Improving performance with Pilates

For a long time, Pilates was seen as only for women, for ballet dancers, or for new mums to lose their preggie bellies. But the attitude to Pilates is changing fast, it is now practiced by millions of people around the world (men too!).  It’s good news says Sarah Walker, Pilates is hard-core!

Some historical facts:

Joseph Pilates born in 1883 was a sickly child with rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. From a young age he dedicated his life to improving his health. He invented a series of exercises taken from his years of studying yoga, kung fu and gymnastics and called it Contrology. Its focus was on the control of the spinal muscles. As a young man in the army he kept the German troops fitter and healthier than any of the other troops. Post war he boarded ship for New York where he and his wife taught Contrology (later known as Pilates) to many students and high class ladies. His exercise regime became very well-known especially in the dance community for the excellent results of flexibility, strength and stamina.

The principle of Pilates is to strengthen the deep muscles around the spine, chest, abdomen and pelvis. When these core muscles are activated, the chest, ribs, abdomen, spine and pelvis are aligned and allow the limbs to move efficiently and powerfully. The deeper breathing in Pilates flushes the body with oxygen, revitalising the muscles, joints and organs too.

Core muscle stability
Core muscle stability

 Here are some of the benefits of Pilates for cyclists:

  • Corrects muscle imbalances developed from a cycling posture – this prevents injury.
  • Improves posture on the bike which alleviates neck and back strain, a common cycling complaint.
  • Improves effectiveness of the pedal stroke.
  • Better flexibility allows for better bike posture.
  • Improves balance on the bike – which is great for mountain biking.

I’d recommend one to two Pilates sessions per week. Give it a try; you’ll be surprised. Pilates is tougher than you think, it will change the way you feel and it is a great workout to add to your cycling programme!

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