Why is Pilates Beneficial for Marathon Runners?

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All runners focus on strengthening their legs and their aerobic threshold but, too often, runners make the mistake of neglecting everything else. Running uses so much more than just your legs and your heart. Your core, which Pilates helps build in a uniform manner, is a huge part of running.

Your abdominal muscles include more than just the superficial “6 pack” muscles (rectus abdominis). As you can see from the diagram below, the abdominal muscles consists of the transverse abdominis, rectus abdomens and oblique (internal/external). This is distinctive from your core muscles. The core, on the other hand is your transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifindi (diagram 2). All of these muscles work together when you think of “using your core.” In Pilates, we often refer to working and building the strength in our powerhouse, which is comprised of the “central” muscles – the abdomen and core muscles (described above), lower backs, hips and buttocks.

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core-diagram

Here are a few examples of how a strong core can help improve your running times and keep you injury free.

A strong core will help hold stabilize the pelvis. If your pelvis is out of alignment or unstable, you can become prone to injury. It can cause other imbalances further down the leg and may result in any leg issues (knee/hip) or low back pain. As you build your core, your abs will help you stabilize every time you make impact with the ground. This will reduce the need to overcompensate for imbalances and instability with other muscles.

Pilates will also help to increase flexibility, improve running posture and increase your power (as we focus on using the glutes and hamstrings in conjunction with the core).

While Pilates tones and strengthens, it simultaneously stretches. In every exercise you should feel a stretch and lengthening, which over time will help to increase flexibility in muscles. Pilates is well known for improving posture or helping to alleviate back pain. Every Pilates class or private helps to open up the front of the shoulders and to build the muscles towards the back of the body to hold the shoulders back. Lastly, we as mentioned above, the Pilates powerhouse incorporates the glutes and hamstrings. In every class, we work to build the strength in the glutes. Often students enter our studio not knowing how to “find their glutes.” We help students learn to activate them during Pilates classes, which translates to increased power outside the studio.

“I believe that a lack of core-strength and flexibility can create long term motor skills problems as the body continually adapts to find the path of least resistance and turns away from proper running mechanics.” -Terrence Mahon (Mammoth Lake Track Club)

Did we convince you? Take the guess work out of “am I doing it right?” and try incorporating one of our group Pilates mat class a week into your running routine. We offer a special “Pilates for Runners” class led by Christie, a marathoner and Pilates instructor at Endurance. This mat class focuses on building the core and is geared specifically for runners. Plus, it’s winter – the perfect time to gain strength for the next running season!

Stress Less at Endurance

Stress Less at Endurance!  Because for One Hour, all you will be able to think about is you!

Joseph Pilates called his method Contrology and according to him….

“The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors if there be any such so fortunate living among us today. However, it is the ideal to strive for, and in our opinion, it is only through Contrology [Pilates] that this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind, and spirit can ever be attained.” Joseph Pilates

Want to take your mind off everything else going on around you- for an hour?  I will admit it- I seriously started doing Pilates because I needed at least one hour in my life on most days of the week where I didn’t have to think about anything else except exactly what I was doing with my body at that particular moment.  I couldn’t think of my grocery list or the 10 things I had to do when I went back to the office after my evening class.  Lots has changed since then, but I still use my Pilates workouts to get away from the rest of the world.  I can’t check my email, texts or monthly sales numbers when I’m backbending on the reformer.   I could do other forms of exercise session- spin, step…get on a treadmilll or elliptical and try and zone out, but everything I had to do or was worried about would creep into my mind.  That is certainly not the case with Pilates!

When students perform Pilates exercises at Endurance, we give them lots of direction as to how to move precisely and with control- there are no haphazard movements in a Pilates class.  Once we’ve established a certain level of control, we add in more flow and more moving pieces to control.  It’s the “mind over movement” that makes Pilates the ideal workout for stress relief.  During a particular exercise, you will be told how to do it, where to feel it, how to make it even better for your spine and overall physique.  Our instructors have taken years to learn Pilates in their own bodies and have plenty of practice “squeezing the juice” out of each and every exercise.  They when it is time to slow the workout down for precision and when to speed it up to flow.  Ever had a difficult time meditating?  Because you were trying to clear your mind and all those to-dos kept creeping back in?  We guarantee that for one hour, the only thing you will be able to think about is your tummy, tush and inner thighs working really hard to move your body in a more perfect and precise way in just about anything that you do outside the studio!  Come clear your mind with us and get a great butt and flat abs while you leave your cars by the door!

