Learn to Run Archives - The Pilates Studio

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Learn to Run week five: Which exercises are best for me?

Wow five weeks in! I was asked a fantastic question at this past class that gave me the idea for this blogpost.  How do I know which are the best running exercises for me? Of course!!!  We’ve created this conditioning class and taught you so many exercises but how do you know which are the best two or three exercises for you…just for you!  In the following words I want to begin to outline the way you choose the best running exercises.  Of course we have given you and gone over many other exercises, but this is the way to start choosing the best…Just wait until next week when we explore this further!

Well first of all, Every single person should be conditioning his or her feet! We are constantly spending our life in shoes disconnecting our feet from the earth and this is causing us to lose the pliability that we need to accept load.  SOOOOO Everyone before you run should do the following foot exercises.

First we spread the toes

Then we ask the toes to talk to each other

Then we lift the three middle toes

Finally we have the big toe splits

Now beside the feet how do I decide which are the best running exercises for me.  Should I do the planks or the squats? Should I work on cadence or mobility?  I only have so much time and I do actually want to run so what are the best running exercises for me…just me?  Well my friends the best way to find the best running exercises for you is to use the assessment tool.  The RUNITY assessment is the best way to assess what conditioning exercises you need.

best running exercises

Deep squat with thoracic extension

The first test is the deep squat with thoracic extension.  This test is figuring out two things.  How much hip mobility do you have, and how much thoracic extension do you have.   These concepts apply to stride length and upright posture in the running gait.  So if you do this test and you can’t get your pelvis below your knees then we need to work on your hip mobility.  Whereas on the other hand if you can get your pelvis below your knees, but your spine curls into a ball like shape then you need exercises that work on thoracic extension.  The videos of both possibilities follow.




So if its improved hip mobility you need.  The accelerated mermaid is for you!


If you need thoracic extension then the following exercise is for you!


Now the next test is telling us about the lateral stability of your hip socket.  This is the standing single leg squat. You can see in the picture to the right that to perform this assessment you will be standing on one leg and simply bending that knee.  If your knee wavers and falls in towards the center then

best running exercises

single leg squat  

you need hip conditioning exercises, but if your knee stays straight ahead but your torso folds in towards the leg then you need spine stability exercises.  Those videos are below!








Hip stability

Torso stability

Finally, the last test is looking at hip extension and elastic recoil in the body.  To perform the single knee bend you stand with your feet next to each other and bend one knee keeping your knees lined up you want to do your best to lift your foot past the midway point on the back of your thigh.  This picture of

best running exercises

single leg knee bend


this test is below.  Now if you perform it and you can’t keep your knees lined up then hip extension is what you are after, and if your knees are lined up just fine and you can’t lift your heel beyond mid thigh, then its time for you to work on the cadence drills with the metronome.  Check out the following videos for the hip extension exercises, and then in the next week’s blog post we will break down cadence as much as we can!






Hip Extension

Finally,  This is just the beginning of what you could do.  For more information please visit RUNITY’s website.  Use this blogpost as a beginning to feel your body and allow yourself to decide what you might need.  Next week we will review the assessment and exercises that go with each piece so that you can finish the class with a way to assess yourself and design your own conditioning program!  See everyone next week.


Learn to Run Week Four – Let’s extend the hips!

WOW! Four weeks!  How did it go?  In this class we explored hip extension for running. Coupling hip extension of one leg with the flexion of the other is how you find stride length safely!  Remember that first week when we taught airplane?  We mentioned hugging your knee as close to your chest as much as you can and then lengthening the standing leg long beneath you.  This is necessary to increase the stride length and thus bring the forward motion to the running technique.

This week Kay and Nate led you through the conditioning work, with an emphasis in the hip extension.  The two homework exercises that we have chosen for you this week are glute reeducation.  In this exercise you are looking for the bum muscles!  Gluteus maximas!  TO perform this exercise you will lay on your belly.  Curl the toes of one foot underneath.  Reach your heel to the wall beneath you.  Pull your kneecap toward you.  Send your hip to the ground, and finally feel that glute engage…You might even have to squeeze it to let your brain know that it’s available for action!  Tell your brain about your glutes!

