Yoga vs Pilates – Which is Better for Runners?

Written By: Jeremy N


It’s recommended that every runner supplement their running routine with some form of additional practice that increases strength and flexibility. This not only increases your speed and endurance as a runner, but is great for preventing injuries.

Yoga and pilates have been a long time favorite for runners as they both help increase your strength, flexibility and are easy to do with no equipment.

As a general rule, Yoga and Pilates offer different variety of styles that focus on different outcomes; strength training, or hatha for flexibility and mobility work. Pilates workouts are typically more physically demanding. Yoga on the other hand focuses more on stretches rather than a full-body workout. 

Yoga vs Pilates – Which is Better for Runners?

Yoga vs Pilates for Runners: Breakdown

While both practices can be beneficial, one might be better than the other depending on your personal goals and style. Here’s a closer look at what makes pilates the same and different.

Where Yoga and Pilates are similar:

  • In both practices, you will increase your strength and flexibility.
  • Both are great for injury prevention.
  • Both have a similar goal to increase one’s awareness of their mind and body connection (although Yoga also adds the element of the spirit, and encourages spiritual exploration as a large part of the practice).
  • Both practices place importance on breathing, although yoga a little more so than pilates.

Where Yoga and Pilates are different:

  • Pilates is a much younger practice, it was developed around the time of WWI by a German athlete who wanted to offer injured soldiers a means of rehabilitation and strengthening. Yoga developed in India more than 5,000 years ago as a principally spiritual discipline, and has developed over several centuries and cultures into many different forms.
  • While both practices offer a wide range of routines in degrees of experience and difficulty, pilates are specifically designed to be physically challenging. Yoga can certainly be physically demanding as well, but unlike pilates, there are several routines outside of this genre used for relaxation, recovery, meditation, and more. Overall, yoga has a more diverse range of reasons to and means of practice, while most people who practice pilates are in it solely to increase flexibility and strength.
  • Yoga is often a full-body workout, while pilates primarily focuses on aligning the spine and strengthening the core.

Pilates might be a better fit for you if…

If you aren’t keen on weightlifting, but you want to add strength training to your routine in an effective way, pilates would be a great addition to your “hard days” as an extension to your run.

Trust me, you don’t want to hit pilates hard on your “easy days,” your core will be too sore to hit it hard on the next day’s run! It’s also a better choice if back or hip problems seem to bother you the most, as pilates focuses on strengthening the back and core.

I would recommend pilates to a competitive runner who is looking for a way to boost their performance and prevent injuries.

Building strength in your core and back is the best area to work on if you really want to see improvements in your speed and endurance.

Yoga might be a better choice for you if…

You want to focus on flexibility and stress-relief on your off-days.

While yoga can certainly be a heart-pounding exercise to add to your hard days, I find it’s most beneficial as a runner to use it as a way to enhance mindfulness, release stress and increase flexibility and strength in a less intense way.

Yoga is also a better choice if you want full body toning and strengthening, as pilates primarily focuses on the core and back only. It’s a better choice if cramps and injuries in your joints or legs are more common for you than problems in your back and hips.

I would recommend yoga to the runner who is less concerned about competition, and just wants to use running in combination with this practice as a way to increase their overall fitness and wellness level.

Full body toning and flexibility will help you in your performance as a runner, but in a less targeted way than practicing pilates.

Yoga is also a great choice if you are dealing with other problems that hinder your running motivation – such as allergies, back pain, balance, depression, etc.

There are several yoga routines out there targeted to these problems. Practiced three times a week, yoga can help you cope or heal from these other life problems and help you stay motivated to meet your running goals.

Still not sure which one is the right choice? 

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Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Me.

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

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