It’s no secret that cross training offers a whole host of benefits for elite athletes. In the pursuit of that Olympic glory, many athletes have turned to Pilates to help them take their sport the next level. Because Pilates offers a balanced, whole-body workout that pulls the mind in line with the physical body, it offers a perfect way for Olympians to add that special something to their regimen, giving them the edge over the competition.
Here are six Olympic athletes who use Pilates to help them go for the gold.
The only female athlete swimming in the open water, 10,000-meter event in Rio, Anderson won Silver in 2012 in London. This year she hopes to take home the gold. Since her Olympic debut four years ago, Haley has graduated from college and now trains full time.
She’s added in Pilates as part of her new, tougher regimen to help her improve the balance and stamina that she needs to beat her rivals. Her race takes almost two hours and is the equivalent of the marathon in swimming. That kind of distance is difficult to imagine, and a regular Pilates workout reinforces the stamina necessary to make it happen.
One of the most prominent Olympians in Rio is Missy Franklin, a swimmer who owns multiple world records and is swimming in her second Olympics in 2016. In London she took home five medals, four gold and a bronze. This year she hopes to add to that tally.
The core building nature of Pilates helps her to swim stronger and with more balance and she credits that work outside of the pool with helping her to dominate in the water. What’s great about Pilates for swimmers is that it encourages movement that stems from the core and flows out. That focus and control helps swimmers extend their motion and move faster through the water. The bodily awareness is also an important aspect for swimmers, who can learn to tweak their movements more effectively and thereby know how to make adjustments that get them to the wall that much faster.
British tennis superstar Andy Murray is well known for his stamina and speed on the court that led him to a gold medal on his home turf in London in 2012. After back surgery in 2014, Murray turned to Pilates to build his core and help him to recover in a positive and balanced way. Today he’s a heavy medal favorite in Rio.
Murray has been an outspoken advocate of Pilates in the years since his surgery, talking to the Wall Street Journal at length about the benefits Pilates has given him. He’s even been known to take his favorite Pilates instructor with him abroad to keep his training up as he works out overseas. In the aftermath of his back trouble, Pilates has been a central focus of his cross training for tennis. Those same benefits are available to anyone recovering from an injury, as Pilates is a perfect recovery tool.
One of the most decorated female athletes in British history, cyclist Pendleton won gold in Beijing, gold and silver in London. She’s also a member of the European Cycling Hall of Fame. Competing in her fourth Olympics in Rio, she’s added Pilates to her regimen for added balance and improved core strength, two of the most important things for a cyclist to develop.
In a 2012 interview with Marie Claire, Pendleton credited Pilates with helping her to get over back trouble and get back on the cycle. “I’ve been doing Pilates for more than a year, and for me, it’s been a real breakthrough in managing back pain and building my postural muscles.” Cycling is tough on the body, requiring long periods of rigid muscle control at high speeds. The core strength needed to maintain all of that is phenomenal and a regular regimen of Pilates offers a boost to all cyclists, elite or amateur.
Beach volleyball is one of the most highly anticipated sports of the Games, and one of its biggest stars is Kerry Walsh-Jennings. Competing in her fourth Olympics in Rio, Walsh-Jennings won gold medals in Athens, Beijing and London. Her dominance in the sport is difficult to overstate, as she is both a pioneer and a still prominent figure on the sand. She’s set to add to her trophy case in Rio, where she’s a heavy favorite.
She credits Pilates with helping her to regain her strength after giving birth, saying “Pilates gives you such great body awareness. When I got pregnant, I really got into Pilates because I wanted to fix all my asymmetries. I have a new body because of it.” That new body has worked for her and she continues to be an outspoken advocate of Pilates as part of her training.
American diver David Boudia is set to make history once again in Rio. Competing in his third Olympics, Boudia won gold in London on the 10m platform and bronze in the synchronized 10m platform with partner Nick McCrory. In Rio he’s competing with Steele Johnson, a new partner, and has added Pilates to his workout regimen for added flexibility and strength as he goes for the gold once again.
Divers in particular get a lot out of Pilates, as they need a great deal of control to form their movements perfectly. Pilates encourages a bodily awareness that’s hard to beat, something that just isn’t there with other cross training methods. Synchronized diving like that practiced by Boudia requires it even more, as both divers have to simultaneously be aware of their movements and those of their partner.
Begin your Pilates journey
You don’t have to be a world class athlete to get the benefits of Pilates. No matter what your age or skill level, starting a regular Pilates practice can help you to feel better, do more and be healthier. Begin today with a simple, free download of our 100s to Happiness app, a seven day starter package with a new Pilates lesson each day!