Pilates Training for Spring Sports

by Jessica Von Duerring, Pilates and Barre-Certified

The fresh air, the flowers in bloom, the warming rays of the sun… there is nothing quite as invigorating as a spring day—it’s time to get outside! Whether your outdoor passion is climbing, cycling, hiking, paddling or running, the below Pilates exercises can help boost performance, prevent injury and increase longevity for all athletes. For best results, practice 3-5 times weekly. 

:: Climbing: Plank Arm Row and Rotate. Perhaps there is no better workout than rock climbing to build a sexy, toned upper body. A perfect Pilates exercise that targets your shoulders, upper back, chest, triceps, biceps, and abs – all muscles which do a lot of work in climbing – is the Plank Arm Row and Rotate. Start on the floor in a full push-up position, balancing on hands and toes, with body forming a straight line from head to heels. Move feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping hips level, lift one hand off floor and bend left elbow behind you to bring hand next to shoulder. Return to start, and repeat to the other side. Do 2 sets of 10 reps, alternating sides.

:: Cycling: Shoulder Bridge. Cycling can lead to imbalances in the body because the hip flexors become overly tight. Further, because of a cyclist’s constant position for an extended period of time, they often experience low back pain and rounded shoulders. A Shoulder Bridge not only stretches the shoulders and back, but it also mobilizes the spine, strengthens the hamstrings and glutes, and releases the hip flexors. Begin lying on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale and pull in navel toward spine. Exhale, and slowly peel back off the floor, starting with the tailbone and lifting up one vertebra at a time until body becomes one long line. Hold for a few seconds and then reverse the movement. Perform 3-5 sets of 10 reps. For an added challenge, extend one leg toward the ceiling, and lower and lift leg three times. Repeat on other leg, always remaining strong and stable (chest open, hips even, pelvis lifted).

:: Hiking: Leg Pull Front and Back. To get your lower body in tip-top shape for hiking, first do the Leg Pull Front to build lean muscle mass in your quads. Begin sitting with legs extended forward. Place hands about six inches behind you, shoulder distance apart, and point fingers toward toes. Then, lift hips off the floor, keeping your chin up and back flat. Exhale to lift one leg straight up and hold for 3-5 seconds. Inhale to lower leg back down, and then switch sides. Alternate and lift each leg 12-20 times, rest for one minute, and repeat. To strengthen hamstrings and glutes, next do the Leg Pull Back. Start in a full plank position with hands on the floor below shoulders, and toes on the ground. Raise one leg up off the floor only as high as you can without shifting hips or arching back. Hold 3-5 seconds. Lower leg to the floor and then repeat to other side. For an added challenge, make small circles with knee while leg is extended, keeping leg long and torso quiet.

:: Paddling: Half Roll Down with Oblique Twist. Paddling and balancing in a kayak or canoe engages your entire core, so it’s important to do core-based exercises in order to improve your balance and control. Begin sitting with legs together, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Inhale as you slide shoulder blades down and straighten your arms to chest height, palms up. Exhale to lift up out of the hips and roll back. Rotate upper body to the right as right arm opens to the side, and go as far as possible keeping your pelvis stable, facing front. Then, inhale and press through feet, engage your core, and rotate spine back to the starting position. Repeat to the left side and do 5-10 reps, alternating sides.

:: Running: The Pilates “Hundred” (the name refers to completing one set, which is based on 100 counts). This classic Pilates exercise strengthens your diaphragm, targets abdominal endurance and improves posture to help you run with less effort. To begin, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keep arms at your sides, palms down. Inhale and lift head, neck, shoulders, and arms off the floor. Lift knees and extend feet so legs are straight and at a 45-degree angle. Inhale for 5 short breaths and exhale for 5 short breaths. While doing so, pump arms, moving them in a controlled up-and-down manner. Do a cycle of 10 full breaths.

Add Pilates to your training program today to give yourself a “spring” boost to your favorite outdoor sport!