Cross Training for Gold

August 17, 2016 3:15 pm Published by

Tri_swim_bike_runFeeding your body only broccoli everyday won’t nourish you or sustain you although broccoli is healthy. The same goes with only training your body with one type of exercise. Like food, you need a variety of workouts to create a nourishing ‘meal’ for your body. Let’s imagine you are a swimmer. When cross training, you will not only swim to become the best you can be but you will also run, lift weights, cycle, and- of course, train with Pilates. This will help you become a well-rounded swimmer, enhancing your abilities. Many Olympian athletes have discovered this secret. Whether they run, box, play volleyball, or swim, their training regime consists of a range of techniques and exercises. Most who cross train have Pilates as their base.

One such athlete, American swimmer Dara Torres, spent the majority of the time training outside the pool with—you guessed it—Pilates. At the time, she was the oldest U.S. Olympic swimmer in history (at the ripe young age of 41) and one of only a handful of Olympians to earn medals in five different games. She called Pilates her secret weapon.

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Natalie Coughlin, an American competition swimmer and twelve-time Olympic medalist, always warmed up with the same Pilates mat routine before jumping in the pool, even on competition days. Her favorite piece of Pilates equipment is the Pilates chair. She even keeps one at home.

See, Pilates mimics the water, offering resistance that strengthens joints, builds muscles, and improves overall flexibility.  Synchronized swimming teams use the reformer and mat Pilates for this purpose as well. And of course, we cannot forget the breath work Pilates offers.

Other Olympians who cross train with Pilates also see the benefits. Lolo Jones, who specializes in the 60 and 100 meter hurdles uses Pilates to maintain her flexibility while strengthening her muscles and rehabilitate after the hurdles take a toll on her body. A lover of reformer workouts, Kerri Walsh, winner of the gold medal in Womens Volleyball, trains with Pilates to recover from a dive and excel at long reaches for the ball. She proclaims a Pilates regime is a must for all volleyball players. David Boudia, Bronze medalist in Synchronized 10m Platform Diving, uses Pilates for enhancing performance and preventing injuries. Olympic Gold Medalist boxer, Andre Ward incorporates Pilates to strengthen his core to aid in balance leading to velocity.

Just as it is during competitions, Pilates is purposeful, mindful, and focused— no daydreaming here. On the other end of the spectrum, Pilates can help offer tired, sore, and overworked muscles find functional balance with restorative training. Many athletes and non-athletes have discovered this and therefore choose Pilates as part of their cross training regime. See, you don’t need to be an Olympian to include Pilates in your life. But be aware, if you do, you just may end up feeling like an Olympian.

Melissa has been studying Pilates for over fifteen years. Now retired from a twenty year professional dance career, she is currently a published author.