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Athletes: Performance Through The Roof


Real men doing Pilates.


Did you know that athletes do Pilates? Or have you always thought that Pilates is just for "girls"?

Actually, Joseph Pilates was a professional boxer who extensively trained competitive athletes in the fields of boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, circus arts, dance, as well as actors, police officers and people of all walks of life. The Williams Sisters, Tiger Woods, John England, the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions, the Milwaukee Brewers, and closer to home, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, all use Pilates as an integral part of their training.

Why is Pilates such a great form of strength training for athletes? Pilates is a method designed to strengthen the core while increasing whole body strength, flexibility, and balance while emphasizing healthy body mechanics. Many commonly used training regimens utilize high repetitions with

Joseph Pilates at age 57.
Athleticism that many
20 years olds would envy.

heavy weights, followed by stretching (hopefully) to prevent the tightening of muscles. In contrast, Pilates emphasizes short reps focused on perfect form and the "eccentric" contraction of the muscle. (An eccentric contraction occurs when the work of the muscle happens while it is lengthening, versus shortening.) The result? A workout with the perfect balance of strength and flexibility, a newly found awareness of one's body in space, topped off with the training of solid, healthy body mechanics. And healthy, balanced body mechanics create a smart and efficient quality of movement that allows you to throw the ball farther, run faster, and jump higher.

Athletics (and life) requires the dynamic, multi-dimensional movement of our bodies. In sports, movements are not simple and two-dimensional. Tackling and hitting require rotation and torquing in any given direction with force. That means that two-dimensional bicep or hamstring curls and crunches don't translate into the dynamic, multi-dimensional movements needed for the power and agility of high performance sports. Athletes need to strengthen their muscles in multiple planes and alignments in order to throw a ball effectively, swing a bat, dismount off of an apparatus, sprint towards home, or defy injury of a hard hit.


Stronger, More Flexible &
Faster With Pilates
Strength and flexibility also determine your speed. You may have a very fast gait, but if your muscles are tightly bound, your stride will be shorter than its potential. And tight muscles often lead to injury which can haunt an athlete for their entire career. Sadly, such injuries can force an athlete into early retirement from the game that they love so much. Pilates can help prevent injuries and can also help strengthen an athlete after they have "recovered" to regain their pre-injury strength, flexibility, speed and more.


In addition, using Pilates equipment is a phenomenal resource for plyometrics. Athletes can jump in a horizontal position; decreasing the effects of gravity, while allowing their trainer to help them re-pattern old, bad habits which may slow them down and decrease


Pilates takes an athlete's already dynamic body and mind and transforms it from the inside out. What happens when you increase deep core strength, flexibility, balance, and new movement possibilities? An athlete's game goes through the roof!


Lisa T. -February 2010 Client of the Month


When Lisa walked into the studio, she was in horrible pain and without much hope that she could feel better. She was on a medical leave of absence from work and spent much of her time icing her back. Before being injured, she was a vibrant elementary school teacher and avid world traveler.

 "A year and a half ago, I slipped at work and slipped a disc at the same time. I underwent four months of physical therapy, chiropractic appointments and two epidurals. Doctors were telling me that the pain was 'normal' and I'd probably be in pain for the rest of my life. My daily activities had become excruciating. I was so badly injured that walking was painful. After trying yoga, I started Pilates."


When Lisa started working at Aspire, we started out slowly. "The first couple of weeks in private sessions, we worked on breathing exercises to get my core muscles to kick in. It doesn't sound like much, but I was in pain and too weak for anything else." These basic exercises gave Lisa a solid sense of body awareness, began strengthening her deep core muscles, and helped to stabilize her spine. In order to minimize her pain, we also suggested changes in how Lisa approached her daily activities, such as how to sit while grading papers and positions in which to sleep, which began to make an impact on how she felt.


Prior to beginning Pilates at Aspire, Lisa had little success relieving her pain or strengthening her body. But with this new and careful "inside out" Pilates approach, she gained strength, stability, improved body mechanics and endurance. She worked very hard throughout the summer, integrating the new techniques into her life. Then just before school started, a dramatic announcement came from her doctor: Lisa was cleared to return to work! "When I went back to work, I was SO HAPPY, but so nervous that I was going to hurt myself again or be back in pain. Thankfully, that hasn't happened."


Lisa continues to get stronger and stronger. After 18 months of not being able to workout or exercise, she still surprises herself that she is now able to spend an hour on the Elliptical. "Now I really understand what it means to use my core and am always surprised that now my stomach and legs are doing most of the work for me instead of my back."


"At my last appointment, the doctor said that my injury was considered 'stationary' and that I was working at 90%. Tonya has made it her personal challenge to help get me back to 100%." Will Lisa ever be back to 100%? Only time will tell. But through her hard work and positive attitude, Lisa has already gone far beyond what she or her doctors had dared to imagine. With less than eight months under her Pilates belt, she gets stronger and stronger, and the quality of her life has changed for the better. Our guess? That we will soon see Lisa, once again, leading youth groups across the world.


Best of luck, Lisa! You are a true inspiration!



So What is "The Core" Anyway?

Do you want to be more active, improve your posture, reduce back pain, or raise your athletic performance to a new level? To help you reach your goals safely and effectively, you should first stabilize your spine by strengthening your "Core." 

These days everyone is throwing around the term "The Core", but what is it? "The Core" is the center of power, stability and balance in our bodies, and it's not where you may think it is. I always ask new clients where they think "The Core" is and they often point to their upper abdominals, the pretty "six pack" muscles known as the Rectus Abdominis. Those muscles may be gorgeous, but they do not stabilize the spine. This is why it is not uncommon to have beautiful bathing suit or washboard abs and still have a sore back.pilatesanyway

"The Core" is actually made up of the Diaphragm on the top (our powerful breathing muscle located right below the lungs), the Pelvic Floor on the bottom (the muscles that support the internal organs), the Transverse Abdominis (the deep, corset-like abdominal muscle that cinches the waist when it is engaged), and the Multifidi (the tiny finger-like muscles that stabilize the individual vertebrae of the spine). These four muscle groups are the center (or core) of stability for our spine, and must work together in partnership to keep the spine stable, healthy and happy. Together these four muscle groups are like a soda can: If all sides are strong, it is difficult to crush. But put one small dent in any side of the can, and it loses its overall stability, strength, and integrity.

Whatever your goals, to be safe and successful, start with "The Core" first and build outwards.