We have probably all heard about Pilates. But what exactly is Pilates? Is it tough and how does it benefit us?
As runners, one of our biggest challenge is to stay off injuries, as we know that sustaining an injury could seriously affect our training progress. Running involves the same repetitive move over and over again, and unless you are physically conditioned, it can potentially cause a lot of stress to our joints.
Pilates is a low to moderate impact muscle strengthening and conditioning exercise system that is safe for people of all ages to practice. Exercises focus on working the body towards an ideal alignment, increasing flexibility and physical endurance, as well as strengthening the core.
Practicing Pilates frequently also helps in promoting faster muscle recovery from overused muscles and injuries.
In a typical Pilates class, exercises are not just being performed on a mat, there are several other bits of equipment like the Reformer, Cadillac, Stability Chair, Ladder Barrel involved.
Smaller props are also used to assist the performing of the exercises. Instructions are very precise, not just focusing on breathing, but down to how you should feel in your body. It challenges your ‘dynamic stability’, meaning you engage your core muscles to create stability in the body while moving the other parts of your body, and most of the time you will be struggling to stay stable while pulling on springs and bands in your hands and legs.
A Pilates workout is usually physically demanding, although you will not be covered in sweat after a class like how you would be after a run.
Movements tend to be slow, and thus most of the time you will be working on your slow-twitch muscles, which are the smaller muscle groups that are closest to our skeletal frame, thus strengthening these muscles help to protect our joints. Running, or most other sports, tend to focus on contracting the fast-twitch muscles, which are the muscles creating fast and powerful movements.
As runners, or even doing other sports, our muscles get tight over time with constant forward movement. In Pilates, one will very seldom be required to hold a stretch like how you would in a typical Yoga class. The idea of ‘stretching’ the tight muscles by working on the opposite ‘lengthened’ muscles to strengthen them will in turn help to balance out both the front and back muscles in the body, thus creating balanced, strong and lean muscles. You will be moving into a ‘stretch’ more so than sitting there to endure the pain for minutes!
If you have a love-hate relationship with gym workouts, Pilates will be an excellent practice for you if you want to complement your training for other sports. You will definitely be feel challenged, as it is a complete different way of exercising as compared to other practices.
I have been practising and teaching Pilates for a couple of years, and the greatest benefit I get out of the practice is learning the correct way to move my body.
Pilates teaches one to develop good body awareness which helps greatly when you are moving in your daily lives, or engaging in fast moving sports or workouts. I use Pilates to ease out the tightness in my overused muscles from running all the time.
With all the benefits of Pilates, and if you have not already tried it yet, give it a go! Finding a good reputable studio through recommendations, persevere through the first three sessions (at least), and your body will be thanking you for it later! I guarantee!