Pilates for Runners: Why It Matters & How It Can Work for You

In this blog post, we talked with one of the talented instructors in our studio, Kelly Mroz. Kelly is launching a new program specifically designed for runners to enjoy the benefits that Pilates brings to a runner’s body, including stability, strength, and recovery.

Why is Pilates important for runners?

Running is a high-impact, plyometric exercise.  It’s built from the types of exercises we would never give to someone in the studio unless they have an extremely stable powerhouse and good alignment. Yet, people all over the world take up running every day because it is free and easy to start with almost no equipment (you could even run barefoot). However, without the stability and strength of the glutes, hips, abdominal muscles, and back muscles and a lack of good posture and some attention to running form, injury is not only possible, but likely.  In preparing our Pilates for Runners program, I saw research suggesting that anywhere from 50 to 90% of runners get injured each year.

Pilates can offer runners information and training in core stability and good running form (which shares many of the same attributes as good posture), specifically in the form of healthy alignment and biomechanically sound movement patterns.  

What types of things show up for a runner that might indicate that they would benefit from a Pilates practice?

Injuries! A person who is always injured from running is a person who could benefit from taking a deeper look at how they approach this practice. Some injuries in running simply stem from doing too much, too soon. Many others are a result of imbalances in the body, areas of weakness, and issues with full range of motion of the joints, and these are things that a Pilates practice can address. A lack of “progress” in running is another area where Pilates can allow the runner to take a deeper look.  Perhaps a runner remains injury-free, but is unable to run further or faster than they desire. Some attention to form as well as small corrections could be all the runner needs to divert energy from one area of the body (say, holding tension in the upper body, clenching hands, etc.) into making running feel easier and less of a struggle, therefore freeing up energy to run further or faster.

What are the benefits of combining running and pilates?

You don’t necessarily need to add running if you practice Pilates, though it is good to have some type of exercise that provides cardiovascular benefits. In my experience, Pilates does that to a small extent, but not the 2.5 hours a week (or 30 minutes, 5 days a week) recommended by the American Heart Association. If you run, allow me to be so bold as to say that you need Pilates, especially if you took up running as an adult. While there are other ways to develop deep core strength and good movement patterns, Pilates is the best and most systematic way that I have ever encountered to teach those things to adults. 

What types of things does Pilates help the runner achieve?

Stronger, faster, “easier” running. Also, the hope is that runners are able to run injury-free.

How did you discover the benefits of pilates for runners and why do you choose to do these activities?

I have been running on and off for almost 20 years.  Each time I would pick up running, I would either become injured after a certain degree of progress, or life would “get in the way” and I would be too exhausted to run. I hadn’t discovered the ability to run “easy.”  Four years ago, I picked up yoga, and then began running again, got injured, and then began to practice Pilates.  I was in physical therapy for my knee injury at that time, and I started to see how Pilates and physical therapy were similar.  Six months after beginning to practice Pilates, I enrolled in a certification program to teach Classical Pilates.  And really – the results speak for themselves.  My running has taken off in the most exciting ways. 

In four years, I have progressed from injuring myself on a 6 mile run to completing a full marathon – injury free. I am running easier and faster than I ever would have thought possible.  I can literally be exhausted, and instead of going out for a run and feeling crushed, I got out for a 20-30 minute run and feel absolutely energized afterward. Running is now something I do 5-6 days a week, and it’s not a chore – it’s a joy! I attribute all of this development in my personal running practice to the internal strength and attention to running form that I have built through a commitment to Pilates.

Reach out to us to learn more about Kelly’s new program, Pilates for Runners.