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Athletes: Performance Through The Roof

 

Real men doing Pilates.
athletesReal

 

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.
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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
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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
power.

 

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!

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Lisa T. -February 2010 Client of the Month


lisa

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!

 


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This is the Year! (How to keep your New Year's Fitness Resolutions

"This is the year! I'm going to do it! I'm going to follow through on my New Year's resolution to get in thisistheshape no matter... how badly it hurts!" Unfortunately, because many of us tend to over extend ourselves during the first week of January, all of the positive energy and enthusiasm created by our aspirations are quickly dampened by sore muscles or even injuries. The injuries stop us in our tracks and the sore muscles transform working out into torture.

When we eventually stop working out - to end the torture - guilt sets in because we've bought into a "no pain, no gain" philosophy that, in the long term, really doesn't serve us well. Moving towards an outlook that embraces "no pain, big gain" as part of our 2010 New Year's Resolutions, is the perfect way to break the old patterns and start fresh. What's the key to "no pain, big gain"? Start slowly and build a foundation of healthy body mechanics. 

Tips to Build Successful Fitness Resolutions


Build a solid foundation of good technique. This enables you to realize fast results while simultaneously preventing injury.

Start slow and steady. This enables your body to become strong, flexible and prepared to tackle your athletic aspirations.

Remember that there is always tomorrow. You don't have to hit that athletic goal before the gym closes tonight.

Find a good teacher or mentor. Working with someone well qualified makes a huge difference in helping you start and stay on the path to long term success.


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December Client of the Month - Heather S.

 

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When Heather walked in the door over a year ago, Aspire Pilates Center lit up. She was energetic, enthusiastic, open minded, and ready to explore the wonderful world of Pilates. She loved high performance training and had spent many years enjoying fitness. She had explored everything from skiing, to kickboxing, to hard core, early morning, baby boot camp classes. She loved the rush of working out and her enthusiasm was infectious.

Just as with all new clients that come to Aspire, we started out slowly and carefully with Heather, laying a solid foundation to strengthen muscles underutilized in the body.She looked fit and had more strength than the average person walking in the front door, but needed improvement with her flexibility and balance.She had also developed some compensation patterns from her work outs and daily life that manifested in neck and lower back pain.

Heather was patient as we began unraveling old habits and her back pain went away.We worked a bit more to strengthen new body mechanics and her neck pain went away. She became graceful, well aligned, strong and took each challenge that was thrown at her to the next level.She soon began doing the tricky type of exercises that we see flashy characters doing in Pilates videos or on TV.

Then one day, Heather walked into the studio with a strong limp, labored movement and a panicked look on her face.I learned that this active mother of four had been battling an autoimmune condition for some time that had profound effects on her health. The illness affected the sensation in her fingers and toes and her body would severely stiffen and weaken, which assaulted her ability to walk normally.She'd have to "Start back at square one and recover externally, internally, mentally and physically", says Heather.It was an awful cycle that would manifest at important times of stress and leave her emotionally and physically drained for months.

The beauty of Pilates is that when it is taught well, it is an exercise form that is truly accessible to everyone.So what if we couldn't do her usual fancy, circus- like tricks during these times when the illness showed itself?We worked slowly and carefully, focused on her alignment, her strength, flexibility and balance in ways that were accessible to where she was on those bad days.

 

"No matter how bad a day is or how rough a week it has been... going to Aspire Pilates Center makes me walk out revived and ready to take on what is next." - Heather S.



Working carefully through Heather's bad days, her recent episodes have passed in days or weeks instead of months. Even when not feeling her best, she feels empowered that she is stronger and more coordinated, so doesn't need to fear her labored gait or "how bad it could get".She is now partnered with her body, rather than trapped as a victim of its current challenges.


heathers2

"There is always a challenge to overcome and that feeling of accomplishment is worth more than words can say!!" - Heather S.


Nowadays, Heather bounds effortlessly from one piece of Pilates equipment to the next and is a force to be reckoned with.Her muscles are long and powerful, she is pain free, and ran a mini-marathon this year.And Tonya now has to actually warm up to demonstrate her exercises because of the difficulty of her program!Whether it's putting an end to her pain so that she can care for her children, calming her body during times of crises, or training for her next "Muddy Buddy" race, Heather really knows how to do it.


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Fall Prevention - Falling Does Not Have to be a Natural Part of the Aging Process!


fallprevEver feel like your balance is just not quite there anymore? Have you tripped over a telephone cord and couldn't figure out how you ended up on the floor? Do you remember the days when you could trip, do wild flapping motions with your arms, and somehow regain your balance without ever touching the floor?

As we age, our strength and flexibility decrease, which lowers our ability to safely "catch ourselves" when we stumble. Studies tell us that 1/3 of adults over age 65 fall every year. And once an adult over 65 falls, she is two to three times more likely to fall again within the year! How much our ability to "catch ourselves" diminishes is directly related to our activity level.

A Vicious Circle

Falling can be a horrifying and painful experience that haunts our bodies and minds for weeks, months, and even years to come. Unfortunately, once we've fallen, we often become more sedentary out of fear that we may fall again. Ironically, this change in lifestyle which we settle into to try to prevent falling, often hastens the next fall. Our decreased activity level causes us to lose muscle strength, we develop stiff or sore joints and our balance decreases. In other words, the more sedentary we become, the higher risk we run of falling again.

Falling can be extremely dangerous for the over 65 age group. It is estimated that falling causes 87% of fractures within this age group and the aftermath can lead to increased anxiety, a decreased quality of life, early dependency and even death.

Hope
Thankfully, there is hope. Falling does not have to be an inevitable part of the fallprev2aging process and exercise is the key to combating it. The CDC tells us that aerobic exercise, strength, and flexibility training are major components of an effective fall prevention regimen.

Pilates gently builds strength, flexibility and balance while addressing alignment and posture, which helps us stay upright and off the ground. We build slowly and carefully from the "inside out" so that our clients' confidence levels increase as they discover that there is no longer a need to fear gravity.

Maybe you can never go back to that time when you were able to stumble and safely catch yourself with dramatic flare, but falling does not have to be part of the aging process. By keeping your body strong and supple, and incorporating simple balance exercises into your daily routine, you will be amazed at how quickly both your confidence level and quality of life increase.


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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.


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