Running and Pilates

Aside from the top of the list priorities of family and friends, running and pilates come in pretty high up. My passion for running began at my primary school sports days, my favourite day of the year, when we used to troop out on to the cricket pitch behind the school and do piggy back races, egg and spoon, sack races and sprints. Throughout my school life, it remained the highlight of the year. At The University of Birmingham I finally found a tribe of athletes who shared my love of running. At the time I was a sprinter and I have fond memories of BUSA Championships, trips to Lyon and Ireland and of hosting US Universities.

Having common interests unites people and the friends I made during through athletics have remained lifelong buddies. I enjoy being a member of a running club and it has been a privilege to compete for Hyndburn AC, Birmingham University, Rugby and Northampton AC and Settle Harriers in distances spanning from indoor 60m to off-road marathons. I’ve have the pleasure of meeting so many dedicated and inspiring people and running in countless beautiful places.

Once a runner, always a runner but life can throw situations and injuries at you which sometimes mean that running has to take a back seat. During these periods of my life (pregnancy, babies to look after, injuries) I feel, at best, out of sorts. At worst, I feel all wrong. I’m irritable, anxious, I feel down and flat. I know it sounds a bit dramatic to say that I NEED to run, but for my mental health I do believe this is the case. I could stay physically fit by the number of times I run up and down the stairs each day but for my mind, nothing can replace a run.

So where does pilates come in? In 2004 I’d become the county 400m hurdles champion and run my first marathon in Snowdonia. I was working as a personal trainer and I felt invincible. Then…my back ‘went’. I was lifting weights in the gym. At the time, not only was I a gym instructor and personal trainer, I was a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. I knew what I was talking about and teaching to others in terms of strength training, but I’d found my weak spot. I questioned everything I’d been taught, my confidence plummeted and I wondered if I had a future in fitness.

I realised a completely different outlook was needed and I began to research pilates. Little did I know as I embarked on my STOTT Pilates matwork education that it would change the direction of my career, injury proof my body and give me the opportunity to truly help people improve the way they move.

What I wasn’t expecting was the profound impact pilates would have on my running. By 2008 I’d completed the advanced mat and reformer certification which had involved a great deal of personal practice alongside my regular classes. I fancied giving the Snowdonia marathon another shot but my busy schedule only allowed for three runs a week, around 20-30 miles. I knocked 20 minutes off my 2004 time and finished 10th female, I was absolutely delighted. Now I know that this isn’t exactly scientific evidence that regular pilates = faster marathons but I genuinely believe pilates was instrumental in improving my marathon times. I’ll go into the ‘why’ at a later date.

There you have it, my running/pilates relationship. It’s a strong one.

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