Make me a better runner: Pilates

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As runners, we’re made abundantly aware of how important it is to cross train. Running-free workouts – such as cycling, yoga and more – help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. You know this. I know this. Still, that doesn’t mean I do it – to my own detriment. My body has a one-in, one-out policy when it comes to running injuries: this year, I’ve landed IT band syndrome, shortly followed by tib post tendon dysfunction in my ankle that forced me to pull out of London Marathon. Once I was back on the road again, in popped Achilles tendonitis to remind me that, yes, I’m still not invincible.

An assessment by running physio Sarah Green revealed that there was more than just bad luck behind my plethora of injuries. In fact, I had a host of physical imbalances that left me a veritable injury magnet. To summarise…

  • Being hypermobile meant my joints moved too much when I ran, putting extra stress on my muscles and tendons
  • I landed more heavily on my right foot than my left, which was causing excess strain on my already injured right ankle
  • As a result of the ankle injury, my right foot arch was weaker and made me overpronate more on that side
  • Weak hips and glutes caused my knees to turn in
  • I had bad posture: I naturally leant back, putting my weight through my heels, arching my spine and not activating my glutes or core

Sarah strongly advised I take up regular Pilates practice to improve my form. Pilates was a cross training activity I tended to skip over in favour of, well, more running. But, since that had left me in my somewhat shambolic state, ignoring the advice just wasn’t an option – not if I wanted to run long distances again.

“The high-impact, repetitive action of running stresses joints. Poor alignment or muscular imbalance, when paired with this repetitive stress, results in pain and injury,” says Dawne Likhodedova, the founder of London studio bePilates. “Regular Pilates practice will give runners improved leg alignment and core strength to minimise injury. Runners benefit from improved range of motion in the feet, legs and hips to maximise the power to go further, faster.” Perfect.

In order to fix the many imbalances putting my marathon ambitions on hold, I’m taking on regular classes at bePilates over the next few weeks. With sessions including everything from basic Pilates matwork to action with Reformers and Towers, I’ll be looking to overhaul my running form.

My overall aim? To improve strength and control from my core and hips down, to make a noticeable difference in form at my next physio appointment and complete a 10K run free from injury niggles.

Next time, I'll be doing one-on-one matwork Pilates to reconnect with essential core muscles and giving the lowdown on Pilates for prehab.