Long before I found my passion for running and eventually triathlon, I was a dancer, primarily a ballet dancer for companies including The Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre and Yorkshire Scholars. Dance was literally my life, I would sit in splits to watch TV, and had my own ballet bar in my bedroom – yes, I am obsessive in everything that I do and always have been.
I gave up my dream of becoming the next Darcey B, and after a few years found myself swimming, biking and running as a new way to keep myself entertained. A few years down the triathlon line and I find myself struggling to touch my toes, frequently injured and spending a lot of time and money with the physio.
My most recent and worst injury of a stress fracture in the back involved a very lengthy recovery time during the training of my first Ironman (you’ve probably heard I’m an Ironman, I mention it multiple times a day!) I vowed to myself during one of my tearful visits to the physio that going forward I would be better; I would do everything I could to avoid this situation again!
Instability through the pelvic region is a common cause of lower back pain, usually from an anterior pelvic tilt from tight hip flexors which shortens the lower back muscles, and brings the hamstrings into a stretched position, leaving vulnerability to injuries. Every trip I have had to the physio has addressed this as one of my issues.
One of my ‘being better’ resolutions, aside from regular physio checks, is Pilates. I have come to realise it is one of the best forms of conditioning that an athlete can include within their training – so much so that I have made the decision to become an instructor myself.
Pilates work releases hip flexors which in turn reduces the strain on lower back muscles and hamstrings. It also strengthens all of the muscles around the hips, and increases core stability which is incredibly important for an athlete – powerful movements cannot be generated in a position of instability, Pilates helps to stabilise these core muscles which can maximise an athletes power out-put.
A lot of Pilates movements are unilateral, generating control and strength/control in unstable positions through an athlete’s weak sides, working on these areas avoid injury where they are most likely to happen.
Pilates balances muscle groups by assessing the body and correcting strength imbalances, so athletes involved in unilateral sports will really benefit from it. Thanks to cycling, I have really strong quads in comparison to my hamstrings, and strong glutes compared to very under worked adductors – which will cause my injury without any work.
Flexibility is an obvious benefit for athletes, as well as rotational strength. For me as a triathlete and needing to be a powerful swimmer, swimmers need as much rotational strength as possible as more strength and flexibility allows a greater range of movement, giving more power to my stroke.
I am excited to start teaching and hopefully encouraging more people, especially athletes to take up Pilates regularly! I will be taking on clients and teaching classes from early Feb 2017 for anyone who thinks they might like to work with me!