“Ideally, our muscles should obey our will. Reasonably, our will should not be dominated by the reflex actions of our muscles.” Joseph Pilates

Photo by Servidone Studios

Work out like a Pro while you are on your beach vacation!

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Pilates Sidebend

Want to work out like a professional athlete does while on vacation?  I was asked by one of my students, an NHL hockey player, for a workout that he could do while he was  on a beach vacation with his family!  Check out the below 20 minute ab, glute worker, hip extender workout and work out like the pros do this week at the beach.  Be sure to be careful with form and check out the videos if you need visual explanations.  Normally, I’m so careful with hair, makeup and athletic clothing when I’m doing a video, but we were at a baseball tournament in NJ for the weekend and I’m not sure I had even showered before we videoed the clips and I’m in running gear – it’s all about the content right!  You should have everything you need to do the workout, even in your hotel room! Enjoy!

 

Half Rollbacks
Sit with knees bent, legs slightly apart, squeezing rolled up towel- hands under thighs, Keep inner thighs engaged and feet still and grounded.  Spine is in long -curve (long flexion like flexy straw).  Roll pelvis away from fixed femurs a few inches, squeeze towel 6 inner thigh deeper engagements.  Roll back a little further, repeat inner thigh engagement.  Roll back a few inches more, repeat inner thigh engagement (ensuring that the ribcage and pelvis are moving at the same speed- if ribcage gets ahead of pelvis, could lead to arch in lower back=bad).  If abs feel strong and legs can stay grounded, roll back as far as possible with abs in control.  Return to start slowly and with control.
Repeat with arms extended in front of the shoulders, palms facing up
Repeat with arms in genie position in front of chest or hands behind the head.
Bridges
On back, arms planted into ground, engaging upper back muscles, back of arms so that head doesn’t slide at all.  Rolled up towel in between the inner thighs.  Pull belly muscles in and start by moving pelvis through posterior position to lengthen the lower back toward the mat.  Engage glutes and back of legs to extend the hips.  Keep the ribs down as long as possible and press into upper back of arms in order to open the pec minor as hips lift.  Focus is on opening the hip flexors and the chest utilizing the muscles in the back of the body, moving the spine in articulation and keeping length in the torso on the way up and on the way down.  Do 3 rolling up and down, then hold at the top, trying to increase hip extension (stretching knees forward, pulling ribs back) using the glutes to open hip flexors as much as possible…towel should keep inner thighs engaged, but may need slight reminder.
One-Legged Bridges, Hip Extension
Same setup as bridge.  Legs hip bone (ASIS bone) distance apart.  Roll hips up exactly like two leg bridge with feet down.  Keeping left inner thigh engaged, extend right leg to the ceiling.  Keeping spine in alignment, lower and lift the hips (left hip extension) 5 times with control.  Keeping spine and hips still, lower and lift the right leg (right hip extension) 5 times with control, ensuring that the hips stay level.  Keeping spine and hips level, right leg reaching to ceiling draw a circle with the right leg 5 times in each direction without shifting, moving or dropping the hips.  Repeat with right leg grounding and left leg moving.
Hip Extension, Thoracic Flex Endurance
Supine position, hands behind to support the weight of the skull.  Feet flat, knees bent, abdominals engaged (if have little weight or can of something or full water bottle to rest on lower belly, great- don’t let it move) legs hip bone (ASIS bone) distance apart.  Curl head and shoulders up (thoracic flexion) to bottom ribs still down- 3 small pulses and then hold at highest possible point in endurance.  Extend the right leg (using hamstring glute to hip extend versus a pickup of the leg with the quad) to a hover position just above ground.  Keeping pelvis still, reach right leg straight out and toward the mat, extending the hips, using back of leg muscles to extend the hip and the abdominals to keep the pelvis still.  Repeat 5 hip extensions, then lift right leg toward ceiling (pelvis stays neutral) and left leg extends to the hover position.  Let left leg reach up to meet the right, then down again 5 times.  
Folded Towel, Thoracic Extension
Sit with knees bent, legs slightly apart, squeezing rolled up towel- arms reaching long.  Place a second rolled up towel to “catch” the spine as you roll back approximately mid thoracic. Keep inner thighs engaged and feet still and grounded.  Spine is in long -curve (long flexion like flexy straw).  Roll pelvis away from fixed femurs, squeeze towel between the knees and continue to roll until thoracic spine comes in contact with the towel.  Bring hands behind the head to support the weight of the skull and control thoracic extension over the towel, lower abdominals (low part of rectus abdominus, TA) stay as engaged as possible, top will open up with control.  Hold for a moment and then control back up over towel, focusing on reconnecting the ribs toward the pelvis and the whole abdominal wall engaged for control into the lengthened c curve.  Reach the arms in front of the shoulders (without letting the shoulders lead the work to lift away from the towel and back into the seated position.
Rollup                                                                                                               
1- From seated, legs extended, heels together toes apart, ground heels and hamstrings and roll pelvis away from fixed femurs as far as possible without moving the legs (as much as possible) pause, can add pulses- repeat 3 times.  Same exercise, legs parallel- focus on both is grounding the legs and using the glutes/abdominals to control the movement of the pelvis away from the femurs.  Repeat 3 times.  

