Pilates For Runners

Want to improve your running performance? Try these easy-to-do Pilates moves and run your best race.

Pilates reformer image via shutterstock

Pilates reformer image via shutterstock

Boston is a runner’s city. You can’t swing a handbag on the sidewalk without hitting a passing runner, even when temps are freezing and running paths are covered in snow. But if you want to stay injury free this winter, try these Pilates moves recommended by Julie Erickson, owner of Endurance Pilates and Yoga in Arlington. This six-step sequence of four exercises and two stretches will increase stamina and endurance while strengthening your core, legs, and back. While we try to be as clear as possible when giving exercise directions, it is easier to watch the video below and see how to do the moves yourself.

Single Leg Kick: Start by lying on your belly and bring elbows under the shoulders. Pull the shoulder blades in closer to the spine to open the chest. Pull the belly, front of hips, and ribcage off the floor and press the pubic bone into the floor to find a deep stretch through the front of the body. Keep this opening and squeeze your glutes. Then, stretch the right leg out long and bend the knee to engage the hamstring without disturbing the upper body. Pull the heel as close to the bottom as possible without shifting, and then switch sides. Alternate 20 times. In the end, you will feel like you are kicking your bum.

Rowing: Rowing strengthens the upper and middle back muscles for endurance and keeps the upper torso in proper alignment. Start seated with legs extended and reaching forward, and wrap a band around the arches of your feet and cross it, forming an X. Keep arms straight while holding the bands. Arms pull straight back, wrists straight and in front of shoulders and hands, and shoulders and elbows should be at the same height. Return to start with control. Do 10 repetitions.

Kneeling Side Kick: This exercise encourages the stretching and lengthening of the leg, and increases length in hip flexors and hamstrings. Kneel, lengthen both sides of the waist and tip to the left, left hand to floor, right hand behind head. Pull the belly in and up and lift up on the pelvic floor muscles to create a corset like feeling to stabilize the upper body. Reach the right leg as far forward as possible and then as far back as possible, ensuring that the leg stays parallel to the floor. The torso should remain still. Lift the leg up and down as many times as possible.  Draw small circles  as many times as possible in each direction. Repeat 10 times and then do on the other side.

Leg Pull Front: This exercise works controlled mobility and stability in the torso, pelvis, and shoulder girdle. Come to the top of a pushup position with the legs either hip distance apart or heels together, toes apart. Pull the belly in and up and lift up on the pelvic floor to create the corset feeling in the torso. Keeping body like a blade, lift right leg away from the floor, with flexed ankle, create a long line from heel to head and shift your weight back. Extend both wrists and shoulders while flexing the right ankle and point your toes. Returning to the start position with a flexed ankle and switch sides.

Here are some post-run stretches to keep flexibility in check and safely maximize your gait:

Two joint hip flexor stretch: Place the right shin against the wall and bring left knee forward 90 degrees. Hands will start on the floor, eventually lifting the torso to an upright position.

One joint hip flexor stretch: Assume a lunge position. Hands will start on the front thigh but attempt to bring the torso more upright, stretching the entire front of the body.