Pilates for Runners
From the desk of Kristen M. Reynolds, DPT, CPT... I know many runners who love their chosen activity because it is great cardiovascular exercise that “tones” and is as simple as lacing up sneakers (although some are barefoot these days!) and heading out the door. As a “non-runner,” I am envious of these factors. However, as an orthopedic physical therapist and Pilates trainer, I routinely see the effects of the imbalances in those addicted to running. Although those hitting the pavement develop significant strength and endurance, running alone is not a well-rounded exercise program and needs regular cross training to prevent imbalances in the body in order to stay healthy and painfree.
How does injury occur? During each stride, runners fire the hip flexor group to lift the leg, the quadriceps to extend the knee, then the tibialis anterior muscle in the shin to lift the foot and allow the heel to strike the ground. Once the foot is planted, that leg is extends back using the gluteals and hamstrings. The repetition of moving in this flexion/extension pattern (called the sagittal plane) creates a bias in the flexibility and strength of particular muscle groups; the muscles that work in the horizontal and frontal planes lose strength and stability and lead to impaired posture and mechanics. For example, tight hip flexors and hamstrings can pull the pelvis out of neutral spine into anterior and posterior tilts, respectively, which leads to low back pain and lumbosacral pathology. Weakened lateral hip stabilizers cause the pelvis to drop on one side and contribute to iliotibial band (ITB) tightness and hip bursitis.
My solution? Pilates! Like running, mat exercises can be completed anywhere at anytime without equipment and works the whole body in each plane of motion for uniform muscle development and core strength. A qualified Pilates trainer can assess overall flexibility, strength and balance in individuals and develop a customized program while providing clear and concise cues that enhance hip-knee-ankle-foot alignment and motor control. Guided sessions are integral in the beginning to ensure that the execution of the repertoire is precise and safe for one’s body; teachers are able to make modifications to the classical exercises to accommodate all levels. Another benefit for the running population is that Pilates teaches breath control, activation of the muscles of respiration, and coordinates breathing into each movement.
As one of the six private sessions and classes offered during OMBE’s Integrative Sports Medicine workshop series this summer, Pilates for Runners will introduce clients to a challenging series of classical Pilates exercises sequenced to bring balance to a runner’s body by strengthening the core and lengthening overused muscles. Students will learn a repertoire to help enhance stability and alignment through the entire body to improve their fitness level, meet training goals, and reduce risk for injury.
Kristen M. Reynolds, DPT, CPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Pilates Teacher
Kristen Reynolds earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from James Madison University in 2006 and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2009.
While practicing in orthopedics and sports medicine, a mentor introduced her to the Pilates Method and she has since pursued comprehensive certification to compliment her clinical interests. She has studied with Balanced Body, Peak Pilates, and most recently Balancepoint Pilates. She is an active member of the Pilates Method Alliance, American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy Sections, as well as the APTA of Massachusetts Shoulder and Manual Physical Therapy Special Interest Groups.
Always interested in sports and fitness, she is a former YMCA and Junior Olympic gymnast, coach, and ACE personal trainer. Integrating the Pilates principles and Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, and Chair repertoire into her physical therapy practice has produced successful rehabilitation outcomes for a wide variety of patients, including adolescents, elite athletes and dancers, and individuals with chronic orthopedic conditions. Kristen utilizes this alternative therapeutic approach to improve muscle performance and joint mobility, correct posture and alignment, enhance body awareness, and create an evenly conditioned body that is more resilient to extremity and spinal injury. She greatly enjoys designing programs to target personal goals, educating clients to incorporate Pilates into their daily activities, and teaching small group classes.