Summer is just around the corner and for many of you that means time for summer sports like running, swimming and hiking. I started doing Pilates to help me with chronic shoulder and low back injuries associated with racing triathlon. Pilates helped me to train for all three sports - swimming, biking and running - but today I want to talk more specifically about Pilates for swimmers since Pilates literally saved my shoulders.
Professional swimmers like Olympic Gold Medalists Natalie Coughlin and Miss Franklin are just a few of the high level swimmers who rely on Pilates to help them perform in the pool. The core strength, body awareness and control, and precise movements of Pilates are exactly what help them to adjust their bodies in the water and get them to the wall faster. But if you’re like me, you’re not out there to win Olympics medals, but instead to enjoy yourself.
The biggest issue I had as a swimmer was my shoulders. I always had some type of a problem whether it was a painful impingement or a super tight chest. As much as I loved swimming, it gave me postural problems. I can remember practices where I just kicked with a kick board because my shoulders were too injured to work. It was a huge drag!
Pilates was great for me because it worked so specifically on strengthening my rotator cuff muscles, those tiny shoulder core muscles that keep the ball of my upper arm bone perfectly centered on the tiny socket of my shoulder blade. It also helped to increase the strength of my shoulder blade stabilizers and movers so that those muscles were working correctly. When those muscles weren’t working correclty, it would eventually turn into an injury of some sort.
And the best part is, with the tiny core muscles and stabilizers of my rotator cuff and shoulder blade working correctly, that meant my larger, more powerful muscles like my lats could work harder and more efficiently to help me create more force in the water. With my tighter, stronger abdominal core I was also able to keep a better body position in the water which decreased the drag off my body and the load on my shoulders and made me faster!
STOTT Pilates does an excellent job of training instructors so they can teach you how to use your shoulders properly, just as I did. I recently found this amazing video which showcases specifically how Pilates can help with swimming specifically— especially if butterfly is your thing. Make sure you check it out because it’s really cool!
Pilates is something I would recommend for any athlete at any level. We know that many professional athletes like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant love it, but it is as useful and helpful to all the weekend warriors out there (like myself). If a chronic injury is keeping you from doing a summer sport you love, make sure you schedule an appointment to come and see us. All Emerald City Pilates instructors are STOTT trained and we can help you get back out there doing what you love in a body that feels like a well trained machine.