‘Pilates strengthens as well as lengthens the body. It stabilises and brings awareness to your weaknesses,’ says Tony Diamond, Master Pilates Coach at Third Space Health Clubs. ‘People see Pilates and yoga as interchangeable, but they’re not. Pilates strengthens you through length. Yoga – the odd pose aside – is more about opening and relaxing, but with Pilates you take the movement to its full length, you are moving your muscles eccentrically [lengthening], not concentrically [contracting], and making sure they are functionally robust as well as becoming more flexible.’
Reformer Pilates (on machines) is generally preferable to mat work if you are a beginner, as the machines provide support and teach you better posture, but this mat-based routine is designed by Diamond for runners who are Pilates novices. ‘This can be done in your living room and focuses on the four main pillars of running motion: rotation, leg mobility and hip extension, back extension, and core control,’ he says. ‘The first few times really focus on getting your form right, rather than completing the allotted time, in order to get the correct movement patterns into your brain.’
Aim to perform each move for 30-60 seconds and do the routine once to twice a week to become stronger, more powerful and better equipped to stay on the road and away from the physio,’ says Diamond.
1/ Clam hips off floor
With one elbow and knee on the floor, directly under your shoulder, draw your abs in towards your spine; Raise your entire body, keeping your neck long. On the exhale open your knees from glutes, squeezing your heels together. Inhale on the return. Repeat on the other side.
2/ Bridging against wall
Place your feet flat on a wall, lower legs parallel to the floor. Draw your abs towards your spine, inhale and raise your body, squeezing your glutes together. At the top exhale and lower your spine vertebrae by vertebrae. Advanced move: try one leg at a time.
3/ Standing posterior sling
Stand with your left foot at seven o’clock and your right at 12 o’clock. With a nine-inch Pilates ball (£7, mad-hq.com) in your right hand, sweep from your left hip up and across to above your right shoulder. Rotate through the spine and keep your pelvis still. Repeat on the other side.
Raise one leg at 90 degrees to floor, toes pointed. Keep the other leg horizontal, an inch off the floor, toes pointing away. Draw your abs in, clasp your hands round your thigh and lift your body by walking your hands up your leg as high as possible. Walk them back down. Repeat on the other leg.
5/ Full lift back extension
Lying on your stomach, interlock your hands behind your lower back, with your palms towards your body. Inhale, raising your upper body and lifting and lengthening your legs. Draw your shoulders down and squeeze together; exhale to release down.
6/ Lower abdominal toe taps
Lie on the floor with a Pilates ball at the base of your spine. Raise your legs so your lower leg is perpendicular to the floor. Draw your abs in towards your spine. Slowly tap one leg to the floor and then the other. Challenge yourself to not move your pelvis.
7/ On ball thoracic extension
Lie on the floor, feet flat and hip-width apart. Place the Pilates ball between your shoulder blades. Interlock your hands behind your head, elbows wide. Slowly exhale and lower yourself down over the ball, keeping your neck long and pelvis still. Don’t compress your lower back.
8/ Short spine
With your abs drawn in, raise your legs so they’re perpendicular to the floor; exhale and slowly take your legs over your head; inhale, then exhale and lower your spine with your legs in a diamond shape, pushing your spine into the mat vertebrae by vertebrae.
9/ Upper body snow angel
Lie face down. Drawing up your abs, raise your upper body – including your sternum – off the mat. Keep your neck relaxed and long. Push your legs down into the mat and engage your glutes. Draw your arms behind back to your bum, then back up, keeping your upper body still.
The origins: Pilates is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates, a German who started working on the concept while in a British internment camp during the First World War. He taught the system, which he called ‘contrology’, to boxers, circus performers, police recruits and even dancers up until his death in 1967, at the age of 83.