Yoga & Pilates for Runners

Saturday, 3 May 2008  |  Therapy + Injury

“Everyone knows running is great for the cardiovascular system; however, it’s also a fact that the sport dramatically tightens certain muscle groups while doing nothing for others.”

– Bender Birch

Couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Birch!

For the longest time now, I’ve been interested in trying yoga or pilates to stretch these tight muscles of mine (especially my ITBs which is the reason for my runner’s knee), but I never got the chance to attend a session.

Fortunately, I have Annie as my friend and running buddy who, many of you may not know, is also a certified yoga and pilates instructor. So, this week, she generously introduced me to both:


Yoga is an ancient discipline which seeks to unite body, mind, and spirit. Some of the more popular schools of yoga nowadays include Iyengar, Astanga, Ananda, Anusara, Bikram, Kundalini and Sivananda. Yoga sessions are contemplative and free-flowing. Runners can stand to gain from yoga since it develops strength, flexibility, balance and mental concentration.

After running at the track with Coach and Annie, we headed over to the mediation area for some stretching. Annie then took pity on my tight legs and began to teach me yoga positions that I could do at home. I loved the stretches. Yes, some positions made me cringe with slight discomfort (because we were reaching areas in my body that were never exercised heehee) but it certainly helped to make my legs feel lighter and immediately put me into relax mode.


– I am the most inflexible person I know. It’s not funny. –


– Why Annie never gets injured –


Pilates is designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. Created by Joseph Pilates, it is a gentle low-impact exercise that focuses on developing the core muscles of the body, or what they like to call the “powerhouse.” Movements are precise and ordered, with reps and sets.

Pilates is also great for runners as it focuses on core strength, which is important to runners especially for long runs. Like yoga, pilates improves flexibility, concentration, balance and coordination, breathing, and helps prevent injuries in running.

Yesterday, Annie and I were supposed to attend a Bikram Yoga class together. As the class didn’t push through, she invited me to a free Pilates trial session instead. As soon as I got over her quick transformation from “crazy friend” to “serious instructor”, I was able to feel the effects of Pilates on my body. Using the machines, I felt the burning sensation in my arms and legs and knew that the exercises were working wonders. (It worked so well, in fact, that I passed on running today with Coach because my entire body was sore from yesterday’s workout!)


Initially, I thought that both were similar and I had to choose between one or the other. I’ve come to realize that a runner can gain different benefits from both. Now, if only I had all the time (and moolah because these can be quite expensive) to indulge in the two!

* Reference: NYRR Complete Book of Running & Fitness, Gloria Averbuch, New York, 2004