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How Pilates Benefits Runners

8 Ways Pilates Benefits Runners – Why Pilates is Important to Reduce the Risk of Running Injuries

Pilates Benefits RunnersAre you passionate about running?  It doesn’t matter if you’re super-speedy or slow, if you love to run just to run or if you’re a little more competitive and plan your life around your favorite races.  If running is your #1 workout of choice, it’s going to be the one thing that’s going to happen regardless of how crazy your life gets.  But how many running buddies do you know who are plagued with aches, pains, and injuries?  Maybe it’s an Achilles tendinitis issue, plantar fasciitis problem, knee pain, a pulled hamstring, hip pain, or SI Joint and low back pain problems.  I often hear runners say, “It only hurts a little bit. Once I start running I don’t notice it so I’m not going to stop running…”  The problem is they are actually ignoring the signals the body is sending them and are making things worse instead of better! Luckily, I’m here to tell you that Pilates benefits runners!

It’s hard to stop doing something you love. Especially when it’s something that helps de-stress your body, gets the blood pumping, fills you with endorphins, and makes you happy.  But wouldn’t it be even better if you could run without pain or fear that you’re going to aggravate an old injury?  Would the extra time cross training with Pilates be worth it if it could help you improve your core support, free up your hips, improve the mobility of your hamstrings, help your knees, and fix your feet?  Pilates benefits runners because it has so many excellent whole-body health benefits.  If you love to run, Pilates can help keep you in tip-top shape to make the most of your miles whether you’re pounding the pavement, hitting the trails, or sprinting on the track.

Personally, it’s difficult for me to call myself a “runner” since slow-mo is my M.O. But I do enjoy getting out there and I have even done a couple of half-marathons.  For me it’s not about being competitive, but the act of moving, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and getting some cardio accomplished with a little extra impact to help keep my bones strong.

When I was younger (in my teens and twenties), way before I knew anything about Pilates, I basically ran from injury to injury!  I’d get inspired to want to add more running to my weekly workouts and as I upped my mileage, or attempted to speed things up. Inevitably, I’d end up with something hurt.  Never the same part of my body; sometimes it was a foot issue, Achilles tendinitis, sprained ankle, or plantar fasciitis problem.  Sometimes my knees would hurt. Sometimes my back would go out. Other times I’d pull a hamstring.  It was annoying, frustrating, and made my attempts at running as successful as yo-yo dieting!  But this was BEFORE I started doing Pilates.

While I wasn’t looking at Pilates as an activity to cross-train and improve my running when I started, it’s had miraculous affects on my ability to maintain an active lifestyle with fewer aches and pains.  Now I rarely, if ever, have an activity halting injury.  I’m sure the Pilates clients I have that are runners will all agree that Pilates has made a big difference in their core support, body alignment, and ability to find and use the right muscles for a healthy stride.

As a runner, the one activity you want to focus all your time on is running.  But if you’re willing to invest a couple of hours a week to do Pilates, you’re going to gain the benefits of a more balanced body and fewer aches and pains. Aches and pains that never seem like a big deal until you can’t run because you’re injured.

This is a general statement, but most of the runners I know hate to stretch.  Tight, strong quads, hamstrings, and calves are contributing factors to an increased risk of injury.  Then there’s the repetitive motion of running.  Your dominant “running” muscles are getting stronger while the rest of your body is getting weaker.  When the imbalance becomes too great, an injury will result.  And you can’t forget about the feet…a very important part of a healthy stride.  If you tend to pronate or supinate – even if you’re wearing shoes that are supposed to help correct this – the primary corrections need to be with how you’re using the muscles from the toes, thru the foot, to the ankle, calf, and all the way up to the hips!  This can be very challenging to correct when you are full weight bearing with years of ingrained running habits. Plus, it’s difficult to make changes when you’re moving quickly during a running workout.

Unless you’re being coached at a very high level, or are a genetically gifted, mutant runner, you might not even realize the imbalances or poor body mechanics you’re using when you run, walk, and move through life.  Finding, feeling, and fixing these functional movement patterns is what Pilates is all about.

