Pilates for Runners

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Here in New England we are coming up on the Olympics of running, the Boston Marathon. Despite colder temperatures, harsh winds and snow covered streets, many runners are out and about focusing on their training runs. Besides a bright, sunny, warm, Spring Day there is one another thing that can help you on your runs. A STRONGER CORE!

As you may or may not know, running uses more than your legs. Your core is a huge part of how you move. In fact, everything we do radiates out from our core. A stronger core means a stronger run. A stronger core helps you to maintain form, increases your endurance and helps prevent injury.

However, most people’s idea of a core strengthening routine is a few crunches on the floor while watching an episode of the latest binge-worthy show on Netflix. Sadly, no matter how many crunches you do during the season finale of “Stranger Things” it just isn’t enough. Exercises like crunches work the superficial core muscles such as the rectus abdominus. What you need is a strong Pilates practice.

So how can Pilates help? See, Pilates works ALL OF THE ABDOMINAL MUSCLES; even the deepest of them all, the transverse abdominus. But not only that, Pilates works to build core strength as well as the other supporting muscles of the torso, hips, shoulders and back. You won’t get that from a few crunches.

Pilates not only strengthens the core but also improves flexibility. Pilates is a two way stretch from a strong and stable center. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace, while building flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abs, arms, hips, and back.

Pilates can also help prevent a lot of running related injuries such as weak and painful hips, IT Band issues, pain in the knees and ankles and piriformis syndrome. Pilates will improve your posture which helps to improve your running form, there for preventing most of these injuries. A better running form will also help in your running performance, allowing you to run farther and faster.

Some of the performance benefits of a regular Pilates practice for runners includes:

  • Increases flexibility and strength
  • Develops coordination and balance
  • Increases range of motion in the hips and shoulders
  • Helps recovery and recovery time
  • Helps to prevent injuries
  • Increases core stability
  • Enhances breathing
  • Improves endurance
  • Helps with posture and gait

Worcester Pilates offers private instruction on all of the Pilates equipment. If you are interested in starting a Pilates practice to help improve your running call or email to take advantage of our New Student Intro special.

Book Review: “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement” by Katy Bowman M.S.

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Title– Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement
Author– Katy Bowman, M.S.
First published– 2014
Edition– First Edition
Format- Paperback and Digital
Pages– 243

Review-

Bowman takes the most followed and interesting topics she touched on in her book “Alignment Matters” and dives deeper into them in this book. She asks the very important question “Are we how we move?” Are some health issues brought on by how we move or don’t move?

Bowman asks and covers the following questions and helps to create a movement plan for great health.

  • “Is sitting the new smoking?”
  • “Are standing workstations helpful or harmful?”
  • “What’s the safest way to move toward minimal shoes?”
  • “Are kegels and core exercises solving problems or creating them?”
  • “Do we really need cardio exercise”
  • “Does DNA predetermine our health as much as we are led to believe?”

In “Move Your DNA” there is less of the humor that was sprinkled through “Alignment Matters” as this book dives deeper into how we move. I did miss the humor of her other book, but this book had way more useful information that is laid out in an easy to follow format.

The book starts off explaining load and how it affects our bodies. Bowman clearly sums up loads by quoting Lena Horne, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.” You are how you move. The weight you carry, how and where you place it, and how you carry it effects your body down to the cellular level.

Our ancestors carried load differently than we do today: squatting to wash in the river, hunting and gathering, preparing food by a fire etc. Now most of the loads we carry today are passive: sitting at desks, slumped over steering wheels etc. Can we improve our health by making tiny adjustments in how we carry load through out our days?

One of the concepts that Bowman covers in this book that I loved is the difference between movement and exercise. The average person who does workout tends to do so in a short burst. The average person’s movement through the day looks like this: wake up, have breakfast, drive an hour or so in traffic, sit at a desk all day long, drive home for an hour, maybe they hit the gym for an hour and do some intense workout like running, then go home and sit on the couch all night.

Bowman suggests that maybe we don’t need cardio, but need to just move more throughout the day. Move more; get your blood flowing more throughout the day. Instead of running 5 miles a day on a treadmill at the gym, spread that 5 miles out over the day by walking around more.

Bowman covers not only when to move but also goes into more detail with some great exercises in how we should move. Such as walking over different terrains, foot and leg stretches, stretches to release the psoas and how to stand, squat and sit as you move through your day.

