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Pilates for Runners - Preventing injuries and optimizing your body

The weather is getting warmer and we're seeing more people running around the neighborhood, on purpose. :) Whether you are a seasoned runner, getting back into it, or trying it on for size, there are some things you can do to prevent injury and help relieve aches and pains. There are so many challenges runners face, from back pain to foot pain and everything in between. Below is a workout with a series of exercises designed to help balance out the muscles in the body, improve function and race times, decrease pain and reduce the risk of injury. Follow this program 2-3 times a week and you'll start to see improvement almost immediately!

Pilates Mat for Runners

1. Standing roll down

  • Standing with feet hip width apart and imagine you are leaning up against a wall and then slowly roll forward, peeling off the wall.

  • Roll down as far as you can, feeling a nice stretch to the hamstrings. Relax the shoulders!

  • Draw the belly button in and then exhale as you slowly roll back up, stacking 1 vertebra at a time back up until you are standing tall.

  • Repeat 5 times.

2. Standing march series

  • Standing tall, lift one leg to tabletop (90° at the hip and knee) then lower it just to tap the toes.

  • Repeat 5 times then switch legs.

  • Lift the first leg back into tabletop and then slowly open the knee to the side (external rotation) then close the knee back to tabletop. Keep the hips straight ahead! Only open the knee as far as you can without rotating the hips.

  • Repeat 5 times then switch legs.

3. Squats

  • Feet hip width, bend knees coming down as far as you can into a squat (without raising heels).

  • Try to keep the body upright.

  • Hold the squat for 30 seconds, working up to 5 minutes.

4. Seated ankle alphabet

  • Slowly draw the alphabet with your foot, making the range of motion as big as possible.

5. Pelvic floor/Transverse Abdominus (TA) awareness

  • First, find the TA muscle by lying on your back, knees bent. Find your hip bones in the front of your pelvis with your fingers, and then move the fingers just slightly inside the bony landmark. There should be a dip or soft spot here.

  • Gently draw your belly button towards the spine. You should feel a tightening sensation under your fingers. This is your TA!

  • Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat 5-10 times, resting for 10 seconds in between reps.

6. Bridging

  • On your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart.

  • Slowly start to tilt the pelvis, gently pressing your low back into the mat. Continue to curl up until you are resting on your shoulder blades (just below the shoulder blade for anyone with neck injuries). Repeat 5-10 times.

    • Advanced variations –

      • Hold your bridge, then march the legs slowly back and forth – keeping the pelvis level! Repeat 8-10 times.

      • Hold bridge then slowly lift and straighten 1 leg at a time – again, hips stay level and still – Repeat 8-10 times.

      • Leg lifts – hold bridge then lift and straighten 1 leg. Hold the bridge then lower and raise the straight leg -8 times – keeping hips level and maintaining your bridge.

7. Assisted roll up

  • Lying on your back, pull knees into your chest and keep your hands holding behind thighs.

  • Lift head, starting to roll up, then press legs out pushing into your hands with your thighs. Straightening legs more if needed as you continue to roll up to a tall seated position.

  • Rolling back down by holding the back of the thighs again – round back starting to roll back. Keep feet on the floor as long as you can. As you roll down, your feet should slide in towards you until they can’t stay on the floor anymore.

  • Repeat 5-8 times.

8. Quadruped

  • On your hands and knees – knees directly below the hips, hands directly below the shoulders.

  • Slide the shoulders down away from the ears, gently press through the hands, as if to push your chest away from the floor

  • Slide opposite arm and leg out long, lifting them off the floor – hold for 2-3 seconds then slide them back down to your starting position and switch sides. Repeat 5-8 times.

  • Second variation – slide opposite arm and leg out again, hold then send the arm and leg straight out to the side (ex. If you are lifting your right arm and left leg, your right arm should reach out to the right side and the left leg should reach out from the left hip). Repeat 5-8 times.

  • Same side – sliding same side arm and leg out (weight will shift) – lifting them off the floor. Repeat 5-8 times

9. Psoas release kneeling

  • Kneeling with right foot/bent knee out in front as if to go into a lunge position. Make sure the back leg is aligned with the mat.

  • Gently tuck the tailbone and pull in the bellybutton. Lean forward until you feel a slight thigh stretch.

  • Raise left arm toward the ceiling then side bend towards the right. If you don’t feel adequate stretch, rotate left looking up towards the ceiling.

  • Switch sides.

10. Trigger point ball release series

  • Shoulder release – Lying on back, placing ball under the shoulder, along the inside edge of the shoulder blade – move the ball up and down the shoulder as needed.

  • SI release – Still lying on your back, knees bent. Place ball under the hip approximately 2” out from the spine and 3” down from the waistline – cross ankle (the ankle of which hip the ball is under) over the opposite thigh. Work the ball all around the hip and glute as needed.

  • IT release – Lying on your side with the ball under your leg. Work the ball up and down the side of the leg from the hip down to just above the knee.

  • Calves – Seated on your mat, leg straight, ball under the calf. Roll the ball around, sway the leg side to side. As tolerated.

  • Feet – Standing, place the ball under your foot and roll it around. Work through the entire foot and heel.

Want to learn more Pilates exercises? Join us in the studio at UP Pilates.

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