The 11 Best Pilates Exercises For Runners

Upgrade your cross-training routine.

The best Pilates exercises for runners, courtesy of fitness experts.


To cross-train as a runner, look no further than Pilates. These low-impact moves complement running by emphasizing strength and flexibility, says Pilates pro Janet Li. They also focus on body alignment to help your stride and prevent injuries. Here are some exercises to try.


Bridge + Leg Lift

Li recommends this move for runners.

- Lie on back, knees bent.

- Lift butt off floor, knees in line with shoulders.

- Support hips with hands, lift one leg to ceiling.

- Point toes, lower leg 45 degrees.

- Flex toes, lift back to ceiling.

- Do 8-10 per leg.

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Side Kicks

Li says kicks align your legs and work the core.

- Lie on side, head in hand.

- Shoulders and heels in line.

- Lift top leg 1 inch. Reach through leg, lower.

- Lift top 5 inches, lower.

- Repeat 10x per side.

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Inner Thigh Lift

Li also likes this move.

- Place chair against wall.

- Lie on side, forearm on floor.

- Hips stacked, knees forward.

- Place top heel on top of chair.

- Push into top leg and forearm, lift hips off floor.

- Lift bottom leg up few inches and lower.

- Do 8 to 10 reps per leg.


Single Leg Circles

Open’s fitness pro Tara Zinnamon likes these for leg strength.

- Lie on back, arms out at sides.

- Lift one leg, keep other leg down.

- Circle lifted foot clockwise 10 times.

- Reverse and circle leg counterclockwise 10 times.

- Repeat on the other leg.



Pilates trainer Laurie Alfano says strong hip abductors help you balance as you run.

- Lie on side, legs stacked, knees bent 90 degrees.

- Lean head on bottom arm.

- Lift top leg open like a clam, feet together, core engaged.

- Close top knee.

- Repeat 8-12 per side.

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Pilates pro Helen O’Leary says this exercise trains flexibility and balance.

- Stand.

- Hinge forward.

- Transfer weight to one leg.

- Press into ball of other foot, lift heel, slide foot behind you, then back in.

- Hold your hinge as you repeat.

- Do 3 sets of 10 per leg.


McConnell Squat

O’Leary says this Pilates exercise targets the legs, glutes, and core.

- Stand sideways next to wall.

- Lift and press closest knee into wall.

- Gently squat as if about to sit.

- Keep back straight.

- Hold 10 seconds.

- Do 3 sets of 6 per side.


Heel Elevated Squats

To improve calf strength and coordination, O’Leary suggests this exercise.

- Stand with feet under hips, hands on pelvis.

- Keep knees straight, come up on tiptoes.

- Stand on balls of feet.

- Squat.

- Lower heels to floor.

- Stand back up.

- Do 3 sets of 4.


Single Leg Plank Series

From Club Pilates instructor Dr. Femi Betiku:

- Start in forearm plank or high plank.

- Engage core.

- Raise one leg up.

- Hold for 10 seconds.

- Repeat for 3 sets on both sides.


Single Leg Stretch

Equinox instructor Liz Wexler is a fan of this move for runners.

- Lie on back.

- Extend both legs up, point toes.

- Lower one leg 45 degrees.

- Hold calf of 90 degree leg.

- Inhale, pull leg in closer.

- Pulse 2x.

- Exhale, switch legs.

- Do 8-10 reps.


Roll Up

Try this move to work your back muscles and core, says FORM Pilates trainer Sami Clarke.

- Sit with legs out straight, feet flexed.

- Reach arms forward.

- Inhale, touch toes.

- Fold forward one vertebrae at a time.

- Tuck chin.

- Exhale to roll back up.

- Repeat 5x.

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