3 Ways Pilates Helped Me Train After Injury
In June of last year, I completed my first (and maybe last) Spartan Sprint. Don’t go applauding quite yet: partway through the race, I fell from the top of an inverted wall onto my left hip and knocked my back out of whack. If I’d landed differently . . . I don’t know how bad it could have been, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
I started seeing my sports-focused chiropractor the following week, which helped a lot. I was confident I’d recover for the most part, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take. Before the Spartan, I’d planned to run a half marathon for a PR in October. I hoped I’d still be able to do it. I knew it would mean I’d have to cross train more intentionally than I had in the past.
A few weeks later, I joined an online pilates program I’d had my eye on for a while. (For the record, this post is not sponsored in any way; I just love this instructor!) I know I do better in class settings than when trying to make my own plan for workouts. But having four kids eight and under and a husband who leaves for work at the crack of dawn means that getting to a gym in time for a class is challenging.
At first I signed up for a month, but I quickly changed my mind and registered for a full year of workouts. It wasn’t my first experience with Pilates (Robin offers a couple of free challenges throughout the year), but this was a new level of commitment.
I’m seven months in, haven’t missed a workout (though I’ve moved some to alternate days), and I’m fully healed from my injury. Here’s how Pilates helped me train as a runner, post-injury:
1. Strength and Flexibility
Pilates is a balancing act of building strength and flexibility that often incorporates cardio activity. When I run, I use a lot of muscles, but still a limited set, and they’re all working to propel me forward. Pilates requires stretching, counter-stretching, and engaging ab, arm, and shoulder muscles—things I don’t do so much while I run. Controlled movements in these areas have helped build up my core. My balance is better, my posture allows for more efficient breathing, and I can maintain better running form, which reduces the risk of further injury.
When I started, some of the moves were doable, but there were others that I simply couldn’t complete. For those that weren’t possible for my body, I used modifications, so that I was still getting the work without causing more damage. Modifications helped me to stay encouraged and active, rather than mentally checking out. Little motions go a long way in Pilates, and staying consistent meant that every day I got stronger. One day, maybe four or five months in, I realized I was doing a roll-up without modifications. Victory!
In that vein, I appreciated how I could see progress over time. The program I use offers a library of workouts to choose from, but most include classic Pilates moves, like the aforementioned roll-up and the hundred. My workouts stayed interesting because they were varied, but I could see that I could do more and felt stronger over time. I didn’t keep track on paper, but it was clear that things were changing for the better.
Recovering from injury is not only a physical process. It involves the mind and the emotions as well. Pilates has helped me become a stronger person, and thus a faster runner. I was able to run the half in October and I crushed my PR. I don’t have another race on the calendar yet, but you can bet I’m on my mat five days a week.
When I find my next race, thanks to Pilates, I’ll be ready.
Lindsay Schlegel wrote her college entrance essay about her lack of athletic ability. In the decade since, God's proven her wrong--and taught her a great deal about Himself in the process. Now a wife and mother, Lindsay has completed a half marathon, a full marathon (while pregnant), and a Spartan Sprint. She's the author of Don't Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God. You can find out more about her at LindsaySchlegel.com.