3 Ways Pilates Perfectly Complements Winter Sports

By: StacyAtZeel

While summer days are often characterized by lazy afternoons at the shore, come winter, many of us head to the mountains for sports of a more extreme kind. Did you know that Pilates can be a wonderful way to supplement your winter fitness routine?

Says Zeel Expert Halle Clarke, owner of Soho's Mongoose Bodyworks: "Pilates is a perfect complement to the rigorous and repetitive nature of winter sports." Halle adds that, as with many athletic endeavors, winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and even ice skating rely on repetitive movements that can take a toll on the body. Here, she gives us three ways Pilates can counteract these effects.

Build endurance and strength. Because of the personalized nature of the practice, Pilates can uniquely create endurance and strength in the specific muscles needed to ski and skate-and to do them well! When flying down the mountain at high speeds, for example, one needs to remain in a position with bent knees for an extended period of time. With Pilates, an instructor can create a session that is geared toward strengthening the legs, with special attention to the alignment of the hips, knees and ankles in order to build endurance as well.

Mind your mechanics. Squatting for hours on end, as you shift your weight left to right and back again, doesn't exactly sound easy-and that's because it's not. With Pilates, you can work to improve the mechanics of your positioning and movements, enabling you to find balance with greater ease. Halle explains that a seasoned Pilates instructor can help their pupil learn how to "squat" with the best possible alignment to avoid unnecessary strain to the joints. "This kind of detail can mean the difference between getting injured or not," Halle notes.

A great way to cross-train. Ice skating may be a graceful sport, but even gold medalists don't get that way without cross-training the muscles specific to the rink. Halle describes how ice skating places added pressure on the hamstrings, gluteals and abductors - muscles required to "push off" and glide. To prevent muscular imbalance around the joints (which could consequently lead to injury), try Pilates and train the antagonist muscles that improve balance.

While one might argue that any form of physical training could achieve these same goals, Pilates often reigns supreme because its instructors are trained to not only target muscle groups, but to recognize when a student is moving in a way that creates a disadvantage in the body as well. "A well-trained instructor teaches the client how to move in a way that creates ease and strength around the joints," says Halle. "And this is a very individual process that cannot be prescribed in a cookie cutter way."