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Is Pilates Good for Runners?

At first glance, Pilates and running might seem worlds apart, but you’d be surprised at how much they have in common. This low-impact exercise is a powerhouse for runners with freakishly complimentary principles. Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and proper alignment—all essential for efficient running. By incorporating Pilates, you’ll not only enhance your running form but also reduce the risk of injuries. Let’s explore how Pilates can benefit runners and why it deserves a spot in your training regimen.



What is Pilates?

Pilates, originally called Contrology, was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Joseph Pilates designed this method to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, with a strong emphasis on mental awareness and control over one’s body. The exercises focus on controlled movements, often using the body’s own weight for resistance, and aim to create a balance between strength and flexibility. 


Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat or using specialized equipment like the Reformer, which adds resistance and support. This versatility makes it accessible for people at all fitness levels, including runners looking to improve their performance. 


Pilates Principles Compliment Running Basics

The main principles of Pilates are uniquely tied to running basics, making it an ideal cross-training workout for runners.


Concentration: Ensuring that you focus on every movement. This is especially important for runners who need to maintain form and efficiency during long runs.


Control: Performing exercises with deliberate muscle control. This helps runners develop the muscle precision needed for proper stride and foot placement.


Centering: Engaging the core muscles, often referred to as the “powerhouse.” A strong core is essential for runners to maintain stability and reduce strain on the lower back.


Flow: Moving with fluidity and grace. Runners can benefit from the smooth, continuous movements in Pilates, which can translate to a more efficient running gait.


Precision: Executing exercises with accuracy. This mirrors the precision needed in running to avoid injuries and optimize performance.


Breathing: Coordinating breath with movement to enhance performance and relaxation. Proper breathing techniques in Pilates can help runners improve their oxygen intake and endurance.



Benefits of Pilates for Runners

Just as the principles of Pilates align with the tenets of running, the benefits of Pilates are closely aligned with running as well. A 2018 study showed that 12 weeks of Pilates training improved 5km run performance by enhancing muscle activity and reducing metabolic cost. The study also showed that the Pilates group improved their running mechanics and used less energy. These findings highlight how Pilates can be a game-changer for runners. Here’s why adding Pilates to your routine can make a big difference:


Improved Core Strength: A strong core is crucial for efficient running. Pilates targets those deep core muscles, helping you maintain better posture and stability while you run.


Enhanced Flexibility: We all know stretching often gets skipped. Pilates includes stretching in every session, which improves flexibility and reduces the risk of injuries.


Better Posture and Alignment: Pilates emphasizes proper body alignment, which translates to better running form. Good posture means less strain on your body and more efficient movement.


Injury Prevention: By focusing on balance, strength, and flexibility, Pilates helps prevent common running injuries like IT band syndrome, shin splints, and lower back pain.


Muscle Balance: Running primarily uses certain muscle groups, leading to imbalances. Pilates works the entire body, addressing these imbalances and making you a stronger, more resilient runner.


Increased Range of Motion: The controlled stretching in Pilates improves flexibility, allowing for a greater range of motion in your joints. This can translate to a longer, more efficient stride and reduced risk of injuries.


Mental Focus: Pilates requires a high level of concentration and mindfulness, which can be incredibly beneficial for runners. Being mentally focused can help you stay in tune with your body and maintain proper form, especially during long runs or races.


Breathing Techniques: Pilates emphasizes deep, controlled breathing. Learning to coordinate your breath with your movements can improve your oxygen intake, endurance, and stamina during runs.



Beginner Pilates Exercises for Runners

Starting with the basics, here are some Pilates exercises you can do with just a mat. These moves are designed to target your core, hips, and legs, helping to boost your running performance. Just remember, there are various types of Pilates out there, some using resistance bands, reformers, or just a wall. There’s even a TRX Pilates.



How to Do It: Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms overhead. Slowly roll up to a seated position, reaching for your toes, and then roll back down one vertebra at a time. Keep your movements controlled and your core engaged throughout the exercise.

Benefit to Runners: Enhances spinal flexibility, strengthens the abdominal muscles, and improves control.

Reps: 5-10 roll-ups


Leg Circles

How to Do It: Lie on your back with one leg extended toward the ceiling and the other leg flat on the mat. Circle the extended leg in the air, making small, controlled movements. Repeat in both directions and switch legs.

Benefit to Runners: Strengthens the hip flexors, improves hip joint mobility, and increases core stability.

Reps: 5-10 circles in each direction per leg


Single-Leg Stretch

How to Do It: Lie on your back with your knees pulled toward your chest. Extend one leg out at a time while keeping the other knee bent, switching legs in a cycling motion. Keep your core engaged and your lower back pressed into the mat.

Benefit to Runners: Strengthens the core, improves coordination, and enhances hip flexibility.

Reps: 10-15 stretches per leg



How to Do It: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight up. Lower one leg toward the mat while pulling the other leg toward you, then switch legs in a scissor-like motion. Keep your core engaged and your lower back pressed into the mat.

Benefit to Runners: Strengthens the core, improves flexibility in the hamstrings, and enhances coordination.

Reps: 10-15 scissors per leg



How to Do It: Sit with your legs folded to one side. Reach one arm up and over, stretching the side of your body, then switch sides. Keep your movements smooth and controlled.

Benefits: Increases flexibility in the spine and obliques, improves lateral movement, and enhances balance.

Reps: 3-5 stretches per side


Side Kicks

How to Do It: Lie on your side with your legs straight. Lift your top leg and kick it forward and back in a controlled motion. Keep your core engaged and your hips stable.

Benefit to Runners: Strengthens the hip abductors and adductors, improves balance, and enhances core stability.

Reps: 8-10 kicks per leg


Single-Leg Squats

How to Do It: Stand on one leg with the other leg extended forward. Bend the standing knee into a squat, then return to standing. Keep your movements slow and controlled.

Benefit to Runners: Builds leg strength, improves balance, and enhances core stability.

Reps: 8-10 squats per leg


Shoulder Bridge with Kicks

How to Do It: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Lift your hips into a bridge position. Once stable, extend one leg straight out, kick it up and down, then switch legs. Keep your hips level and your core engaged.

Benefit to Runners: Strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and core, and improves hip stability.

Reps: 5-8 kicks per leg



Pilates and Running Schedule

If you’re new to Pilates, start with one or two sessions per week to learn the basics and ensure proper form. Combine Pilates with light or recovery run days to help with muscle recovery and flexibility. Pay attention to your body and rest if you’re sore or fatigued. As you become more comfortable, increase to 2-3 sessions per week. For seasoned practitioners, 3-4 sessions per week can provide significant benefits.


On rest days, use Pilates to focus on flexibility and core strength. After easy runs, add a short Pilates session to aid recovery. Replace a cross-training day with Pilates to prevent overuse injuries.



Should You Run Before or After Pilates?

Running before Pilates can serve as a warm-up, making your muscles more pliable and ready for stretching and strengthening. This approach can help you get more out of your Pilates session. On the other hand, doing Pilates after a run can help with cool down, promoting muscle relaxation and reducing stiffness. Both methods have their benefits, so you can choose based on what feels best for your body and schedule.



So, is Pilates Good for Runners? 

Absolutely. Pilates offers a unique and effective way to complement your running routine. It strengthens the core, improves flexibility, and enhances overall body balance—all of which are essential for a strong, efficient, and injury-free running experience. By incorporating Pilates into your weekly schedule, you’ll not only boost your running performance but also enjoy the benefits of a well-rounded, resilient body.


You might also like TRX for Runners.

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