Nadine Waring,  Pilates Teacher - Belfry Meeting 5th March 2004

By Sheila Levell

A reduced field of runners and riders had the experience of lying on the floor for a practical experience of this form of exercise. The lure of the snow and the timing of a group holiday did mean a lower turnout but the lecture was well received non the less.

Nadine teaches Pilates at a variety of locations including Bury, Rochdale and Handforth thus her classes are quite accessible. She was seeking to demonstrate how versatile this form of exercise is and indeed how it may benefit skiers in particular. Whilst Mr Pilates originally devised the exercises for general wellbeing their emphasis on core stability, balance and extension have meant that they are widely used in the world of dance. She described how the typical shape of body associated with the method is long and slim with great suppleness, ideal for dancing and indeed many teachers are associated specifically with dance training. However, as the principals of balance and suppleness are also pre-requisites for good skiing there is much to be gained by following the method as a skier of whatever standard.

The main objectives are:

To learn to use groups of muscles in isolation from each other.

To learn how to breathe - lateral breathing to expand the ribs.

To concentrate on breathing and coordination at the same time.

To strengthen the deep muscle groups that rarely get adequately used and yet support the spine and promote balance.

The starting point is to find neutral and this can be a confusing concept thus Nadine had us lying on the floor and tilting the pelvis to feel for ourselves. When the pelvis is flat and level how odd this can feel. Most people do not hold the pelvis level thus effort is required. The tricky bit now comes in that the muscles must be strong enough to hold the pelvis still whilst doing other things. The abdominal and back muscles groups are linked and it is necessary to use these whilst tapping into the pelvic floor muscles. Trying to find the latter involved sitting with eyes shut and sucking hard on your thumb - it did not work for me but worked for others - maybe I am missing out on something here!

The exercises look deceptively easy when done by a trained person and we were most inaccurate when asked to guess the effort level that Nadine was engaging in. This error was simply and effectively demonstrated by more lying on the floor and trying to do the moves correctly without the incorrect displacement of body weight. Imagine you have a furry kitten under each foot then try not to squeeze it underfoot as you do the move was the instruction and immediately the effort level involved became apparent.

Most people breath in a shallow manner and do not fill the bottom of their lungs. We had to concentrate on low breaths then as we tightened the muscles we could do this less effectively with each degree of tightness. The instruction then is to breathe sideways and expand the ribs whilst holding the muscle groups tight, filling the lateral and upper lung areas. This proper use of the lungs will benefit sports performance. The simple exercises tried by the audience demonstrated how hard it is to move certain muscles without engaging others hinting at the complex nature of the method. For this reason and in case of any pre-existing back problems it is recommended that only classes run by approved and qualified teachers are used. On a personal note, I can recommend an individual assessment to start with as this allows you to decide more safely where to pitch your initial foray into these classes.

For those interested in Nadine's classes she can be contacted on 01422 820551.

With improved stability, strength and balance to be gained it is certainly worth a try.