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Pilates for runners

15 Best Exercises, Pilates for Runners

As we come up on the end of 2018 and new years’ resolutions begin to loom on the horizon again, running is on a lot of our minds. And the health benefits make it more than worth your time and effort.

But what are the best ways to stop from cramping up, losing your form, or doing damage over long periods of training? Join us today for Pilates for runners. Our fifteen point list includes stretches to help get you run-ready, and cramp-proof as soon as possible.

Pilates: A Closer Look

When runners get started out, one of the first walls many of them run into is the issue of flexibility. Whether you notice it in your first running session or your tenth, your ability to stretch appropriately is going to factor in at some point.

And if you’re not doing it correctly, there’s very little chance of developing flexibility, even over many months. You have to stretch the muscles you use during your exercise for stretching to matter at all. And sometimes even that isn’t enough.

When we stretch a muscle, the end goal is to lengthen it, so it provides less resistance as we use it. This, in turn, means less chance of stiffness after working out.

The problem, sadly, is that most standard stretches aren’t as effective as they need to be. Runners will stretch thoroughly, only for their muscles to revert back to shortened soon after.

You need a stretching exercise that gives you lasting results, especially in the beginning when your muscles are adapting. And there’s nothing better for a runner stretching than Pilates.

Pilates exercises use a two-way stretch, starting from a strong center. This makes them both effective and difficult to master in the beginning. This is like an exercise unto itself, but the results will set you on a path towards more effective running. And with the stamina you’ll build with improved stretching, you’ll be more than ready to go running far more often.

Let’s take a look at fifteen of our favorite Pilates exercises for people of all ages to put you on the path to better running through Pilates.

1. Foot Series

To begin with, it’s important to make sure your feet are adequately stretched before you start running. This will help prevent strains which will not only be painful but will also slow down your overall time and discourage you from running again. 

Remember that everything you do to achieve a more-perfect run easier helps. This also help to make running more central to your normal routine. And it starts with feet stretches and leg pulses.

  • Begin with your feet on the floor, placed about hip-width apart
  • Bend at the knees, down into a squatting position. Keep your chest upright throughout the process, and point your knees out over your toes
  • From this position, slowly lift yourself up onto your toes
  • Keep your knees bent, and lower your heels
  • Raise your heels five times per squat, and repeat the process ten times, overall

2. Kneeling Sidekick

Next up on today’s list is the kneeling sidekick, an excellent exercise for warming up the hips and obliques before a run.

  • Position either your left or right-hand flat on the mat. Brace that arm to hold your whole body weight
  • Push the knee from that same side of your body into the mat
  • Lift up the opposite side of your body so that it is inline, vertically, with the hand placed on the floor. The front of your torso should be facing the side of the mat
  • Extend your remaining arm out, then bend at the elbow and put your hand behind your head
  • Kick out firmly with your remaining leg, before bringing it back. Repeat this movement eight times before switching. Do three sets of both sides.

3. Thigh Stretch

Strengthening and stretching out your glutes, thighs, and hips before a run has obvious benefits for your legs. Whether you’re looking to build stamina or gain strength, here’s a Pilates position that’s sure to help.

  • Kneel in an upright position with arms stretched out at shoulder height. Look down at your knees
  • Without arching your back at all, lean slowly back, stretching your hips and thighs from the knees specifically.
  • Squeeze your glutes throughout this process, pressing forward if you need to while you lean back.
  • Return slowly to an upright position.
  • Repeat five sets of this movement

4. Book Openings

We’ve all heard that posture is key to a good run, but how do you go about developing better posture if yours isn’t where it needs to be? Much like any other muscle group, through exercise and repetition.

The Pilates position you’re looking for is known as Book Openings, and it works wonders at improving thoracic mobility. This applies especially to rotation, in turn working to the benefit of the alignment of your posture during a run.

  • With a cushion under your head and your arms out in front of you, lay down on your side 
  • Keep your arms and shoulders in straight lines and inhale. Steadily lift the top arm upwards, toward the ceiling, breathing deeply
  • On the exhale, close your arms by coming back to your starting position
  • Repeat eight times on either side

5. Side Leg Lifts

Every muscle is important during your run, and the lateral hip is no exception. Side leg lifts help to improve stability during a run, making for a more efficient workout and, more importantly, warding off injury.

As an added bonus, using your thighs to tone legs for a run is a great way to learn to engage your core, which has obvious exercise benefits.

  • Lay down on either side and extend your legs away from your torso
  • Engage your core in order to keep your torso steady, and raise your free leg to the height of your hip. This may not feel very high but will be more than enough as you compound each movement with the next
  • Swing your raised leg backward and forward in a controlled arc manner to complete one rep.
  • Complete between ten and twelve of these reps, then switch sides to complete one set. Aim for three sets.

6. Scissors

A popular Pilates posture, even outside of running, scissors is a great leg-strengthening exercise. As a side note, it’s also one of the more impressive Pilates moves, visually, and will be great to show off to your runner friends. 