Here are 8 ways Pilates Benefits Runners

  1. Pilates equipment is spring-tensioned providing both assistance and resistance to help improve functional movement habits. The springs on the Reformer, Cadillac and Chairs help you find and use new and better muscle habits that eventually will transfer back into running workouts to improve your stride.  By working with the springs, you can learn how to better strengthen your abs and back and free up the legs to swing freely from the hips.  You can also gain great insights for shoulder strength/mobility to better understand how to integrate healthy movement habits through your whole body.  Pilates is an excellent way to connect both mind and body to re-train and re-educate your body for better health.
  1. Every Pilates exercise is a combination of both strength and flexibility. Just stretching isn’t ever going to help you get the strength and support you need in the opposing muscle groups for the too-tight muscles to let go.
  • If you’ve been running and stretching for years and can’t figure out why you’re not getting more flexible – lack of balanced muscle development might be the reason why you’re seeing improvements.
  • If you’ve been running and NOT stretching, doing Pilates exercises will take you through a full range of motion to improve mobility in a fun way that’s more effective than just “holding” a stretch.
  1. Pilates also helps build strength with length. Instead of focusing on the larger, bigger surface muscles, Pilates gets to the deeper, smaller, postural muscles and works the body from the inside out.  Pilates can help you learn how to use your overdeveloped muscles a little less and your weaker muscles a little more.  Balanced muscle development = a reduced risk of injury.
  1. Pilates can improve your breathing habits. Breathing is kind of important if you’re wanting to run or do other intensive cardio activities.  The more efficient your breathing habits are, the easier it will be to pace your runs and maximize your oxygen availability.  Better breathing habits can also help your back, arms, and shoulders move more easily for a healthy stride.  If you’re back gets tight after a run or you end up with neck and shoulder pain, there’s a great chance that by learning Pilates posterior-lateral breathing skills you’ll free up your entire upper body, reduce back pain, and be able to breathe easier during your runs.
  1. Pilates can enhance body awareness. This is a concept that gets lost on a lot of people. Better body awareness is key to avoiding injuries.  By becoming aware of your good and bad movement habits and doing Pilates exercises to help reinforce good body mechanics, you will gain the confidence needed to know when you’re moving in a healthy way or doing something that might get you hurt.  Our muscles don’t have mouths.  The only way the body can communicate with us is to send a pain signal.  It’s important to learn to listen to the body.  Pain is a signal that something is not quite right.  A quick adjustment (if you knew what to do) might be all that’s needed.  If making an adjustment or modification doesn’t eliminate a pain signal and we ignore it and continue, the risk of injury is imminent. 
  1. Pilates improves both functional movement and stability. Every activity we do involves work and release.  This requires our muscles to be proficient to support us for movement and stability.  Learning how to gain control over work/release patterns and knowing the difference between when to use a muscle group for stability vs. movement can help avoid “tug-of-war” issues that can lead to injury.  Stability in the right spots also means freer movement where it needs to happen.  This helps improve both strength and flexibility and assists with balance and body control. 
  1. Pilates is a barefoot activity. By exercising barefoot, you can become more aware of how you’re using your arches, ankles, and toes to help activate your feet and improve your alignment.  Working against the springs on Pilates equipment helps stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles.  There are lots of targeted foot and ankle exercises in Pilates that can help reduce the risk of ankle sprains, Achilles tendon issues, and plantar fasciitis problems.

 *(All of my Pilates running clients also have a Centerworks® Runfit Kit at home, with extra foot fitness training tools and exercises for targeted foot care that can be used to warm-up and cool-down after a run or other fitness workout.) 

  1. The things you can learn and improve with Pilates are limitless. Pilates is never boring if you’re working with a well-qualified Pilates Teacher who understands how to help you progress and fine-tune your form.  An ideal Pilates workout is done on the Pilates Reformer, Mat, and supplemental exercises with the Cadillac/Trapeze Table, Chairs, and Barrels as needed.  There are over 500 Classical Pilates exercises, and thousands of additional modifications, variations, and additional exercises that can be incorporated into a Pilates workout.  By knowing your goals, as well as strengths, weaknesses, and past injuries, your Pilates teacher can help guide you step-by-step into a new and improved stronger, fitter, and more flexible runner.

