In this video, we are joined by Gabby Robertson to discuss how Pilates will help runners achieve better results, whether through injury prevention, technique improvement or better recovery.


If you’re looking to improve your

running without having to increase your

mileage, well, pilates might be a good

opportunity for you to do just that.

Today we talk about using Pilates for

improving technique, injury prevention,

and helping your body recover. G’Day

guys and girls it’s Anthony from

GrandStand Sports Clinic with another

video about improving your performance.

Today we’re really fortunate to be

joined by Gabby Robertson who is our

resident Pilates expert. It is stupid

o’clock in the morning because this is

the hunting time for Gabby! OK, so Gabby

to kick things off just for people who

don’t know, give us a little bit of a run

down, what’s the idea, what’s

behind Pilates, what’s it all about?

OK, so the basis with Pilates is that

there’s four or five key elements that

we’re looking at and the first one is

maintaining a nice upright spine. A lot

of people are unaware of the position of

their spine or how to hold their spine.

When you’re incorporating that we look

at your pelvis and how to align a

neutral bucket or a neutral pelvis, we’re

looking through holding through the

ribcage and up into that spine level. You

want to incorporate breathing with that

with someone as well and to breathe

most efficiently or effectively that

they possibly can and incorporate their

deep abdominals, which most people would

term their core.

We find most people are pretty appalling

at working out how to use their core or

how to activate their core and teaching

and which are the deeper layers or the

muscles that help to support the spine

and which are the more superficial

muscles which may be overworking at this

stage and differentiating between those

two. So one of the things you touched on

there is this sort of self awareness of

the correct position. You find a lot of

people, and regardless of the

level of the athlete that you can get

some high level athletes who still

aren’t engaging their core and still

aren’t maintaining good positions. Is

that certainly something you come across.

Absolutely and for someone who looks

like that or is unable to maintain its

position as we’d say, ‘fabulous’, this is

something this is ideal for you. This is

how you can take your form, you can take

your efficiency, you can take your speed

one step further. So again, fleshing

out a little bit, from the point of view

of performance enhancement, what sort of

things do you think Pilates has to offer

someone who’s looking to improve, say, their

10k time or their 5K time. So if someone is

wanting to get faster in their

speed, basically their speed work that

they’re doing for their running what we

want to make sure is that you can hold

good form while you run. And if you’re

able to hold good form then all of your

muscles that are already working are

able to work far more efficiently. If you

can incorporate appropriate breathing

with that which is often the part

that tends to fall off, and more so

towards the end of the run as people are

trying to get faster. If they’re unable

to hold that nice position and unable to

hold a decent breathing pattern then

everything else is gonna fall off.

So Pilates is more about making people

aware of their technique flaws and

showing them in a different environment

how to improve that and then transfer

that across to the running. How do you

find the transfer from ,you know, doing

the the mat based stuff and the

equipment based stuff, how do you then

transfer that into someone’s ,you know,

active running style. Well from looking

at them in an assessment point to

start with and then building them

through onto that mat based or

those equipment based exercises, we’re

using a lot of cueing that they can then

carry over into their training and that

they start that from an early level.

Those cues or those exercises they’re

then incorporating into their training

program so that as we build on those

movements and build those movements in

larger movements making them more

functional towards

their running style or reproducing

some of their running movements on the

larger pieces of equipment. We can

then tear that to pieces a little bit

further and find perfect cues for them

but they can then carry over into their

training sessions. So you touched on the

the the aspect of Clinical Pilates and

as you know there’s Pilates

options aplenty, with the growth and the

popularity of Pilates. What would be the

difference for someone who’s looking at

starting Pilates? What’s the difference

between run-of-the-mill Pilates and the

Clinical Pilates that you do? So, with

Clinical Pilates someone’s had an

assessment by a physiotherapist. The

physiotherapist have been able to

identify for that person things that may

be outstanding such as weaknesses. We

might have injuries or an injury history

that we’ve worked through with someone

and incorporating their Pilates with

them whether it be mat based or

equipment based, we’re then addressing

that injury history for them. We’re

addressing their assessments and the

things that we’ve picked up from that

assessment and then using that with them

to incorporate it towards their goals.

They might be a runner and be training

towards something, but you know running

varies. It might be longer distance

events, it might be shorter distance

events and that time frame that we have

in order to work towards with them. One

of the one of the big influences we have

here at GrandStand is talking to people

about injury prevention and where we

work on the idea that prevention is much

better than the cure so again from the

Pilates aspect, is Pilates something

which is useful in terms of injury

prevention? Absolutely

I mean Pilates can be used to inject

into a running program as their strength

component, you know the majority of

runners feel that running and running

and more running and more running is how

they will improve, and you know research

will tell us at least if you are running

three or more times in a week you need

to inject a strength session into that.

Most of us will say we don’t have time

for that. You know, we just need to run we

want to put our trainers on and head out

the door. But we must have that strength

component. In that Pilates we can

incorporate not just their strength but

looking at their form and looking at, you

know, proprioceptive

techniques and things for them as well.