The first half of the book is really about explaining load, how we move currently, and how it is affecting our health. The second half of the book goes more into detail of various exercises and smarter ways we can move throughout our lives in order to be healthier, find more vitality, and relieve ailments like low back pain.

There is so much useful information in this book that I can’t go into great detail on it all in this review. I do recommend this book for everyone. It’s not about moving your body; it’s about moving your body in smart ways. Following Bowman’s lifestyle plan that is laid out in this book can help us all to move smarter, feel better and help to relieve aches and pains in the body. Definitely a buy for all movement professionals

Pilates and Running

runningFirst, let me say that while I used to run (I have run several half marathons and trained for a marathon); I am no longer a runner. I’ve learned so much about our bodies through my study of anatomy, etc. that I have made the personal choice to quit running. That being said, to all of my runner friends out there, if you want a stronger performance and less injury there is one thing you must focus on: core strength and stabilization.

However, doing multiple crunches just won’t cut it. In order to really strengthen and stabilize your core muscles you must target the Transverse Abdominus and the best way to do that is through Pilates. Research shows that Pilates is beneficial in working the deeper core muscles that can help you to perform better on the road and prevent injury. Look for a certified instructor in your area and hit the mat!

Review: “Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says”

51VnSkZFkYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says is a collection of essays and blog posts from Katy Bowman’s online blog Katy Says. Bowman is a biomechanist which is someone who studies the body the way an engineer would study a machine. Through her blog posts and her Restorative Exercise Institute she has been educating thousands on how to find proper alignment, to move in healthier ways and all about the human machine. This is one book that is a must read for everybody, especially for those teaching any form of movement.

The book is a collection of blog posts from the first five years of Bowman’s blog and are sorted and grouped by topic making for an intriguing read. The Chapters include:

  • Feet and Shoes (and what gets stacked onto them)
  • Knees, Hips and Back
  • Pelvic Floor (and what gets stacked onto it)
  • Getting to the CORE of it
  • FOR THE LADIES
  • Arms, Elbows, Wrists, and Hands
  • Shoulders (and what gets stacked on them)
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, Babies and Children
  • Walking and Gait
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Returning to Natural Movement
  • Your Body – The Big Picture
  • Mind Mechanics
  • Motivation/When you need a kick in the pants
  • Miscellany
  • Resources
  • Credits

Not only does Katy give tons of useful information on this awesome thing we live in, our bodies, but she does it in a fun way. Writing with a wicked sense of humor she keeps the book interesting in a way that even non-anatomy nerds will enjoy. My copy of this book is heavily highlighted and dog-eared. This book has influenced me greatly in how I think about my own body as well as how I teach Yoga and Pilates to the bodies in front of me. Thinking about how everything we do is can either bring out body back into alignment, or make it worse by throwing our body out of alignment and causing damage sometimes that is unseen for years. In fact, because of reading this book, and learning more about how running affects the body, I have since gave up running after years of running half marathons. Bowman states information from a study on how activity effects knee health “The conclusion: Excessive mileage and impact forces are contributing to the increasing levels of osteoarthritis, knee surgeries and knee replacements in the United States”

Bowman is big on speaking on foot health (and in fact has another book all about the health of feet called Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief). She is not a fan of heels and recommends that we go barefoot as often as possible, and wear more neutral or negative soled, minimalist style shoes. Bowman describes how wearing heels can throw the pelvis out of alignment causing pelvic floor issues as well as foot muscles complications such as plantar fasciatis. As most of us movement teachers know, what we do to one area of our body often effects another area of the body.

Bowman gives many tips on this incredible machine we move about in and how to find proper alignment and vitality, such as using standing desks, proper squatting form, strengthening the pelvic floor, and fixing posture through proper stretching. One of the most fascinating topics she covered for me personally is the idea of proprioception, which is the idea that one part of your body should know where it is in relation to the other parts. I teach this a lot in my classes, and its something that I’m constantly trying to ingrain in my students. This idea of awareness in and of the body, letting your body learn and find the proper alignment, instead of looking at your body and bringing it into alignment.

I highly recommend every teacher of movement grab a copy of this book. Especially as Pilates teachers where we are trying to help our students find proper alignment in the body, this book offers insightful tips that we can utilize to help our students achieve this.