By incorporating both Pilates and running into your active lifestyle you will gain the benefits of great cardio training for your heart and lungs, and the right combination of strength and flexibility to keep your whole-body healthy.  Pilates benefits runners so learning how to be mindful during Pilates can help you pay closer attention to what your body is doing while you’re running.  By incorporating Pilates concepts for better breathing, body alignment, improved posture, functional movement, and support, you will be able to make every stride more efficient, enjoy maximum benefit from your running workouts, and minimize the risk or aches, pain, and injuries.

If you haven’t made Pilates a part of your weekly workouts to enhance your running program, now is a great time to get started with Pilates.  Find a well-qualified Pilates teacher and schedule a private session to get started.  Next to a great pair of running shoes, it just might be the best investment you can make to enjoy a lifetime of injury-free running.

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RunFit Foot Fitness Kit™To take good care of your feet, and be sure you’ve got the resources you need to stretch, and strengthen your ankles, arches, and toes – I recommend you get a Runfit Kit.  The Runfit Kit contains all my favorite foot-fitness exercise tools and toys to help keep your feet in tip-top shape for better health. (Running is not a requirement, to get benefits from the foot-care resources in this helpful foot-care kit!)

If you already have a copy of the book Fantastic Feet, and have been doing your exercises, you can purchase the rest of the foot-care resources separately in the Foot Fitness section of the Centerworks store.

Posted by administrator in Pilates, Running.

Using Speed Workouts to Improve Fitness

Running girlI have NEVER been a speedy runner…  In fact in my mid-twenties I quit running altogether, when I realized that no matter the age bracket I would never be fast enough to be competitive and actually place, much less win a race.

Now I look back on this poor attitude as a sad reason to give up a fun and social fitness activity.  I’m thankful that with age comes wisdom, and I’ve accepted my body’s natural slow pace.

While I’ll probably never win a race, starting AND finishing is still a great accomplishment!   And even though I know that I’m usually slower than everybody else, thanks to my Pilates and Foot Fitness training, I’m healthy, fit, injury-free, and still motivated and willing to get out there and work on getting faster!

Posted by Aliesa George in Links to Interesting Articles, Running.

5 Tips to Running Healthy and Avoiding Injury

RunnerIf your goal is to enjoy running healthy and avoiding injury, (which should be the goal of every avid recreational runner and professional athlete) there are a few very important key points to keep in mind while training to ensure you stay healthy and injury-free.

Posted by Aliesa George in Links to Interesting Articles, Running.

What Running Shoes to Wear?

Tips for Selecting the Right Running Shoes

shoes“Aliesa, I watched your Foot Fitness Training video for Runners & Walkers and I know you said you get the “what shoes to wear” question a lot.  At the risk of being one more person with this question, what running shoes would you recommend? 

I am in the market for new shoes and thought I’d see if you have a preference before I purchase any. 

Thank you again for your response and for all the great information on your website.  I look forward to starting my Fantastic Feet exercises!  – RM.

My best answer for figuring out what shoes to wear and selecting the RIGHT Running Shoes for your feet is this…

You’ve got to buy the shoes that fit your feet the best
AND help you maintain correct foot & ankle alignment.

Running Shoe Shopping Tips

Posted by Aliesa George in Foot Care & Foot Fitness, Running.

Exercises for Healthy Feet: Stretch Your Calves & Strengthen Your Arches

Articulating the Ankle:
Improving Mobility To Point & Flex Your Feet

Pretty Pink Ballet FeetAre you searching for the right exercises for healthy feet?  Are your calf muscles tight?  Do you ever have heel pain?  Do you hop around with toe cramps? or arch cramps? Are you plagued with Plantar Fasciitis problems?  Are you still searching for foot care solutions that work well for your tired, achy feet?

Healthy Feet and ankles are not just for ballerinas!

Whether you walk, run, dance or just sit behind a desk all day, how much we use, or misuse, our feet can contribute to challenging foot problems and more.  Of course if you’re dealing with an acute injury consultation with your doctor or podiatrist should be your first stop. But if you’re trying to find the strategies and solutions that can help get you back to health and keep you poor feet out of trouble, it may be time to pay a little more attention to your ankles, arches and toes on a very regular basis.

