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5 benefits of Pilates for runners and 9 top Pilates exercises for runners .

Running is a great exercise, it's free and it's on your doorstep wherever you are but its is very high impact exercise and stresses and jarrs the joints. It is a great exercise for gaining fitness and strength in the lower body but when done repeatedly it can leave you with recurring injuries and niggles in the body.

Pilates strengthens and mobilises all the major muscle groups in the body and in balance with each other. Itis a non impact exercise thats main focus is on strengthening the core and stabilising muscles that will help maintain good form during your run particularly when you begin to tire. Read on below to find out more amazing benefits of adding Pilates to your list of exercises.

1/Improve core strength

One of the main benefits of Practicing Pilates regularly is gaining core strength.The core consists of the abdominals, lower back, glutes-(Buttock muscles) Runners can gain allot of power from using the lower abdominals and the glutes and use that to create a stronger faster run not to mention a much more stable run as the lower abs, glutes support the lower back and pelvis and hips which takes away stress that would otherwise be placed in these areas, Whilst also encouraging a better posture in the run.

2/There is nothing worse than picking up an injury particularly when training for an event so the best cure is prevention. This is where Pilates comes in. Pilates helps you to become more aware of your body which will help you identify and be better able to correct any muscle imbalances as your body retrains the body to keep everything in place in good alignment and automatically uses the correct muscle groups.

3/ Mobility

mobility of the hip region is essential for a good run, if you have tight hips or hip flexors this will reduce your stride limits range of movement which will reduce your running performance and ability. Pilates works to lengthen and stretch tight muscles as well as strengthen them which irons out any troubled spots and reduces your risk of injury and enhances running performance.

4/ Pilates focuses on controlled breathing and breathing laterally We call it lateral thoracic breathing because the breath is taken into the ribs (laterally and the thoracic spine which allows for a much deeper and full breath as this type of breathing allows for your diaphragm to open fully and offset fatigue through lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.

5/As mentioned earlier Pilates lengthens as well as stretches the muscles in a way that regular stretching doesn't match. It also improves flexibility. so it does the complete opposite to what running does which makes it the perfect accompaniment to running.

Pilates is great for speeding up rehabilitation when done correctly after an injury and won't stress your joints. helping you to get back running as soon as possible and when you are a keen and regular runner or training for an event this is what you want.


  1. Roll downs into squat (for the spine and hamstring muscles)

Stand tall with the feet shoulder width distance apart with the crown of the head to ceiling, your head pulled back and and chin slightly tucked in. shoulders pulled back and down into the upper back. with the arms by your side keep a very slight bend at the knees so that the knees are not locked.

Engage abdominal and pelvic floor muscles 20-30% take a deep inhale and roll the chin down to the chest ( keeping your upper body relaxed) with the tail bone tucked in continue to roll the head down as far as you can without further bend at the knees. when you've reached your furthest point keep the chin tucked into the chest inhale and come into a small squat exhale straighten the knees and roll back up with the neck and the head being the last to come up. repeat 6 -8 times.

Do it right

keep bottom tucked in

relax upper body

keep chin in to the chest until on the roll down.

On the roll back up make sure the neck and the head are the last thing to roll up and back into neutral.

2 Shoulder bridge For ALL the muscles in the glutes (butt)

Lay on your back with the feet and knees hip distance apart, with your arms down by your side draw in the abdominals, pelvic floor and butt (glute muscles) tilt the pelvis towards the navel and peel the spine up off the the mat one vertebrae at a time until you reach the shoulders.Take an inhale there and extend your arms back behind your head take an inhale there and exhale whilst you slowly bring the arms down by your side to the start position and slowly begin to roll your spine down one vertebrae at a time until your spine is back in neutral. repeat 8-10 times.

Do it Well

Keep glute and abdominals engaged throughout the entire exercise.

Watch for the back arching

keep pelvic tilt.

3 One Leg shoulder Bridge.

Reps, begin with one on each leg until you perfect the technique

progression: add one extra rep on each leg as stability, strength and confidence grows continue to add one rep each leg.

Lower the raised leg closer to the floor


Start in the same position as the standard shoulder bridge (above) This time keep your arms down for support Try to avoid tilting the hips to one side as you engage the left glute (butt cheek keeping abdominals, pelvic floor engaged and shoulders down into your upper back.

bring your right foot off the floor and bend your right knee so it's above the hip extend the right leg up to the ceiling, then bend the right knee once again and lower the right foot to the floor. Repeat on the other leg. Once you've performed one repetition on each leg and both feet are on the floor begin to roll your spine down to the floor until your spine is in neutral position.

Do it well

Watch out for the buttock and hips dropping down as you extend the leg to the ceiling, watch out for one side of the pelvis dropping to one side.

Make sure you can perform the shoulder bridge well and are very familiar with it before moving onto the one leg shoulder bridge. Make sure you maintain good form throughout the exercise. Engage your glutes and maintain it until you reach back down to the floor.

Release stretch . Place feet to the edges of your pilates mat or a little wider than hip width distance apart and roll knees side to side like windscreen wipers. Gently hug knees into chest.

4/ Toe taps ( Muscles targeted, lower abdominals, lower back) 4-8 reps each leg dep on strength in core.


