Pilates for runners

I have been running for years, the odd half marathon here and there to raise money for charity but it was only last year, whilst training for the London Marathon, I realised how important Pilates was to my training programme. I was unable to cardio train as much as I would have liked due to an ITB injury and instead I concentrated on more Pilates sessions.


I was pleasantly surprised during the actual marathon my Pilates training had benefitted my running. My breathing techniques and lung capacity had improved, my running posture was more upright and my balance was brilliant after all the core work. I could not believe how, although I had only completed 3 long runs in my training, the last being 4 weeks before the marathon, I was able to complete the marathon in a reasonable time and still walk the next day with little fatigue on my muscles.


Running, like all movement, uses a number of different muscles that have to work together. If one muscle group is weak or not in sync with the others, injuries occur as the stronger muscles will compensate. A lot of runners have muscle imbalances which can lead to injuries due to excessive pressure on joints, ligaments and overworked muscles. The main problems with runners are strong abdominals but weak lower back muscles, strong upper quads but weak glutes. Pilates helps counteract this with movements that concentrate on firing the glute muscles (the shoulder bridge) and the upper back (the dart position and prone swimming).


One of the key ingredients for successful running is posture. Posture is very dependent on Core Strength - Pilates! Pilates focuses on the core muscles which support the torso, hips and pelvis. A strong centre helps improved balance, flexibility, breathing and endurance all of which benefit you when running.


The benefits of Pilates for runners:

  • It builds up the back muscles evenly
  • Elongates and aligns the spine for better stability
  • Increases the range of motion in the hips
  • Enhances concentration through focused breathing
  • And it helps the bodies recover faster from injuries


A few exercises that will help runners:

  • Shoulder Bridge - the emphasis is on the glutes
  • Prone Swimming - the emphasis is on the upper back and glutes
  • Leg Slides - inner core work out


Pilates became a key feature in my marathon training program. It helped not only to improve my core strength but also improved my muscle imbalances, which helped with injuries pre-marathon and recovery post-marathon.


All you runners out there, please give pilates a try you may be pleasantly surprised at how it improves your running!

Lucy Thirsk

Lucy Thirsk served for 15 years in the Army and is therefore no stranger to the “bootcamp” ethos. Having seen operational service in the likes of Iraq, she retired from the military due to illness but was determined to regain fitness and muscle definition. To do so in a controlled way, Lucy became a Level 3 Mat Pilates instructor, and was so impressed by her own recovery that she is now dedicated to helping others. Her military background means she likes working her clients hard, but her experience will keep you within your limits – making her classes fun but intensive. She loves running, keeping fit and broadening her expertise at Pilates workshops.