The Benefits of Pilates
By Aoife Hannon
Pilates has become increasingly popular in recent years, but why the sudden popularity? We have become more aware of the importance of looking after mind and body and Pilates is equally beneficial for both. I will talk through some of the benefits below.
Pilates focuses on building strength throughout the body and addresses any muscle imbalances throughout the body. Muscle imbalances can feed into a wealth of problems, in both athletic and non-athletic populations. The biggest offenders being weak core and glutes, which in turn can feed into postural issues and low back pain. When any given muscle in the body is weak, the surrounding structures have to work extra hard to pick up the slack, and can contribute to muscle fatigue and injury. By addressing muscle imbalances, focusing on the stabilizing muscles in the body, we can reduce the risk of these repetitive strain injuries.
In any Pilates class I teach I aim to mobilize all of the joints of the body; our joints love gentle movement! I also like to incorporate stretches focusing on all the larger muscle groups. Tight muscles limit our capacity to move. Particularly in sports, when we extend beyond the muscles’ range of motion in executing quick powerful movement is when we are most susceptible to injury.
Tight muscles that are restricted from contracting and relaxing as they would like to, can in turn become weak. Mobilization and stretching through Pilates can improve flexibility and optimize full movement potential.
I always consider Pilates to be equally beneficial for the mind as it is for the body. It is an hour where you get to switch off from everyday thoughts and worries and hone in on your body. Pilates does require concentration and co-ordination, which simultaneously challenge the mind. You are required to focus on breathing control, alignment, muscle activation and relaxation. This forces us to live in the moment and think about the here and now, instead of the jobs we need to do or the everyday stressors in life!
I like to combine my Pilates training with a Physiotherapy based approach to help people maximize their bodies full potential so be it a back specific class or a sports Pilates class, the overarching aim is the same; to deliver a class that will help people optimize how they move.
In order to perform at your best next time, it’s important to give your recovery the same attention as your training session or workout.
Milk is a great choice post-exercise. It has lactose to help to start the refueling process, high-quality proteins, whey and casein to assist muscle growth and repair, and, as it’s a liquid, milk helps with hydration. Check out some simple post-workout meals here.