Cross training for swimmers – the benefits of Pilates

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, in 30 you’ll have a whole new body” Joseph Pilates

As mermaids get let’s say slightly older they are less able to swim every day and cross training – building fitness in different ways – becomes even more important.

One of our favourite forms of training outside the pool is Pilates.  The concept of Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany in the early 20th century.   Pilates is based on six principles: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.  Classes generally include a series of stretching and strengthening exercises focusing on developing the deep core muscles.  This strengthens the whole body and helps to prevent injuries – essential for making it though the long open water swimming season.

“In swimming, speed comes directly from the core,” says Dana Torres, “so Pilates helps immensely!”

Apart from the core strength you get that helps the swimming it also helps you understands minute movements of your body and how great an impact they have and how you can control them.  This sounds familiar because in swimming, where technique is so important and you can find yourself debating the positioning of the thumb on entry into the water, it is paramount to make tiny adjustments to your stroke that will have a significant impact, so understanding this out of the water can only aid these adjustments in the water.

Whereas at Team mermaids we TRY to breathe bilaterally as much as we can, we often resort to one sided breathing.  This can lead to misalignment and a strong and weak side, which in turn can and has led to issues for us.  Pilates helps ensure that you are giving time and strength to your weak side.  Additionally, we know how much the body loves to resort to the easy option and use 1 muscle instead multiple (specifically of concern for swimming with the complex shoulder taking so much of a battering), pilates allows you the time to build those muscles that have “switched off”

There are two main types of Pilates classes; reformer and mat.  Reformer Pilates involves undertaking the exercise on a bed type machine, which increases the resistance and stretching elements of the exercise.

Our favourite place for reformer classes is Frame in Shoreditch.  Classes are good value (£16) whereas classes at other studios can be £20 – £25.

We have both done reformer Pilates from about three years now and when I was going to at least one class a week I really noticed the different in terms of my core strength which in turn helped my swimming.

My (Katie) favourite teacher is Rhos.  He really really pushes you in classes and his no nonsense attitude is always amusing.  Manda loves Sara whose classes are often more rehab focused and great if you are recovering from an injury.  Maisie is also great for pregnancy Pilates classes.  Our friend Kimberly was doing her classes up until about 6 weeks before she popped.

Frame have just opened a new studio in Kings Cross which we are going to have to check out.

We are both more experienced at reformer Pilates but while I have been off on maternity leave I have been doing mum and baby mat Pilates classes with Katie Francesca in Balham.

Not only does she have a fantastic name but she runs great classes.  The classes are really challenging and you always feel like you have had a great workout.  Katie explains different levels for the exercise though so you can exercise at the right level for you.  Katie always has a fun 80s playlist as well!

I have really enjoyed the classes and they have been great for building up my core strength again after having had the baby.  They are going to be the thing is miss most about maternity leave!

If you are looking for something to do outside of the pool then we would definitely recommend giving Pilates a try.


Update 2017

I (Manda) continued using Pilates pre and post natal to complement my swimming and ensure I stayed fit and strong for carrying a growing baby bump, giving birth and for all the challenges post birth.  I actually did a class the Wednesday before giving birth on the Saturday and I had been booked in to do the Saturday class but I was somewhat busy giving birth so had to miss it!

Pre Natal

Whilst pregnant I did a physio (Madia) led pilates class at ReCentre in Balham.  The class was a slow class with only a few people so that you could ensure you were doing all the mat based moves correctly.

I enjoyed the small class nature and it was on a Saturday morning so could fit in pre swimming.

To complement the above class I did a class once a week with Katie from Katie’s pilates (see above).  I got so much satisfaction from this class as it was HARD and would often end up in a proper sweat.  The 2 classes whereas, both are pilates, they were so different and I really liked how they balanced each other out.

I also did Yoga at Yogahaven on a Sunday morning led by Toni.  It was a great class and I always left feeling mentally better about the challenges ahead than when I arrived.

Post Natal

ReCentre do a post natal class on Sunday but I was busy at the lido on Sunday’s over the summer.

Instead I attended Katie’s both buggylates and mum and pilates.  Being outside doing buggylates was amazing for someone who prefers to be outside and seeing weekly improvements made the classes all the more sweeter.

Now I am back at work I don’t have a chance to do pilates and boy does my body know it – I hope to find a Katie’s class than works with my family’s schedule as like we said above you need to compliment the swimming with the strength work.

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