5 benefits of Pilates for runners

Because it’s good for everyone. Men. Women. Kids. Grown ups. Grown ups that think they are kids. Grandmas and Pas. Parents. Your crazy Aunt. Everyone. Really. 

And because your hamstrings need some LOVE.

The top 5 benefits, and believe me, there are more, for runners in particular are:

  1.  Improving Posture
  2. Breathing
  3. Strengthening
  4. Flexibility
  5.  Clarity of Mind

Want to learn more? Join me at Mint Pilates Pilates in San Francisco for Pilates for Runners workshop and read more below.

Running is wonderful. It’s freeing and exhilarating. That’s why kids look over the moon when they are sprinting! But it also can really suck and hurt.

When you are running, you are doing a high impact exercise where your pounding pavement, trails, sand…

Your muscles will be tired, over trained and shortened at various points in time.

Exercises, like what is included in the Pilates repertoire, that are a combination of strengthening, stretching and lengthening, work muscles to counter balance high impact exercises like running.

For runners, the importance of a strong core is pure bio-mechanics. If you have a strong core, you can improve your running techniques (gait, form, pace).

Pilates is your secret weapon to a better running technique, but most importantly to feeling better during and after your runs every single day.

I know many runners that can run a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon but have very weak core muscles. Is this you? This was totally me for a while.

What this means is that you have the cardiovascular, mental and general physical endurance to do the race. This is awesome!

But it also means that you have a higher likelihood of getting injured and enduring a longer recovery because you haven’t given your stabilizer muscles the love that they need. Better than this, it means that you have a lot of potential to improve your abilities whether recreationally or in a race setting if you work on strengthening their core.  

Pilates is one of the best cross training workouts you can do as a runner. I’m obviously bias but that’s because I’ve seen the results on myself and many other people as well.

Here is the deal. Pilates helps to:

Improve your posture

With Pilates, you will build a strong core. Pilates exercises will bring an awareness to how you stand, walk, run and sit in a way that promotes a healthy spine. Developing your core means strengthening the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align and move the trunk of your body from your hips to your shoulders. This includes your pelvis, your back, your front abdominal wall. It’s no secret that a strong core is important to being a stronger being… and to also getting some definition in your abs. There is a little bit of vanity in all of us, right?

Saw is a great example of a postural exercises that feels amazing (you get to twist your spine), fires into your abs and gives you the opportunity to find a hamstring stretch.

Facilitate better breathing 

Most of us don’t pay enough attention to our breath. We have shallow breathing patterns. Runners tend to breath more from the chest, especially as paces increase. Pilates trains you to breath from the diaphragm. It’s pretty cool because the diaphragm is connected to your abs so the more you can learn to breath from there, the deeper you can work into your core. Diaphramatic breathing is a huge help during running.

Strengthen big and small groups

Pilates can help strengthen quads, hip abductors and lots of tiny stabilizer muscles. By making these areas strong, you are more likely to prevent injury. If you can focus on strengthening from the center and outward, you will gain an awareness in your body that can propagate positively to your running and your day – to – day activities.

A great exercise for runners is any side series like side kick kneeling. Its purpose is to strengthn the core, hips and also challenge balance and coordination. When you think about the motion your legs to when they run, it is a continual flexion and extentsion of your hip (forward and back). This exercises encourages you to work the outsides of your hips and glutes that will help stabilize that forward and back motion.

These side exercises (with the exception of side planks that I heart big time) are one of my least favorite exercises. This clearly means, as I have been taught by my fellow trainers at Fuse Pilates, that I should do more of it. Do it 3 times a week!

Gain flexibility

You're not flexible, right? Right. So you think you can't do Pilates, right? Wrong. The beauty of Pilates is that it is a full body workout. In many exercises such as double leg stretch or leg pull you are lengthening and stretching muscles while also working deep into other muscle groups. Over time, Pilates can help you gain flexibility. And there is so much strength in being flexible. True in life – not just Pilates! 

