Can Pilates improve your Sports Performance?

Last month, my friend and head baseball coach at Calvin College, John Sparks, asked me if I knew of a great yoga instructor he could hire. Unfortunately, that is one of the only classes I am not equipped to teach but I asked him what his intention was. His goal was to have his entire varsity baseball team take a class during the off season to improve their flexibility, range of motion and core strength. Ahhh, yes…sounds quite similar to my favorite workout: PILATES.

One of the most common questions I get from people is the different between yoga and Pilates. I am happy to explain but the best way to understand it is to take both and see which style you gravitate to with your personality and fitness goals. Both forms of exercises are called “Mind-Body”, which means they connect the mind to your physical movements, creating improved body awareness and thoughtfulness. In Pilates, we focus on breath work to set the tone for movements or repetiions. Some of the other key fundamentals of Pilates is stabilization, differentiation, flow and control. In a nutshell, though Pilates will help you get lean and long through your mid-section, reducing low back pain, releasing hip tightness and strengthening weaker glute muscles.

But then, as a former athlete, what was it that made me gravitate so much towards this form of exercise? I mean, I used to love running suicides and sweating from hours of defensive drills. How could this be used for athletes?

Well, not only did I have my best performance this fall at the Reed’s Lake Triathlon (with the least sport-specific training ever), but I started to do some research. Pilates has always been popular with dancers, but did you know that over 6,000 professional golfers and pro tennis players practice some form of Pilates during their off season? And these numbers keep increasing each year.

Pilates is not just for the beginner, the rehab patient or the woman. No, this can increase thoracic mobility to improve your golf swing and rotation, it can strengthen your hips and pelvis to create a more powerful baseball or tennis swing, and it most certainly can correct your specific muscle imbalances, which, isn’t that what we all truly need in the end? Creating that perfect balance of strength, flexibility and mobility to edge out our opponent? Well, if you are not convinced, I dare you to take our “Crunch” classes at the new Allegro Coaching Studio this year and see for yourself. The baseball team is just wrapping up a 6-week program and 100% of the athletes have already noticed a significant improvement in posture, core strength and flexibility. We’ll just have to wait and see if it pays off for winning the 2012 conference and edging out their opponent Hope College! Go Knights!