Pilates and Skiing

Found an interesting article from the Tampa Bay Examiner on Pilates and the Athletic Skier. Author Lisa Mercer basically compares the principles of Contrology as outlined by Joseph Pilates in Return to Life, considered to be the bible of Pilates technique and philosophy, with the principles of Athletic Skiing as outlined by Warren Witherall in his Athletic Skier, considered by many to be the bible of ski technique.

First Pilates:

"Concentration: This refers to the body-mind connection that creates a conscious awareness of your movements.

Control/Precision: In Pilates, you are never just “going through the motions.” Use your concentration skills to perform precise, accurate movements. Instead of performing countless repetitions, be sure to make every repetition count.

Breathing: Why is Pilates so effective for toning the abdominal muscles? The answer lies in the breathing technique. When you exhale, or breathe out, your deeper abdominal muscles, called the core musculature, press against the diaphragm to assist in expelling the air.

Centering: Joseph Pilates once said that he was 50 years ahead of his time. With the current focus on balance and core stability, he was definitely correct. All Pilates exercises initiate from the core, and flow outward to the extremities. Many people refer to the Pilates Powerhouse, the front to back area between the pubic bone and the ribcage. It includes the lower back muscles, stomach and the upper buttocks. Learning to engage these muscles enhances coordination, as well as the appearance of your entire body.

Stabilizing: This has a direct relationship to centering and breathing. By using the breath to create stronger core initiation, the movements will be more stable. “Movements” is the operative word. Since none of the Pilates exercises are static, the technique helps develop what is known as dynamic balance. Dynamic balance is balance in motion. It is the type of balance that is used in most sports. Additionally, dynamic balance is required when standing up on a crowded bus, or walking on slippery surfaces.

Fluidity: The movements of Pilates exercises flow in sequence with each other. This enhances grace and movement efficiency. The fluidity of the Pilates technique explains its popularity with dancers. Although you do not have to be a dancer to enjoy Pilates, practicing Pilates will make you move like one.

Integration: You will find that many of the Pilates exercises work a few muscles simultaneously, which makes it a highly functional form of exercise.

Alignment: Postural alignment is an important element of the Pilates method. Correct alignment allows the body to move with maximum efficiency. The Pilates method corrects muscular imbalances that impede fluidity of movement.

Now look at Witherall's qualities of the athletic skier:

Dynamic movement: Linked ski turns should be “continuous, integrated and active.” The best ski fitness programs incorporate full range movement patterns, while training the transitional balance between movements. The fluidity of movement learned in a Pilates class has a direct transfer to the movement skills used on a ski slope.

Carving Skills: Skiing requires dynamic use of the feet and ankles. Witherell believed that skiers with poor balance use reactionary balance adjustments, such as thrusting the hands forward. Athletic skiers use anticipatory balance movements, such as edging the skis. Integrating foot and ankle movements into a fitness program will enhance proprioception, making anticipatory balance instinctual. There are a number of foot and ankle exercises that can be performed on Pilates equipment.

Strength: When integrated with balance conditioning, functional, dynamic strength training enhances athleticism in skiers. Pilates enhances “strength with length,” which means that muscles are strengthened without compromising their mobility.

Quickness and Agility: Balance and postural alignment are a prerequisite for practicing agility drills.

Economy of Motion: According to Witherell “Muscles that are busy doing one task are less efficient at doing others.” The muscular imbalances that are corrected in a Pilates class promote movement efficiency.

Relaxation: Witherell tells us that an upright alignment or “a proud position, contributes significantly to relaxation-allowing muscles to rest and bones to carry weight.”

Natural Unaffected Style: He stresses spontaneity as opposed to “correct positions.” Holding “postures” is ineffective for ski conditioning. In Pilates, postures are not held. Instead, sequential movements are performed with fluidity."