The next exercise is designed to find both hip extension and hip flexion at the same time.  It’s the Plank to lunge!  Find your plank notice that this is the same position as glute reeducation minus the floor, or should I say hovering above the floor.  So your heels are still tucked underneath you.  You are reaching the heels away from you.  You are pulling your knee caps towards you and you are finding hip extension in your plank.  Then push with your hands as you bend your knees and send your tailbone behind you into a what I like to think of as the crouching tiger position.  Then with a small explosive force move back towards the plank and bring one leg forward into a lunge.  This is a very dynamic and active exercise, but you want to find the hip extension both in the plank and the lunge….Let me know how it goes!


Learn to Run Week 3: Condition to Run

Happy Mother’s day and Happy week three of The Pilates Studio’s Learn to run series.  My hope is that people are starting to feel the added strength in the tissues around the hips.  As well as the mobility in the hip sockets and thoracic spine.  In the next weeks we will begin to focus on hip extension and ankle mobility… But more importantly it seems like Everyone is getting in condition to r

un!  YAY!  You’ll see the videos for the home work below, but I also wanted to share with you this picture of the organized chaos of our conditioning circuits.  To me a great workout is when I see the smiles I saw today!


Happy Mother’s day and Happy week three of The Pilates Studio’s Learn to run series.  My hope is that people are starting to feel the added strength in the tissues around the hips.  As well as the mobility in the hip sockets and thoracic spine.  In the next weeks we will begin to focus on hip extension and ankle mobility… But more importantly it seems like Everyone is getting in condition to run!  YAY!  You’ll see the videos for the home work below, but I also wanted to share with you this picture of the organized chaos of our conditioning circuits.  To me a great workout is when I see the smiles I saw today!

Condition to Run!  The Pilates Studio

Four corners of getting into condition to run. Hip Strength, Rotational control, Thoracic mobility, and motor control.


You all are doing so well, and that simply makes might heart swell.  Maybe its mother’s day, or maybe it’s spring, or maybe seeing us all get stronger together just makes me so so happy…

Okay enough sappy stuff…Here’s your conditioning homework

There are four exercises this week.   First, as we continue to work on thoracic mobility and hip extension we have the lunge with the dowel (the broomstick works great too)  Remember reaching up into your arms as much as possible and at the same time pushing down into the knee!

Once we have the added mobility, we want to find the control of that mobility.  We can achieve this with thigh stretch and the added dowel.  Go for the shakes with this one!  How far can you go back?

Next we have the hip mobility exercise with the mermaid…We’ve been doing this one since the very beginning class because it is just so important for the mobility of the hip socket!

And finally for rotational control we have the side plank!  YAY!  (I type yay because the side plank is so hard but if you yell YAY every time you lift your hips, it feels slightly easier.)

And of course as always the more pliable your feet the better so please feel free to keep doing the foot exercises from the previous week’s exercises.

Read more about RUNITY here

Learn to Run: Week 2

Wow! We are off to a great start!  It was so fun to see the progress of everyone in the second week of our Learn to Run course!  If you want a sense of the fabulous strengthening chaos that is our Learn to Run course check out the picture!  That is what a well used and satisfying studio looks like. My RUNITY teachers would be so proud of the fun we had!

Strengthening at The Pilates Studio

Fabulous strengthening chaos at The Pilates Studio

As promised today progressed a little from last week and we have different exercises that we want you to practice before next week.  First we have the foot exercises that are so important to the gait.  If we think of the foot as our spring through the air.  We need to train and condition the pliability of the plantar fascia (the bottom of your foot)  Every time your foot lands in gait the plantar fascia lengthens (eccentric contraction) and absorbs the shock of the road, and then like a spring it shortens to propel you forward…And even more mind blowing (for my geeky brain at least) the big toes and smaller toes act with different functions to make the gait efficient….Yet we spend our day in shoes that make our feet still.  So with that these are the videos of the foot exercises we did today!

