Pilates for Sports

Pilates Helps 81 year old Return to NASCAR

81 year old NASCAR driver Herschel McGriff credits Pilates with keeping him a good enough shape to hop back behind the wheel.

After "McGriff retired from stock-car racing in 2002, he told the Los Angeles Times that his days behind the wheel weren’t over.

“When I turn 80, I just might go out to a short track and show the young guys that I can still do it,” he said in that interview.

Next week, that’s exactly what he plans to do.

McGriff, a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame (class of 2002) and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (class of 2006), will be taking part in the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops “125” Race July 17-19 at Portland International Speedway at the age of 81 — making him the world’s oldest competitive driver"

He started doing Pilates in 2007 "and his exercise routine has enabled McGriff to get behind the wheel and attempt to prove that he wasn’t just blowing smoke in that L.A. Times interview seven years ago."

Great stuff!

Pro Skier Adds Pilates to Off Season Routine

Jess McMillan has started doing Pilates. About to leave for the Freeride World Tour, in which she placed Second last years, the Wyoming resident is going through a serious and strenuous pre tour training program. Her training includes lifting weights three days a week, and a good dose of pilates, yoga and 45 minutes of cardiovascular training per day.

“'In the past, I’ve always [worked out], but not this intense,' she said. 'It was more like three days a week. The pilates have [sic] helped as far as the stability muscles that all of us forget about as skiers.'"

Runners Need Pilates

Pilates SnakeImage by Movements Afoot via Flickr

One of my Twitter friends is Natalie Friton, who writes the Health and Running blog and asked if she could interview me about Pilates and Running. A few insightful questions later and we have Pilates for Runners.

If you are a runner or Pilates teacher with questions about what to focus on, what exercises are the most beneficial, and how to help strengthen your body and run without pain and injury, this is (if I do say so myself) a really good comprehensive piece that focuses on Pilates mat exercises and using the foam roller.

In fact, Marguerite Ogle, who maintains and writes About.com's Pilates Pages, says

"In the interview, Lippin targets issues for runners bodies, and recommends specific Pilates exercises for runners. This one is recommended reading for runners, potential runners, and Pilates instructors working with runners."

So go check it out and let me know what you think!

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."

Are You Man Enough for Pilates?

I have a lot more men coming in to my Pilates classes at Parrot Cay, and all of them leave a bit bewildered because they were so sure that Pilates was simply a stretch and tone class for women and not a very difficult exacting workout! So I was amused to read a recent cyclist's blog post entitled Am I Man Enough for Pilates?

My first introduction to the form of exercises best marketed as Pilates was coming across commercials about how this or that actress got her tight tummy or buns of steel — oh, that was another commercial. Bottom line is I tended to associate these exercises with women. I mean every time you saw one of those slightly deflated balls there seemed to be a svelte woman sitting on it. Didn’t seem very manly to me! ...So when my coach, Jim Cunningham of the Greenville Cycling Center, gave me a list of exercises to do that sounded suspiciously like what I thought of as a girly workout, I was a little skeptical.

Then I started to do them.

Now many people dislike Pilates exercises, but typically because the workout is not hard enough. For this athlete, however, the hatred is different.

I will be honest and blunt. I hate them. However, it isn’t for the reason you might think. It isn’t because they are some type of girly exercises that a real man can do with ease. I hate them because they are stinkin’ hard!

So I must say that I am thrilled that the exercises are presented in a useful challenging way that is working this man exactly where he needs it. Bravo!

Pilates Can Make You Faster

Former Olympic swimmer Susie Thayer used to train like crazy for speed. "When I would swim six miles a day, I would go home and do 500 sit ups and 300 push ups. I had my own self-weight lifting system."

Now the 45 year old water irrigation specialist does Pilates, and wished she had known about it when she was competing. "It works on your core,... If I would have had Pilates, I would have been just that much faster."

It's true; working from the center core muscles helps you move more efficiently and with less fatigue, making you stronger and faster.

Prepare for Skiing with Pilates

Photo by Greg Barnette / Record Searchlight

According to writer Debra Moore, "Dr. John Kemp, a Red Bluff-based orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in sports medicine, recommends working out for a minimum of six to eight weeks before you hitting the mountain." For 74 year old skier Bob Clearie, that means working out seven days a week, dividing his workouts between two gyms and a variety of activities. "Not only does he do cardio and strengthening work as Kemp recommends, but he has added Pilates to his routine."

Cleary takes a Pilates class 3 times a week at Cutting Edge Fitness in Redding, CA. "Pilates is all about core strength and most people don't work on it," he said.