I love running. I love that it is perhaps the most natural, innate form of exercise. We are born with a natural inclination to run. We run as children and continue running as we grow old. I once read that “there’s something so universal about that sensation, the way running unites our two most primal impulses; fear and pleasure. We run when we’re scared, we run when we’re ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time.” I love that.
However, at some point in our lives, running often takes on a new purpose. For many of us, it’s a means to maintain our health and stay in shape. Something that was once so natural becomes less natural with age. It wasn’t until I began my own practice and study of Pilates that I recognized the immense importance of form and posture while running. Improper running form is a fast-track to injury. Without proper core strength, and muscle development running can cause a significant amount of stress on your joints. Increasing your core strength relieves pressure from your joints, improves your balance and reduces your overall risk of injury.
If you enjoy running, try incorporating the following exercises into your routine. Each of these exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own home.
Increases abdominal strength, lengthens the lower back muscles and stabilizes the pelvis.
Set Up: Lying on your back, legs together, parallel and straight. Arms reaching back towards your ears, palms facing in, shoulders drawing away from your ears.
Inhale Lift arms towards the ceiling and gently lengthen through back of neck and lift head and shoulders off the mat.
Exhale as you peel the spine up and off the mat hollowing through the abdominal wall. Continue to Exhale as you curl all the way up to the sits bones rounding spine over legs.
Inhale Start rolling back away from the legs, aiming for the lumbar spine to hit the mat first; keep lengthening out through the legs.
Exhale Articulate your spine back down to starting position using your abdominal muscles to control the speed of the roll down. Imagine that each vertebra hits the mat sequentially. Finish the roll down and reach arms back without letting your ribs protrude forward.
Repeat 3 – 5 times
Watch out for: Elevation or rounding of shoulders, loss of “C –curve”, using too much momentum (jerking)
Promotes lengthening of the hamstrings and movement of the hip joints while maintaining a stable pelvis and core.
Set Up: Lying on your back, arms in a T position, one leg extended up toward the ceiling, the other leg stretched long on the mat. If you have tight hamstrings or feel unstable, bend the bottom leg and place the foot flat on the floor.
Inhale and Exhale Bring the lifted leg across the center of your body and draw a circle in the air.
Repeat circle in the same direction 5 times
Repeat 5 circles in the opposite direction. Change legs and repeat as above
Watch out for: Rotation or tilting of pelvis, rotation of torso, shoulder tension, hip flexor tension
Strengthens the back extensor muscles which will help to reduce rounding or “hunching” of the shoulders.
Set Up: Lying on your stomach, forehead on the mat, arms by your side with your palms facing in pressing against your thighs. Keep your abdominals engaged and keep the front of your hips connected to the mat.
Exhale Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, to reach a neutral spine, fingertips reaching toward your toes. Lift in one long line and lengthen away.
Exhale Lower body to mat.
Repeat 3 – 5 times
Watch out for: Tension in the neck and shoulders, tilting the chin up, lifting into thoracic extension, loss of abdominal connection.
Stay tuned for more information on how to use Pilates as a form of cross training for running. This post merely scratches the surface. More to come!