Make me a better runner: Pilates (Part 3)

A Pilates Tower wall in action. (Getty Images)

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Having kicked off my Pilates challenge with matwork, I was now ready to level up to equipment-based classes. I signed up to a Tower session at bePilates, not entirely sure what I was letting myself in for but assured that it was perfect to help build a solid core. 

To an outsider’s eye (read: my eye), a Pilates Tower looks like a hospital bed or a torture device, or potentially both. However, willing to endure most things in pursuit of regaining my running abilities, I tentatively hopped on board. Turns out, my hesitancy was unfounded – once the features of the Tower are broken down, it’s easy to see how using it in Pilates practice can benefit you.

With a stationary base, the Tower has a framework at one end featuring various bars and springs, which can be used to offer support or add resistance during exercises. The bars are particularly useful for Pilates roll-ups (see below), as the extra support can help you engage deep core muscles. Meanwhile, the springs increase tension to make moves more challenging, as well as highlight muscle imbalances so you can recognise where needs strengthening.

If avoiding core work was a sport in itself, I’d be a GB Olympian. I find it dull. It’s a necessary evil that I dodge wherever possible, like going to the dentist. But it’s not just toned abs you’re missing out on by skipping core workouts – a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the 5,000m times of runners who’d followed a six-week core strength training programme, and found that the group with core training ran significantly faster than runners who hadn’t. Core strength also helps stabilise the hips and knees, making injuries such as IT band syndrome and runner’s knee less likely to occur.

While improving my core strength wouldn’t directly fix my injury woes, no runner will turn down the potential to injury-proof themselves and run faster. Using the Tower to add the resistance to classic Pilates core work helped me focus on my deeper core muscles rather than just superficial ones, which would make major headway in correcting my dodgy posture in the long run.


Roll-ups

Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms above your head. Scoop your abdominals in and begin to raise your arms until they’re at a 90°angle to your body. Strongly engage your core and lift your shoulders off the ground, then continue roll up, moving your arms over and reaching down towards your toes. Slowly roll back down, one vertebrae at a time. Ensure your legs stay on the ground the entire time. Repeat 15 times.

Hundreds

Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position and your arms by your sides. Lift your arms and shoulders off the ground, scooping your abdominals. Straighten your legs, and lower them as much as you can without them shaking or your back arching off the floor. Pump your arms up and down in small movements, breathing in for five breaths and out for five breaths. Repeat for 100 breaths.