Pilates Moves for Runners

Cross-training is an extremely important aspect of training. It is just as crucial as actually running is to your training. We need to pay just as much attention to stretching and strengthening.

"Running is a repetitive activity, which means every time we run, we overuse some muscles and underuse others, which can cause muscular imbalances, which can lead to injury," Harri Angell, U.K.-based trainer, Pilates instructor, and author of the new book Pilates for Runners, tells SELF.

"The repetitive nature of running causes constant impact every time your feet hit the ground," and if there's one part of your leg or butt (or any body part you're using to run) that's just slightly weaker than another part, you're not moving optimally. The weaker parts can get strained more easily, and the stronger parts may overcompensate for the weak parts and end up taking on too much force, putting you at risk for pains or even injuries over time. "

Pilates focuses on strengthening your core, improving your balance, coordination and posture. As a low impact activity pilates is a great tool to balance out all the pounding of race training.

When doing pilates remember to always keep your core engaged and you have proper alignment.

13 Moves for Runners

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1. Neck Stretch

  • Stand tall with your feet together, back straight, shoulders back, and arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Slowly drop your left ear to your left shoulder, to a point where you feel a stretch. Hold for a couple seconds.
  • Return to start and repeat four times to the right.
  • Repeat the same motion on your left side four times.

2. Shoulder Circles

  • Stand tall with your feet together, back straight, shoulders back, and arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Roll your shoulders forward and then back slowly, in a circular motion.
  • Do four reps, and then switch directions for another four reps.

3. Standing Spinal Rotations

  • Stand tall with your feet together, back straight, and shoulders back.
  • Extend your arms out in front of your torso and then bend them at the elbows so that your hands are out in front of your chest. Stack your fingers on top of each other.
  • Breathe in and as you breathe out, rotate your torso and arms to one side, keeping your head and neck in alignment. Try not to move your pelvis as your upper body twists.
  • Breathe in and return to center.
  • Repeat on the other side for 1 rep. Do three reps.

4. Knee and Hip Mobility and Balance Drill

  • Stand tall with your feet together, back straight, and hands on hips with shoulders relaxed.
  • Keeping your back straight and gaze forward, lift your right knee up to hip height (or as high as you can go) so that it ends up being bent in front of you at 90 degrees.
  • Return your foot to the floor and repeat on the other leg for 1 rep. Do four reps.

5. Roll Downs

  • Stand tall and with a neutral spine (butt tucked so your lower back isn't overarched), knees slightly bent, and core engaged.
  • Breathe in, and as you breathe out, start to roll your entire body forward starting by bringing your chin to your chest. Let your head continue to pull your body toward the floor. *Stop when you feel a stretch in your back and hamstrings, and extend your arms all the way to the floor (if they can reach). Everything should be hanging and loose toward the floor. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Breathe in and on your exhale, start to uncurl your body, slowly coming up to standing one vertebrae at a time, stacking your spine notch by notch as your body straightens up.
  • Bring your shoulders down and back to a relaxed position.
  • Repeat three times.

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6. Swan Dives

  • Lie face down with your forehead resting on the floor. Extend your arms out at shoulder level and bend your elbows 90 degrees so your finger tips are facing the same direction as your head. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and as you exhale, lift your head, chest, arms, and elbows just a few inches off the floor.
  • Breathe in at the top, and then breathe out as you lower back down to start.
  • Repeat eight times.

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7. Plank Leg Lifts

  • Start in high plank with shoulders over wrists, legs extended behind you, core and butt tight, and hips tucked.
  • Breathe in and on your exhale, lift your left leg off the floor. Stop when your heel is in line with your butt (or before if the height is causing you to arch your back).
  • Keep your right leg straight and firm on the ground, and make sure your abs are engaged to avoid rocking your torso.
  • Breathe in and hold for a second or two. On your exhale, lower your leg to start.
  • Alternate sides for 1 rep. Do six reps.

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8. Cat Cow Pose

  • Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and as you exhale, arch your back up to the ceiling as you drop your head and neck toward the floor.
  • Hold for a full breath.
  • Repeat three times.

9. Side Kicks

  • Lie on your right side with your right arm under your head so you can rest on it, and your legs straight out. Stack your hips and feet and place your left hand on the floor in front of your body for support.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and on your exhale lift both legs together in a straight line off the floor. It could be just an inch if that's all you can do. Hold for one full breath.
  • Return to start for 1 rep. Do 10 reps, and then repeat on the opposite side.

10. Clamshells

  • Lie on your right side with your right arm under your head so you can rest on it. Stack your hips, and bend your knees, bringing your heels in line with your butt. Place your left hand on your hip, or in front of your body on the floor for support.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and on your exhale raise your left knee about 6 inches, keeping your toes touching.
  • Return to start for 1 rep. Do 16 reps, and then repeat on the other side.

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11. The Hundred

  • Lie face up, knees bent, feet on floor in line with your hips, and arms at your sides.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and as you exhale, curl up a few inches as if you were about to do a crunch. Hold that position. At the same time, bring your straightened arms off the floor about six inches.
  • Breathe in as you pump your arms (moving them toward the ceiling and then back toward the floor) for five counts. Then breathe out as you pump for another five.
  • Continue for 100 pumps.

12. Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your sides. Your feet should be about hip-distance apart with your heels a few inches away from your butt.
  • Squeeze your glutes, engage your abs, and breathe in. As you exhale, start to slowly curl your hips up and lift them toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for a second or two. Breathe in and on your exhale slowly lower your spine one vertebrae at a time back down to the floor for 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

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13. The Saw

  • Sit in a straddle position, feet flexed and arms extended at shoulder height.
  • Engage your core, breathe in, and slowly twist your torso to the right, moving your arms with your shoulders.
  • Breathe out and lean your left hand toward your right toes, keeping your right arm extended behind you.
  • Hold and breathe in.
  • For an extra stretch, breathe out and bounce forward so fingers 'saw' toward and away from your toes three times (not picture in the gif above).
  • Breathe in and on the exhale, lift your torso back up to starting position.
  • Repeat on alternate side for one rep. Do three reps.