Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Develop lean muscles in just 8 to 10 minutes a day: Why Pilates is so effective for athletes

By Nicolette House

Pilates instructor Stephanie Viggiano knows the benefits of a good off-ice conditioning routine. A skater herself, Viggiano moved through the ranks, competing in singles, pairs and ice dancing. She eventually went on the compete internationally with the Starlets synchronized skating team in France and Italy.

As a college intern studying exercise physiology at Bowling Green, Viggiano was impressed by the young athletes that took initiaive to dvelop their own off-ice physical therapy routines without being injured.

“They did it to improve their own body awareness and their own  flexibility so they wouldn’t get injuried.  That’s  how I got into it all- seeing them do these preventative exercises.  It wasn’t even thought of to do off-ice when I skated. I wish I would have known what I know now when I was a skater,” remarks Viggiano.

Viggiano puts her training to good use teaching Pilates to skaters at the Northbrook Park District. Athletes can develop core strength and long lean muscles simply by doing the standard Pilates mat exercises everyday.

Skaters as young as seven can learn the Pilates mat exercises. Since they’re still limber at that age, the mat exercises will help them maintain their flexibility as well as begin to strengthen their muscles.

“Pilates strengthens muscles at the same time as lengthening them. Skaters won’t end up with those bulky skater legs that everybody talks about. Pilates develops that lean dancer like body. At the same time the skaters become  very strong,” says Viggiano.

Once athletes memorize the basic mat series they can complete it in eight to ten minutes. The exercises involved, such as The Hundred, Pilates roll up, rolling like a ball, leg circles, and side kicks all improve core strength because athletes use their own body weight while exercising.

“Everything in skating comes from the core. Landing your jump requires a strong core. A strong stomach keeps the back healthy when skaters try Biellmans as well,” says Viggiano.

In addition to using the mat exercises as a warmup ,skaters can use the Pilates Reformer to acquire better body awareness and strength.

“Skaters can do the machine twice a week. Three times would be ideal but twice a week would be accepatable too” suggests Viggiano.

Once on the reformer athletes can begin to determine if their bodies are in alignment when performing the exercises. They can feel if they are working one side of the body more than the other and adjust accordingly. The reformer springs add additional resistance to the workout. Athletes should be in high school to use the reformer since they need to be tall enough to use the machine appropriately.

Some of the best exercises skaters can do to develop lean legs include the side kick series which targets the legs, hips, and buttocks. The teaser works the core.

Pilates exercises isolate different muscle groups. At first athletes may feel as if they aren’t benefitting from the workout. Once athletes learn how to isolate each muscle group the exercies become harder. Pilates never gets easier because athletes can always squeeze and work their muscles more intensely.

“People enjoy it because they feel like their muscles are working. They can always make the exercises harder,” explains Viggiano.

Pilates exercises are meant to be done on a daily basis. While athletes will feel fatigue they exercises are compiled in such a way that they will be able to recover and workout the next day.

Looking to tone your abs, butt, and thighs in a short amount of time? Pilates mat or reformer may be for you.

Stephanie Viggiano is a certfied Pilates instructor. She works with skaters in the Chicago area. Stephanie has a BS in Exercise Physiology from Bowling Green Univeristy. She is certified through the Pilates Center of the North Shore and continues to hone her skills through continuing education.