So in the longer term you’re actually

going to probably be able to run more

because you’re going to have less injury

lay-off as a result of dedicating some

time to specific injury prevention and

Pilate sounds like it offers that

solution for people to do as a different

session for people to do rather than as

you said just hitting the pavement and

doing mile after mile after mile.

Absolutely and a lot of people will

think ‘oh, Pilates look I’m on a mat, I’m

not able to get enough resistance into

that’ and that’s where the equipment

comes into play really nicely. Now we can

go well above body weight and high level

resistance into those to get a true

strength and conditioning.

Obviously a lot of athletes are doing a

lot of miles and recovery is one of the

big issues that we have with athletes,

for athletes to be able to recover fully

from a run so they can back up their

their subsequent run and we’ve spoken

before about different modalities that

athletes can use to, you know, allow their

body to cope with the loads better. Again

from a recovery point of view, do you

think there’s a place there for Pilates

and, you know, is it something that

athletes can use to prepare themselves

for the next running session? Definitely!

And with that strength and conditioning

component comes adaptation. We need those

adaptations to occur. We need them to

transfer that take it over to their run

and then incorporate it into their

running program and then we need that

recovery session. So in recovery, and if

it’s a recovery session that we’re

working through, whether it be on the mat

it’s a really nice way that we can look

at some length we can look at some

flexibility and really highlight for

some of the athletes areas that they

need to target themselves both before

during and after are they’re running


As an example, Gabby, if someone were to

present with a long history of achilles

tendonitis and we talked a lot about the

biomechanical backgrounders to to why

achilles tendonitis or tendonitis occur,

what sort of exercises would would

Pilates have that will you know be

looking at correcting the biomechanical

flaws in an achilles tendonitis for

instance. So, if their physiotherapist

they’ve seen has picked up but they have

issues further up the chain as to what’s

going on with that we can start in a

really early based exercise. The really

nice thing about Pilates, is it can be

that, you know, early entry point. You

can be supportive. You can take the spine

out of action. It can be quite

specific and you know if they’re

struggling with their breathing they’re

struggling with their upright spine and

that their the form issues, that we can

still target the ankle in a nice lying

down position and work on some length,

you can work on some eccentric control

there for them, and progress their

program that their physio has already got

them working on at this stage. From that

we can bring them then into lots of

different positions and that’s the thing

I love most about Pilates. Pretty

much, I can exercise you in any position,

offload any part of the body, and then

target somewhere else specifically. So if

we’re wanting to just work specifically

on those intrinsics, work through the

foot and things around the ankle we can

do that. If we’re wanting to build in

some other joints towards that and start

to progress them to more upright and

being functional towards their running

again we can do that. So again, starting

Pilates early in the rehab rather than

using it as an end stage conditioning

program, the earlier we get an

intervention the more likely we are to

support the the tissue which is at

present struggling with the load. Very Definitely. Very Definitely? Not just a little definitely.

Massively definitely

Everybody comes to it at end stage, you

know. They’ve gone through their

rehabilitation or their hands-on

treatment with their physio and then

they look for something else and I’m

saying, well incorporate it early, get the

maximum benefit you can and progress

through that rehab as quickly as you can.

Gabby, you’ve certainly had a long and rich

experience with runners and you’re well

known to the runners in the Newcastle

region. If we were to put you on the spot

and say look, given you experience,

what is the the one technical flaw that

you notice in runners and again

regardless of the level that they’re

running at, one thing that you as a

Pilates clinician you look at and you

think ‘that’s something that we could

improve’? Probably the most outstanding

one and the one that’s easiest to spot

is really that loss of their core control and

they just tip them through the bucket.

You look at them side on as they run

past and they’ve lost everything through

here, and that just makes breathing so

hard. So it shifts into the upper part of

the chest.

You see it with runners as they’re

heading towards the end of their 5k at

parkrun on a Saturday and there are so

many parkrun photographs to flick

through. At each of your local events and you

can you know check it out you see it in

your sprinters. You see it in, you know,

that first big race that’s local, that

10k and everyone’s running for their

finish line and all their finish line

photos look like. They’ve got their

shoulders up here, they’re tipped through here

and they are trying to breathe as heavily

as they can. Unfortunately, with the shape

of the lung, we know anatomically, you’re

not going to get much air in when you’re

breathing up there. So if there’s one

thing that I could do for the majority

of runners, it would be to grab their

hips and their pelvis and just tip them

back into that level position. That

allows their diaphragm to expand

beautifully, it allows them to use their

leg muscles, you know, their buttocks

which are there for them to use. We

want them to use those glutes while they’re

running and unfortunately we will tend

to lose control of those and just

overload a hamstring. But, if you can grab

ahold of that pelvis, tip it back for

them, allow their lungs to breathe more

effectively, they’re going to get a far

more efficient breath, use that breath

capacity then and not feel so horrible

towards the end of their run.And is that

a technical flaw, is it the people under

fatigue conditions they fall out of

their good form or is it a case of their

muscles aren’t strong enough or they’re

not getting enough support from some of

the support muscle? So, it is 

technical or physiological, that

loss of form at the backend? It can be

a bit chicken and egg, and until they’ve

had that assessment and you’ve worked

out what it is that’s helping contribute

to that, because for the majority of

runners we’ve never learnt how to run. You

know, we grab our trainers and away we go.

