Over time, Pilates can:
• Improve your posture and help you run more efficiently
• Increase your back and abdominal muscles making you a stronger runner
• Increase your overall flexibility, strength, balance and range of movement in your hips and shoulders
• Enhance your concentration through focussed breathing and increase oxygenation with a diaphragm
that is fully able to expand
• Help you recover faster after long runs or injuries
• Decrease fatigue because of less strain on the body
• And of course Pilates is relaxing, enjoyable and suitable for runners of all ages and abilities - it's all in the book Pilates for Runners!
Running is a repetitive activity so by its very nature this means that any weaknesses or imbalances in your body could potentially surface.
This is because certain muscles are overused while others are underused, which can result in a variety of ailments from lower back pain to hip and knee problems.
For example, say you have a problem with your Iliotibial band (ITB). You are doing all the stretches that your physio prescribed, you’ve promised not to run (the hardest part!) but still it hurts and you are champing at the bit to get back out there.
Pilates can help by changing the way you use your body. If you suffer from an ITB problem say (and this could apply to anything else, like knee problems, hip, back problems etc) your body is probably telling you that you are overusing some of your muscles or maybe using them inefficiently.
Over time Pilates exercises can help by activating the lazy muscles that haven’t been doing their bit, lengthening the tight muscles (think hamstrings) and creating better, more aligned movement patterns so that the ITB doesn’t have to take so much stress. It becomes a very dynamic process that integrates the rest of the body with the ITB or whichever part of your body that's weak.
Think too about how when we run our bodies endure constant impact - the force of each step travels up from the legs to the lower back and rib cage. The core strength that is acquired through Pilates exercises not only helps make those vulnerable areas better able to deal with the impact, it also improves body alignment and balance and will help you distribute the force of running throughout the body more efficiently, instead of just dumping it all on to a few muscles.
I have run many miles over the years, completed marathons, half-marathons and other races. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a stronger and more efficient runner through practising Pilates - the two disciplines complement each other beautifully.