Updated: Feb 9, 2018
I am an athlete and still not convinced that I can get benefits from Pilates to increase my performance. To me Pilates is for girls , dancers ,post baby or rehabilitation.
With exercises that focus on elongation, core control and stability, and muscle balance, Pilates benefits athletes by developing all of the components needed for good running , cycling or swimming.
Specifically, Pilates helps in the following elements:
Head position: Learning to keep your head and neck in a neutral position will help you improve upper body movement and reduce fatigue.
Upper Back Extension and Rotation: Doing movements that help open up and mobilize your thoracic spine (upper/mid back) will help keep you upright. Think about all that sitting, hunched and rounded over. Extension and rotation of the thoracic spine help by loosening tight muscles and increasing your range of motion. Your spine needs to be able to rotate well to counter balance your stride for example. A Pilates workout always includes spinal mobility.
Chest Expansion: By opening up your chest, not only are you giving your body a shot at more efficient respiration, but you are also increasing your arm swing range of motion. Efficient breathing is a key component of a Pilates practice, and you will learn to use your breath as a tool with movement.
Shoulder Rotation and Mobility: A powerful stride is not only leg driven. You need your arms to drive back with your elbows, forcing your center of gravity forward. Organization of your shoulders, head and neck is part of a Pilates session.
Hip Extension: Sitting can shorten and tighten hip flexors, which are essential to a runner’s stride. Ideally, as runners, we want our pull through just as smooth as our forward stride. Plus, the tightness of hip flexors throws the pelvis off balance by tilting it forward, throwing your stride off balance. Efficient hip mobility can improve your cadence. Pilates helps hip mobility and length of hip flexors with hip-specific exercises and proper stretching technique.
Glute Engagement: The glutes are our biggest muscles and the most powerful allies for runners. Frequently, however, glutes are not used as much by runners as they could be. That is when muscle imbalance occurs: a runner starts using their quads or other front leg muscles to compensate. Glutes also can be hard to “fire” (as in: use them).
Footwork: We run on our feet. It makes sense to address alignment and foot flexibility. Tight and inflexible feet can be a contributor to plantar fasciitis. Pilates session works through ankle mobility, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion moves.
If you’d like to improve your efficiency as an athlete, Pilates can help you identify and correct your individual muscular imbalances. By adding a Pilates practice to your training, you can improve your posture and learn how to engage the muscles that help you keep that upright posture and maintain it through a race.
Not convinced yet ? Come and try it . Give it a go!
See you on the Mat soon.
by Julia Comodo