Moving in the Right Direction  
The mountains are ready for you but are you ready for the mountain?  (Photo:  Flickr user, trysil)
The mountains are ready for you but are you ready for the mountain? (Photo: Flickr user, trysil)

Pilates for snow sports

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Winter is here and the hills are finally seeing our world famous snow. The mountains are ready for you but are you ready for the mountain? I’m sure that you want to enjoy the winter season by avoiding an injury due to poor conditioning. As well as avoiding injury, we want to feel strong and confident as we move on the snow, a very unstable surface. Ultimately, we want to be able to avoid the pull of gravity as we move on that unstable surface. So we are dealing with balance. We have to be able to keep our spine either in the center of a weight transfer or properly counter balance the weight transfer. Therefore, being able to align and move our spine is crucial to maximize performance and decrease risk of injury. Pilates can definitely help.

Pilates teaches you how to align your spine in the most stress free position possible. When the spine is properly aligned, the arms and legs are freed up to function at their maximum potential. When the spine is suffering from poor alignment (otherwise known as poor posture), then the arms, legs and hips will experience unnecessary stress, which will slow performance and severely expose the body to injury. Skiing/boarding is predominantly a leg exercise. To be able to most effectively utilize the strength of the legs, the spine has to be properly aligned and then stabilized with the abdominal, hip and back muscles. Pilates exercises access these muscles in various positions so that the spine learns how to move by accessing the proper muscles that create that specific movement. Not only does Pilates exercises train the body to properly access functional and stabilizer muscles, it also teaches the body to properly coordinate the muscles so that they contract at the proper time. This is known as muscle sequencing. Without the ability to properly pattern muscle contractions, the body will feel uncoordinated and spastic, overly stressed and minimized.

Ultimately, the best way to master any sport is with practice and coaching. Pilates will encourage and enhance your mastery by strengthening and your spinal alignment, which alleviates unnecessary stress on your joints and help with balance, and coordinating body movement through the development of proper muscle sequencing.

Here are some Pilates (some modified) exercises for you to try. I have chosen exercises that challenge your ability to stabilize a neutral alignment, challenge balance and coordination. These are intermediate to advanced exercises so be patient with yourself and try to do them 2-3x/wk.

1. Leg Pull Front

  • put your body into a push-up position
  • pull the navel to your spine
  • lift one leg up without moving your hips
  • reach that toe and the other heal back then pull it forward and put it down

    2. Kneeling Quad Lean

  • again, maintain a neutral spine, ear/shoulder/hip/knee in line, as you lean back
  • keep your lean as you lift and lower the arms

    3. Teaser
  • come into a V-sit
  • maintain a forward pelvic tilt and try to lift the ribcage
  • hold for 3 breaths and then slowly lower the body down keeping the pelvic tilt

    4. Hip Twist

  • move the legs around in a circle while maintaining a pelvic tilt and keeping the rib cage neutral
  • circle the legs the other way

    5. Swimming

  • hover the arms and legs off the floor
  • don’t let the body rock side to side as you lift opposite arm and leg, and at the same time lower the other arm and leg
  • alternate for about 10x

    6. Single Elbow Press

  • stay lifted out of your shoulder
  • lie on your side, press into your elbow and outside of foot against floor as you pull the ribs and hip of the underside of your torso together to lift your hips off the floor

    Please email me by going to my website Sculpt, Pilates & Yoga for more great ways to use Pilates and yoga to strengthen your body for the ski hill.

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    About the Author

    Lori Rockl graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Political Science. After working with the Federal Government through two elections, she escaped back into her gifted life of fitness training and now owns a successful Pilates & Yoga studio. Although her clientel tell her often how much they learn from her, Lori would tell you that she is the one that learns the most from her clients. For Lori, the study of the mind-body connection is an infinitely fascinating study. She has found that Pilates and yoga are excellent tools for healthy living and incorporate those tools into her marathon and triathalon training. Please contact lori at [email protected]

    The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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