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Balanced Body COREterly

Spring 2019
Photo of woman wearing climbing gear

Pilates and Athletes

Training Athletes with Pilates

By Maria Leone

Photo demonstrating exercise

Since my studio is in the heart of Beverly Hills, you might think that my celebrity clientele is the highlight of my career, but there is nothing like watching a professional athlete move. I have had the opportunity to work with many athletes including big wave surfer Maya Gabeira, Olympic snowboarder Louie Vito, BMX cyclist Corey Bohan and even Lebron James. In addition to the traditional Pilates exercises, I have always tried to have a handful of exercises I teach each athlete that are very sport specific to their bodies.

Photo demonstrating exercise

I am currently teaching two athletes that have very different needs. Galen Hooks is one of the hottest dancer/choreographers in Hollywood and with over 400K followers on Instagram, has become her own brand. She has danced for Janet Jackson and choreographed for megastars such as Justin Bieber, Usher and Ne-Yo. Galen’s work requires her to maintain flexibility and stability in all her joints. She goes from dancing in sneakers to the highest stilettos you can imagine. The footwork allows me to really focus on Galen’s foot to hip alignment while stretching and strengthening her feet and ankles. She suffered from a hip injury last year and the difference in the strength and flexibility between her two legs was quite acute. The scissor series shown in my Balanced Body Original Series workout is perfect for her because it loads one leg at a time, works on stability and strength of her hips and enables me to strengthen her hamstrings at their end range. This is something crucial for her since so much of her work requires extreme range of motion of her legs.

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Dimitri Kermani is an expert mountain climber. His most recent ascent was Mt. Elbrus in Russia. His sport requires him to carry 70-100 lb. packs on his back, 16 hours a day, up to 18 days in a row. Unlike other athletes who are looking for power and strength in their trunk, Dimitri needs to train for endurance which means an exceptionally strong core. He also needs good flexibility not only for the climbing aspect of his sport but because it helps his body prevent seizing up at extreme altitudes and temperatures. The plank series included in this workout is one that he loves because we can challenge his core right to his edge. I take the tension even lighter for him and extend the length of time that he holds the shapes. Each time he draws the carriage in he gets a stretch of the hamstrings, calves and the achilles tendon while maintaining his core contraction. Foot work is also crucial for Dimitri since he has already suffered a lot of damage to his toes due to frost bite. We need to keep the strength he has in the rest of his toes and foot to maintain integrity of his ankle alignment.

Photo demonstrating exercise

For both of these athletes Pilates provides training specific to their sport that would be hard to replicate with any other modality. The beauty of the reformer and the Balanced Body education in general is that we honor Joseph Pilates work, but still explore what other goals we can achieve with his incredible equipment.