Prepare for Winter with Pilates

One of the primary objectives of the Pilates method is increasing adaptability – the body’s ability to adjust and respond to challenges that it meets; a skill that comes in handy when cruising down the mountainside on your mode of choice. Your squats, lunges and balance exercises are important prep for the winter season, but try adding these five basic Pilates exercises to your usual regimen. They will help you to move better and more efficiently in your regular exercises, and on the slopes.

Breathing
Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Focus on where the air wants to go and what activates when you inhale and exhale. Ideally, you want to expand your rib cage maximally in all directions as you inhale. Typically, it’s easy to breathe into the front of your rib cage, but difficult to breathe into the back, so focus on bringing air into the back of your rib cage. Notice the expansion that occurs in your mid and upper back as a result. When you exhale, imagine that a belt is tightening around your waist to help to squeeze the last bit of air out. Once you get the idea, try taking a few breaths like this at various points throughout the day, in different positions – biking, driving, standing. This will help to connect you to your body, bring awareness to your posture, and bring oxygen into your body more effectively.

Knee Sways
Lying on your back, cross one knee over the other and draw your inner thighs together. Inhale and let your knees fall to one side, keeping your opposite shoulder down on the ground, as if wringing your body out like a sponge. Exhale and untwist – starting with the ribs, then lower back, then pelvis. Breathe as described above. Do a few each way, then switch legs.

Roll Downs
Stand against the wall with your feet a few inches in front of you, knees soft. Breathe as above as you peel yourself off of the wall one vertebra, or spinal section, at a time, starting with your head and finishing with your sacrum. Then roll back up the wall and re-stack your spine one vertebra at a time. Notice which parts of your back roll off the wall easily and which parts feel stuck.

Single Leg Kick
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your hips. Slowly bend one knee at a time without letting the pressure of your hips on your hands change. Think about breathing and lengthening through your trunk and hips; this will help you to keep your pelvis and hips still as you bend your knee. Next, try this on a foam roller to add a quad release.

Single Leg Stretch
Lying on your back, lift your head and shoulders, hug one knee in tightly to your chest and extend the other away from you with as much length as possible. Breathe as above as you alternate legs. Maximise the compression in your bent leg, and the length in your extended leg, and focus on controlling both legs from your centre.

Important note:  if you feel pain or discomfort doing any of these exercises, do not continue.

Kate Richardson is a former Olympic level gymnast, physiotherapist and pilates instructor at Mountain Life Pilates who combines the pilates method with therapeutic principles to help clients feel empowered by moving better. mountainlifepilates.com

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