Let’s face it! Runners love running and a large percentage of runners primarily just run!

This practice seems to be changing, as runners are becoming more aware of their bodies and the importance of injury prevention.

Like any athlete, in order to improve, runners must train properly.  High performance athletes always spend part of their training time doing a range of other types of exercises outside of their sport to improve strength, endurance and address overall muscle imbalances. This type of training allows those athletes to perform better and reduce the risk of injury.

Here is a simple, yet common example of improper training.  Let’s say you are a runner who lacks stability at the hip and when you run, your hip drops,  resulting in your knee drifting inwards. The longer you run, the more fatigued the muscles get and the more pronounced this problem gets. Our bodies are good at dealing with these types of problems for a short time, but at some point, the tissues being over-stressed by these poor bio-mechanics will say enough is enough and injury is likely to result.

Running places large forces on the body. In order to manage these forces , our bodies need good neuromuscular control, which is the ability of our brain to effectively recruit and use the appropriate muscles to avoid instability.   Pilates is a type of strengthening system that focuses on enhancing and developing this neuromuscular control with a focus on flexibility, core strength and body awareness.

The following are the reasons I practice Pilates, and why I teach it to my patients and recommend it for other fellow runners to try:

  1. Body awareness– Pilates is largely about mindfulness and body awareness. One of the 5 basic principles of Pilates is proper breathing. Breathing helps you become more in tune with your body, it promotes relaxation, and oxygenation, which can help with brain and muscle function, and it allows you to more effectively engage your core musculature. Breathing can also be used as a great tool to help manage or decrease pain. Incorporated properly while running, breathing can greatly help to improve your overall efficiency and performance.
  2. Variety – Running is largely performed along one plane – that being straight forward. Trail running certainly offers a bit more variety, with increased side-to-side and up and down movements, however, you are still mostly moving forward. Any movement performed over and over again can lead to muscle imbalances as the same muscles are being worked repeatedly. In time, this can result in overuse injuries. Pilates offers variety from running and helps work many of the core and hip stabilizing muscles in different planes of movement.  This results in overall improvements of function and efficiency. It also has the added benefit of being very low impact, giving the joints in your body a much needed break.  Further, by exposing yourself to different environments and situations, you refine your muscle memory and improve your overall skill.
  3. Flexibility– Stretching has forever been a part of the running world. Races are often started with a large pre-run stretch and runners are constantly saying “I need to stretch more”.  The reason behind this, is often times that specific muscles in a runner are weak and/or working too hard to try to stabilize or compensate for deficiencies and imbalances elsewhere.  By improving overall core and hip stability and efficiency,  it will allow these muscles to have a break, no longer having to work as hard and can often help decrease those feelings of tightness and the constant need to stretch. Gain mobility by improving stability!
  4. Strengthening Your Feet – Our feet are highly sensitive structures. They are the first point of contact with the ground and as they move across the ground, they send information to the brain about what is happening and what needs to happen next, greatly influencing muscle activation – in other words, what muscles need to turn in a specific area, in order to keep us moving.

Pilates exercises incorporate plenty of foot work which can help runners/athletes learn to feel again with their feet, improve the function of the intrinsic muscles and help the body and mind learn to activate different muscles further up the “chain” while running.

Clinical pilates differs from regular pilates in that our sessions are one-on-one.  Being a Registered Physiotherapist, I will incorporate physiotherapy knowledge into my assessment and into the training sessions.  This allows me to develop a highly specific program  that will address your particular deficiencies.  Also, if there are other injured or painful areas, I am able to easily modify an exercise to suite your needs.

If you enjoy running but are experiencing aches and pains that won’t go away, physiotherapy and clinical pilates can help!  Give us a call at 613-692-1847 or send us an email at office@manotickphysioworks.ca to book an appointment!

by:  Robyn Quilty

Registered Physiotherapist

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