  • Laying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor
  • Curl your head and neck, raising your shoulders slightly off of the ground
  • Lift your right leg an inch off the floor. At the same time, extend your left leg up toward the ceiling. Keep your back on the floor and core engaged during this entire process
  • Keeping your toes pointed, grab as high up along your upper leg as you can. Inhale, hold for three seconds, and then switch leg positions to complete a rep
  • Complete between eight and ten reps to make up one complete set

7. Hip Flexor Stretch

This is a maneuver many of us remember from gym class. Combining balance and stretching, this is a classic move that stretches everything from your back to your thighs.

  • Kneel, keeping one knee lined in front of the other
  • Keep your chest upright and push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch in your back thigh, around the front
  • Bring your tailbone forward and underneath you to push the stretch further. Hold for thirty seconds on each side

8. Mermaid

This exercise brings the practicality of a good stretch and the theatrics of the theater together. Well, maybe not quite so dramatic, but it certainly requires a certain amount of flair to pull off, and it’s great for hip range of motion and spine mobility.

  • While in a Z-sitting position, bring your right hand to the ground and reach up and overhead with your left hand
  • Bend to the side in the direction of your right hand, then change over and stretch to the left side as well
  • Maintain the same amount of space the tops of your shoulders and your ears at all times

9. Corkscrews

The corkscrew position stretches your hips and your side and helps to develop better control. In terms of running, these are all the points you want to hit before hitting the track.

  • Lay on your back and press your arms into the mat
  • Roll over onto your upper back
  • Extend your legs upward, keeping them together
  • Hug in your midsection
  • Lower your torso and move your hips and legs to the right
  • Pause, then bring your legs left, lifting hips up as you go
  • Complete eight-to-ten reps of this movement for a set and aim for three sets

10. One Leg Circle

In order to develop stability in the hips and torso, one leg circling while moving your legs is one of the most effective exercises for legs there is.

  • Lying flat on your back, stretch out your legs
  • Bend one knee into your chest
  • Stretch that leg upwards and stretch your hamstring by pulling your leg toward yourself
  • Repeat on each side, keeping your glutes pressed into the mat throughout the movement

11. The Clam

If you’re looking for a relaxed-looking Pilates position, look no further than the clam. You’d be surprised, however, as this is a great pre-run stretch, stretching both legs and thighs to great effect.

  • Lay on your side with your hips stacked one on the other and bend your needs forward. Stack and line your feet back behind you, in line with your glutes
  • Lift your heels six inches off the floor
  • Squeeze your glutes and lift up your top knee, stretching it toward the ceiling. Keep your heels together throughout this movement
  • Repeat twenty of these movements on each leg

12. Shoulder Bridge with Kick

Clear some space in your living room for this one, and get ready for a pre-workout leg and glute workout like you’ve never felt before.

  • Lay on your back with straight arms at your sides
  • Lift your hips into a diagonal bridge position and hold this pose
  • Keep your knees in the same plane as your collarbone and hips, creating a clear line all the way through
  • Kick up and extend your right leg, with your toe pointed
  • Pause, then bring yourself back down to your starting position
  • Switch sides and repeat to complete one rep

13. The Roll-Up

The roll-up is about as close to a sit up as you can get while still doing Pilates. It’s also just as great for your core as any sit up will ever be.

  • Lay down on the floor with straight legs
  • Keep your arms extended overhead, palms facing each other, and your shoulders down into the mat
  • Lift your head and neck, off the mat, roll up into a curled sitting position by drawing in your abs. Lift your arms upward and keep your core muscles engaged
  • Pause, then slowly roll back down on your spine in a controlled manner until you are flat on the floor again.
  • Perform eight-to-ten reps for a full set, and aim for three sets.

14. Swan

This specific exercise works wonders for stretching out your quads and abs. It’s also particularly useful for expanding your chest and keeping an optimal running posture.

  • Lie on your belly and lay your hands out in front of your shoulders with your palms facing down on the mat
  • Pull your shoulders away from your ears, lifting your midsection up from the mat and pressing down with your arms

15. Single Leg Pull

For runners to strengthen their abs, improve coordination, and align their arms and legs for better running, the single leg pull is perfect.

  • Lay on your back and bring up your right knee into your chest
  • Put your right hand on your right ankle and your left on your right knee
  • Stretch out your left leg in front of you. A good rule of thumb is to line it up with your nose, roughly 45 degrees from the floor
  • Lift your head so you are essentially looking into your tummy. Keep your body largely on the mat without shifting much towards either side.
  • Switch out your legs and hands for six-to-ten repetitions per side.

Pilates for Runners, Get Stretched for Success

Running is all about putting your body through strenuous cardiovascular stress and overcoming it. Preferably repeatedly. As runners, our struggle is with the issues of tight or sore muscles, movement imbalances, and unexpected injuries during a run.

Visit Pilatique today, for outstanding blogs and articles on more than just Pilates for runners. In no time, you’ll be ready to hit the track, mat, gym, and world with the help of Pilates!

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