Strengthen your major running muscles with these pilates exercises. By Estelle Low
Runners, listen up: It’s time to step away from those speed sessions, and focus on building up the key muscle groups that power your run: Your core, hips, hamstrings and lower back. The stronger they are, the more effective your strides will be. And you’re far less likely to get injuries.
On non-running days, do these pilates moves – recommended by Claudel Kuek, CEO and founder of Powermoves Pilates in the Park – and you will soon see an improvement in your posture and stamina. “For all exercises, remember to draw your shoulders away from your ears, and keep your abdominal muscles engaged while lengthening your waist,” she says.
The plan: Do these moves in any order thrice weekly, with at least a day of rest in-between.
1. Side-lying kick
Running benefits: Stabilises hips and strengthens hip flexors, abdominals and lower back
Workout photos: Jasper Yu
Lie on right side, leaning on elbow with hands behind head. Keeping right leg on floor, raise left one to shoulder level. Minimise the rocking of your trunk by engaging abdominal muscles. As you exhale, swing left leg as far forward as possible, foot flexed [above].
On your inhale, swing left leg as far back as possible while pointing foot and elongating leg [above]. Keep pelvis in neutral position throughout. Repeat back-and-forth swing 12 times.
2. Leg circles
Running benefits: Stabilises hips, stretches hamstrings, improves control of hip flexors, and lengthens hip abductors
Lie on back with arms beside you. Keep legs together, straight and slightly pointed. Exhale as you bend right leg towards chest and straighten it upwards, perpendicular to floor, foot flexed. Keep other leg and pelvis on mat stable [above]. Inhale as you circle right leg inward past centre of your body, then down and around. Make circle only as big as you can without moving hips and pelvis. Exhale on next circle, alternating breathing on each one. Repeat 10 times, then switch to left leg.
Running benefits: Strengthens lower back, lengthens hamstrings and improves flexibility in rotation and flexion
Sit upright with legs widened slightly beyond shoulder-width, feet flexed. Extend arms to sides in a T-position to start. Inhale as you rotate torso to face right side of room. Keep pelvis anchored as you prepare to move your arms and head with your trunk [above].
On your exhale, reach forward over left leg, right hand extending past the small toe [above]. Inhale to extend farther, deepening the stretch of hamstrings and lower back. Exhale to straighten back and sit tall. Rotate back to starting position and repeat on the other side. Do six reps on each side.
4. Single leg kick
Running benefits: Stabilises hips, strengthens lower back, and stretches hamstrings
In prone position, engage abdominal muscles, lift chest and extend back. Lift legs off mat in straight line behind you. Place elbows directly under shoulders, lower arms parallel to each other [above].
On your exhale, bend left leg and pulse twice [above]. As you straighten left leg, bend right leg to pulse twice on next exhale. Repeat while alternating legs. Do up to 10 sets of pulses on each leg.