Many triathletes suffer various back aches and pains. With the right approach, Pilates can help reduce and eliminate back pain.
Pilates routines are an effective way to obtain strength, balance and flexibility throughout the body. Pilates targets the body's core muscle group consisting of the abdominals, low back and glutes. During a Pilates session there are various exercises you can do to target your back and help it function properly.
The back is a highly functional and robust part of the human body. It acts as a support center for nearly every move that the body makes. The structure of the back is designed to be durable and, in turn, most pain experienced in the back is often able to be reversed through proper rest and corrective exercises. Pilates can play an integral part in helping to reverse damage and prevent future injury.
An evolved combination of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments create the back. There are 31 layered back muscles that connect to the pelvis and protect the spine by wrapping around it from the neck to the tailbone. The spine's 24 vertebrae are protected by intervertebral discs that lie between each vertebrae and act as pads that provide cushioning and absorb shock and impact.
The spine is made up of three sections, which together form an S-curve designed to absorb impact by reacting like a large spring. Impact is also absorbed by the back's core muscles and by the soft pad-like discs between the spine's vertebrae.
Building strength, flexibility, and maintaining proper balance are key to keep the back functioning efficiently and free from pain. Pilates routines can aid in achieving these objectives. Pilates and functional training help to create harmony in the body and work muscle groups that are disproportionately weaker than others to bring the body back into balance, thus reducing pain. If certain muscles in the body are disproportionately stronger than others, the back will not function properly. The dysfunction often results in pain.
Another important point to remember is the need to achieve balance in your mind as well. The body constantly works to maintain correct posture; this process is known as proprioception. Messages from the brain are continuously fired to the muscles. Pilates routines can help strengthen and flex the appropriate muscles and "train" your mind to achieve the balance and correct posture needed to function effectively.
Pilates classes also can help you relax and distress allowing the mind to unwind from the stress of everyday life.
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Pilates increases flexibility, which allows muscles to absorb pressure and force by flexing before breaking. The more flexible the muscle is the less likely it will tear. The muscles in the body work with electrical energy in the form of nerve signal and impulses. Achieving optimal use of the body's muscles will depend partly on creating a smooth flow of these signals throughout the muscle fibers. Being stiff can disrupt and block the flow of these important signals.
As the body ages it loses fluids in the muscles and discs in the back. Maintaining good flexibility with Pilates stretching can encourage the flow of fluids throughout the body, helping to lubricate the joints and keep the discs flexible.
Pilates helps build strength in a variety of muscle groups, especially those required to maintain a healthy back. The trunk, hip and thigh muscles will be appropriately developed to create balance and reduce injury. Pilates increases endurance and balance. With this improvement the body can recover faster and become stronger.
Back pain can be caused by poor posture, aging, strain during a physical activity or sport, or even work-related, but the good news is Pilates may be what is needed to get back on track.
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Kelly Wissolik is a USA Triathlon Level II coach and elite long-course triathlete. She lives and trains in Monclova, Ohio, with husband and fellow coach Rob, and she is the owner and creator of Energy Fitness Coaching, LLC (EFC), which has coaches located throughout the U.S. and hosts camps and clinics nationwide. To learn more about Energy Fitness, including youth programs and the interactive Power Log and Power Chat, please visit www.energyfitnesscoaching.com.
Kelly is also the creator of TriathilatesTM a system that utilizes several basic-mat Pilates movements and various other core conditioning and balance exercises specifically to improve muscular imbalances of endurance athletes while sharpening their mental focus.