Pilates for Runners: 6 Exercises to do at home

Hi everyone!

We made it home late last night and it was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve had in a long time.  Much needed! More on that coming soon, but for today let’s talk Pilates again.

After discussing the benefits of Pilates for runners (and ALL women), I had a few requests for simple exercises that could be done at home.

Obviously we can’t all make it to a 1-hour class every week, or several times a week.  I know I can’t! You can easily add some of these exercises to the end of your workout, 2-3 times a week.

Here are 6 exercises to work your core and help to strengthen your pelvic floor that you can do at home:

Leg lifts

There are two variations for leg lifts:

Side lying leg lifts– Lie on your side and keep your leg straight.  Reach up to point your toe toward the ceiling and then slowly lower again to your ankle and repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.

Double Leg lifts

From your back, keeping your head and shoulders on the floor, lift both legs together coming straight up to form a perpendicular line to your back, then lower with control and repeat 10-15 times. (If you are pregnant, choose the side leg lifts rather than lying flat on your back).


The Hundred

From your back, bring your neck and shoulders off the floor and lift your legs up into the air, keeping them straight (don’t bend your knees).  You can raise them high (45 degree angle or greater) or for a more challenging move, keep them closer to the ground.  Hold your legs steady and pump your arms, counting quickly to 100 (about 30 seconds to one minute total hold).


From a similar position as the Hundred (head and shoulders off the mat, legs straight and off the mat), bring one straight leg up at a time toward your chest, pulse for a count and switch sides.   Repeat for about 20 scissor kicks.


Pelvic Thrust

Lie on your back with bent knees and ankles lined up under the knees. Slowly press your hips up to make a straight line from your shoulders to knees and hold briefly then slowly release.  Tap the ground but don’t rest at the bottom and go right into the next press up.  Repeat for about 30 seconds.

For more of a challenge, cross one ankle across the oppositite knee and do 20 per side.

Cat Cow

This is a yoga move, but Pilates incorporates it as well.  From table top position (hands under shoulders and knees under hips on all fours), arch your back and raise your head as you inhale, then round your back and drop your neck as you exhale.  Repeat 12-20 times. (It is also fantastic for pregnancy and can help to move the baby into the right position for delivery).


This is not necessarily a “Pilates” move but it is a fantastic functional move for the pelvic floor.  It can be done by adding squats to a workout, but it can also be as simple as squatting to pick something up off the floor, rather then bending over.  If you’re a mom, you can probably find dozens of times throughout the day to use this move.

If you’re pregnant, you should also attempt a deeper squat and hold for 10-30 seconds once a day to prepare your body for labor.  Squatting is also a fantastic birthing position! It naturally opens the pelvis 10% more than lying on your back, and gravity assists in pulling the baby down. But it helps to have the strength to hold yourself up, or you won’t last very long.

Do you incorporate some or all of these exercises?

Do you attend Pilates classes?

52 thoughts on “Pilates for Runners: 6 Exercises to do at home

  1. these are great! thanks for sharing! pre-kids I went religiously a few time a week in the summer. My abs were in amazing shape! Love pilates!

  2. This is so timely for me! I have been incorporating lots of these moves into my rehab routine and concentrating on really good form. I have a neighbor who is a Pilates instructor and she has been helping me a bit with some of the posture stuff. I have no desire to attend Pilates classes, but there is definitely some benefit in there for runners!
    misszippy recently posted..Posture and stabilityMy Profile

  3. I SOOOO needed to know about these exercises! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been having some pretty killer pain, but I’m super inflexible, so many of the yoga moves other people have recommended aren’t options for me (even if they’re modified, I still can’t manage to do them!). I think I can do these moves, though (well, most of them).

  4. Great post! I do most of these at home – leg lifts, pelvic thrust, 100’s and I do a lot of deep squats with my conditioning coach. We also do a kettlebell routine twice a week. Now if only my peroneals would heal from my ankle sprain so that I can run again….
    Janice recently posted..Taking the time to smell the flowersMy Profile

  5. I teach a combination yoga+pilates class and these are some of the toughest moves in the class. Members (and myself!) are always feeling it after these moves. You also need to remember to scoop in the stomach for moves on your back and correct breath, such as exhaling if you’re doing pilates roll ups or pilates 100 pulses. Great moves!
    Nikki @ grab your kicks recently posted..The Weekend I Ate All My Meals OutsideMy Profile

  6. Amen!! I don’t think I’d be able to run at all if it wasn’t for the benefits of moves like these. (I follow a Stott pilates leg series that alone is a bit longer though, with 9 moves of leg lifts, circles, different angles, etc.)

    Agreeing with some of the posts above, form really matters in determining results.

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  10. Hi Laura! Question for you. In light of your post endorsing the importance of pilates for runners and pregnant women (of which I am both!) I started taking my gyms weekly pilates class. I’m only 13 weeks so just shy of the second trimester and I wonder – once I hit the second trimester will I be able to keep taking the class? I’ve heard no more lying on your back and many of the exercises we did in the class involved doing so. Do you just improvise if you take a class or do you do most of your stuff at home? Trying to stay involved in the class, but I’m new to pilates and certainly want to do safe exercises for baby!

    • Hi Christen- Great questions! You’re right- you don’t want to lie on your back for extended periods of time (most sources I’ve seen say for more than 5 minutes) but you can continue to do most of those exercises until well into your second trimester, and then be aware of very short bouts of time or doing it from a standing position instead (the instructor I take from right now actually does this- she has everyone do the one legged circles, leg raises, etc while standing so we have the added challenge of balance.) I would also let the instructor know when you’re comfortable sharing and he/she should be able to help you know what moderations to make. You definitely won’t want to lie on your stomach, but the side lying exercises are all fine. There are a few additional tips here: http://www.pilates4pregnancy.com/safety.php And congrats on your pregnancy!! Hope you’re feeling well!
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Babymoon + 31 weeks pregnant bellyMy Profile

      • Awesome! That’s a great resource, thank you. After week 7 or so I’ve gradually been feeling better and I’m looking forward to the second trimester energy burst I’ve heard so much about! I’d like to get back to a more normal running routine, which has been difficult between fatigue, wanting to incorporate new activities (like pilates), the recent heat and general hate for the treadmill since spring came. In the last couple of days I have rediscovered the bliss of morning running in the summer. I think that will give me the boost I need! Thanks again!

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  15. I remember doing some of these exercises back when I was running cross country in high school. I didn’t know they were Pilates, though; I just thought it was some extra stretching and core building. However, I think these are some great exercises to do even if you’re not running. Thanks for the ideas!

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