Clarity of Mind

The first time you take Pilates, you probably won’t experience any clarity of mind. You may swear, or give your teacher bad looks or think some really, really mean thing. We forgive you. But with regularity and focus, you’ll see that the mind body connection in a session of Pilates is intense. As you get into the groove, your movements become really intentional and you won’t be able to think of too much else as you figure out your breath, the placement of your limbs and how to maintain your composure as you get deeper into exercises. The more you take pilates, the harder it becomes. Why ? Because as you go, your learn techniques to engage your muscles deeper each time. You move with less “effort” but feel it more deeply. In the pilates world, the mantra is “as much as necessary, as little as possible”.

There are more awesome side effects of Pilates like:

  •  Injury prevention
  •  Improved running technique
  • More fun in the bedroom – it is true!
  • General goal crushing and life winning

What’s not to like? You will, recover better. Loosen tight areas. Improve your balance. Generally just kick butt.

You will see the benefits of Pilates the more you do it. Like everything, it takes repetition to see changes.

I often recommend 2-3 sessions per week. With that, you’ll definitely have an “aha” moment during your day (in a meeting, in the car, on a walk) where you are consciously engaging your abs to sit up taller without an instructor telling you to do it.

And then you’ll go for a run and notice how much stronger you feel with every stride. And then, instead of swearing at your Pilates teacher, you’ll be sending them love notes! We love you too.

Want to learn more? Join me at Mint Pilates in San Francisco for Pilates for Runners workshop!

Are you a runner?

Last year, the day before a the Seawheeze half marathon, someone asked me, when I started running? I sort of fumbled a bit to answer the question. And I think I came up with something estimated at about 10 years ago, which puts me at about the time when I graduated from college.

But that’s not really true because I ran before that. I ran in college to try to “stay in shape”. It didn’t really work if that was the goal. I ran in high school when I played lacrosse. I ran in grade school and middle school playing soccer. And before that, I ran those dreaded laps in gym class that we have all probably experienced at one point or the other. And I ran away from boys during recess around the 2nd and 3rd grade. Which was probably the most fun running of all. Purposefully slow to get caught. Ya, maybe I was a flirt at recess. What gives?

But really, it brought me to thinking, what makes a runner a runner?

I have plenty of clients and friends who tell me every day that they aren’t runners. In fact, that they hate running. That they are slow. That they get bored. That they aren’t built for it.

To all this, I am always inclined to ask about their experience with running? Not to press the fact that they should run – because it truly is not for everyone – but just to examine how it is that they have related to running up to that point.

Often, it’s been on a treadmill or as part of a dreaded gym experience years prior.

Seriously, I hope someone is revamping PE programs to make up for the emotional devastation it has caused 98% of people. I think all the fitness classes now are seriously meant to fix the damage that PE did to everyone’s psyche back in the day.

My experience with running

My story with running as far as I can remember, began to take shape into something in college when I made the decision to not try out for the lacrosse team freshman year. I was faced with a big question mark with what to do to stay active and in shape. It is now pretty clear that no matter of working out was going to shave off the late night hot pockets and beer consumption over a 4 year period but that’s beside the point.

Eating clean is everything. Who knew and who cared back then? 

In college I would run 3 miles, feel pretty tired at the end and then follow it with a nutritious meal of pizza. Balance, right? But my cap on running in college stayed at 3 miles with the exception of maybe one 5K race every blue moon. It became pretty boring and uninspiring.

Finding my teacher

I graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C. I joined a gym and started to work out there regularly after work a few days a week. I’d mix that with runs in the city. And on these runs, I discovered the city. I discovered myself. And through these things, I suppose I discovered that I enjoyed running. 

I was going through some early 20's life crap like break ups, drinking too much while having a real job, losing my grandparents. Really pretty standard stuff, but now that I think back on it, running actually let me work through a lot of the grudge and the fun that was happening back then. 

I started to make real food for myself, which did loads for my energy and overall health... talk about an AHA moment. 

