The Final Stretch

Whether you’re a novice runner or a multi-marathon veteranyou’ve heard the importance of a post-run stretch, but do you know what to lengthen and what needs to stay strong?  Pilates is a specialized regimen that properly stretches the muscles of the body with the strength and control necessary to help joints maintain a proper range of motion. Without specialized stretching and the opposing strength to hold the newly found range of motions, muscles can become tight and leave you susceptible to pain or injury. 

So, what muscles need stretching? Any physical activity utilizes a whole range of different muscles, but targeting the ones that are being used the most during your runs will be most effective and help you improve in the long run

1. The Quadriceps

Quadriceps_3D

Your Quadriceps, or “Quads” are comprised of four separate muscles on the front of your thigh. This area can be overused during running and may be one of the first areas you feel soreness in, especially in a marathon like Boston that starts off downhill!   If not lengthened out properly, tight quads can cause a misalignment in the leg joints.

2. The Calves

Calf Muscle

Courtesy of lumen learning

Made up of two separate muscles on the back of your lower leg, the calves are an often overlooked, but essential piece of your running anatomy. If weakened or tightened, the calves can affect the movement at both the knee and the ankle joint.

3. The Hamstrings 

Hamstrings

You might not know exactly what or where your hamstrings are, but chances are you’ve felt them. The hamstring is a grouping of three muscles that run the length of the back of your upper leg. Although the hamstring is important for knee and hip movements, runners often forget or neglect to stretch them out. The hamstrings are important hip mobilizers and they also help to stabilize the pelvis.  Maintaining the right flexibility for a runner can help with muscle fatigue, overuse, and even lower back pain!

4. The Iliotibial (IT) Band

Tensor fasciae latae

While the Iliotibial band is not a muscle it plays a vital role in your body’s mechanics for running. The IT Band is a fascial band that spans the outer knee and thigh. It is part of a system that contributes to hip movement and knee stabilization and is used constantly during a run. The IT band is meant to be tight in order to control the position of the leg, yet becomes overly tight and overused when the glutes and inner thighs are weak.

5. The Gluteal MusclesGluteus_all.gif

Did you know that your Gluteus Maximus (aka your backside) is the largest and heaviest muscle in your body? It is also one of the laziest!  Your glutes are made up of three main muscles and several smaller ones that make many of your lower body movements possible. Sitting all day and general inactivity leads to these muscles becoming underutilized and weak, so it’s important to give them the attention they deserve. On the flip side, overuse of the Gluteal muscles can affect hip flexibility and overall pelvic stability.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of which muscles need stretching, you still need to know HOW to stretch them! Endurance is excited to announce two FREE upcoming seminars for runners of all skill levels: 

Runners Relax and Renew

Tuesday, April 16th at 10 AM: 

For our friends running the Boston Marathon, we are hosting a 45-minute post-run stretch and meditation session to help rejuvenate the muscles and embrace your amazing accomplishment!

Sign up HERE.

Saturday, April 20th at 1 PM: 

Inspired by your friends running the marathon? If you’re interested in running next year or just looking to jump head first into the sport, join us for an Intro to Running class where we’ll cover injury prevention, scheduling, nutrition, and cross-training. Learn how to run with the Endurance Method, the safest way to run with your butt and gut! 

Sign up HERE.

Why is Pilates Beneficial for Marathon Runners?

pexels-photo-221210

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.

abdominal-muscles-anatomy-1024x585

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!

Pilates Mat or Reformer?

I am sometimes asked, should I start with Pilates Mat or Pilates Reformer.  The answer to that question is- both and truly, which ever you enjoy more as long as you get started- the earlier, the better.  Although we offer “Pilates” in group classes, it is just a tiny scratch on the surface of understanding the entire Pilates methodology of moving our bodies.  Even our most advanced Endurance Pilates Mat and Reformer classes are teaching very basic movements- single plane movements in both directions- like the rollup or footwork- but we are teaching them very precisely with proper patterning and not allowing any movement that is not controlled, wasted or haphazard. Pilates is a system that employs a very deep understanding of how to move the body- where to stabilize and where to mobilize so that the movement is safe, better executed and contributes to a much more efficient and better looking physique.  Well-executed Pilates on any apparatus or on the mat develops a suit of armor from within.  This is what makes it so popular with professional dancers, athletes, models and other folks that depend on their bodies physically and aesthetically to make a living!  It is also what makes Pilates classes and sessions so challenging and sometimes difficult for those new to the practice.  By employing Endurance Pilates concepts in every exercise we teach, whether in a Barre Boston, yoga, PAIN or Pilates Mat or Reformer class, we are asking you to move your body in a manner that is different from any other type of class you have taken.  You aren’t simply popping up into a boat pose, you are pulling back from the abdominals to stabilize the torso while reaching the legs away from the unmoving torso- employing core strength and oppositional reach and in fact, working the body A LOT while not moving AT ALL!

Originally called Contrology, Joseph Pilates said, “Pilates is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control of our body”.  We use the Pilates Reformers to assist students to begin to find the proper muscles and patterning in order to eventually move properly. Joseph Pilates developed his regimen so that the Pilates Matwork, his list of 34 exercises from his book, Return to Life, was the ultimate challenge- in fact, Matwork was homework in Joseph Pilates’ studio.  As a student, you did the Matwork on your own at home 3 times a week and then came into his studio 3 times per week to perfect movements on the Pilates apparatus. Pilates developed all of the apparatus in order to assist his students to become better mat students- to be able to move their bodies through challenging sequences with control eventually without the assistance of the apparatus.  And they are considered apparatus, not machines- your body is the ultimate machine.  In a true Pilates studio, you will find Pilates Universal Reformers, Cadillac,  Barrels, Wunda Chair, Baby Chair, Electric Chair (some like the name High Chair better!) Pedi-Pole, Foot Correcter and Toe Gizmo just to name a few pieces that we use to refine our students movements.

Pilates isn’t a list of exercises or choreography.  It isn’t just a Group Mat class or a Reformer class.  A Pilates teacher cannot teach Pilates properly unless he or she has learned the entire Pilates system of exercise including all the apparatus and through the Advanced system.  Well.  2 or 3 times.  Even if he or she never teaches or performs all of the advanced exercises, he must know where his student will eventually need to go in order to teach the bits and pieces of exercises and the basic movement patterning that we teach in our group classes.  And  good Pilates teachers continue to learn something new every single day.  Otherwise, she is just an instructor, not a teacher, reciting choreography displayed on a machine- and thus, we’ve lost the benefit of teaching your body to be the machine as it is “reformed” by the apparatus!

It takes a good, talented teacher 7 years to learn “Pilates” in their own bodies.  And then, well, depending on the teacher, the appropriate amount of time to be able to understand it well enough to convey to other folks!  At Endurance, our instructors complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of training to teach the Endurance Method of Pilates.  And every single one of them is at a different place in learning real Pilates.  It isn’t a hobby for our teachers, it is a calling and you will be challenged physically and mentally to assume responsibility for your body, your movement and your well-being through our classes and our private sessions.  Start with the class that works best for you and be ready to discover an entire new body, mind and world through our Endurance Method!  And once you have “mastered” one pattern- guess what, we have a way of making it even more challenging, beneficial and rewarding!  Pilates never gets easier, we just get better at using it to make the rest of our moving lives more efficient, graceful and controlled!