Monthly Archives: February 2012

Snowshoeing & Pilates Cross-training

To explore a pristine path through the wilderness, a path that has no tracks.

My cheeks sting as I trek a snow covered trail that sparkles like diamonds. Heart beating fast, breath setting the tempo for each step. Snow crunches like sugar beneath my snowshoes. Branches laden with snow, bow into archways. Like a child I explore familiar ground as if for the first time.

Snowshoeing invites us into the tranquility of winter while boosting our cardiovascular fitness. Over 6,000 years old, once used as a mode of transportation, today snowshoeing is an inexpensive, easy to learn, and multigenerational winter activity. If you are looking to shed a few pounds, snowshoeing burns as many calories as running, without the impact. Snowshoeing is excellent cross-training not only for hiking, but also for running and cycling. Snowshoeing builds strength and endurance in the lower body, and by adding poles, improves upper body strength in the arms, shoulders, and back.

To get the most out of your snowshoeing, you’ll want to stand up tall. Aligning your body, improves joint range of motion, takes pressure off your back, and improves your breathing. A strong core helps you to stay light and lifted over your feet. Boosting your core strength also improves your balance and agility so the next time you traverse a snowy slope, you’ll have more confidence. Pilates can help you strengthen and stabilize your core. In addition, Pilates can help you balance your muscles, thereby enhancing your gait and reducing risk of injury. Improving the strength and flexibility in your legs and hips takes pressure off your knees, improves range of motion, and also improves your endurance.

An effective snowshoeing cross-training routine focuses on boosting core strength, improving flexibility and muscle balance. Here are three Pilates exercises to help you get started. For my complete 15-minute Pilates for Snowshoeing Routine, please check out my book, Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete, available at pilatesfortheoutdoorathlete.com. Copies are also available at Evergreen Pilates.

Kneeling Side Kicks
Purpose: Strengthen the abductor and adductor muscles of the legs and hips.

Begin by kneeling with your legs together and your arms reaching out to the sides at shoulder height. Tip over until you are balancing over your right arm and leg. Extend your left leg out straight. Keep your hips square and abdominals scooped. INHALE to kick the leg forward like you’re kicking over a tabletop. Keep your supporting leg vertical and strong like a tree trunk.
EXHALE to sweep the leg straight back over the imaginary tabletop. Keep your leg parallel with the floor and level with your hip. For additional challenge, add kicking up and down and leg circles. Note: This exercise can be modified and performed standing. Hinge at the hips and use a countertop or table for balance. Switch sides.

Figure 4 Stretch with Ski Poles
Purpose: Stretch the hips extensors and back muscles.

Place the poles in front of you for support and balance, holding them with both hands.
Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
Keep your spine tall and hinge it forward as you gently bend your standing knee.

Tailgate Stretches

Purpose: Stretch the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip extensors, and flexors.

Begin facing the tailgate or a counter top. Raise one leg, place your heel on top of the tailgate, leg out straight, and square your hips. The knee of your raised leg should point upward. INHALE, stand up tall, and EXHALE curl forward over your leg, scooping your belly to your back. Come back up. INHALE, bend the raised leg, and shift your weight forward keeping your chest close to your thigh. EXHALE, straighten your raised leg and stand tall.
Rotate on your standing leg until you are facing sideways and your raised leg is externally rotated. The kneecap should still face upward. INHALE and bring your outside arm up by your head. EXHALE and side bend toward your raised leg. Pretend that your back is against a wall and slide against it as you side bend. Keep your chest lifted and breathe.

Lauri Stricker is the author of Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete, and the owner of Evergreen Pilates. Copies are available at Evergreen Pilates and online at: www.pilatesfortheoutdoorathlete.com. For information on classes, please check out our website: www.evergreenpilates.com.

7 Pilates Tips for Snow Shoveling

With three feet of fresh powder in Evergreen and still falling, many of you have a shovel in hand. For those of you still inside cozy and warm, here are a few tips for protecting your back while shoveling. According to one study, the L5/SI region of the spine has been identified as the weakest link for snow shoveling. Snow is heavy and shoving is demanding and rigorous work. Pushing, lifting, and lunging use all of the major muscles of the lower and upper body. Core strength, good form, and moderation are the keys to protecting your back from injury. In addition to back injuries, heart attacks are common after a heavy snow storm. If you have reason for concern, please consult you doctor prior to shoveling. Following are seven Pilates tips for snow shoveling.