First five toes lift and then spread out, and then lower down

The second foot exercise is lifting the big toe and then placing it down and lifting the four little toes

Then we lifted the three middle toes

And finally of course we have the big toe splits

After this we want to work the hip extension and elastic recoil of the hamstrings with the single leg kick.  Remember to do it slow and then to pick up the speed

And finally!  It’s time to do Plank to Star (a progression from quadruped to star by the way)

That’s it for this week…Remember keep moving between now and next Sunday.  We talked about several ways that you could progress your running…The infamous walk/run is the way to go, but the question always becomes how much should I walk and how much should I run?  I personally like to listen to my cardiovascular system.  I run until my heart says to stop, and then I walk until my heart says to go again…If you want more of a measure you can use a heart rate monitor. Run until you hit a certain heart rate and then walk until your heart rate comes down…However long that may be.  If you feel like your cardiovascular system is stronger than the tissues of the body, then your best best is to pick a two minute run…one minute walk schedule, and then increase that amount by 10 percent a week.

And that’s it for now! Until next week in our learn to run series




RUNITY: How a conditioning program helped me finally Learn to Run


Every spring there was this voice in my head that said, “I need to get in shape, maybe I should start running.”  Yes, I was really good at Pilates, but I had enough knowledge to know that there is more to fitness than just Pilates.  Countless times I googled a couch to 5k training program, printed out a schedule and then I went “running.” After which came the disheartening bright red face, loss of oxygen and the feeling that my heart was going to explode.  This of course would be the end of my running career for that particular season. In other springs, I was able to push through the heart exploding phase of cardiovascular training and would feel like maybe I was in a little bit better shape, and then inevitably my knee would start hurting, or my hip would ache naggingly, and thus another season would go by the way side because running “hurt” me.  To explain it all I sometimes told myself, “I hate to run.” “I’m not built like a runner.” “I like hiking better anyway.” When in reality I wanted to run and I just couldn’t figure out how…I was the perpetual red faced, heart exploding, novice.  I didn’t realize that I needed to learn to run.

Then comes RUNITY a program that helped me learn to run

At a Polestar Pilates educator meeting I met Juan Nieto and Blas Chamorro.  They are the Polestar Educators from Spain and they have developed RUNITY, a conditioning program that prepares the body to accept added load from the pavement in a safe and dare I say it, “fun” way.  They emphasized the joy in running along with the conditioning of the body that is necessary to remain safe.  RUNITY’s movement assessment succinctly explained the knee pain that I experienced every time I started to run and helped me create a very targeted conditioning program that taught my body how to control the mobility in my hip so that my knee didn’t have to deal with quite so much.  You may wonder, “umm Katrina aren’t you a Pilates Instructor? Don’t you help people with knee pain all of the time???” This is what my own inner judgey voice was saying.  My favorite improv teacher Pam Victor named that voice Calvin. You should check out her website too!  The RUNITY conditioning exercises added a certain depth to my Pilates practice.  Yes as a Pilates Instructor I understood hip mobility and control, and in a very careful and controlled environment I was quite adept at working with this concept, but RUNITY went a step further.  It gave more opportunity for the body to develop adapted strategies specific to easeful running.

I was throwing kettlebells around, I was training my brain as much as I was strengthening and increasing the flexibility of my body.  I was progressing onto new and more challenging movements.  I found that to learn to run was just the beginning. This program led to hope, maybe just maybe I didn’t have to “hate” running.  Maybe I could even be one of those folks that went running for the sheer joy of it instead of the sheer should of it.  Maybe I might be that person that runs through the winter because I even like it when it’s cold. I found that with RUNITY you don’t run to get in shape, you get in shape to run.

So What does “get in shape to run” mean?

When we think about running, we don’t think about the load that moves through the body with each step.    We don’t think of the power of the ground force multiplied by our body weight as a force that is moving through all of our joints, and we often don’t realize that if we are not running efficiently the sheer forces may move through the tissues in a way that causes inflammation…(I like to think of this as grumpy tissues) If however we create ease through our posture and strength through our joints with conditioning exercises that also focus on motor control, the body will be able to accept the additional load efficiently.  For me personally, this turned running into the endorphin creating good time instead of the limp inducing nagging knee, and that made all of the difference.

Learn to Run with us!

If this story resonated with you at all, check out the Learn to Run program at the Pilates Studio.  Nate and I will begin our first series on April 29…Just at the moment when the spring inspires the voices in our head.