Pilates - a skier's best friend for conditioning
As I was participating in my Pilates instructor course this weekend, it dawned on me what a great form of exercise it is for us skiers. Pilates is great for helping to build a strong and stable core, as well as a rocking six-pack! OK, so maybe no-one will be able to see those ripping abs underneath all the thermal layers, but if we can be strong and stable in our core then our improved turns and confidence on the slopes will be a dead giveaway - and we will quickly be taking our skiing to the next level.
So without further ado, here are my three favourite Pilates exercises that you can do at home with little more than a mat or soft rug to lie on:
1. Dead Bugs
Benefits: Tones core abdominal muscles and stabilises the spine.
Step 1: Lie on the floor with your knees up and feet hip width apart on the floor. Arms are lying by your sides.
Step 2: Keeping the pelvis and back still throughout, inhale to float one leg into tabletop position. Exhale to lower the leg. Repeat on the other side.
Note: If you have a foam roller at home you can lie on the roller lengthways with your feet planted firmly on the floor, hip-width apart. Your arms can be a little wider on the ground to help create stability. Then proceed as in step 2. The emphasis is on a slow and controlled movement aiming for as little movement of the pelvis as possible. Repeat the exercise 10 – 12 times on each leg.
2. Chest lift
Benefits: Core stability, abdominal strength and back mobility.
Step 1: Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and hands behind your head.
Step 2: Inhale to prepare. Exhale to curl your head and chest up. You should curl no higher than to the middle of your shoulder blades - your shoulder blades should still have contact with the floor
Step 3: Inhale as you extend your arms overhead and take hold of your legs just behind your knees. Exhale to curl up a little further. Inhale to place hands back behind your head keeping your trunk lifted. Exhale to lower your trunk back down to the start position. Repeat 6 – 8 times (or up to 12 if you are really strong)
Benefits: Abdominal strength, core stabilisation, stimulates circulation and increases endurance.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees in a tabletop position. Have your arms at your side, palms facing down. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and abdominals drawn into your spine.
Step 2: Inhale to prepare. Exhale to roll your head, neck and shoulders off the floor looking across the room and reaching your gaze and your hands long and low off the floor. The spine should be lengthening until it is lightly pressing into the floor.
Step 3: Pump the palms up and down with your breath. Breathe in for 5 pumps, breathe out for 5 pumps. The maximum number of pumps is 100 (hence the name of the exercise).
Step 4: For more of a challenge, straighten your legs out and continue to pump your palms up and down with your breath. To avoid injury, only do this advanced variation if you can keep your lower back lightly pressing into the floor.
I know that the lure of an amazing six pack and dynamic skiing is almost unbearable. However I would highly recommend that if you have any lower back or neck issues, you are pregnant or have any other sneaking suspicions that these exercises may cause you injury in ANY way, consult your medical practitioner for clearance.
But for all the others - chop-chop, get to it! What are you waiting for? Better skiing AND a six pack - what more convincing do you need?
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