Posted by Aliesa George in Flexibility & Stretching, Running, Walking.

Gain Ankle Strength and Heel Mobility for Better Balance

Medial / Lateral Ankle Strength &
Multi-Directional Foot Mobility

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance & Body Control

Stretching the calf and soleus muscles are important for your lower leg and ankle flexibility, but just doing a plain old calf stretch probably isn’t going to dramatically improve balance because it is not the flexion and extension of the ankle that needs improvement as much as the lateral side-to-side strength and support. 

What can you do to improve balance?

One of the best ways to improve your balance is to challenge the body with exercises that have you standing on one leg.  But if your feet and ankles don’t have the right amount of strength, flexibility and mobility to keep you upright, chances are simple exercises balancing on one leg may seem darn near impossible unless you’re holding onto something!  (And holding onto something for support has you using your Arms to balance more than your feet, ankles and legs.)

There are thousands of opportunities throughout the day where we have a moment to practice standing on one leg and balance.  Can you guess where your top two opportunities to practice balancing on one leg are?

  1.  Walking
  2. Climbing Stairs

Posted by Aliesa George in Foot Care & Foot Fitness, Running, Walking.

How your Toes and Leg Alignment Affects the Feet for Healthy Heels

How Are You Working: Legs turned Toe-Out, Parallel, or Pigeon?

 This article is Part 2 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance & Body Control

feet-imageLittle, seemingly insignificant posture habits can set you up for problems, pain and injury.  And what is interesting is the fact that your heels and ankles might not be the weak link that is setting you up for a potential problem.  What do I mean by this?

Part of paying attention to leg alignment is knowing what is happening at the feet.  A toe-in, parallel or toe-out stance or gait pattern can dramatically change how the feet and ankles work and affect the stress placed on your knees and lower back. As a result of your everyday foot fitness habits, the muscles that are strong or weak in your feet and lower legs can be your own unique posture challenge.

But half of what you need to pay attention to might be the direction of the feet and the other half is what’s happening at the hip.

Posted by Aliesa George in Flexibility & Stretching, Foot Care & Foot Fitness, Running, Walking.

The Spiral Effect of the Spine to Swing your Arms for a Healthy Stride

Use Spine Twisting To Improve Your Walking & Running Technique

Arm Swing, Running picThere are lots of things you can pay attention to when you walk and run that can improve your pace, stride, form and function.  A great arm swing is one of the key factors in not only freeing the arms and shoulders, but also strengthening your core support and reducing stress and tension in through your whole spine.

If your back hurts after a long walk or run or you notice more tension in your neck and shoulders before, during or after getting your miles in, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on the important “spiral effect” of the spine while you’re swinging your arms.

It’s interesting to observe bodies in motion.  And sometimes, seeing what to look for, can make it easier to feel in your own body exactly what your movement habits are.

Posted by Aliesa George in Back Pain, Exercise and Fitness, Running, Walking.

Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance

Part One – A Simple Ankle Exercise and Foot Fitness Test
for Alignment, Balance  Body Control      

Hiking - HeelsThis article is Part 1 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance and Body Control.

A really important task that our feet provide for us is balance.  Our toes individually grab and release the ground for stability, the ankle allows us to shift our weight without toppling over, and the foot (between the ankle and the toes) can be strong and rigid or pliable to adapt to different terrain.

The foot is almost shaped like a triangle, wider for more support across the forefoot and the toes and supported in the back at the heel.  Instead of thinking about the heel as a single point, (like one leg on a three-legged stool) the ankle and heel allow for mobility of the foot which means you can be centered on the heel, stand more towards the outer heel or bear more weight towards the inner heel.  This medial / lateral heel mobility is critical for balance and keeps us from straining or spraining an ankle when walking or running on uneven ground.

The key concept here is medial / lateral heel mobility. 

Posted by Aliesa George in Foot Care & Foot Fitness, Running, Walking.

Are You Running To Your Grave?

