Pop quiz time!
Are you looking to improve your pace or running technique?
Do you want to relieve lower back pain and avoid injury?
Do you want more muscle definition and to feel stronger?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need to add Pilates to your training schedule.
Pilates is a system of exercises designed to strengthen and stretch the body, with an emphasis on core conditioning, alignment, posture and breathing. Exercises can be completed simply using bodyweight, with small weighted props or a spring-loaded reformer machine.
Gone are the days where Pilates was reserved for ballerinas and dancers. Today, Pilates is used by the best sports physiotherapists for both rehabilitation and prehabilitation, and leading sports coaches are using it as an effective cross-training tool for athletes.
Running is a high impact exercise that requires strength not only in the legs but also in the core and hips. A weak core will cause you to hunch over, leading to inefficient running form, reduced breathing capacity and strain on your lower back. Before you know it injury sets in and you’re on the sidelines for good.
I’m not only a Pilates instructor but I personally practice Pilates daily to keep my body in shape. I’m still recovering from a lower back injury that I incurred in my teens. If I get lazy and stop training, the back pain creeps back in. When I’m consistent with my training, my core and spine are happy and healthy and I’m running well.
You don’t need to dedicate hours of extra training in the gym to achieve results. If you can commit to a daily 10-15min session I guarantee you’ll see results. Here are the top exercises that I recommend.
Start with the basics and move through the progressions as you get stronger and want more challenge.
In each exercise keep the spine and pelvis neutral and stable, moving only the legs and arms where required. Don’t forget to breathe!
A plank is a classic full-body exercise that should be a staple in your workouts.
You don’t need to hold your planks for long periods of time. Science shows that shorter holds with more reps give better results.
Try 5 x 30-sec planks with a short 5-sec rest between each plank.
- Leg pull front
Start in a stable plank. Float one foot off the ground and hold for 5-sec. Repeat on the opposite leg and keep switching legs for 1-min. Don’t let the hips wobble side-side. Try 2 x 1-min reps.
- Tiger curls (mountain climber)
Lift one foot off the ground and draw the knee toward the opposite elbow. Switch legs and repeat. Pick up the pace! Keep the spine, pelvis and shoulders stable, just move the legs. Great for developing strong hip flexors too.
Try 3 x 45-sec reps with a 5-sec break in between.
- Side plank
Ensure the wrist and shoulder of the supporting arm is stacked and spine and pelvis are neutral.
Try 3 x 30-sec holds on each side. Lift and lower the top leg for extra challenge.
- Single leg stretch
A great all round core exercise and a good one if you want to work on your 6-pack too. When lifting into an ab curl, keep the natural curves of the lower back.
Start with both legs in ‘tabletop’. Slowly extend one leg in front to about 45-degrees. Switch legs…and keep switching! Breathe and switch for 1-min. Try 2 x 1-min reps.
Extend both legs out in front to 45-degrees and crisscross back and forth at the ankle joints. Breath and keep switching for 1-min. Keep the upper body and pelvis still, just crisscross the legs. Try 2 x 30-sec reps.
- Double leg stretch and overhead reach
Keep the pelvis neutral and the abdominals tight, extend both legs and sweep straight arms forward and back. Try 2 x 30-sec reps.
Remember to breathe, inhale as the arms are by the hip, exhale as the arms reach overhead.
- Shoulder bridge preparation and hip lifts
This exercise challenges pelvic stability whilst strengthening the gluteal muscles and hamstrings. If you spend your days sitting in a desk chair, this one will work a treat for waking up those lazy bottoms.
Start with both feet on the ground and the hips lifted, pelvis and spine remain in a neutral position. Lower and lift the bottom, squeezing the glutes and engaging the hamstrings with every lift. Try 3 x 15 reps.
Make it harder and progress to a single leg hip lift. Lift and lower the bottom with only 1 foot on the ground – keep the hips level and stable.