If you’re big on staying in great shape there’s a good chance you’ve had your fair share of injuries.
Runners. Weight lifters. Gymnasts. All physical activities, especially when done excessively, can wear down your body, leaving it with painful injuries that impair performance and recovery, sometimes for an extended amount of time.
The standard advice is to rest up and let the injury sort itself out, perhaps with the occasional ice or heat treatment to help speed things along. Most athletes and fitness enthusiasts accept this without question, never realizing that there might be a faster and more effective way.
How can Pilates help the injured athlete?
Created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, pilates rests upon six core principles that are potential lifesavers for the injured sportsmen: centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flow. Especially valuable for the elite athlete who is accustomed to intense effort and pushing the limit, learning a new type of exercise and mentality can help switch perspectives and make the down period a quicker and easier process.
It also has physical benefits that other disciplines find hard to replicate. Firstly, pilates, when done correctly, is very low impact and easy on the joints and tendons. Consequently, the nature of the exercises do not induce inflammation or reach the levels of intensity necessary for overtraining or overuse syndrome. For a serious athlete, this means they can get better faster, whilst staying active, without the usual accompaniment of mental wear that comes with extreme intense activity.
Another aspect of Pilates that can help with injury recovery is its focus on control. Control of movement is absolutely essential, especially when exercising an injured muscle, as it enhances blood flow without breaking down any of the surrounding tissue or taxing the central nervous system.
The final aspect, rarely covered when Pilates is used in the same breath as injury recovery, is its profound effect on strength and flexibility. It isn’t uncommon for injured athletes to come back stronger after incorporating Pilates into their rehabilitation program, in particular weight trainers who may never work solely on flexibility. Essentially, Pilates is a great option if you’re struggling with small pains or long-standing injuries that aren’t responding to resting as quickly as you would like.
How can Pilates help with injury prevention?
Not only can Pilates significantly speed up the recovery process in injured athletes, it can also help to bulletproof your body to future injuries!
There are two ways that it can do this:
The first way that Pilates helps to prevent injuries is by strengthening the core muscles and essentially ‘toughening them up’ for future exercise. A significant amount of sporting injuries are core related, due to poor technique, overlooked core muscles or lack of whole body awareness. Pilates directly tackles all of these factors and eradicates them at the source, leaving you with a midsection that actually is tough, rather than just appearing to be so.
Take running, for instance.
Running of any variety is a high impact activity. The endless repetition of your feet hitting the ground and the cyclical motion of your body can have a huge effect on our load-bearing joints, leaving them painful and stiff, and putting an end to your exercise routine.
Pilates – and its core-strengthening techniques – can work miracles here.
Having a stable, solid core and posterior chain can help your body to deal with the stresses of running. When the lower back, glutes and abdominals work together and distribute stress evenly, as they do for a Pilates-trained individual, the overall impact of any high strain activity can be neutralized, enhancing performance but eliminating the risk of serious injury.
In the same way that Pilates helps to aid injury recovery through controlled movement, it can also help to teach people how to hold themselves correctly, how to maintain good posture (minimizing lower back pain), as well as how to lift and move correctly through specific exercises and sports techniques (a serve in tennis, for instance). Add the fact that increased flexibility will allow muscles to contract and expand further, thereby getting significantly stronger and efficient over time, and you come to realize just how much the right Pilates program can do for injury rehabilitation and prevention!
No matter what sort of injury you’re nursing, whatever sport or activity you play or are interested in, or if you simply want to create a safer and better posture and stronger core for yourself, the controlled movement and mental discipline of Pilates can help you get better faster!