Why every triathlete should give Pilates a shot

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Triathlon today is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and one that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.

Triathlons are events that include swimming, cycling and running in instant succession. The Olympic, or “standard” distance in triathlon is a 1.5 KM Swimming, 40 KM Cycling and 10 KM Running.

Due to the demanding nature of this sport, triathletes require persistent training in all three disciplines. This results in a high level of fitness, which is why more and more athletes choose it to stay fit.

Working on your running, cycling and swimming skills is not enough to be successful in triathlons. Triathletes require general strength conditioning and workouts to attain the highest levels of power, strength and endurance.

This is where Pilates comes in!

Pilates

Pilates is a type of workout that targets the mind and body. It can provide flexible, strong muscles without adding any bulk, which is a great and effective form of pre-rehabilitation (body maintenance and injury avoidance) that can help improve a triathlete’s performance.

Here are some of the ways in which Pilates can help every triathlete in their training:

Swimming

When it comes to swimming, it’s highly likely to hold large amounts of tension in the shoulders, which can cause a lot of discomfort where the shoulder blade joins with the back.

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Pilates’ sessions, whether on the mat or on Pilates Reformer, usually include a good stretch into the upper part of the Trapezius muscle, solid shoulder retraction exercises and stability work through the mid-part of the back. All of which helps in improving the shoulders’ stabilizing muscles to work through the back of the armpit and into the chest.

Pilates Exercise that can help is Swimming!

Lie facedown on a yoga mat. Create one long, straight line from the crown of your head through your toes. Engage your core by imagining your belly button pulling away from the floor.

With your palms facing the floor, lift one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, reaching forward and back as if you are being pulled and stretched out. Switch sides. Repeat 10 times.

Cycling

This is the longest part and the most isolative motion of the race. Maintaining the same arched posture, for long periods of time, with the legs working against as much resistance as the competitor can bear is both painful and potentially harmful. The forward riding position places the lumbar spine into an almost flat and unsupported alignment, which unsurprisingly causes low back pain.

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Pilates’ exercises focus on building a strong and stable core. This helps in strengthening the muscles that support the lumbar spine, which reduces the amount of excessive movement at the pelvis, and as a result it decreases the tension through the lower spine.

Pilates Exercise that can help is Roll up!

Begin in a seated position on the floor, with legs straight and inner thighs squeezed. Bring your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor with shoulders down and back.
Inhale as you begin to roll down to a lying position on the floor. Pull your belly button deep into the spine, pressing your spine one vertebrae at a time on to the mat. Exhale to roll back up, peeling your spine one vertebrae at a time to come to a seated position. Repeat five times.

Running

Running comes at the end of the triathlon after having already completed 2 grueling disciplines, and that inevitably impacts on the runner’s posture, stability, technique and form. All of which significantly increase the stresses and resulting risks of injury.

As Pilates strengthens the core and encourages correct muscles activation, this will help in improving a triathlete’s body alignment for longer, even under fatigue! Resulting in a significant improvement in their functional dynamic stability, stopping the knees from rotating inwards and helping the leg muscles maintain their vital function as efficient ‘shock absorbers’ to protect the bones and joints from the repetitive impact of running.

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Pilates Exercise that can help is Leg Circles!

Lie on your back, maintaining a neutral spine position. Straighten your right leg up to the ceiling, keeping your left leg straight on the floor with the foot flexed. Circle your right leg towards the ceiling, while keeping your pelvis stable on the mat. Repeat for five times, reverse the direction of the circles then switch legs. This exercise helps open the hips as well as strengthen the oblique abdominals for pelvic and hip stability while running.

Now that you have the 411 on how Pilates can help improve your performance in your next Triathlon Race, it is time for you to incorporate it in your daily workout regimen.

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Shereen Elbaz
Founder of Woman Up By Shereen Elbaz Personal Training Program and one of the Co-founders of The Mala Studio in New Cairo. Shereen was never a professional athlete, but always had a passion for sports and the discipline that came with it. Therefore in 2014 she decided to study and turn that passion into her full time job. Internationally certified Peak Pilates instructor, Pole Fitness, Aerial Yoga, UGI Fitness, Jumping Fitness, POP Pilates and licensed Zumba Fitness Instructor.