According to an article published recently in the Wall Street Journal, the opinion of cardiologists is almost unanimous that instead of getting great health benefits from their hours and hours of training time, endurance athletes may in fact be causing excessive ‘wear-and-tear’ on the heart.

Running faster (more than 8 miles per hour) or longer, might increase your risk of an earlier death.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper suggests, that “if you are running more than 15 miles a week, you are doing it for some reason other than health.”

I have to wonder if as the relationship to health, a healthy heart, and mortality rates for runners is researched further, if the link will be made to any and all cardiovascular exercises, or training programs that push the body and heart to the extreme… Ultra training, cycling, triathlons, and other endurance sports may or may not have the impact, but they certainly do have the high heart-rate for extended periods of time.

Oh middle age – we want to keep our bodies looking and feeling like they did when we were in our twenties!  Some of us have learned the hard way that the old bod just isn’t up to snuff to push it like we did when we were younger.  But other folks seem to be getting stronger and fitter as they age.  Either way, it’s use it or lose it.  We’ve got to do something to keep ourselves strong, fit, and flexible.

I know for me, I quit running when I was in my 20’s because I was so slow that I couldn’t be competitive to race and it pissed me off.  Eighty-year old women were running faster than I could for a 10K!  I knew I was never going to win a race.  Plus, usually I’d run for a week or two and end up with an injury.  Foot pain, knee pain, a pulled Hamstring, or low back problems… something always seemed to sideline me when I started getting in a running groove.  Perhaps that twenty year training break I took from running will turn out to be a blessing to my health and longevity!

So what have I done instead?  For the past twenty years I’ve been fine-tuning my posture, body alignment, and functional movement habits.  Always did some sort of cardio training, just not running.  It’s nice to be older AND confident that instead of creating injuries and dealing with chronic foot and back pain (that I expected to be worse at this age) that I actually FEEL better now than I did when I was younger.  I now know what type of cross-training exercises and activities need to be in my weekly workouts to avoid overtraining and overuse injuries, and how to tweak my technique to ensure that the right muscles are always working.  All of this dedicated time and focus has helped me NOW get back to running and not get hurt!

Personally, I like being outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and running is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.  I’ve come to accept that I run like a snail, and will probably never be Speedy González!

This past year I’ve started really paying attention to my heart rate – Running has always quickly put my heart-rate in the 160-180 beats per minute range.  I’ve only run two half-marathons but for both I sustained this crazy heart-rate for the entire distance!  Two races were enough for me to know that this kind of training wasn’t in my best interest.  So I’ve slowed down to a ridiculously slow pace that keeps my heart-rate in a safer zone, and am learning to enjoy the benefits of just moving.  I’ve had to accept what I can do, my personal “healthy” pace, and let go of the desire to keep up with the pack.

I know that as a post-menopausal women in my 40’s, that my bones need a little extra impact to try and maintain my bone density – the easiest way to get a little more pounding on my frame it is with a two to four mile, 2-3 day a week jogging workout.   With the insights from this recent Wall Street Journal article I’ve got no worries.  I’m WELL under the 8 MPH safety speed limit!  And not in training mode for another ½-marathon, so know I’m under the 15 mile a week mark too.

When I was younger, I couldn’t imagine living long enough to make it past high-school.  Now that I’m older, I have no desire to speed my progress towards the finish line of life!  I’m happy that this new research supports my well-balanced, moderately-paced, Intentional Movement Training SytemsTM workout plan.  By staying active without over-taxing my heart I am hopefully looking at enjoying a long, active, and healthy life.

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Click here to read the full article from the Wall Street Journal.  “One Running Shoe in the Grave – New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits” by Kevin Helliker.

To learn more about the powerful health benefits of Aliesa George’s Intentional Movement Training SystemsTM to keep you healthy, fit, and injury-free subscribe to the Centerworks Wellness Success Newsletter.

  • What are YOUR thoughts on a healthy heart and endurance workouts?
  • Are you a runner, triathlete, or just love long, high-intensity cardio workouts?
  • Are you doing more or less intense training as you get older?

Drop me a comment and share your opinion.  I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by Aliesa George in Links to Interesting Articles, Running.