2- From supine, legs extended  and grounded with hamstrings (can be done parallel or in slight turnout)  Reach arms to the ceiling, pull shoulders back into sockets and draw shoulder blades in toward each other.  Curl the head up away from the mat, flexing at the thoracic spine without allowing the shoulders to come forward.  Pulse at bottom ribcage connection 3 times, continuing to draw the shoulders back so that the movement comes from the abdominals moving the thoracic spine.  If possible, keeping legs grounded, continue to curl into long c-curve and roll all the way up (can have somebody ground the legs or put feet under couch or weight).  Roll all the way back, with control to start position and repeat 3 times.
Half Rollovers
Supine, legs extended to ceiling in a diamond shape, slight bend at the knees.  Find length from the ribcage to the hips and imagine somebody is pulling on your tailbone like a tail to start the movement by elongating the back- continue to elongate back, ground the upper back and back of the arms and allow a slight pelvic lift (lots of work for very little movement!!) that increases the distance between the back of the pelvis and the back of the ribcage.  Repeat 5 times.
Roll Like a Ball
From seated position, knees apart and bent, heels together (slight turnout at hips) roll pelvis away to balance just above tailbone.  Use lower abs to draw the knees to the elbows.  Keep the elbows on the knees and rollback and up, keeping the elbows on the knees.  Throw the first two away and go for 3 good ones, keeping the elbows on the knees and feeling the lower back lengthen into the mat each time.
Ab Series
Single-leg stretch
From last rolling like a ball, hold right knee and roll down with control onto back, keeping head and shoulders lifted.  Pull right knee into the chest and then switch legs, letting the legs pass each other while the femurs are at 45 degrees away from the pelvis…pelvis neutral.  Repeat 6-10 times.  Rock back up to sitting.
Double-leg stretch
From seated, hold onto front of shins and control roll down to ground, with knees pulled in, head and shoulders stay lifted.  Pull abs in, keep torso lifted and stretch arms and legs away from stable torso in opposition.  Keep arms at shoulder distance apart and sweep around, pulling knees all the way back in to start.  Repeat 5 times, torso stable throughout…pelvis neutral.
Single straight leg stretch
From last double leg stretch, reach both legs to ceiling, reach up with both hands to right leg, keeping shoulders squared,  allow left leg to stretch toward floor, keeping hips level, using obliques and all abs, glutes to stabilize torso and pelvis against weight of legs moving.  Draw left leg in as the right leg lowers, passing each other at 45 degrees if possible.  Repeat 6-10 times.

Long Spine Reaches
Sitting propped on something (bosu, towels, step, couple couch cushions)  Straight back, hands behind the head.  Lift to get taller, lengthening the back of the ribcage away from the hips.  Think of growing 2 extra inches by lifting the whole spine and keeping the back straight lean away from the legs an inch, lengthen a little more, keep back straight, one more inch lean, lengthen out/up one more inch and lean back one last inch.  Return to start by lifting and lengthening the crown of the head to the ceiling.  Repeat 4 times.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Standing in lunge position, right foot forward, left heel lifted, feet wide enough to be stable, pull left hip bone forward to square pelvis (hipbones like headlights) and start to stretch front of left thigh, bending both knees to dip a little more, hold leg position and stretch upper body away from legs a little more without allowing arch in lower back.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat other side.  Repeat same sequence with knee on floor, back heel can be flat or lifted for comfort.