7 Yoga Poses for Runners and Cyclists #7 Supine Spinal Twist

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Supta Matsyendrasana or Supine/Reclining Spinal Twist has to be another of my favorite Yoga poses, and I add some variation of it to every Yoga or Pilates class I teach. I find it to be the most delicious release for the spine. Take the twist as far as you feel comfortable without pushing yourself. You can make it more of a gentle twist by not bringing the knees up to the chest as much, or by placing blocks under the knees. If you have an neck problems, keep the gaze moving up towards the ceiling, and not looking over the opposite shoulder.

This is the last pose in this series, but I will continue featuring a “Yoga Pose of the Week” post once a week moving forward. They seem to be rather well liked posts.

Pose #7 Supta Matsyendrasana or Supine/Reclining Spinal Twist

Benefits:

  • stretches spine, chest and shoulders
  • releases tension and stiffness in the lower back
  • massages internal organs

How To:

  • Lay on your back and hug your knees into your chest.
  • Extend your arms out to a T, keeping your shoulders grounded into the mat.
  • Lower your legs and knees all the way over the right and onto the floor or blocks.
  • Let your gaze travel over your left shoulder and into your outreached arm and hand.
  • Let go of holding onto anything, let yourself go and fully release into the pose and find ease.
  • Keep your shoulders from popping off of the mat.
  • Breathe deeply into the lower back for 10 breaths.
  • Inhale the knees through center, and exhale lowering them to the other side.

7 Yoga Poses for Runners and Cyclists #6 Pigeon

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In my opinion PIgeon or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is one Yoga pose that everyone should practice. It is one of my favorite poses, and I always do some variation of this pose in all the classes I teach. Pigeon is also a pose that I do after every run or bike ride. This pose helps to stretch a difficult area for most people, the IT Band, as well as allow some space and openness to be created in the hips. As a society today we spend so much time sitting, that practically everyone has some tightness in the hips. Now add all the exercise we do and our poor hips are just screaming for release. Pigeon allows that release.

Emotionally speaking, in Yoga we say that the hips are our emotional junk drawer. It’s where we hide away all those feelings we don’t want to deal with at the moment. So Pigeon allows not only a physical release but an emotional one as well. I’ve seen people begin to really let go in Pigeon in more ways than one, and some people have even cried in this pose, as they allow themselves to let go everything they are holding in.

One more note on Pigeon: you will either love or hate this pose. Some people, like me, really love the feeling of this pose. For some people it’s too much, and they can not sit still enough to allow that release. Just stay in the pose, focus on your breath, and begin to just let go both physically and emotionally. You will eventually come to love this pose as much as I do.

Yoga Pose #6 Pigeon/Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Benefits:

  • stretches inner and outer thighs
  • eases tightness in the groin and hips
  • stretches and releases psoas
  • opens shoulders and chest
  • stretches and lengthens spine

How To:

  • You can come into Pigeon from a few ways, I’m going to walk you through coming into it from all fours/tabletop.
  • Come into a tabletop position.
  • Step your right foot between your hands.
  • Walk you right foot over to the left side of the mat, and drop your right knee towards your right wrist.
  • You want your front leg laying flat on the mat, and your shin parallel to the front of your mat.
  • If you are super tight you can tuck the right/front foot more towards your left hip, basically do not force the leg to be as straight or as parallel to the front of the mat.
  • Square your hips off towards the front of your mat.
  • Extend the left leg long behind you, keeping the foot in line with the hip, and not letting the hips or the back leg roll out to one side.
  • Bring your hands in front of the front leg, and lengthen the spine on the inhale.
  • Exhale and fold over the front leg, walking your hands out in front of you.
  • You can rest your head on your hands or a block, and if needed, you can slide a block under the right hip.
  • Stay here for about 10-20 breaths (I like to hold Pigeon for a long time, so I usually hold for 20 breaths).
  • Slowly walk your upper body back up and step back into tabletop.
  • Now take Pigeon on the other side.

 

 

Halloween Spin Playlist

Halloween

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday so I decided to do a Halloween themed playlist for my Spin class today. I had a lot of fun putting this together, and even  more fun teaching class to these songs. Some are classics, some are classics redone, and some are just new, fun songs. Add these to your workout playlist for this week and jam out in the Halloween Sprit.