I’ve tried all the physical therapy pre-hab and injury prevention exercises. I’ve seen everyone from a massage therapist to an acupuncturist and, in my most desperate days, a ROLFER who tried to meditate my pain away. I thought I’d tried it all until I walked into my first Pilates class.
At first, Pilates’ slow, small movements bored me. My eyes kept drifting to the clock’s slowly ticking hands as I went through the tiny, seemingly insignificant movements.
But I was desperate. Despite my disinterest, I kept showing up. And thank God I did because all of a sudden, my running started to feel better.
While Pilates is often compared to yoga, they have very different backgrounds. Yoga is a centuries-old practice linked to spirituality. Pilates, meanwhile, is a mind and body conditioning technique developed by the physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the mid 20th century. Pilates first took hold among American dancers interested in applying Pilates’ techniques to their art. Today, Pilates has extended far beyond ballerinas. Modern Pilates classes teach people of all shapes exercises how to improve core stability and encourage healthy posture.
After three months of Pilates, I’m hooked. How can I not be? Studies have shown that consistent Pilates work can decrease your 5k personal best. Besides, stability is essential for good running technique and avoiding injuries.
When I started to notice the effect Pilates classes had on my running, I sought exercises I could do by myself every day. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Pilates instructor and athlete Jessica Hofheimer to come up with an easy, ten-minute pre-run activation routine. If you want to start incorporating Pilates into your running but don’t know where to start, try these six beginner-friendly mat exercises that will help you feel the difference.
Squat + walkout to full plank: Start standing with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. Perform a standard squat but be sure your knees aren’t over your ankles. Reach your hands to the ground and slowly walk them out to a high plank. Hold the plank for 10 seconds before slowly walking your hands back to your feet and lifting yourself up to your squat. Stand up and repeat.
Lizard Lunges: After the 10th plank, hold there and alternate lunging and driving your knee to elbow to open up the hips and adductors while continuing to engage your core. Touch your knee to your elbow while hovering your leg over the ground, hold for three seconds then switch legs. If you are having trouble engaging your core, exhale while you are bringing your leg forward.
Reps: 10 per side
Walking Lunges with thoracic rotation: From standing, step into a lunge. Rotate towards the front, bent leg putting the outside of your opposite hand on the lateral edge of your foot. Reach your other hand towards the sky, creating a full-body twist. Untwist, stand up and repeat of the other side.
Reps: 10 per leg
Elevated Reverse Lunges with Knee Lift: Find a curb, stair or platform, so you are three-eight inches off the ground. Step back off the elevated platform into an elevated lunge. As you come back up, drive your knee forward as if you are pushing off of the launch into your running stride.
Reps” 10 per leg
In + Out Squats: Start in a squat with feet hip-width distance apart. From your squat, jump both legs out to a broader stance, softly landing in a squat before jumping back into the narrow stance. Instead of a quick, explosive jump, make sure the movement is slow and controlled. Hold each squatted position for at least three seconds before jumping into the next one.
Reps: 10 sets
Lateral Hurdle Hops: Start by standing one leg. From here, jump to the side, laterally, landing on the opposite leg. From here, jump back to the other side and land on the other leg. This should be slow and controlled, although powerful. Make sure to land on a soft knee.