Try Pilates to improve your running technique, strengthen your core and relax
As a runner, when I exercise I want to sweat! If I’m not red in the face and moving my muscles with maximum effort I’m not working out. If blessed with a spare hour in the day, I’ll blast out a 15k run. There’s no way I’d spend it laying on my back, considering my breathing and the ‘dimensions of my extensions’. That was until I experienced Gyrotonic Pilates…
When I arrive at Kinesis Pilates Studio, Founder Melissa Cosby promptly straps me into an intimidating-looking contraption. Can she sense the scepticism in my voice as I'm quizzed on my non-existent experience of Pilates? ‘Well, I’m going to show you how Gyrotonic can improve your running,’ says Melissa.
Deriving from the word ‘gyro’, meaning to spiral or circle, Gyrotonic differs from traditional Pilates, which focuses on linear movements. The emphasis is also on full extension of the body.
‘Imagine reaching for the top shelf of your kitchen cupboard,’ says Melissa as she fluidly and gracefully simulates the movement. Gyrotonics helps to increase your range of motion, improve co-ordination and boost balance in everyday activities like this, as well as fitness hobbies – which makes reaching for the biscuit tin a whole lot easier.
My first exercise is a simple bicycle, which turns out to be not so simple. Although my right leg masters the move, I am unaware of my left leg, which is determined to flare out of line. Melissa soon puts it back into place and I instantly feel new muscles engage.
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Step two: breathe. I take huge inward breaths when I run, followed by extended exhales. But Melissa explains how the diaphragm naturally contracts after exhaling to draw in oxygen.
‘So, in Pilates we focus on incidental inhalations,' she explains. As I practise the new technique, Melissa points to my ribcage, which I’m awkwardly holding in an upward arch. Once I relax and press my back to the bench, my core engages and begins to work extra hard.
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It’s easy to forget your upper body and focus on strengthening your legs for running. But everything links together: what happens on your right shoulder will affect your left leg. A strong core makes a strong runner. Melissa shows me a simple Gyrotonic arm exercise that simulates the running motion. With her technical guidance, a little repositioning and my new breathing technique I feel my abs toughen up for action.
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With a foam box positioned between my thighs, I have to squeeze super-hard to hold a second box between my feet. I focus on keeping my feet parallel as I perform controlled leg raises. By the time Melissa instructs me to stop, my thighs are burning and my glutes are wide awake.
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At the end of the session, I feel thoroughly worked out. I've learnt new techniques to apply when I’m out training. I also feel totally relaxed and revitalised – hence the name, tonic.
I’m converted. In fact I’ve booked in for a second session to explore Gyrotonic Pilates further and monitor how it can enhance my running.
Find out more about Gyrotonic Pilates or try out a class at www.kinesis-studios.com
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