Pilates for Runners

Posted on March 5, 2024


With Petrina Steains

Petrina Steains is a long-time runner and brought Pilates in to her exercise routines after she gave birth to her third child in order to help prevent injury and condition her body. She loves the connection to, and understanding of, her body that Pilates gives her physically, while mentally the focus Pilates has taught her is a great boost to her confidence and stamina.

When did you start practicing Pilates?

I first started Pilates after the birth of my third child in 2003, in order to work on my core strength. I had been jogging for a number of years but in 2009 my kilometers increased as I decided I was going to run my first half marathon and first marathon before I turned 40. From there I just kept running! I love being outside and running in Hong Kong; there are so many trails to explore right on the doorstep of the city and further into the country parks. Running is a family activity for me as my husband and children all run, so my aim is to stay fit and resilient so I can continue with this family pursuit for many years to come.

How does Pilates help your body perform better when running (unique from other types of conditioning)?

Pilates for me is preventative treatment and conditioning for my body to keep it strong and injury free. After a class I almost feel reset, it awakens the muscles and I feel reconnected as Pilates provides a deeper connection to the body by focusing on different muscles and parts of the body. Having the amazing Heather as my instructor has been a great resource. Her understanding of the body is incredible and every week she passes on a little of that knowledge onto me in our Pilates session.

Are there mental benefits of Pilates that also help your running?

The mental benefits from Pilates come from feeling well physically and understanding where my body is, at any point in time. During long runs and races the ability to connect with your core, feet and the whole body through what I have learnt from Pilates over 12 years really boosts my confidence and stamina, it is the awareness and little tips that run through my head that enable those connections.

Here are our Top 5 ways Pilates can help runners:

1 – Posture improvement
The deep level core strengthening that Pilates brings has a knock-on beneficial effect on your posture, balance, stability and therefore technique when running. Helping your body work as one integrated machine of muscles in synch means it won’t have to make compensations for weakness.

2 – Body awareness
Running is high impact and can put a lot of stress on the joints. Being able to focus on the alignment of your feet and legs, head and neck in relation to the spine and pelvis helps you develop a more symmetrical, efficient movement and reduces the likelihood of injury.

3 – Increase endurance
With an improved technique the body will undergo less of the usual stresses and strains running can bring, meaning you can run for longer and further with less fatigue.

4 – Raise performance
While more efficient running will lead to faster times, Pilates also works on increasing the expansion of the diaphragm giving more oxygenation to the muscles that need it.

5 – Decrease pain
Running typically overuses some muscles while underusing others, and the result is often pain, which can present in the lower back, hips and knees as well as in the form of muscle pulls, strains and tears. Pilates encompasses the whole body, correcting muscle imbalances by evening up the muscles’ workload therefore reducing pain while helping speed up recovery.

After all, don’t the six tenets of Pilates – precision, control, centering, concentration, breathing and flow – sound ideal for running too?

If you would like Pilates to raise the level of your sport’s performance too, check out the various Pilates classes we offer at Flex.


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