So unless you have you know it’s some

nice understanding of how the body

should move or how it could move,

understanding that everybody’s different,

and that our bodies all move differently.

We can watch those professionals at

the upper level and think ‘wow, that looks

horrible’ and yet they’re breaking World


So everybody’s bodies are different and

we need to understand that. But equally

unless we’re assessed and look in to that,

you know they might have a huge

long-standing history that has led them

in their injury capacity, to only be able

to perform like that. They still want to

run and that’s the best that they can do

when they head out the door. If we can

give them a little bit of education, we

can help them to understand how their

body may move better, and how it may be

more efficient to move or more efficient

to breathe, and to use the deep core

muscles in and around their spine to

help support that pelvis, their

efficiency and their speed will go through the roof.

So the next step, and I’m sure you’ve

probably set off some alarm bells in

some of our runners minds, what would be the next step, so for someone who is

said ‘yeah that sounds like me I’m

someone who loses my form at the back

end, and I’m really you know keen and excited

by the prospect of trying to improve my

performance through that’, what’s the

next step for someone to get involved in

Pilates? How do they how do they start? I

think you need to be assessed. Look into

locally what’s available for you in

clinical Pilates. Obviously, as Anthony

said before, there’s a big difference

between different types of Pilates that

are out there and you want to make sure

that your body’s in safe hands and that

you’re being looked after. A tailored

exercise programs for you. So get

assessed. Once you’re assessed, we can

then look at your injury history. We can

tie that together with how your body

presents right now and then look at what

goals are specific for you. If you want

an entry level of Pilates to start with

then the mat based work is really

fabulous. You can come along, we’ve got

running specific Pilates six a.m. on

Monday morning. Come and join us, okay. It

is my Pilates for runners class that I

run every week. You can come along to

that. Throughout it we’re talking running

language the whole time. We’re cueing

your body and giving you nice things to

think about when you’re out running and

doing your own training sessions

throughout the week. From there, if

you’re interested in really stepping

things up, come in and be a part of the

equipment sessions. On the equipment, we

can be far more tailored towards you. You

can have either one-on-one, they can be,

you know, increasing in ratio and you’ll

find that the majority of clinical

Pilates on equipment will come up to

about a ratio of one to four. Anything

more than that and you’re probably not

going to be as specific or as tailored

to the individuals that you want to be.

Some people in those sessions are

addressing length and flexibility and

they’re here for their stretch and

release. They’ve done their long run and

they’re booked in on a Monday and that’s

their way that their body’s going to

help flush some things out. Others

throughout the week are using it as

their strength and conditioning.

We’re heading up with the weights with

offloading different parts of their body

that yet if stable or as controlling as

we’d like them to me and for those who

are performing at their best we’re

stepping them up even further and

working them in a really functional

upright position, very run specific in what they are doing.

So Pilates in will have something to

offer anyone, from the entry level to the

person who’s just starting to to

increase their mileage, all the way

through to you know your top end guys

who are really looking for that extra 1%

in their their improvement. I think the

key as you mentioned, is that specificity

to runners is really important so it’s

not an off-the-shelf solution for you.

You need to make sure that the exercises

are you doing are tailored specifically

to your body and targeted specifically

to your your goals and that’s where I

think that running aspect of Pilates is

probably something where people should

be really encouraged to investigate,

rather than just normal everyday Pilates

class. For sure, the last thing I

would want someone to do is, you know,

say ‘okay great, Gab said we need to do this’ and then go out on the next run and do

entirely the wrong thing. You know it’s going to 

hurt,  it’s not gonna feel good and

then you think ‘that’s not  for me’. However if we have

assessed you. We have looked at how your

body moves, we look at how your body

wants to perform and then we can make

changes that are specific for you.

We can be far more efficient for your

running form. Give you some great cues to

work towards. And then, with time, we’re

obviously not looking at two to three

weeks seeing a huge change in

performance. It’s something we need to

stick to and with the programming we

expect change. Males it is usually a little

bit sooner, at that five to six week mark

and women more of that six to eight week.

Really? What’s what’s the reason behind

that, or what in your experience why is

it that, I was gonna say women lag.

but I think men excel, might be a better

way of saying it. Men excel, is probably a far

better way to say it. I think for the

majority of women, they adopt the cues

really well, posturally and form wise

they do it very well,

but for the men we’re seeing some of

those adaptive changes in their muscles

far sooner than women.

There’s certainly some really good

reasons to look at incorporating Pilates

into your running schedule and whether

would be from the point of view

technique improvement or as a recovery

modality or as a way of preventing

further injuries. If you are interested

in introducing Pilates into your program

make sure you’re looking for a clinical

Pilates instructor who’s got a

background and a solid understanding of

running and that’ll make sure you get

the best out of the Pilates for your

running. Gabby, thanks so much for joining

us today and giving us a bit of an

insight into just what Pilates is all

about, particularly for our running

athletes. For those of you who have any

questions or comments feel free to pop

them into the comment section below. If

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we’ll see you in the next video!

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