April of my first year in D.C. (I arrived in August – the hottest, Swampiest, least sexy DC month of the year), a co-worker who had been planning to run the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race got injured and sent out an email offering up her bib number. I didn’t know if I could do 10 miles, but I responded immediately that I’d take it.

important Life Note: this was about the time when I started to make impulsive decisions like this (which continues now) and it serves me well most of the time. They usually relate to fitness and travel so it could be worse. It just brings forward something I truly believe in.

You are your own decision maker so what the heck are you waiting for?  Being scared is not a good excuse, but it's one we all struggle with everyday. 

Bib acquired, unofficial entry set up, I decided I might look up a few training tips. I reached out to my brother who had been a cross-country runner in high school and a recreational runner since then (just placing 1st or 2nd in his age groups in races in California every once and a while - #nbd) and embarked on my first ever self-motivated training program.

The week before the race, I ran 10 miles on my own to make sure I could do it. I remember that run like it was yesterday. It included Roosevelt Island where I encountered a deer. A deer. In the middle of DC. I mean, bring on the runner’s high! I was euphoric.

Now, I see deer a lot – especially in the Berkeley Hills - and they sort of gross me out but hey, it was a novelty at that point. You see a lot of things when you run, and it is awesome.

I ran that 10 mile race at 10 minute miles. I didn’t care about the time. It felt so good to finish. And after it, I knew I was hooked on running and maybe even a bit on races. The excitement and energy on a race day is spectacular even when you aren’t racing the race.

The Evolution

My running has progressed and continues to evolve over time. I've improved my pace, participated in some challenging runs and am am a fan of the half-marathon distance.

But mostly, I’m a fan of just getting out there and using my legs to go. Anywhere. It clears my mind. It burns. And it feels spectacular.

But you know what? It is still SO hard for me. Some days, I really don’t enjoy it. And some days, I feel like the slowest human being alive. But I still love it because running is my teacher. And I never stop learning from it. As they say, there is always someone faster than you. Always someone slower. What matters to me is the challenge with myself. 

I’d venture to say that for many people, an escorted run outdoors may shift your perspective on it. Perhaps it won’t transform you into devout runners but it may allow you to be more open to the idea.

Maybe this will be one of my San Francisco endeavors. To take people on guided runs around the city!

Now that I’m in a new city, I’ve gone on some exploration runs and this is a gorgeous place to do it. The hills are teaching me a lot. It’s a whole new mentality and challenge. My runs are full of life lessons and cliché’s that go through me head as I tumble through the hills.

But I can’t wait to do more. Any suggested running routes or trails in the San Francisco or the area are welcome!

Saying NO to Goal Setting

I've been following Danielle LaPorte for a several months now. She is very insightful, and I enjoy her approach to life and the nuggets of thoughts she shares via her email updates. 

I have also been following the lovely Francesca Cervero for her insights on teaching and what makes a great teacher. 

Since the New Year (which was 5 months ago - WHAAAAT?), I've wanted to post about my resolutions. But I knew that I didn't really want to make any resolutions. And now it's May, and I still haven't gotten around to writing about this. Procrastination, and living in Sunny California is a bitch. Just kiiiiiiding. 

My problem with goal setting, way before I learned about Danielle LaPorte, was that when I was setting goals, I was doing so with external motivators spurring me to set those goals. There was something that ultimately just didn't jive with me as I was doing this.

Usually, the resolutions and really my day-to-day thoughts run the gamut of:

Run 20 miles a week, get my mile pace down to 8 minutes for half marathons, be creative with teaching my pilates classes, learn students names, flake on people less, read more, learn how to meditate, meditate, write more. Pick up the phone, use Skype, think about the consequences of your decisions. Be less impulsive. Be more impulsive.

It's exciting stuff. Right? Or incredibly annoying. Either way, it wasn't getting me anywhere because these were not achievable things that I was setting myself toward. It's not only that these things weren't really "do-able", but mostly that it wouldn't be fulfilling or satisfying to go through the process of even trying to get there. Where ever "there" was.  

