A Runner to the Core
Jane Linden, the creator of Pink Lady Core®, explains why runners should use Pilates to keep themselves running happily.
Running is now one of the UK’s fastest growing sports. As well as the many health benefits of running such as improved fitness, decreased heart disease and boosting the calories burned to help control your weight, running is free and can easily be incorporated into your routine.
However runners whose only workout is the run itself are neglecting exercises that will help improve their running performance and reduce the risk of injury. For many runners poor core strength and posture can lead to imbalances in the body that could result in injury and less time on the roads.
The Pilates exercises in the Pink Lady® Core series have been designed to strengthen the core muscles (muscles of the shoulder girdle, spine and pelvis) and stretch over-developed tight muscles that are all too common in runners.
Pilates teaches you breathing techniques that help to increase aerobic capacity and allow for better transportation of oxygen to the working muscles. The Pilates breathing technique teaches you to breathe into your ribs, therefore allowing you to keep the core contracted, which allows greater stabilization of the spine that is important when running.
The abdominal muscles need to endure the repetitive activity of running, controlling the runner’s bodyweight. If a runner does not have sufficient strength in the core muscles these muscles will fatigue and decrease the stability of the pelvis and the spine, leading to imbalances and injury throughout the body.
Pilates is focused on working to strengthen these muscle groups. I advise runners to practice a range of exercises that strengthen the abdominals and the muscles of the core, increase range of movement around the joints, and help increase flexibility so that their posture will be more upright even after hours of repetitive movement – such as a marathon. This will not only lead to injury-free running, but also increased performance as the body will move more efficiently and use less energy.
If you run regularly, over time, some muscles shorten and some muscles lengthen. This can cause the pelvis to alter its natural position and compromise the stability of the hip, knee and lumbar spine. It is important to stretch the tight muscles to restore range of movement during the activity itself.
It is common in runners that the hip flexors and quadriceps shorten and tighten, which can cause this change in the pelvis to happen, resulting in lower back pain. The exercises practiced throughout the Pink Lady® Core series will work on lengthening these muscle groups to restore the function of the hamstrings and lumbar spine.
Stay in the pink…
Whether you’re training for a marathon like our intrepid marathon runners or just wanting to keep your joints safe for a weekend jog with the dog, I’d recommend building up to the full series of Pink Lady® Core Pilates exercises gradually. Doing this you will work on realigning your body ensuring the body and spine will maintain a strong position that is so important when running.
This position of the spine and body will absorb the impact running will inevitably cause. This is critical for being able to stabilize the hip, knee and lumbar spine when they are vulnerable. Once you are able to demonstrate good core stability you are ready to move on to more demanding exercises that further challenge your dynamic stability and flexibility to take your running to the next level.