“Rewire the brain with Pilates exercise for Optimal Running” is the title of an article that I wrote in the Nashua Gate City Strider’s recent newsletter, Striding Along. Read the article found on page 11:
Rewire the brain with Pilates Exercise for Optimal Running
At the collegiate level, I ran track & cross country, running in racing flats & spikes. Needless to say running in spikes encourages running on the balls of your feet. Women’s cross country was 5K and track events were all sprints, power running, enlisting the power of the quadriceps and a forward stride & front foot strike. I kept this gazelle like running style after college in my training on the roads & in road races typically in the 5 mile, 10K range & also enjoyed being the top Hollis Female finisher in the 1988 Applefest ½ Marathon This front foot strike, forward stride worked fine for me until about 2003 when I injured my achilles running in a snow storm. After observing many runners & noting that almost all running shoes at the time were designed for a heel strike, I decided to join the crowd and run with a heel strike & forward stride. This worked fine but in 2007 I read Danny Dreyer’s book “Chi Running” and my running style metamorphed again into a 3rd form in my 30 years of running. This new form resonates with all my Pilates training as Certified Stott Pilates Instructor. I now run with a neutral posture a forward lean, midfoot strike & a back stride. My core works more, my legs work less. In addition I utilized a metronome and keep a 180 foot strike/minute rhythm as recommend in Danny Dreyer’s book, “Chi Running”. A quick tempo, a long back stride, a strong core with a forward lean means more ground can be covered in less time. The angle of the forward lean is variable depending on how fast you want to go as your stride opens up to the back. Think of the cartoon character: “Road Runner”. Just a word of note: Danny Dreyer does recognize the need for a forward stride heel strike down steep hills to control your descent as well as employing the quadriceps in a forward stride when you want to shift into high gear & pass someone or finish strong. But by far the midfoot strike with the stride opening to the back and the neutral forward lean of the body is the most efficient for long distance runs. This is and has been the effortless running style of the elite long distance Kenyan runners.
The core muscles are your force coupler to your legs & arms. Think of your core as the rubberband on a toy propeller plane. Your core coils & uncoils as you run. When correct muscle firing patterns occur this coiling & uncoiling provides uplift to counter the impact of each foot fall. Maintaining a neutral lean on various terrain & at various speeds requires a strong core & excellent sense of where you are in space. Pilates training will give you the strong core & muscle memory of where neutral is regardless of where you are in space. A fully equipped Pilates Studio allows the student to practice finding neutral – standing, seated, prone, supine, side lying, upside down in handstand, even doing pull-ups on the trapeze table which looks like an upside down push-up. A neutral posture is the strongest posture. It is where the ears line up over the shoulders, the rib cage lines up over a neutral pelvis. An ideal neutral pelvis is where the hip bones are in the same plane as the pubic bone. A neutral/optimal posture allows the thrust of the push-off leg to propel the body forward. Suboptimal posture whether it is excessive anterior tilt (think Daffy Duck) or excessive posterior tilt (think Pink Panther) or sway back – where the upper back hinges behind the plumb line all interrupt the flow of energy from the thrust of the push-off leg as you run.
Consistent Pilates exercise – there are over 500 exercises, rewires the brain by integrating the mind & muscle into optimal firing patterns and ultimately into optimal muscle firing habits and postures. Awareness & repetition yield amazing results.
I am a new member to Gate City Striders but I have had a long affiliation with the club, running two legs in what must have been the 2nd Mill City Relays back in December 1985 as a combined relay team of Gate City Striders & Sander’s Snails. I promote the Gate City striders on the Nashua web page of my Pilates business – CoreFocused:
I currently have a few openings at my fully equipped Hollis-based Pilates studio on the famed Wheeler Road hills of the Applefest ½ Marathon for anyone who might be interested in adding the Pilates edge to their fitness foundation. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-554-7522. I look forward to assisting you in your fitness journey. Happy Running! – Jody Secules