How often should a runner do Pilates?

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Pilates is a low-impact exercise popular with many to build flexibility and core strength. However, is Pilates a good exercise for runners? If yes, how often should a runner do Pilates?

There are no rules on how often a runner should do Pilates. However, research has proven that just by doing two one-hour sessions of Pilates weekly, runners can significantly improve their performance. The key is to monitor intensity and frequency to avoid overtraining and fatigue.

In this article, I’m taking a look at the benefits of Pilates for runners before discussing how frequently a runner should do Pilates. 

I’ll also discuss other questions related to Pilates and runners you may have. For example, if Pilates can hurt runners, if you can do Pilates and running back-to-back, or if there are better alternatives to Pilates, such as Yoga. 

What Are The Benefits Of Pilates To Runners?

Pilates helps to improve stability by strengthening core muscles, which may help runners to perform better. Pilates also reduces the risk of injury and enhances muscle, posture, and breathing awareness, which may translate into better performance. 

Running is essentially a cardiovascular exercise emphasizing on improving stamina and endurance. Those engaging in long-distance running often focus on energy efficiency so as not to use too much energy in all their movements. 

On top of that, they also try to keep their posture stable and consistent and monitor their breathing to ensure ample oxygen supply to their cardiovascular system.

If you notice, the aspects that many work on while running involve areas Pilates focuses on: stability, breathing, posture, etc. So you can understand why so many of my running clients find Pilates beneficial.

First, Pilates allows runners to focus on building their strength and stability without the constant pressure of having to catch their breath while running. Although they may be able to strengthen their core and stability while running, they can really focus and hone these parts while doing Pilates. 

This is because they do not need to watch things like their motion or to catch their breath. Instead, they can focus on stretching, pulling the muscles, and improving their core strength in isolation. They can then focus more on their breathing and motion while running. 

Another benefit Pilates can do for runners is posture and breathing awareness. Pilates can be a mindful exercise. While pulling and performing stretches, you are made aware of your posture, muscle movements, and breathing. 

The awareness built during Pilates can be used during running as well. As you run, you become more mindful and aware of your muscles, posture, and breathing patterns. You may then regulate and control them better, improving your performance as a runner. 

How Often Should A Runner Do Pilates?

There are no specific rules about how often a runner should do Pilates. However, research has proven that just by performing Pilates twice a week, runners can witness significant improvement in their performance. The key, however, is to monitor the intensity and frequency. This is to avoid overtraining and fatigue, which may lead to injury.

When it comes to combining both running and Pilates, there are no established recipes. You may do it as frequently or as intensively as you want. 

However, do note that it does not take a runner a lot of Pilates sessions to see benefits to their running. They also do not need to perform hardcore, super intensive Pilates to improve their performance as a runner. 

A study was done to see how runners’ performance may be affected if they practice regular Pilates. In the study, all participants are runners. They were put through a series of Pilates sessions twice a week, each lasting for an hour. 

After twelve weeks, they discovered that the runners had improved their performance. The study found significant improvement in the runners’ 5KM (3.1 miles) run time, VO2 Max, and metabolic expense during their run. The results show the runners can run faster, breathe better, and move with less effort. 

In short, you may experience improvement in your performance as a runner without having to put in long hours of training in Pilates intensively.

This means if you intend to implement some Pilates in your running routine, you do not need to go hard at it. Perhaps you may start with something similar to the study – two weekly sessions, each about one hour long. 

Can You Do Pilates And Running Back-To-Back?

You may do Pilates and running back-to-back, although you want to be careful not to perform them too intensively. This is to avoid overtraining, fatigue, and general lack of performance that may result in injury. 

You can first run and then do Pilates or vice-versa.  There is some merit in doing the exercises back to back. If you do some Pilates before running, you activate and warm up the muscles for your running later.

You will also have awareness of things such as posture and breathing, helping you to monitor your movement and posture better when you run. 

Give this pre-run workout a try.

If you run first before performing Pilates, you also stand to gain some benefits. Your Pilates can serve as a way to stretch and cool down after completing some high-intensity running.

Pilates will ensure you stretch your body well and may go a long way to avoiding muscle pain and soreness later. For example, use this workout to stretch your hamstrings after running.

However, like combining Pilates with HIIT or weightlifting, the key is watching the intensity. If you are too intense on your first workout, you may not have much left for the second. You might have less focus, willpower, and energy to execute your second exercise well. 

Many people, when tired, may not execute movements using the right muscles for posture. As a result, the risk of developing injury may go up. Overly intense training may also cause fatigue since you are technically overtraining yourself. 

READ MORE: Can you weight lift after Pilates?

Can Pilates Hurt Runners?

Pilates will not hurt runners if done correctly and at the proper intensity. Pilates are low-impact workouts that focus on stretching and improving flexibility instead of building strength. However, overtraining Pilates can hurt runners as fatigue may result in poor execution of exercise moves, resulting in injury.

Pilates exercises, when done correctly, are very safe and can even be done as active rest days, however there are some situations where Pilates may hurt a runner under.

The most common issue is attempting Pilates without proper training and instructions. Pilates requires stretching or performing specific movements that may require strong core muscles. 

A qualified Pilates instructor will ensure you do not become too overzealous and attempt moves that you are not ready for yet.  They will also adapt your Pilates routine to accommodate any sports injuries you have.

With so many free videos available on platforms such as YouTube, a lot of people will try and self-teach without appropriate instructions. In some of those situations, it’s possible to attempt moves that are too difficult, or you may not execute the movements correctly, which can result in injury. 

I’ve also found a lot of beginners underestimate the intensity of the exercise, which can leave you fatigued. This can result in being less able to monitor running motions or postures correctly, leading to knee or back pain the next day. 

So the key to avoiding the problem of injury from Pilates and running is to monitor your workout intensity and not overstretch yourself to the point you no longer have energy for the second workout and injure yourself. 

Is Yoga Better Than Pilates For Runners?

Both Yoga and Pilates are good for runners in their own way. Pilates may help your muscles to develop more flexibility and some strength, while Yoga may focus more on your joints. Specific forms of Yoga may have even lower intensity than Pilates, which means they may be suitable for an ultra-low intensity workout. 

As a start, both Pilates and Yoga are suitable for runners in their own way. Runners who practice Pilates and Yoga may benefit from them in many ways. 

Pilates allows you to develop more flexibility, muscular, and core strength. However, Pilates, in general, is more demanding on the body. Yoga, in turn, can also focus on flexibility but has a stronger emphasis on joints. 

In fact, some forms of Yoga can be very low-impact. For example, you may see concepts such as ‘restorative Yoga,’ but you may not see ‘recovery Pilates.’

This means Yoga may be much easier to integrate with your running, especially the very low-intensity types, such as Yin Yoga. 

The best way to use both exercises for a runner would be to perform a rotation between Pilates and running, with a restorative Yoga workout during the rest day. 

Final Thoughts

One of the reasons I fell in love with mat Pilates is it’s the type of exercise that makes use of your entire body using only your body weight.  Gaining greater body awareness via a consistent Pilates practice is hugely beneficial to any other exercise you do, be it running, weight lifting, swimming, etc.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or elite runner, incorporating Pilates into your regular training routine will help make you a more well-rounded individual.

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