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Pilates for Runners


Trail runner thinks about taking a Pilates for runners class | Spine & Sport PT Rancho Santa Margarita ClinicRunning involves more than just a forward motion and getting from point A to point B. Running is a full body workout that requires team efforts from every muscle, joint, tissue, organ and body system.

It is very common for running to cause wear and tear on the body. From the heavy impact on the joints, to inequivalent strengths and weaknesses in different muscle groups, overcompensating one part of the body over another and wearing down supportive tissues, the body takes a beating when running.

However, there are some things you can do to help enhance your running performance. One of the things we highly recommend for runners  … Pilates, taught at the Spine& Sport Physical Therapy clinic at Rancho Santa Margarita!

What is Pilates?

Over the past few years, you may have started hearing the term Pilates more and more. From professional athletes using the form of exercise for cross-training, to Pilates studios opening across the world, to patients using Pilates for rehab, Pilates is more than just a current fad.

Since World War II, Pilates has been used as a form of rehabilitation, but today it has evolved to be a regular form of exercise. This non-weight bearing, no impact workout focuses on strengthening the body as a whole. Pilates helps to target even the smallest muscles that other workouts cannot. Additionally, Pilates helps to improve mobility in the joint, increases flexibility and instills better body awareness. It is a great tool to utilize for a dynamic warmup prior to a run.

Why is Pilates for runners good for them?

A crucial benefit to runners is how Pilates increases core strength. A runner’s core strength helps to reduce or eliminate compensations in other areas in the body. Additionally, it allows for better breathing, airway circulation, speed, recovery and endurance.

The deep muscles in your core that support your spine are typically not reached during a core workout. But with Pilates, you can target and work them. A strengthened core gives a runner better spine support, posture and an efficient running form that gives her or his body more control and decreases the likelihood of future lower back pain.

The better breathing aspect derives from the strong core and better posture. If a runner has a weak core and bad posture, they tend to hunch and cut off their breathing. According to Sean Vigue, a Colorado Pilates instructor and author of Pilates for Athletes, when you have a strong core with good posture, that opens up the airways and gives your body energy reserves while running.

When speaking to our physical therapists, they highly recommend Pilates for all runners. Megan Choe, Envision Sport DPT (before Envision joined Spine & Sport Physical Therapy), was an avid runner most of her life. She began cross-training with Pilates and actually converted more of her time to Pilates than running. She found that, “Pilates strengthened my hips and trunks. It is a good way to cross train, and alleviates pressure on my knees and ankles.” She also, discussed how many people run to get fit, but forget that they should get fit to run.

Melissa Walls, DPT, says, “Pilates helps train multi plains of muscle groups. These other plains strengthen other parts of the body that are responsible for side-to-side movements. Whereas, running only works the plain of forward motion, primarily from the quads. Working these other plains helps with stability and flexibility, which helps prevent injuries.”

Running isn’t for everyone, but if you are a runner and want to improve your performance, Pilates may be your answer.