With two months until my summer holiday I’d normally be running three times a week to get beach-ready but an injury has forced me to hang up my trainers, can Pilates help?
My exercise of choice has always been running. I love the fact that I can work it into my day by going for a runch (run at lunch), or running home from work, I like the challenge of training for a race and running regularly makes me feel body confident. With just a couple of months until I jet off to Ibiza, I’d normally be upping my mileage to get bikini-ready, but this year I’ve hit a stumbling block, and it’s a running deal breaker. What started as a knee niggle has become a full blown knee injury, and to add insult to injury I’ve now got a dodgy hip and an aching back to boot. No more running for me - and 52 days until I’m in swimwear.
Could Pilates, known for its prehab, rehab and core-strengthening super powers, be my route back to running? Every athlete I’ve ever interviewed, and there have been lots, has sung its praises, so I’ve decided to put it to the test. Today I went for my initial body M.O.T at TenPilates Studio in Notting Hill with head Physio Cheyne Voss, to assess my injuries and body type and plan how best to use Pilates to reacquaint myself with my running shoes.
It all started innocently enough; I filled out a form, and talked through my injuries with Cheyne (pronounced like Shane). He explained the tweaks I should make at work to combat back pain. My elbows should sit by my sides and be at a 90 degree angle, if I stretch my arms out I should be able to touch my screen (which should be at eye level), and I may need a foot rest depending on the height of my chair. He then checked my spine mobility by asking me to get into various positions - touching my toes, leaning back as far as I could, and to either side, and recommended a lumbar roll to use at work, and a few stretches to do at home.
Next up, my knee. Cheyne needed to see how my body moves to work out the cause of the injury. I performed lunges and one-legged knee bends and he quickly confirmed that my knee collapses inwards because my glutes are weak and my ITBs (iliotibial bands - a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the leg from the hip to just below the knee joint) are so tight they aren’t able to support the knee as I move.
Diagnosis made, It was time to learn how to both stretch out the tight IT bands, and strengthen my glutes - the first step to recovery. First, ‘the clam’, a Pilates move that will build up my bum (move over Kim Kardashian). As I performed it, Cheyne identified how tight my muscles are and decided to stretch them out. As he pulled my leg over to one side the pain was agonising, but apparently it’s supposed to be. He performed the stretch five times, each one more painful than the last to the point where I was clenching my jaw, and wondering how I’d explain myself if I actually start to cry. Having seen just how tightly knotted my muscles were, he threatened, sorry offered, a sports massage, which will be just as painful as this particular stretch - but for a full hour. What have a I let myself in for?
Next stop, a foam roller. This will be my new secret weapon in the fight against tight IT bands. It’s like a meat tenderiser, but for my thighs. We headed to the gym for a demonstration, at which point Cheyne informed me he'd been for a run yesterday evening, so it will be painful for him too. I’ll admit it, I was a little pleased.
I have to do perform my new stretches, and tenderise my thighs with the foam roller every day, order a lumbar roll for work and come in again next week for an agonising sports massage (that’s no way to spend a bank holiday, surely?) as well as a personal training session with a TenPilates instructor to get my form spot on before I take up weekly classes. I’m on a running ban, but I’m allowed to swim so while I’ll be swapping my trainers for my goggles for the time being, at least I know it won’t be long before I can get back to pavement pounding. The phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ has never felt so appropriate.
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