So why do I think Pilates should be a fundamental part of any runner’s program? Here are a few of my thoughts.....
Injuries & Risk Factors
Despite there being a moderate amount of evidence for the use of exercise to rehabilitate the majority of injuries seen in runners, there is still a lacking amount of good quality evidence supporting any one specific approach to help with injury prevention. Running is a skill, one that many athletes take a number of years to become top of their game. Mastering running is done by experienced coaching and optimizing mechanics, improving control and reducing energy expenditure while maximizing power generation.
Impact activities such as running, place high amounts of load throughout the musculoskeletal system and this requires great amounts of muscular strength and spatial awareness within the neuromuscular system. Despite what various social media and sports companies are telling us right now in a number of campaigns, running isn’t an activity that we can all do well straight away.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't run, I am in fact a huge advocate of my clients participating in many types of exercise, although running being a complex neuro-muscular skill, I believe that it requires practice and graduated progression.
One area of running injury research that is actually becoming more prevalent is the use of running re-training in the management of injured runners. (Barton et al., 2016) evidence suggests that running re-training may be beneficial in the management of runners with a number of lower limb conditionings.
Why choose Pilates?
In my opinion, one of the key benefits of Pilates training is the improvement reported in body awareness and heightened mind and body connection. I find when teaching Pilates to clients, that the mixture and range of tactile, verbal and visual imagery cues stay with each client and carry over nicely into better posture and movement choices outside of the studio setting.
(Willy, Scholz, & Davis, 2012) recently found that female runners with patellofemoral pain (pain at the front of the knee joint) had improved running mechanics and reduction in pain after 8 sessions of treadmill running training that incorporated visual feedback using a mirror and verbal cues. A number of other studies have demonstrated that as your speed increases when running, so does the demand on the proximal musculature of the hip. One of the reasons for this is that as you move faster, contact time on the ground reduces towards a point where the calf works as a stiff spring.
So apart from needing robust muscle-tendon systems in the foot and ankle, greater work is needed to swing the hip and knee quicker and increase stride frequency. A number of Pilates exercises specifically target the iliopsoas, gluteals, and hamstrings and can be a great way to start building capacity prior to incorporating higher speed/intensity movements.
How to recover well and keep injury free?
I am regularly seen by patients who ask me straight off the bat "Can Pilates reduce my risk of injury?". This is an interesting question to answer and provides a great opportunity for me to educate them on what the role of Pilates in sports, strength & conditioning and recovery.
Firstly we tend to discuss the most effective ways I've found over the years to reduce common running injuries. Topics that come up time and again are - planning in time for essential core and lower limb strength training, setting an appropriate training frequency, choosing suitable training loads and ensuring recovery time is not ignored.
Secondly, I would suggest that Pilates plays a preventative role in reducing some of the risk factors observed to be associated with running injuries. Risk factors such as lower limb weakness and reduced flexibility may be addressed well with Pilates training (Fields, Sykes, Walker, & Jackson, 2010).
So, in a nutshell, I don’t think Pilates can address all of the potential risk factors out there for runners but I do feel that it is a great place to start to mindful of potential contributing factors. By preparing in a proactive and preventative manner you can look to reduce the risk and be out there running for longer and maybe even a little faster!
APPI PILATES FOR RUNNERS
Learn these excellent preventative exercise skills with Nikki in a 1-2-1 studio environment. Over the sessions, you will explore the use of both Matwork & Reformer training, get to grips with Pilates equipment such as therabands, magic circle, swiss balls and foam rollers to enhance and excel your strength and performance.
The program will examine the biomechanical and physiological requirements for successful running and deliver a bespoke Pilates exercise program aimed at improving your running performance.
Willy, R. W., Scholz, J. P., & Davis, I. S. (2012). Mirror gait retraining for the treatment of patellofemoral pain in female runners. Clinical Biomechanics, 27(10), 1045-1051
Barton, C., Bonanno, D., Carr, J., Neal, B., Malliaras, P., Franklyn-Miller, A., & Menz, H. (2016). Running retraining to treat lower limb injuries: a mixed-methods study of current evidence synthesised with expert opinion. British Journal of Sports Medicine, bjsports-2015-095278.
Fields, K. B., Sykes, J. C., Walker, K. M., & Jackson, J. C. (2010). Prevention of running injuries. Curr Sports Med Rep, 9(3), 176-182.