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Increase Your Awareness to Improve Your Running

By Brittany Crosby
The Co Pilates

How often do you think about your posture when you’re running? Especially if you’re in a race? Are you ever thinking specifically about what muscles you are using and when you are using them with each step? Can you feel yourself using them?

You may be thinking, “Those are really specific questions, how could I think about that when I’m running?” It’s true, they are specific. That’s where a Pilates program can really enhance the awareness and focus of runners.

As someone who works with those who are just beginning to run to those who are training for Ironman triathlons, two things come to mind immediately that are often overlooked: the underuse of your glutes, and the awareness that you actually rotate (move in the transverse plane) through your torso while moving forward in the sagittal plane.

Let’s start with the gluteals. It’s one of the biggest and most powerful muscle groups, yet for multiple reasons, we don’t use them to our advantage. Pending there are no underlying issues, I often encourage my clients to take 5-10 minutes before a run and tap into their glutes. Bring them to the front of your mind by doing slow bridges or squats.

When I say slow — I mean sloooooow. Focus. Can you feel your muscles reacting to the movement? Keep that in mind with each stride at the beginning of your run. The idea behind mindful movement is that you are truly in your body and kinesthetically aware of how it moves through space. This type of awareness can help to identify patterns that don’t serve you and replace them with more efficient ones. That takes practice.

Next, the idea of rotation while propelling forward. Think of a tornado circling as it moves along its course. While it seems as though most of running happens repetitively in one plane, there is some rotation that should occur through the torso. This image brings about a more three-dimensional awareness of our body.

Think about it: a tornado spinning makes full rotation, not just half a circle. So why only focus on the parts of your body you can see move? We need the whole 3D image. Being able to visualize and feel your head balancing on top of your ribcage and rotating on top of your hips, can help combat poor postural habits that creep into your running and exacerbate unnecessary impact and wear and tear.

A great way to start practicing these ideas is to think about your glutes and your abdominals working equally as you do a simple exercise, like bridges. Imagine your abs working as hard as they would in a plank in collaboration with your glutes driving your hips up. Hold the bridge and visualize your glutes and your abs pressing towards each other into the center of your body. Take this feeling with you when you go for your run!

So what’s the take away message? Carving out a moment to focus before your run, after your run, between your runs with a simple Pilates practice to heighten your kinesthetic awareness can drastically improve your running and/or more safely return you back to your training.

Running is innate to us as beings who were made to move. However, when we break it down, running is a high impact, propelling forward, balancing on one leg, cardiovascular activity. There is a lot going on. If we balance training for a run with training our brains to understand what’s going on with our bodies as we run, we stand to gain so much and suffer much less.

Brittany Crosby is creator and founder of The Co Pilates. As an instructor of contemporary Pilates, Brittany has been helping her clients connect the dots to achieve more efficient movement for almost 10 years. Brittany created The Co with the intention to better service clients’ rehabilitative needs. She is fully certified in the STOTT Pilates curriculum and is also a National Council on Strength and Fitness-Certified Personal Trainer.