FitnessBy Kazuko Ikeda
As we move deeper into fall and the chill of winter draws near, the season’s first snowfall enters everyone’s mind. Ski and snowboard season kicks off around Christmastime in Japan, and those who packed on the pounds over harvest season may be thinking, “I’ve got to get some exercise.”
Whether exercise is part of your daily life or not, I’d like to introduce you to an alpine skier to whom I’ve been teaching Pilates as part of her training. Julia Mancuso (www.juilamancuso.com) is a member of the U.S. National Team, winning gold in the giant slalom at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
A skier’s summer is filled with training exercises from biking and running for endurance to strength training in the gym. Some skiers include activities such as surfing, kitesurfing and water skiing to improve their balance and conditioning.
In fact, the constant strain of competition during the season can be bested by the hard work put in during the “off season.” The most important thing to keep in mind during this training is body maintenance.
Training when the body is stressed or over-extended can halve the effectiveness of even the best regimen, even resulting in diminished body functionality. Fatigue builds more quickly and in the worst cases can lead to injury. So, to protect themselves, athletes often hire professional trainers or physical therapists.
Yet training remains an extremely important part of an athlete’s preparation, and I strongly believe the Pilates Method reinforces this process. Kimiko Date returned to pro tennis at age 37, and swimmer Dara Torres took home silver from the Beijing Olympics at 41 years of age. Both make Pilates a central part of their training regimen.
Athletes older than 30 still competing on the biggest stages have to avoid injury at all cost, and maintaining an injury-free body is both a big challenge and the best way to train efficiently and effectively.
If your work schedule leaves you with tight muscles and no time to train, or if you run, bike or pump iron, think of training your mind and body as an added bonus to your daily schedule. While going to a masseuse is one option, knowing how your own body ticks will give you hope for happiness down the road.
Get to know your body so you can train at the right level. Instructional DVDs and books are good places to start. From there, knocking on the door of your local Pilates studio might be a step up. Listen closely to the advice of your instructor and develop a better sense of where your body is in the process. What you learn will come in handy when you’re gliding across fresh powder fields this winter.