Running is the ultimate test of strength, stability and cardiovascular endurance. Research tells us, unequivocally, that runners who are strong, stable and able to maximally use every ounce of oxygen that they breathe run for longer with fewer injuries. Furthermore, good stability and control make running more efficient, reducing the stress and on the cardiovascular system meaning that you can run for longer.
Another component of effective running is muscle activation. This means can the trunk, hip, knee and ankle switch on and switch off at the right moment, for the right amount of time with the correct amount of force in order to store and release energy? If not, then your running might be suffering because of these “power leaks”.
The founding principle of Pilates is that by improving strength, stability, breathing and movement patterns better muscle activation will follow thus leading to an improvement in running performance.
A research paper published in 2018hypothesized that 12 weeks of Pilates training would lead to an improvement in5km times for 58 runners. The group who both ran and did Pilates witnessed a greater improvement in their 5km time compared to the group who only ran. Furthermore, the Pilates and running group also were found to have used less energy when running than the running group.
So it might be time to add Pilates to your running program!
Training the trunk muscles is vitally important. In an oft quoted study by Kibler, he argued that as much as 50% of the power generated in sport is due to the trunk musculature being able to activate in a timely manner to provide a completely stable base for the arm and trunk to work off.
The hip is vital in running. It has to process a tremendous amount of force. My favourite running biomechanics fact (I have a favourite, I don’t get out much) is that a 70kg runner’s hip will process 186 tonnes of load per 1km!! So the hip needs to be strong, it quite frankly can’t be strong enough. Exercises such as side lying hip abduction, clamshell, and the bridge (pictured) are all great for strengthening the gluteal muscles, which will give you both good shock absorption and propulsion when running.