So where do you go if you want to grow but not set goals? Danielle's advice is to determine your desired feelings. How do you want to FEEL?

And then choose words to live by that will lead you feel that way. By following those desires, you will be lead toward making decisions that get you closer to those feelings. And closer to being fulfilled. And so, it is 5 months into 2014, that I am declaring my desired feelings for the year and some prompting questions to myself about how I'll get there. It's never too late, right?

Connected - How do I talk to my friends and family regularly so that I feel connected to them all the time, no matter where I am or they are?

Spacious - How do I make room in my life so that I can hear and be with my thoughts?

Motivated - How do I keep things lean and clean to move, play, work, be with positive intention? 

Inspired - How can I feed the fire that will keep my moving forward in all that I do? Keep the momentum and do it with energy. 

Present - How can I be here, in a real way, with myself and those around me? How can my atoms settle in all the exciting and vibrant and dull and calm parts of my life? 



Half marathon - Week 1 Training

Saturday marked the first day of training for the Marin County Half trail/road marathon. 

I kicked it off with a 7.67 mile run. I started in Sausalito and ran on the Sausalito to Mill Valley multi-purpose path.  I was looking for a flat run to just get me in the training groove. That is exactly what this was, until I of course got a bit more ambitious. One thing I'm going to have to learn in this training is sticking to a plan. Just because you feel like crap, doesn't mean you can skip a run. And just because you feel awesome, doesn't mean you should run 10 miles instead of the planned 5.  

This was my first time running on the path so I had little idea where I was going, but plenty of time to explore. I ended up veering off the path and taking a route toward Tennessee valley. This proved to be great because I picked up a bit of trail and hills and went to the valley which is spectacular.  

The multi-purpose path is a great place to run but you have to be ready for many people - cyclists, walkers, tourists - aka obstacles. Off the path off was calm. 

The trail in Tennessee valley was on the left off of the entry/parking area. It was filled with Eucalyptus and a few people with dogs!  I ran that for 2 miles before heading back to my starting point. 

Tennessee Valley is where I fell in love with the Bay Area and decided I wanted to live here so going back there is blissful. 

Here are the stats for the run: 

  • Route - Sausalito to Tenn. Valley out and back
  • Distance - 7.5 miles
  • Mood - At the beginning, energized. During, clear minded, and excited about the run. After, appreciative and satisfied. Later, POOPED.
  • Thoughts - Daydreaming future travel plans
  • Run nugget - Stick to the plan. I wanted to go longer at one point because I felt good, but if I had, I would have been on a 10+ mile run. Sounds like a good plan, right? No. This is exactly how injury happens. Over extension is not a good thing. Know when to be patient and stick to your core. That's hard core too.
  • Jam of the run - Betty Who – Somebody Loves You
  • Instalove - Eucalypus for the Win!



Half Marathon Training Plan

In April, I am running my first race that includes trails. It's a half marathon (13.1 miles) in Marin County that is half road/half trail. This will be my 5th half marathon, and I'm pretty excited and scared about the challenge.

To ease these looming thoughts about whether I will I actually make it without having to crawl to the finish and to stay motivated and make sure I get to race day feeling confident, I'm putting together a plan that I can follow over the next 5 weeks. 

Below is a snap shot of the training schedule. If you are prepping for a race this spring, I'd love to hear about it. Share your races and plans in the comments!

I'll be using the prep for this race to share some of the things I learn along the way.

More to come on how to optimize your training toward your goals and how less mileage and more cross training is an excellent way to think about in your own training!

Don't freak out, get out

Yes, sitting is the new smoking. Or maybe worse... but let's not freak out. Learn about why sitting for long periods of time can be very bad for you and why with this scary graphic.


Do you think we should start to put these on chairs like those warning labels on cigarette packs? How about no - but let's do these things instead: 

1. Drink lots of water. Why? Because it is awesome for you and the more hydrated you are, the more you'll need to go tinkle. And I hope that if you need to do that, you'll get out of your seat. 

