Sports injuries are all too common, but there are easy ways to prevent them. In fact, one of the best ways that athletes can prevent and even rehabilitate sports injuries is through the regular practice of Pilates.
Regular practice of Pilates actually prevents injuries, and can even speed up the recovery process. Here’s how:
Pilates focuses on problem areas
Pilates concentrates on specific body parts, isolating areas and improving their functionality. These movements aren’t just thrown around; they are conscious and intentional at all times during the workout. Practitioners of Pilates learn to isolate muscle groups that need to be strengthened, a powerful tool to have when it comes to preventing injuries. Athletes who practice Pilates learn to manipulate the areas just around injured parts of the body, or to ward off injury by focusing on places that are more prone to injury.
This method of exercise is adaptable, allowing users to figure out exactly where they need to go with their movements in order to get the full depth of Pilates benefits. Different areas of the body are more or less likely to become injured based on the needs of the specific sport, and Pilates offers the opportunity to zero in on the precise problem areas.
Relieving tension and learning to properly release and pursue the breath is a great way to prevent injury. Pilates is all about learning to follow the breath and to allow it to guide movement. This consciousness is something that is often missing in athletics, and it’s common for athletes to hold their breath unnaturally and therefore to be more likely to become injured when all of that tension meets the physical exertion of sport.
Proper breathing stabilizes the trunk to offer a more solid foundation for movement. It also relieves pressure that builds up and can cause muscles to become rigid.
In Pilates, breathing is intimately connected to movement, with inhales coming as motion builds, and exhales coming as the motion proceeds. It sounds simple enough, but without consisted practice it doesn’t often come easy. Regular Pilates practice helps athletes to harness the power of the air coming in and out of their lungs in order to keep potential injuries at bay.
Balanced muscle development
Pilates benefits the development of muscles all over the body that are properly balanced. In any sport, some muscle groups are naturally going to be used more often than others.
For instance in tennis, the triceps and pectorals are heavily relied upon in order to get that perfect serve. The opposing bicep and trapezius muscles are left without an equal amount of focus, causing those more developed muscles to create an imbalance and leaving the door open to over exertion and injury. Without working opposing muscle groups, athletes find themselves in a situation in which the don’t have balanced development, leaving them more prone to injury.
The proper alignment that comes with balanced muscle development can correct imperfect movement patterns, bringing movements into better and more healthy alignments that prevent sports injuries. Changing those patterns can also help to alleviate in problems after they’ve manifested and to get athletes back on track.
A fundamental philosophy of Pilates is that it works the whole body, specifically focusing on balanced muscle development. Opposing muscle groups are consciously developed in an effort to keep the body from pulling too far in one direction or another.
The whole system of Pilates helps practitioners to find out where their bodies are in space, how they move and what kinds of movement feel certain ways. There is an optimization of movement that comes with regular Pilates practice, a personal efficiency that fosters self-discovery of what works and what doesn’t work so well. This awareness gives athletes the chance to make adjustments when necessary, decreasing the likelihood of injury.
So often we just move our bodies without thinking. This is something that’s true even of high level athletes. Moving the body becomes more of a reflex than a conscious decision. The problem with that is that everyone, no matter what their skill level, learns habits that aren’t perfect. Getting out of those bad habits is no small thing, but by improving body awareness it is possible to make the kinds of adjustments in movement that foster easier and more effective engagement in sport activities.
We are in control of every movement that our bodies make. Learning to sense how movement affects the body, how to live in the body with the mind fully present, allows athletes to sense injuries before they become overwhelming. In this case, knowing really is half the battle.
It’s not only important to be aware of the body in order to prevent injury, it’s equally important to have control over the body’s movement. Pilates gives that control to practitioners. Precision is the name of the game in Pilates, with movements being controlled down to the minutiae of their execution.
Most of the work in Pilates takes place in the “mid -range” – not engaging a muscle group to its limits but rather holding back somewhere between no exertion and fully going there. Athletes often miss this range, pushing their bodies hard but without the kind of control that’s necessary to prevent injury.
Pilates offers a safe and effective training method for athletes to learn how to control their muscles and to hold back when necessary. Preventing serious injury in sport is often about learning to hold back when a muscle or joint is slightly compromised to prevent a traumatizing event.
The bottom line on sports injuries is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Athletes who are serious about keeping themselves in the game and out of the doctor’s office are well advised to take up a regular Pilates practice in order to prevent injury. You can begin today by downloading our easy 100-day challenge! We’ll provide you with a quick, new Pilates exercise to do each day, making you stronger, more flexible, and less prone to injury.