7 Pilates Snow Shoveling Tips

1. Warm up first. If you know Pilates Mat work, calisthenics, or have a personal stretch routine, do that first.

2. Use good form. When shoveling, squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back tilted, but not rounded. Pull your navel to your, engage your core, and lift
with you legs.

3. Square your body. To move snow, turn your feet in the direction you intend to place the snow. Turn your whole body as opposed to just twisting at the waist, and avoid throwing snow over your shoulder.

4. Be efficient. Work toward the areas where you are depositing snow so that you have less distance to travel.

5. Don’t Delay. Shovel as soon as possible. Fresh powder is lighter than packed snow. Wet snow can weigh upwards of 25 pounds per full shovel.

6. Be minimalistic. Use a small shovel, or if using a larger one, go for smaller and more frequent loads. Avoid stretching arms away from you.

7. Pace yourself. Take breaks, hydrate, stretch the muscles that feel tight, and keep breathing.

Happy Snow Day!

Ski Conditioning & Pilates

What does it take to be a powerful, smooth, energy-efficient skier? A skier with rhythm and flow, gliding seamlessly from one turn to the next? Just about any skier can become an energy-efficient gliding machine. To be smooth and yet powerful, to feel that your skis are an extension of your body, requires core-centered movement. Core-centered skiing means tapping into what Joseph Pilates referred to as the “powerhouse”. The powerhouse refers to the muscles of the torso: hips, abdominals, chest, back and shoulders. Pilates targets these muscles and can help you become a stronger, smoother, and more powerful skier.

Skiing requires proper alignment, lower-body fitness, core strength and a strong mind-body connection. Muscle imbalances in the legs, such as tight or weak hamstrings, coupled with overly powerful quadriceps, can leave the ankles, knees, hips and back vulnerable to injury. As a skier, you’ll appreciate the additional core strength gained from Pilates. Tapping into a strong core, you’ll improve your balance, agility and be more in control. By tightening your core, you’ll reduce impact on your back, hips and knees. As you improve your flexibility and core strength, your alignment will improve and so will your technique.

If your hips and core muscles are not strong, or if your muscles are inflexible, you will be challenged every turn on the slope. Moving from your center, balancing your muscles and improving your flexibility go a ling way to improving your technique, your endurance and will help you avoid injury. Over the past 70 years, the Pilates method of body conditioning has trained athletes to effectively strengthen and move from their core.

Pilates helps skiers to accomplish three things: prevent sport-specific injuries, improve performance and maintain longevity. It is designed to work your entire body uniformly each session. As you switch form one movement to the next, you’ll build flexibility, strength and stamina. Pilates strengthens and stretches all parts of your body, front to back, left to right and top to bottom.

An effective Pilates cross-training routine focuses on boosting core strength, improving flexibility and restoring muscle balance. Here are two Pilates exercise to help you get started. For a complete 15-minute Pilates for Skiing Cross training routine, please check out my book: Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete, available www.pilatesfortheoutdoorathlete.com. Copies are also available at Evergreen Pilates.

Side Bend: Sitting on one hip, extend your legs out from your torso with slightly bent knees. Place your top foot in front of your bottom foot. Reset your top arm on your leg and place your bottom arm slightly in front of your shoulder. INHALE, press up and make yourself straight as an arrow in a side plank. Your supporting arm should be under your shoulder. Look directly forward and keep your head inline with your spine. Pretend your body is between two panes of glass. EXHALE, lower yourself down so that you are a few inches off the ground. Avoid sinking into your shoulders or sitting down before you press back up. INHALE, raise back up and extend your top arm over your head and look down toward the floor. EXHALE down. Repeat on opposite side.

Roll Up: Begin lying on your back with your feet flexed and your arms overhead. Pull your navel to your spine. INHALE, raise your arms up toward the sky, and lift your head to look at your feet. Curl up, peeling your spine off the mat, as if rolling up a painting. Avoid using momentum to hoist yourself off the mat. Pretend you are under a very low sky and stay rounded throughout the exercise. Keep your heels connected to the floor as you roll up. EXHALE, and curl forward, reaching toward your feet, looking down at your knees. Hollow out your stomach as if there were something on your lap that you want to lift up and over. INHALE, and roll back down one vertebra at a time, as if you were making an imprint with your spine in sand. Keep your feet flexed and imprint your spine on the mat, ending with your arms overhead. EXHALE to complete.

Evergreen Pilates offers Ski Conditioning classes through the end of March. If you are new to Pilates, please call or email to schedule a complimentary introductory one-on-one lesson: 303-679-1664, lauri@nullevergreenpilates.com. For more information on Ski Conditioning with Pilates, please check out our webpage evergreenpilates.com .