A new client asked me at the end of his one hour session, “So is this Pilates?”
I was caught a little off guard and said, “Well yeah, we used all the pieces of equipment, focused on the corrections we need to make to your running, etc.”
He replied, “But you didn’t make me roll around on that ball a single time?”
I’ll admit, Pilates uses a lot of tools. These tools are utilized to isolate the joints and muscles that we want to work. A certified Pilates instructor is sizing you up from the second you walk in the door and determining how to correct your body’s imbalances (a trait that my husband loves to hear about.) It’s these imbalances that hold us back in our sport or ultimately lead to injuries.
The purpose of Pilates is not to look great in a bikini – although this is often a welcome side-effect. Pilates is an essential discipline of cross-training for sports performance and injury prevention. I’m sure we would all rather be running, but effective cross-training ensures we run faster and farther and ultimately allows us to stay out on the trail.
That said, we do not always need tools to incorporate Pilates into our training regimen. After evaluating a great deal of runners, both seasoned and new to the sport, here are three exercises I believe all runners can benefit from:
- Squats Against a Wall. Yes, squatting, you’ve heard it before so what’s the big deal. Try it this way. Stand facing a wall with hands over head. You’ll want to start with your feet about 18” off the wall greater than hip distance apart, toes straight forward. Place your hands high on the wall. Start by tilting your pelvis over first and then slide into your squat. Try to get all the way down without raising your heels and keeping the hands high on the wall. Then stand it back up. 18” no problem? Move the feet in. This skill works on thoracic extension and hip conditioning which will improve your overall posture while running and increase your hip’s ability to fire into flexion.
- Airplane. Start by standing on one leg with a slight bend in the knee of the standing leg. Pull the other knee into the chest with the hands. Tilt your chest, hugging your knee tight to your chest as you tip your torso over toward the floor. Let go of the knee to extend both the leg and arms out into a “T” position so that your shoulders and hips are square to the floor. As you stand back up bring the knee back to hugging into the chest. This skill works areas of the body essential to runners including hip conditioning, lateral stability, rotational control, and sagittal stability.
- Foot Conditioning. We take our feet for granted, which is unfortunate, as they hold us up all day long for miles and miles. One of the major issues I see in feet is pronation and supination and a decrease in mobility. As we start to lose mobility in the feet, pain ensues. Once we have pain we commonly run off to get an orthotic insert. The truth is what we truly need is to increase mobility in our feet through conditioning. Have you heard of Yoga Toes? Yes, they were on to something when that product was introduced. But to improve conditioning we can use our fingers in between each toe instead. Then roll the foot around. Work through all the joints in the foot in each section. Then start working on the ability to move the toes while standing. Pick up your big toe and leave the other four toes on the floor, then switch. Try raising just the three middle toes and leave the pinky and big toe on the ground. Make sure as you move through these movements you avoid rolling in our out on the foot. Working on mobility in your feet also increases the ability of the whole foot to navigate the variations in the trails you run.
Hillary MacLean is a PMA®-CPT is a Polestar Certified Pilates Instructor and Painless Running Coach. Her studio, Sierra Symmetry, is located in Truckee, California, upstairs from Crossfit Truckee near the airport.