flexor flexibility – perfect for running – but also engages so many muscles.
5. Side Leg Series
Side Leg Series is a Pilates exercise that targets the outer hip muscles and improves hip stability. To perform Side Leg Series:
- Lie on your side with your legs extended straight out.
- Lift your top leg up towards the ceiling and then lower it back down.
- Repeat for a few sets and then switch sides.
It’s obvious that this set of leg exercises is beneficial for your legs, but it also uses your core muscles. Why not try kneeling if the standard way feels too easy?
When you run, incorporating Pilates exercises into your running routine can help improve the strength, flexibility, and balance that helps you with this form of exercise. Try incorporating these exercises into your training routine and see how they benefit your running performance.