Pilates for runners

Pilates for Runners: 15 Best Exercises

In light of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation and dense public places are discouraged, 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 cramping up, losing your form, or doing damage over long periods of training? Join us today for Pilates for runners. Our fifteen point list of Pilates for Runners exercises includes stretches to help get you run-ready, and cramp-proof as soon as possible.

Pilates for Runners: 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 and full range of movement of the joint 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 for runners 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 for runners 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 and mobile before you start running. This will help prevent strains and cramps, which will not only be painful but will also slow down your overall time and discourage you from running again. Good feet mobility also promotes proper weight-bearing during running.

Remember that everything you do to achieve a more efficient-run over perfect-run, and it starts with feet stretches and leg pulses.

  • Begin with your feet on the floor, placed about hip-width apart and even weight bearing on both feet
  • Bend at the knees, down into a squatting position. Keep your chest open throughout the process, and point your knees out aligning to second and third toe
  • From this position, slowly lift yourself up onto your toes
  • Keep your knees bent, and lower your heels
  • Raise your heels up and down for five times per squat per set, and repeat the process ten sets, 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 yourself on side kneeling with your hand flat on the mat and the same side knee bend and supporting on side kneeling. Brace that arm to hold your whole body weight while stabilising your shoulder
  • Extend your remaining arm up to the ceiling, then bend at the elbow and put your hand behind your head
  • Keep the free top leg lifted to the height of the hip. While lifted, kick the free leg forward, before bringing it back. Repeat this movement eight times before switching side. Do three sets for both sides

3. Thigh Stretch

Strengthening and stretching out your glutes, thighs, and hips before a run has obvious benefits for running. 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 overarching your back and core muscles engaged to support, lean back slowly, 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 good 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, postural muscles can be trained 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 work indirectly on core engagement, which benefits runners.

  • 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-stretching and 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.

  • Position yourself into a kneeling lunge position with one knee bend and the foot placed forward while the other knee bend and placed backward
  • Keep your chest upright and push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch on your back leg thigh, around the front of the hip
  • 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 sitting down with one leg crossed forward and the other crossed backward, bring one arm up to the ceiling then bend the body to the opposite side to stretch. Repeat on the other side
  • Change over the leg positions and repeat the stretch
  • Maintain the same amount of space between the tops of your shoulders and your ears at all to keep the neck and shoulder in a relaxed state

9. Saw

The saw exercise stretches your back 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.

  • Sit on the floor with both legs stretched out straight and placed shoulder-width apart. Reach arms to the sides with palm facing front
  • Rotated the trunk to face the right then bend the body forward reaching the left hand towards the right foot while reaching the other hand back with palm rotated to face in
  • Stack the spine back to vertical then rotate face front returning to starting position
  • Repeat on the other side and complete five repetitions on each side

10. One Leg Circle

In order to develop stability in the hips, torso, and core, one leg circle is one of the most effective exercises for runners.

  • Lying flat on your back, keep one knee bend and stretch out the other leg towards the ceiling
  • Draw a circle using the gesture leg. Make sure the movement takes place on the hip while the gesture leg held straight throughout. Reverse the circle
  • Repeat on each side, keeping your pelvis steady into the mat throughout the movement

11. The Clam

If you’re looking for a hip strengthening and stretching exercise, look no further than the clam. You’d be surprised, however, as this is a great pilates for runners 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
  • Repeat for ten sets on each side

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. Breast Stroke Prep

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 with elbows bend and hands placed by the side of the shoulder 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
  • Keep the chest open and neck in line with the mid back
  • Repeat for ten sets

15. Single Leg Stretch

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

  • Lay on your back. Interlock the fingers and place the hands behind the head for support
  • Curl the upper body until the shoulder is off from mat. Engage the abs and lift both legs up to table-top
  • Keep the core engaged and stretch one leg in a long diagonal line while keeping the upper body curled up
  • Switch to other leg and complete 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!