Over the last 4 years I have faced a few injuries. It seemed like every fall I would suddenly be struck with pain in one of my knees and all my training and running would come to a halt.
Finally after going through three fall seasons with injuries I decided it was time for a change. After taking time off back in the fall of 2011, I decided I need to make a change and break my fall injury streak.
As I got back into running and began serious training for a spring marathon, I stuck to 5 days a week of running and made sure my easy runs were in fact easy.
But on top of all that I began to go to Pilates class every week after my long run. Often it was tough to go to an hour class after running 12+ miles but after a few weeks I got the hang of it and I began to like it. I could feel my hips becoming stronger and I noticed that I was recovering from long and tough runs faster.
I think it was the core work mixed with the controlled hip exercises that made the difference. Especially doing those exercises when my body was already tired from a long run. The class that I attend is very relaxed and the only equipment I use is my yoga mat.
Since I have been going to class for over a year I have a pretty good idea of the flow and sometimes I do the exercises at home when I can't make the class. The important ones I make sure to do are (1) side kick series, (2) kneeling side kick/donkey kicks, (3) bridges and (4) planks.
Side kick series
To begin, lie on your side with your legs, hips and shoulder in line similar to the picture below. Use the leg on the bottom for stability and make sure to turn the heel of your top foot down so that as you complete the exercise it is as if your heels are clicking.
I complete small circles (in both directions), leg lifts up and down, leg lifts forward and back, side passe (in both directions), and leg circles (in both directions. Then repeat on the other leg. For more details and visual cues see this website.
Kneeling Side kick/Donkey kicks
These kneeling side kicks are tough. Even though I have been doing them every week for over a year they still are tough to complete. The starting position is similar to a modified side plank with your knee on the floor. Lift the opposite leg up to hip height and begin by doing up and down lifts followed by circles in both directions. Repeat on opposite leg.
For donkey kicks, position yourself with hands and knees on the floor. Lift one leg up with foot flexed and raise towards the ceiling and the lower back down to starting position.
To start this exercise, begin on your back with your knees bent and your heels as close to your butt as possible with your arms laying by your side. Curl your hips up to the ceiling and hold for 20 seconds then back down to the floor. To increase the difficulty, press up and then lift one leg up while you pulse, then switch sides and repeat.
For me planks are tough. I think if I timed myself I would only be able to hold a plank for about a minute.
To start, lie face down then push up onto toes and rest on elbows. Hold for as long as you can.
I really think these main exercises have attributed to helping me to stay injury free for over a year.
And for more Pilates exercises, I found this great little portable pilates workout sheet to allow you to do Pilates anywhere!
Have you ever tried Pilates?