Myths, Men, Marathons & Pilates !
by Nigel Bromley, Middle Aged Marathon Runner
It may come as a great surprise to most blokes that they have a pelvic floor. Without these muscles our internal organs would fall through our pelvis, not a pretty sight! It may come as an even bigger surprise that virtually all top-notch sportsmen and women do 'Pilates' or something like it. Rugby Players are told it is 'Core Strength Building' because it sounds more macho, 'Pilates' is after all a girl thing isn't it?
I am a 47 year old male jogger about to run my 5th London Marathon. I can, and do, bore for England when it comes to running. I'm nudging 14½ stone and 5'10" tall. My best marathon was last year's London, 3hours 57minutes. I was 9,498th out of some 32,563 finishers. Quite a few didn't finish and many more developed injuries when training and pulled out. Some of these won't have trained properly and many will not have considered core strength, stretching and breathing ....Pilates!
Having read in Runners World that Pilates significantly enhances running, I plucked up courage to join a Pilates class. To my horror (but as suspected), the class comprised of 5 young women who didn't need to improve their figures, and me, who did !
Having got over the shock I settled down to discover that Pilates is not about lying on the floor and waving your arms. It's bloody hard to get right, and harder for men. This is because you have to think about lots of things at the same time, shoulder, neck and pelvis position, breathing and doing whichever stretch, twist or contortion is being demanded. Working out how to control upper, middle, and lower abdominals and the glutinous maxus independently is still a challenge to me let alone breathing into the back and making my stomach muscles do what my hip flexors do very naturally. Breathing into my back, better accessing the lower rear portion of the lung seemed impossible. To be honest I'm on my third beginners set of classes but I'm beginning to get it ! Tracy at 'Pilates Works' has been patient.
So what's it done for me.......
Lots. The run up to this year's marathon has been much more comfortable and injury free than ever before. I've been running 62 training miles a week and I recover faster. This is the first year I have not needed to go to a sports physiotherapist for help during training. I feel more robust when I am running. Distance runners will know what it's like to turn and look behind on mile 21. Your back (well mine) feels weak. Not this year. I use the breathing, it helps to pull in air when you are very tired.
I've also learned not to worry about being the only bloke in the class - because I'm not now, it became irrelevant anyway. It takes concentration, and everyone is friendly.
After this testimonial to Pilates, lets hope I get round on the 18th April ! I am running for Oxfam and if you would like to sponsor me a few quid, please click on the link. https://www.bmycharity.com/ngbromley4oxfam .