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Pilates COREterly

Spring 2012

Teaching & Learning

Creating a Program for Runners

By Beth Koch

The Runners Workshop at my studio, Simply Pilates, was founded, first and foremost, out of my love for running! However, I wasn't as consistent with my training as I needed to be, so I joined a Team-in-Training program for structure and accountability. I started with a 5k program, progressed to the 10k program and eventually ran 3 half marathons!

Although the Team-in-Training program offered incredible coaching and weekly education, it was evident that I still needed to increase the Pilates in my life in order to avoid pain and the accumulation of tightness throughout my body resulting from running. I discovered that the more I incorporated Pilates into my training regimen, the less discomfort I felt in my hips, lower back and feet. Fellow runners would often comment about my excellent posture and that I always looked relaxed when I ran.

During many of the long runs and speed work conducted by the Team-in-Training, I would often hear similar complaints about aches and pains from fellow runners. Since I knew firsthand how effective Pilates could be for solving these ailments, I was compelled to offer free workshops demonstrating foam roller techniques and a few simple core exercises. As a result of those workshops, a few of my running partners joined the studio for private training and eventually joined our small group classes. Soon, three of my running coaches joined our program.

These coaches had tried many other forms of cross training, but were particularly struck by the exceptional benefits that Pilates offered. The marathon coach even gave a testimonial to the runners, affirming that Pilates was the best cross training for a long distance runner. He had tried other programs, but those only left him feeling "beat up and worn down." Another marathon runner, Lou Diaz, who had taken just six months of Pilates at our studio, was proud to share that he had shaved four minutes off his personal record. This was remarkable considering the marathon took place in San Francisco, "the city of steep hills"! He quotes, "(It) has made a huge difference with my herniated disc, my core, my flexibility, my breathing, and my physique!"

I believe that Pilates is a perfect complement to running. Pilates is gentle on the joints, yet strengthens core muscles and elongates the tight, shortened muscles resulting from poor postures. Many runners suffer from foot problems associated with pronation and/or supination, as well as plantar fasciitis. As a result, Pilates foot work is common practice at the studio for runners with lower extremity issues. Typically a runner's posture yields a forward head with rounded upper back and internally rotated shoulders. This posture results in upper extremity tightness, elevated shoulders and tight pectoral muscles. The muscles of the thoracic spine grow increasingly tighter yielding minimal thoracic spine mobility.

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This lack of mobility can result in significant problems to the entire spine in addition to the rest of the body. To enhance spine mobility clients are introduced to the barrel, Reformer, trapeze and roller. I rarely meet a runner who is without aches and pains in the hip, hip flexor or illiotibial band. If these symptoms are not addressed early on in training, it is only a matter of time before an injury will occur. Theraband work, feet in the straps work and the standing hip flexor stretch are a few of my favorites for relieving hip pain.

Simply Pilates Runners Workshop is a Pilates program designed to specifically address the common problems associated with running. We offer a special runner's package for those interested in private sessions and future workshops. We currently have 25 runners participating in the program and a waiting list for the upcoming runner's workshop.