Runners usually exhibit great strength in their legs but may have issues with tightness in the hips, with lower back or knee pains, and/or problems with balance. Pilates exercises help runners improve on their core strength allowing them better posture while maintaining the balance in the muscles of the back and hips. Pilates also teaches runners proper breath control which help to increases their stamina and endurance.
The chosen exercises herein are beneficial to the runner because they challenge the core and emphasize the neutral positioning of the pelvis and hips. They also help correct postural imbalances, create flexibility and stretch the lower body.
For all exercises, remember to draw your shoulders down towards your hips and far from your ears, and keep your abdominal muscles engaged while long in the waist.
- Side Lying Kick (stabilize hips, strengthen hip flexors, abdominals and back extensors)
Lie on one side leaning on the elbow of the lower arm with hands behind your head. Stabilise the bottom leg on the floor and hold the top leg at hip height. Minimise the rocking of your trunk by engaging your abdominal muscles. As you exhale, swing the top leg as far forward as possible with a flexed foot. On your inhale, swing the top leg as far back as possible while pointing your foot and elongating your leg. Keep your pelvis neutral and quiet throughout as you repeat the back-and-forth swing 12 times.
- Leg circles (stabilize hips, stretch hamstrings, control hip flexors and lengthen hip abductors)
Lie on your back with arms out in a T-position. Legs are together, straight and slightly pointed. Exhale as you bend one leg in toward your chest and straighten it upward, perpendicular to the floor, foot flexed. Keep other leg and pelvis on the mat quiet and stable. Inhale as you circle the raised leg inward past the centre of your body, then down and around. Make your circle only as big as you can without moving your hips and pelvis. Exhale on the next circle, alternating the breathing on each circle. Repeat 10 times before switching to the other leg.
- Swimming (thoracic extension, stabilize hips and strengthen back extensors)
Lie face down on mat with legs and arms. Inhale as you slowly lift right arm and left leg off mat as high as you can (extending fully your arms and legs away from each other in opposite directions). Hold for one count and then lower to start as you exhale. Repeat on opposite side and work up to 12 reps on each side.
- Saw (strengthen back extensors, lengthen hamstrings and develop flexibility in rotation and flexion)
Sit upright with straight legs opened slightly beyond shoulder-width, feet flexed. Arms are in T-position reaching far out to the opposite sides. Inhale as you rotate your torso to face the side of room. Keep pelvis anchored as you move the arms and head with the trunk. On the exhale, reach forward long over the leg, left hand extending past small toe of right leg. Inhale to extend farther deepening the stretch of hanstrings and lower back. Exhale to pull yourself back up to sitting tall, rotate back to centre starting position and repeat to the other side. Work up to 6 reps on each side.
- The Roll-Up (lengthen lower back muscles, articulate vertebrae and strengthen the core muscles)
Lie back with legs straight and arms extended overhead (but not touching the floor). Pull belly button in toward your spine. Exhale as you bring arms overhead and lift shoulder blades off the mat, curling all the way up until arms are parallel to legs. Exhale again as you slowly uncurl back to start. Do this 8 times.
- Single Leg Kick (stabilize hips, strengthen back extensors and stretch hamstrings)
Lie prone engaging abdominal muscles, lift the chest and extend the back. Your legs are in a straight line behind you, lifted off the mat. Place your elbows directly under the shoulders, your lower arms parallel to each other. On the exhale, bend the right leg and pulse it twice. As you straighten the right leg, bend the left leg to pulse twice on the next exhale. Repeat the pulses while alternating legs working up to 10 sets of pulses each leg.