Performance physiologist Bruce Wardrop discusses the benefits that Yoga and Pilates training can have when preparing for events like a marathon
For 2017, Waterford Viking Marathon has teamed up with the Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Science (DHSES) in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to provide expert training information for runners in the lead up to the event. In this article, performance physiologist Bruce Wardrop discusses Yoga and Pilates training.
In order to be a good runner, you need to run – this is an obvious and undeniable fact. However, there is plenty of extra work that runners, regardless of ability, should consider adding to their weekly regime in order to boost performance and help remain injury free. These sessions don’t have to be too time consuming, they should be fun and can be done from home if convenient.
Yoga and Pilates are two training methods that athletes regularly consider adding to their training schedule in order to improve flexibility, mobility and core strength. Your core is a collection of muscles which stabilize, rotate and move the spine. A well-developed core is fundamental to athletic ability and for runners, a strong and balanced core will help improve running economy and boost performance.
Both yoga and Pilates can help you develop flexibility, mobility, control and endurance, but differ in their focus. Traditional yoga has a spiritual component, emphasising flexibility and working broad muscle groups which includes the core. There are multiple styles of yoga that can offer anything from a gentle meditative experience to a full on sweaty workout! While superficially similar, Pilates differs by placing greater emphasis on specifically developing core strength and postural alignment, and does not have the spiritual component of yoga.
Both disciplines can be of benefit to runners and it is difficult to recommend one over the other. The choice will be personal, based on your current ability and priorities. If you have poor mobility and core strength, a beginner’s course in either yoga or Pilates will be of benefit to you. If you are in good shape and want to add an extra dimension to your training, then some of the more dynamic yoga styles or advanced Pilates may be right for you. There are plenty of options for both around Waterford City, County and beyond - my advice would be to chat with a few instructors, try out a few classes and see what suits you and your needs. It is also possible to combine the two, by alternating sessions or doing one class of each per week.
If attending a class is not an option, you don’t have to miss out. There are plenty of online resources for both yoga and Pilates providing you the opportunity to train from home. For example, a quick search on YouTube will bring up a large selection of training programs that you can follow for free. The quality of these can vary and you will miss the benefit of having an instructor to monitor and guide you, however this option may be right for some people.
Adding in either yoga or Pilates to your running training is straightforward enough. I would consider either as active recovery that should be programmed on a day where you are not running or running gently. As with any new exercise training, you are likely to be stiff and sore after the first couple of sessions, so bear this in mind and don’t do your first session the day before a really long run or race! You should notice the benefits in your running pretty quickly, with steady improvements the longer and more consistently you stick with it.