Lay on your back with the spine in neutral position, and arms by your side on the floor, engage abdominals and pelvic floor muscles to 30%

With both legs in table top, keeping your legs in a fixed position with the knee over the hip, slowly lower one foot to the ground and lightly tap the foot down onto the floor and slowly with control bring it back to table top position and repeat with the other leg. #

Do it right

Avoid rushing the exercise,

Keep spine in neutral throughout the entire exercise,

watch out for the pelvis tilting and the back arching,

Avoid tensing the thighs

keep abdominals and pelvic floor engaged throughout the entire exercise.

up to 6 reps on each leg.

Release stretch- Full body stretch - Stretch arms behind head and legs straight out in front.

5/ Criss cross x 4 + each side. Slow and controlled movement


Lay in supine (on your back with the spine in neutral position) draw navel to the spine and engage Pelvic floor and abdominal muscles 30%

One at a time bring both legs into table top position

Peel head and shoulders off the mat and place the hands behind the head with elbows wide.

keeping the hips stable extend the right leg and twist the upper body over to the left

bring the body back to centre and extend the left leg out and twist the upper body to the right. repeat the sequence with control and precision.

Do it well:

Watch out for and avoid bringing the elbows in to the ears, Be careful to avoid the hips rocking forwards and backwards or side to side. Keep the hips stable. Avoid pushing the hands into the back of the head and using the hands to push to keep your head and shoulders off the floor instead of the abdominals muscles. If you don't feel the obliques (side of the upper body) working then the chances are the hands are pushing into the head too much.

Muscles targeted: lower abdominals and obliques.

Release stretch . Bring knees into chest and gently hug and rock side to side. Sit up tall and bring one arm up and over the head opening up and stretching one side of the body, repeat on the other side. Hold for approximately 15 seconds each side.

6/ Double leg stretch with or without the small pilates ball


Lay on your back in supine with the back in neutral

one at a time bring both legs into tabletop position

keep the head down and extend both legs in front of the body aim to keep the legs high to start with then progress to extending the legs closer to the floor as your back and abdominals grow stronger. As the legs extend extend both arms straight behind you as the legs come back in .

Once you are confident with the head down do the same thing but with the head and shoulders off the floor.

With Pilates ball. Place the partially inflated ball under the pelvis, get into the same position as described above but keep the hands on the floor, you can then progress onto one hand hovering just above the floor and then 2 hands off until you can feel confident in trying to extend the arms straight behind the head.

Once you are confident with the head down do the same thing but with the head and shoulders off the floor.

Adding the pilates ball increases the difficulty and awareness of pelvic stability both important in running and cycling and walking.

Do it well. Watch out for your lower back arching as the legs extend.

Try to keep your shoulders down and avoid hunching them up around your ears

Make sure your navel is drawn to the spine through the entire exercise.

7/Single leg circle -Hip mobility exercise

Lay on your back with the knees bent and the feet and knees hip distance apart, with the spine in neutral and the abdominals, pelvic floor engaged to 30%

bring the right leg into a 45 deg angle Table top position with the right knee directly over the right hip and the right shin parallel to the ceiling.

place the right hand on top of the right knee and guide the right knee with the hand into small circles the size of a small teacup clockwise x 4 reps and repeat anti clockwise.

Repeat with the left leg.

Do it Well

Keep the supporting leg stable and avoid the knee flopping or going out to to the side.

Avoid rocking in the hips and keep the hips stable, Keep the upper body and the arms relaxed.

Start with 4 reps in each direction then once you are comfortable with this you can take the hand away and perform the exercise without the hand and once comfortable with this you can move on to larger circles keeping the movement slow and controlled

Release stretch

Hug knees into the chest and hold for as long as desired.

8/Single leg circle Intermediate -Hip mobility

Lay on your back with the spine in neutral with the feet and knees hip distance apart, abdominals and pelvic floor engaged 30%

Extend the right leg to the ceiling with the toes pointed keep arms relaxed by the side of the body. Create small circles clockwise the size of small teacups with the right leg x 4 to 8 repeat the same action anti clockwise. Swap legs and repeat.

Progress: larger circles

lower leg closer to the floor

Extend supporting leg along the floor inline with the hip as you circle the other leg.

Do it well

Watch out for the supporting leg flopping to one side, and circling with just the ankle or foot. keep upper body relaxed. Avoid rocking in the hips and the pelvis tilting.

Release stretch

Hug knees into chest and hold for as long as desired.

Muscles Targeted: Core.

Mobility: Hip

9/ Swimming:

Core strength exercise.


Lay on your front with the arms stretched out in a straight line from the shoulders and the legs stretched out in a straight line from the hips with the toes untucked.

Engage abdominals pelvic floor,and glute muscles to 30%

Lift the head slightly off the floor keeping the chin to the chest reach/stretch right arm and left leg creating a very small lift with the arm and leg, bring the head down to the floor and Repeat with the left arm and right leg.

.Once You feel confident with the above you can progress.

Progressions: keeping head off the floor instead of lowering to the floor and up again.

Lift head arms and legs off the floor at the same time and perform the exercise with arms and legs off the floor breathing in for the count of 3 or 5 and out for the count of 3 or 5. reps between 4 and 6.

Do it Well

Watch out for the body tilting to the side as your stretch the arm, avoid lifting the arm and the leg too high, focus on the stretch creating the lift, keep shoulders away form the ears and down into your upper back. Aim to lift the thigh off the floor. Make sure your arm and leg are at the same height.

Release stretch - extend arms and legs and stretch

hug knees into the chest gently and gently rock side to side.

Muscles targeted. upper back, lower back, glutes,calf, hamstrings abdominals.

Joanna Boyes

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