Most runners train by, well, running! However, doing only the same workout, such as running, every day, will cause weak muscles to become weaker and strong muscles to become stronger. In addition, the repeated movement of running can wear down the body because there’s little to keep the core strong and balanced, the muscles flexible and the body aligned. It’s time to bring in Pilates to add balance, strength, flexibility and focus. Pilates will build your body from the core outwards into a much more efficient running machine. You’re going to love the dramatic improvements in your running.
This brings us to these five Pilates exercises for runners. I discovered that my cardio outlasts my body when running. Living at such a high elevation has conditioned my heart and oxygen uptake superbly, so my cardio system operates like a finely tuned machine … but my core, hips, joints and feet can often feel like they want to call it quits.
These five exercises will give your core (abs, low back, hips and gluteus) balance, flexibility and strength so that it can aptly handle the stresses produced by the steady thump thump of your feet. Also, Pilates emphasizes deep, rhythmic breathing and body control, which will keep your gait smooth, steady and effortless. The mind/body connection emphasized by the Pilates method produces a stronger neurological response to create better muscle balance. Your mind sees it and your body does it.
Best 5 Pilates Exercises for Runners
1. Single Straight Leg Stretch
Lying on your back, extend your right leg to the ceiling and lengthen your left leg in front of you off the mat. Peel your head and shoulders off the mat while gently grabbing your right ankle or calf. Exhale twice as you pulse the leg towards you twice and contract the abdominals. Inhale and switch (scissors) the legs and grasp the left leg for two pulses with the breath. Stabilize against the movement of the legs. Perform 5–10 repetitions.
2. Tornado Single Straight Leg Stretch
Either with your arms to the sides, overhead, or with your hands grasping your right leg, begin this challenging variation on a classic. Inhale and circle your legs around, bringing the left leg towards your chest as you would in the original variation. Exhale as the leg is pulled close, inhale and circle back. Exhale, drawing the right leg to the starting position. Repeat 10–12 times.
3. Saw Roll Up
Begin seated, with legs extended together. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. Exhale, flex your feet and hinge up and over the legs, bringing your hands to both sides of your heels. Inhale and reverse the exercise as if you’re stacking your spine against a wall. Exhale, tuck your chin to your chest and roll down one vertebra at a time, squeezing the legs together. Finish exhaling and extend your arms overhead. Inhale, lift your arms to the ceiling, exhale, and peel your spine off the mat one vertebra at a time. When you arrive at the seated position after rolling up, twist and dive the left hand so the pinky finger slices the pinky toe for two pulses with two breaths. Inhale tall to the center and repeat on the other side, then continue with the spine stretch forward. Repeat 5–10 times.
4. Rock and Pull
Begin by lying on your stomach with your fingers laced together in a mudra bind behind you. Place your forehead on the mat and extend your legs behind you. Inhale and lift your body off the mat, bending your knees and drawing your arms behind you. Exhale and return to the starting position. Repeat 5–10 times.
5. Pilates Push Ups
Stand on the back part of your mat with your arms to the sides and feet hip-width apart. Inhale and stand taller while sinking your shoulders back and down. Exhale, tuck your chin and dive downward into a forward fold. Lead with the crown of your head and allow your spine to decompress. Continue exhaling as you walk your hands out into plank position, with your hands under your shoulders, elbows turned in and shoulders pulled back and away from your ear. Inhale as you lower into a push-up, keeping your body straight and elbows hugging the sides. Exhale and press back to plank. Continue exhaling and walk your hands back to forward fold while lifting your tailbone high. Inhale, tuck your chin and roll up to a standing position with a rounded back. Continue inhaling as you stand tall, relax your shoulders and open the chest. Exhale, tuck your chin, dive forward and down and continue the exercise. Repeat 5–10 times.
I’ve been known to speak for hours about the wonders of a single Pilates exercise but I shall spare you that. Once we get moving with the exercises it all begins to make sense and our bodies gobble up the benefits of these total-body moves to build strength, control and flexibility. These exercises were taken from my new book, Pilates for Athletes. Oh, and all you need is your bodyweight, comfortable clothes and a workout mat and these exercises can be done anywhere and anytime. Enjoy!
Sean Vigue is a fitness entrepreneur who has taught thousands of classes around the world and has appeared in over 2000 health and fitness videos. Sean specializes in yoga, Pilates, and flexibility training. He has been featured on such outlets as Fox News, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post. He has an extensive social media presence including over 190K subscribers on his YouTube channel. He currently lives near Denver, CO. He is the author of Pilates for Athletes and Power Yoga for Athletes.