All runners focus on strengthening their legs and their aerobic threshold but, too often, runners make the mistake of neglecting everything else. Running uses so much more than just your legs and your heart. Your core, which Pilates helps build in a uniform manner, is a huge part of running.
Your abdominal muscles include more than just the superficial “6 pack” muscles (rectus abdominis). As you can see from the diagram below, the abdominal muscles consists of the transverse abdominis, rectus abdomens and oblique (internal/external). This is distinctive from your core muscles. The core, on the other hand is your transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifindi (diagram 2). All of these muscles work together when you think of “using your core.” In Pilates, we often refer to working and building the strength in our powerhouse, which is comprised of the “central” muscles – the abdomen and core muscles (described above), lower backs, hips and buttocks.
Here are a few examples of how a strong core can help improve your running times and keep you injury free.
A strong core will help hold stabilize the pelvis. If your pelvis is out of alignment or unstable, you can become prone to injury. It can cause other imbalances further down the leg and may result in any leg issues (knee/hip) or low back pain. As you build your core, your abs will help you stabilize every time you make impact with the ground. This will reduce the need to overcompensate for imbalances and instability with other muscles.
Pilates will also help to increase flexibility, improve running posture and increase your power (as we focus on using the glutes and hamstrings in conjunction with the core).
While Pilates tones and strengthens, it simultaneously stretches. In every exercise you should feel a stretch and lengthening, which over time will help to increase flexibility in muscles. Pilates is well known for improving posture or helping to alleviate back pain. Every Pilates class or private helps to open up the front of the shoulders and to build the muscles towards the back of the body to hold the shoulders back. Lastly, we as mentioned above, the Pilates powerhouse incorporates the glutes and hamstrings. In every class, we work to build the strength in the glutes. Often students enter our studio not knowing how to “find their glutes.” We help students learn to activate them during Pilates classes, which translates to increased power outside the studio.
“I believe that a lack of core-strength and flexibility can create long term motor skills problems as the body continually adapts to find the path of least resistance and turns away from proper running mechanics.” -Terrence Mahon (Mammoth Lake Track Club)
Did we convince you? Take the guess work out of “am I doing it right?” and try incorporating one of our group Pilates mat class a week into your running routine. We offer a special “Pilates for Runners” class led by Christie, a marathoner and Pilates instructor at Endurance. This mat class focuses on building the core and is geared specifically for runners. Plus, it’s winter – the perfect time to gain strength for the next running season!