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Yoga and Pilates for Runners

Woman doing Plank Pose
Yoga and Pilates at The Well House Rawdon

Yoga and Pilates are both excellent forms of cross-training for runners. They're low-impact forms of exercise, focusing on improving mobility, flexibility and strength in balance across the body. You don't need any equipment, and can just use your body weight.

When a runner comes to a yoga or Pilates classes, they've usually started to get some pain, perhaps in the knees or lower back. They might find that they're not managing the distances they once were, because there are a few complaints creeping in from the hamstrings and/or hip flexors. Or they feel tight and restricted in their movements.

Running is brilliant for your body and your mind. Humans are designed to run, and to run long distances. We don't want anyone to reach a stage where they're having to stop running because it hurts, or is causing damage.

So instead of waiting for these pains to start, or to return, yoga and Pilates can also be used as a way to BOOST and IMPROVE your running. Not only as a way to rehab an injury or pain.

Ways Yoga and Pilates can help runners

  • Stretch and strengthen hamstrings and hip flexors, so they work in tandem and balance

  • Improve core strength, which in turn improves balance, control, posture and reduces stress on the lower-back

  • Learn breathing control, diaphragmatic breath and how to improve breathing function

  • Improve general mobility and flexibility, across the whole body

  • Strengthen and protect knees from impact and stress

  • Reduce likelihood of injury or fall

  • Reduce recovery time

  • Improve form and movement control

  • Make it more fun to run, because your lower back, knees and hamstrings will be happy with you!

Not sure which to try - Yoga or Pilates?

This is entirely personal preference.

Pilates, in general, has more of a focus on the core, targeting the core cylinder and back muscles in a really effective way. You'll also find exercises to improve hip mobility, glute strength and overall balance across the body. If you've ever been to see a physio and been given exercises to help lower-back pain, or knee pain, you'll have encountered some Pilates exercises! It's accessible to everyone, you don't need to be able to do fancy moves or stretches.

Yoga can vary wildly from class to class, so you need to be a little bit careful you're heading to the right class for you. Classes like Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra and Kundalini will spend less time moving your body and building the strength and flexibility needed, and more time on meditation and breathwork. Look instead for classes like Yoga Flow, Vinyasa, Hatha or specific 'yoga for runners/cyclists/climbers' classes. In there classes, you'll encounter poses that stretch and strengthen the body really effectively. Yoga is absolutely fantastic at opening the hips and stretching the glutes. It builds flexibility in a balanced and controlled way. It's really relaxing and rejuvenating. And a lot of runners enjoy that it's challenging and you can see your progress in each pose.

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