Can Pilates help prevent injury and improve performance

Can pilates benefit runners and help with strength and flexibility?

Coach Hayley breaks down some of the research and science to help you determine if adding pilates to your training repertoire can help keep you injury-free.


Audio Transcript

Coach Hayley: Hi everyone. I am Coach Hayley Munn, the Community Manager at Runners Connect. I hope that you’re having a great day, and thanks for tuning in to the show.

We love to have you guys improve as runners, so if you have a question, don’t hesitate to send it in. You can send in your question at runnersconnect.net/daily.

Today we have a question from Nicky.

Nicky says, “I am coming back from injury due to a groin strain. I am thinking about adding in mild Pilates a few days a week. Can Pilates benefit runners and help with strength and flexibility? I have very tight hip flexors and [adductors, 00:01:34] and was hoping this would be beneficial to avoid re-injury. Thanks.

Coach Hayley Munn: Hi Nicky, glad to hear that you are on that comeback trail after your injury. I definitely think that working on strength and flexibility will help you to remain injury free in future.

Running is such a great sport, but one that can result in imbalances in certain areas. These imbalances can lead to injury when combined with increased training loads.

Reductions in hip mobility have been linked to increased injury risk in runners, and whilst you could improve this with mobility through strengthening and stretching, some people find that having a dedicated class to attend a few times a week keeps them on track.

It also helps to have someone to observe your form as this can make a big difference to the effectiveness of the exercises.

Adding in Pilates is a great way to fix some of these imbalances, as well as increased flexibility and strength, whilst having a teacher to keep you accountable. And a course to make it a bit more fun, and help you stick to it.

Tight hip flexors are super common in runners. Sometimes we can devote many hours a week to stretching and not see results. That’s because we need to add in strengthening as well as stretching, to give the muscle strength to maintain its knee length.

That’s where Pilates can be helpful. It combines exercises that both stretch and strengthen the body. This just helps to reduce tightness and improve range of motion.

As I’ve mentioned, hip strength and stability is also a key for preventing injuries in runners, and Pilates can be massively helpful for this too.

One of the best ways to prevent increased groin pain is to increase and stability in the groin as a whole, and Pilates is perfect for this.

Pilates has other benefits for runners outside of the office ones too. It can create postural imbalances, which can be another of niggles. Even posture outside of running can affect injury risk during running.

Pilates can also increase strength in the abs, back, shoulders and neck. That means that you’ll be better able to control and maximize the forces that you produce during running. This translates to better performance.

Further benefit of Pilates is increased recovery. Pilates paced workouts can speed up recovery by releasing and relaxing tight muscles, and increasing blood flow.

Of course you’ll want to make sure that you don’t do any of the most strength-based exercises after a really hard or long run.

Another benefit is it can help with breath control and breathing patterns. That’s something that can really help runners who struggle with being out of breath, and staying relaxed during different workouts.

Pilates is all about combining the breathing with the exercises done, using correct form. I think you’ll see that Pilates can help you to prevent injuries, and also boost your running.

I would say that it’s not everything. Sometimes it’s more tied to specific habits needed for certain injuries. So it might be still worth visiting a physiotherapist – if you haven’t already – and asking them whether there is anything else you should be doing to prevent further injury to your groin.

Another thing I’d add is that there are so many ways to gain strength and flexibility. If you try Pilates and it doesn’t suit you, or you don’t feel like it’s helping you, don’t worry. We’re all individual.

There are many other things you can try including circuit training, body weights, strength training and weight training.

If you feel you need more of a strength element than Pilates provides, you can always add in a weekly session or circuit or body weight exercises.

Back to Pilates, a few days a week is perfect. Make sure you find a kick class with an experienced teacher, preferably one who has experience with runners,or is a runner themselves.

I’d also avoid doing any exercises that cause any sort of increase in the discomfort in your groin. Be cautious when introducing anything new. If you build up slightly, you should avoid any excessive soreness.

I think it’s worth mentioning to your teacher that you’ve had groin issues. A good teacher will tell you what exercises you might be better to avoid, and how you can add in specific exercises which focus on strengthening that region.

I really hope that helps. I do think Pilates benefits running, especially if you aren’t currently doing anything for strength or flexibility.

That’s a great question and thank you for asking Nicky. Avoiding injury is a major concern for most of us, and I hope I’ve explained how Pilates can help.

If any of you listening have your own questions, and you’d like myself or one of the other RunnersConnect coaches to answer them, head over to runnersconnect.net/daily, and click the record button to send us your questions.

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