Pilates is the single best cross-training exercise for runners.
There, I came right out and said it.
Are you a runner? Want to be a runner? Wish you could run without constantly injuring yourself?
Pilates has your back. And your joints, your ligaments, your … everything!
Why is that important?
Well, in order to run well, you need good biomechanics and good alignment. (If you have any imbalances, running is going to exacerbate those tenfold.)
You need strong feet, calves, knees and legs. You need a strong, supportive core. You need to be able to breathe easily.
And if you run a lot, you’ll also know that it’s great for you, but it can really make you stiff. So you need mobility (most people say flexibility – more about that in another post) as well.
How do you get all that in one package? Pilates.
Without going too deeply into the details (and believe me, I want to:)), here are three short and sweet exercises that will set you on the way to becoming a healthier runner.
Stand barefoot with feet hip-width apart. (Ideally on the edge of a step, but the floor will work in a pinch). Keeping the knees soft, lift the heels to rise up onto the balls of both feet and slowly lower back down with control. Check to see whether your feet are rolling inward or outward. If so, place a soft object (squishy ball, tennis ball, a pair or two of rolled-up tube socks, a stuffed animal … whatever you have handy!) between the ankles and squeeze gently to make your feet work in parallel. Repeat 8-10 times.
Calf raises 2.0
- Come into a squat position – tailbone back (think sitting down into a tiny chair), chest lifted. With the ball between your ankles and keeping the hips steady, lift and lower the heels.
- Try the single-leg version (minus the ball) – wrap one foot around the back of the opposite ankle and lift away! Try not to roll outwards, evenly distribute the weight on the ball of the foot. (Pro tip: Try to have something you can hold on to if you lose your balance!)
Starting on your back, plant your feet close to your buttocks in line with the sitbones. Curl your tailbone under and slooooowly start to peel your spine away from the floor. Hold your bridge. The weight should be on your shoulders (NOT your neck – drop your breastbone a bit if that’s the case – this is different from a “yoga bridge”). Draw the ribs inward and reach long through the knees while tractioning your heels towards your buttocks. (Hello, hamstrings!) Now, gradually peel your spine back down onto the floor. This should feel great on the low back. You’ve also created length in the hip flexors, strengthened the oft-neglected glutes and hamstrings and relieved tightness.
- In a bridge position, keeping the hips level with each other, reach one leg toward the ceiling. With the leg straight, reach it away from you to the opposite side of the room. (Did your hip drop? Bring it back up! I know it’s hard!) Then kick the leg back up to the ceiling and replace the foot on the floor. Repeat on the other side. Remember not to arch your back – think “ribs knit together at the front” and “belly button to the spine”.
No, not THAT kind! We’re doing sidelying bicycling to build core stability, lengthen the hip flexors (sense a theme here?) and generally mobilize + strengthen those tight hips. Lie on your side, cradling your head in your elbow. Place your top hand on the ground in front of your ribcage. Lift the top leg to hip height and reach it away from you to create length. Now, bicycle! That is, in a flowing motion, kick the heel towards your buttocks, then bend the knee and bring it towards your shoulder, reach the leg out and, pointing the toe, sweep it back behind you. Repeat 3x, then “backpedal”. Your torso remains still throughout – at least try to keep it still!
- Lie on your back with a towel or a half-deflated small ball under your tailbone (NOT your low back). In a pinch, put your hands there. Your low back should be just slightly rounded towards the floor and stay that way. Lift both legs to the ceiling and start to move in a sweeping bicycling motion, keeping your pelvis stable and your low back reaching for the floor.
Like these? Stay tuned for more in the weeks and months to come!
And of course, if you want to learn with “eyes on you” (always a good idea), try a group class or a private. I promise there is: Zero woo. Zero annoying music. Zero expectation of being coordinated, lithe, skinny, “flexible”, “good at this”, “graceful” (whatever that means). Because my mission is to make YOU feel better, move better and live better in YOUR wonderful body.
See you soon!