Pilates and your Knees

Written by Selena Deleon

AS an emerging adolescent fitness enthusiast, I first discovered running in my late 17th year. Once I began, I dove into it with passion and it still is, to this day, my favourite form of exercise.

Upon turning 25, however, I started to experience pain in my left knee which only worsened as I continued running and ignoring it. The pain disrupted my running for many years, during which time I found an entire world of retiree runners facing the same dilemma.

The knee is one of the most vulnerable and overused joints in the body, connecting the lower shin bone and upper thigh bone her by a network of ligaments, which can be compared to an elastic band pyramid. The muscles all play a part in holding the right amount of tension on all of the ligaments that hold the knee joint together, sort of like a web of rubber bands being pulled on both ends.

When one group of muscles overtrained it causes an imbalance because of an increase in pressure on one set of bands, and slacking on another. The result is that the bones in the knee joint do not track in the position in which they are intended to, and this causes injury and pain — just as how the train wheels in a track are designed to fit into one fixed slot, it is the same situation. When rehabilitating the knee joint, the key words are realignment and low-impact.

Fast-forward to my journey into Pilates, which has opened up my mind and world to the room of mirrors called alignment. Interestingly, the chain of events that happens from your foot hits the floor, up to the very top of your head, affects your knees, and alignment is the key to unlocking the links in the chain to make it “click” better.

With the foot striking the ground each time, the importance of proper landing techniques is increased. As each step reverberates upwards throughout the body's structure, this can cause many problems up the line.

The second complementary technique used in Pilates is the concept of balance training. Pilates follows a programme which incorporates opposing muscles and training for balance, eccentric control, flexibility, and strength in the safe zones.

The ironic thing about running and pilates is that for this reason, they go hand in hand, as does pilates with any repetitive cardiovascular sport or activity.

Now that I am training my body to move in alignment, stretching the entire chain from the toes right up to the crown, and paying attention to how critical the role of the core is to holding it all together like glue, I am back to 75 per cent full-time running, with no pain.

The incorporation of a pilates programme for runners is essential, as the world becomes more conscious of balanced training and further rounded in its understanding of the body. This is why we are new and “improved exercisers”, compared to our predecessors — we keep running and living longer and better than ever.


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