Lifestyle Design

Pilates For the Outdoor Athlete

Joseph Pilates was no wimp. He was a gymnast, boxer, diver, swimmer and circus acrobat. He developed his fitness system by working on wounded soldiers, boxers and wrestlers. Yet, because New York City’s dancing community discovered his studio, and because Pilates is now so popular primarily with women, we think of it as a prim and proper system.

This book’s author is a woman, but not a dancer or overweight cubicle dweller. She’s an accomplished outdoor athlete herself who has found that Pilates helped her develop her skills and abilities. The book cover displays a picture of her scaling a vertical cliff.

She contends that Pilates is the perfect cross-training regime because it: focuses on developing core (abdominal and lower back) strength which is important to all sports; improves breathing, circulation and muscular endurance; develops uniformly strong muscles to counter the way sports tend to overdevelop some muscles groups at the expense of others, creating an imbalance that leads to injuries; improves your balance, coordination and posture; and improves your concentration and mental focus.

The opening chapters give a lot of background information on Pilates and then, instead of a diagram of all the muscles in the human body, relates it to you. She explains about good and bad posture, movement and gait. She helps you to assess where you are now, and what your cross-training goals should be.

She then includes a chapter each for: rock and ice climbers; road and mountain cyclists; hikers, backpackers and snowshoers; paddlers; road and trail runners; skiers and snowboarders and multisport participants (such as triathletes).

In each of those chapters she describes the specific needs, the typical overuse injuries, 7 tips for avoiding injuries, lists of muscles to strengthen and muscles to stretch, goals and formulae, two fifteen-minute series of Pilates exercises to perform three to five times per week, Pilates “boosts” (extra exercises to help them), after-sport stretches and 6 tips relating them to the principles of Pilates.

Then she includes 32 additional traditional mat exercises for longer Pilates workouts. That makes a total of 80 Pilates exercises described and well-illustrated by the author performing them outdoors. Plus descriptions of common athlete injuries and how to treat them.

Many Pilates book give a good start to beginners working inside on a mat and seeking improvement in their general fitness. This is a comprehensive book on Pilates exercises that can take anyone, even beginners or “inside” athletes to higher levels of strength, flexibility, good health and longevity.

Even athletes in less exciting sports (such as tennis and golf) — not to mention swimmers, martial artists, gymnasts and so on — would benefit from Pilates. Muscular over development and imbalances are not limited to the areas she writes about here.

Richard Stooker is a freelance writer with a long time interest in health, nutrition, fitness and anti-aging. Recently he discovered the Pilates Accessories.

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