Our cave-women ancestors did not need special running shoes. With the saber-tooth tiger in hot pursuit, they did what came naturally. Centuries later, somebody invented the stiletto heel. By wearing them, we altered what Mother Nature graciously gave us. The Pilates reformer -- an apparatus with springs, pulleys and a gliding carriage -- helps fix the problem. Reforming your body might make you a faster, safer and more efficient runner.
Endurance athletes make prime candidates for Pilates training, Dimity McDowell, co-author of "Run Like a Mother," told the "Denver Post." Repetitive movements, performed for hours in one plane of motion, contribute to muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. Pilates reformer training addresses the muscles you use in running, but more importantly, the muscles you neglect. The method emphasizes correct postural alignment and precise, controlled movements. As the reformer springs provide resistance, the gliding carriage enhances dynamic flexibility. This type of flexibility in motion is especially useful for athletes.
Every Pilates reformer movement partners with a specific breathing pattern. The breathing engages your deeper core muscles, which in turn stabilize your spine. Proper breathing also expands your diaphragm, allowing you to take in more oxygen. Enhanced oxygenation translates into greater stamina. Some of the Pilates reformer exercises teach you how to release tension from your neck, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles. Holding these muscles in a tension pattern uses up energy that could be put to better use.
About Those Feet
"Sex in the City's" Carrie Bradshaw adored designer footwear, but she wasn't much of an athlete. You pay for the glamorous lifestyle with your running efficiency. Footwork enhances your running, but the exercises are boring. Not on the reformer. The footwork series consist of a progression of exercises, performed supine, with your feet on the foot bar. Each exercise involves bending and extending your legs and engaging your hamstrings, quads, glutes and core. Performing these movements with your feet in different positions balances your foot and ankle muscles. The series progresses to one-legged and running type movements. As you gain foot, ankle and leg strength, your instructor will teach you similar exercises using the jump board. These plyometric-type workouts help you coordinate your foot actions with your leg movements.
Hamstrings and Glutes
Weak hamstrings and glutes wreak havoc on your lower body alignment, and impede efficient running technique. Just as the wheels of your car must align for optimal performance, so must your body. Even small deviations from perfect alignment trigger the domino theory in action. Breakdowns might involve your lower back, knees, hips, ankles or all of the above, and the resulting injuries could sideline you from running for months at a time. Women are particularly vulnerable to these weaknesses. The reformer comes to the rescue with exercises performed supine, prone, side-lying and standing. As you perform the movements, your instructor carefully observes your alignment and makes the appropriate corrections.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.