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Why Every Runner Should Try Pilates

There are so many reasons why Pilates can be great for runners with injuries.

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It’s no secret that I have fallen madly in love with Pilates on the Megaformer. After dealing with a number of injuries and setbacks this year mainly from running, my love for Pilates has only grown. Running is the same movement over and over again. It is high impact, causing a lot of stress on your joints. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to run everyday and stay healthy. Unfortunately this does not include me. This year I have dealt with a hip injury, which is an area I’m really focused on strengthening. Running is such a passion of mine and I didn’t want to stop doing what I loved. However I had to find ways to get my workouts in, even when I was bound on crutches.

I have always had a hard time finding workouts that complimented my running while building strength at the same time. I found whenever I would go to a group fitness class after a run, the focus would always be some type of high-impact jumping. I was not interested in putting more stress on my joints after my runs. My friends have been telling me about how Pilates changed their body. After much convincing, I tried my first class. I may have fallen a couple of times but I never felt more challenged in my life.

When doing Pilates, you are constantly engaging your core. You may think you run mainly with your legs, but you also use your psoas muscle (lower abdomens). Having a strong core is key, especially when running uphill, so your lower back doesn’t take over. Pilates has not only made my hips stronger but also stretched them at the same time, allowing me to have more fluid movements when I run. My legs can kick back further and my stride has improved. I wanted to yell to every runner, “You should be doing this!” It has all the benefits you get from a great yoga class, combined with the fast-paced yet slow method of fatiguing muscles until failure. It literally put no stress on my bones or joints. But don’t be fooled— I still walk out of class with my hair dripping with sweat and puddles next to me!

Two of my favorite studios to take class are SLT or Brooklyn Bodyburn. Both offer unique and killer workouts. I even was lucky enough to take a class with Tracey Katano, Kara Goucher‘s Pilates instructor, who also works with athletes at Nike.

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At Brooklyn Bodyburn, they combine the intensity and strength training of CrossFit with the stretch and length from Pilates and yoga. This is NOT traditional Pilates. Sebastian Lagree (the creator of this method) wanted to find a way of combining strength training and bodybuilding with stretching and core stability. Lagree created his patented “Megaformer” which is essentially a Pilates reformer on steroids. It offers a broader range of motion. Clients can stand, lunge, kick, push, press, pull and plank on it. We never lay down in classes like one normally does in Pilates. They focus on targeting each body part to extreme fatigue before moving onto the next, all while combining full body movement. The end result? A leaner, stronger, more balanced physique.

Okay I can go on and on about how it has helped me but I thought I would ask the pros a little bit about it….

I interviewed Ali Grzyb, an avid runner and SLT instructor, as well as Tracy Carlinski, owner of Brooklyn Body Burn, to hear what they had to say…..

Ali of SLT

As a runner, I have learned that more miles often lead to injury. I added hot yoga and indoor cycling into my cross training regimen two years ago and felt better, had less injuries, but saw little increase in speed. A year ago, I started SLT. I made no other change in mileage or workouts, yet I have had zero injuries and shaved minutes off of every race this year! I am so passionate about this workout and am honored to teach it.

How can one benefit from taking SLT? Running is performing the same movement over and over. This receptive motion leads to overdeveloped muscles such as the quadriceps, but also leads to weak and tight underdeveloped muscles such as the hamstring and gluts. At SLT, we strengthen the back-side of the leg and supporting hip muscles. This corrects muscle imbalances and therefore makes the legs stronger and able to handle more exertion!

How can SLT decrease a flair-up of IT Band injuries or prevent any other type of injury? If there is weakness in the hip, it can present itself as pain in the knee. Runners and cyclists tend to have a very weak gluteus medias (side glute muscle) which is the primary cause of IT band issues. When the gluteus medias is weak, we recruit other small muscle groups around the hips, like the Tensor Fasciae Lateae. THAT is the muscle that connects to the IT band. Light bulb! That muscle is not meant to do all of the work during running. When that muscle is weak and asked to carry the full load, inflammation and injury occur. By strengthening the glutes and back of the leg, SLT reduces injury and improves running efficiency. SLT will also prevent many back injuries. The abdominals are the front foundation to the spine. If they are weak, the back muscles will work that much harder to compensate.

Can I run before taking an SLT class? Yes! I prefer to only run a 5K or less on the days that I take SLT. I take class after my run. I believe you cannot go wrong and can find pros and cons to taking class before or after a run. Obviously your first workout will get your strongest energy. I find that after a short training run, I can still maximize my SLT workout.

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Tracy of Brooklyn Bodyburn

Why is the Megaformer a better choice for runners who are looking to get stronger? Each and every exercise on the machine is full body. We focus on muscle synergy; at times we are working hundreds of muscles in one single move. We focus on slow, resistance based movement, stimulating slow twitch, fat burning, endurance muscle fibers (with zero periods of rest in between exercises), which is great for running and any other type of endurance work!

Throughout class, we spend a majority of the time working the legs. Our instructors are trained to sequence their classes to work the legs at multiple angles, directions, combining light lunging and heavy pressing exercises to strengthen all aspect of the leg. Every exercise we do incorporates the whole body, regardless of what muscles are the primary focus. This type of strength training will improve the body’s efficiency to use energy and oxygen.

What benefits can one expect from doing Bodyburn regularly? Clients who take BBB on a regular basis will notice an overall improvement in aesthetic and performance. Our method is endurance based, burns fat and builds lean muscle. Clients who run have noticed an increased in mobility and flexibility, and a decreased mile time! Even those with any sort of lower back or postural issues see improvement and feel release!

Bodyburn classes can help runners restore muscular imbalances in the legs by increasing the flexibility of tight hip flexors and hamstrings, as well as strengthen hip adductors, abductors and quadriceps muscles to help keep knee and hip joints more stable. Bodyburn can be a great addition to balancing your muscles weakness or tightness.