Effects of Pilates in The Runner
By: Kai Mathany, MPT
Core strengthening is a vital component of a runner's training regime that often goes overlooked. The "core" is made up by several muscles that run the length of the spine and affect the stability of the shoulders, trunk and pelvis. Muscles that encompass the core are the rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdomens, hip flexors, gluts and hip adductors and attach directly to the spine and pelvis. In ordinary everyday activities these muscles not only help to keep your spine straight against gravity but also act to stabilize, protect and control movement in your lower/upper extremities.
65% of runners are afflicted by injury every year. If a runner does not have a strong foundation, he/she will exhibit compensatory movements that often lead to tendonitis, stress fractures and joint pain. During a run a strong core controls alignment and improves efficiency of movement in the hips, knees and ankle that help to prevent most of the common overuse injuries. A very effective type of core stabilization training is Pilates. Pilates is an exercise method focused on building strength without bulk, improving flexibility and agility, and enhances injury prevention. With specific relation to the runner, Pilates has been shown to enhance several performance and injury prevention factors:
- Increases power of your stride.
- Improves endurance by enhancing the efficiency of movement, especially in the end of a long run when we tend to perform compensatory movements due to fatigue.
- Increases speed with less effort.
- Increases dynamic stability and alignment of the lower extremity that results in fewer overuse injuries.
- Improves posture to enhance breath control.
- Improved neuromuscular control, balance and reaction time to provide increased joint protection.
- Enhances body control and offers a vehicle for concentration and focus.
Pilates is a movement based system that implements various exercises that isolate and activate the core musculature. One may be familiar with the exercises seen below, but you will find that when they are performed within the pilates framework they are very challenging. Each movement is performed properly for several repetitions to not only improve strength and/or flexibility but also to enhance muscle endurance and neuromuscular control.