2. Set a timer. Use your phone, your computer, your awesomly vintage clock that you just bought on Etsy. Set a timer for every 15-30 minutes. Get off your butt for a bit when it goes off. Even if you don't go far, get up.

3. Track it. If you're into gadgets, look into getting a FitBit, Nike Fuelband, JawBone. These trackers are great motivators to keep you accountable on how much activity - but most useful - steps, you are getting in a day. These are only as good as you make it, but they can be really fun and powerful tools!

4. Make some rules. Get creative. Talk on the phone standing. For those of  you at a desk job, give yourself a rule that if you are on a conference call, you'll stand up and walk around for parts of it. Or that if you have to ask a coworker something, you'll go to their office instead of email. 

5. Challenge yourself. The easy route is almost never the best choice. Is it easier to eat lunch at your desk? Look for a close parking spot? Take the elevator? Probably. Is it better? Never. Go for a walk and find a bench or place you can have lunch. Park further away. Take the stairs. Little things add up.




Vegan San Francisco Options

I'm not a vegetarian, but I love eating vegetarian. San Francisco is a beautiful place to eat, but it's always good to have some guidance on where to go. Apparently, it is the 3rd most veggie friendly city!

One Medical has put together an infographic on where to find Vegan options in the city. 

Check it out: http://blog.onemedical.com/eat-well/100-vegan-dishes-sf/

Moderation - in juicing too!

Everything in moderation. That's what my mom says, and per usual, she is right. 

An article in the Sunday Times by Jennifer Berman, Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead, only causes my mother's words to ring true. Berman laments that her super healthy habits have not positioned her to be free of health issues. I am glad she is sharing this as I think it is another reminder that we all need to aim for balance in everything. And that nothing will guarantee you anything. All you can do is keep going (that's my new year's resolution) with your healthy habits and when you get derailed by issues, like Berman, try to re-calibrate. 

If we had a lens on my Grandmother, who was born in 1915, you might say she was "forward thinking". She is my spiritual health guru, but not because she knew that what she was doing was good or bad, but because she didn't know and did it anyways.

She was doing many "right" healthy things in the 1950s in Italy, that appear over and over again now as being the most awesome, best thing you can do to not die trend of the moment.

Did that make her ahead of her time? Not really. It just made her a human being who was trying to live life well.

She was eating all local, fresh food, fruits and vegetables, whole garlic cloves, drinking loads of water,  eating honey, blueberries and was a master of the small portions. She did it because it felt good for her, because she listened to her body. She didn't juice or cleanse or diet.

She walked. She swam. She rested at night. She didn't do marathons, tough mudders and high intensity exercises. 

She smoked a little. Drank a bit. Ate some desserts. Everything in the Italian portion size of "un piccolo pezzo". 

She wasn't doing what she was doing to live forever. She was doing it to live. Be comfortable in her own skin. Survive the day - to - day. Pure and simple. Nourishment with Food. Family. Friends. And nothing about it was simple.

She lived through WWII. She lived through child birth - twice. She lived through a benign brain tumor when she was 70. She lived with Colan Cancer. And eventually, that is what took her in her late 80's. Why did she get it? Who knows. She was healthy. It was probably age. 

So what's the point of it all if it won't guarantee a long, healthy life?

I eat real food and I move everyday because it makes me feel better. I do it because it feels good. I don't do it because I have an age I need to reach. I do it because my body, my vessel should get good treatment. It is doing the best it can with everything I put it through.

I do it because I have good genes, and if I didn't do it, then it would be a disservice to my health guru and my whole family that put me on this earth. I don't do it because my genes can taste the kale that I eat everyday. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if they could given research that shows how exercise can alter DNA within muscle cells!

Let 2014 be the year where more of us realize the beauty of moderation. And where the Juicing craze simmers down a bit... because I love juice, but I'm drowning in it and the $12 glass bottles.

Resolve to pay attention to your feelings and core desires around food and try to make decisions based around what feels best for you. Doing so will hopefully guide you toward feeling empowered through moderation. And to not having a Twinkie. Ever.