If you have been a runner for any length of time, you would have experienced what difference cross-training makes. As good as running is as a workout, cross training is essential to keep your body in its fittest form, and opening up your muscles as much as possible. Only running will not result in holistic development. Pilates is one of the exercises that have gained traction as a cross-training activity.

Whether you’re a competitive runner or weekend jogger trying to shed a few pounds, you must understand that your body can take a beating – this is especially true if it develops asymmetries. Body asymmetries develop because of poor body mechanics, causing certain muscles to become overused while others become underused. This can result in a variety of ailments from lower back pain to hip bursitis to knee problems. It can also lead to a wide variety of tears, strains and pulls.

Pilates exercises create a stronger, more flexible spine and core, and also promote faster recovery from injuries. For a runner, posture is very important for success, and posture is very dependent on a strong core. Pilates develops a strong core by supporting and strengthening the muscles of the torso, hips shoulders and pelvis. These can eventually lead to a huge positive difference in your balance and stability. It enables you to focus on where your head and neck are in relation to the spine and pelvis, on down through the legs and toes.

Once you add a day of pilates to your routine, you will find the difference in the way you tackle runs.

Hill running
Pilates conditions your body and core to deal with the strains of uphill and downhill running. You will end up finishing such hill runs more efficiently thanks to the stronger and more balanced sciatic area.

Increased oxygen intake
Your pilates session will also help adjust your breathing patterns for the workout duration. This will automatically translate into your run as muscle memory kicks in. The increased oxygenation from regulated belly-breathing will have a great effect on your run.

A definite way to improve flexibility (Image: Riosoul)
A definite way to improve flexibility (Image: Riosoul)

Flexibility is key
Most people will take pilates for the improved flexibility it promises to practitioners. You are likely to experience less tightening of the neck, head and shoulders while running, and this results in application of the right posture when running. From posture follows every other tenet of running technique.

Faster times
With the focus on proper movement and setting an efficient range of motion, your running will see improvements in pace and strides. if your goal is to run long and strong, without pain, pilates could be one of the keys to you achieving it.

Strengthening the core and gaining more stability and balance should be the ultimate goal of any new runner. The drop in time (as well as decrease the risk of injury) will automatically follow when these basics are achieved.

Main image: schw.com.au

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