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Pilates and the Elite Athlete Part 2 By Ofie Dates

May 22, 2017

Pilates and the Elite Athlete Pt. 2 – the Surfer by Ofie Dates

As an Accredited Athletic Trainer and Exercise Physiologist, I have the opportunity to work with athletes in the Pilates arena. In general, each athlete has a designated manager who researches and assigns a specialty trainer for each method of training to meet the particular goals and needs of the athlete. In most cases the methods of training are: sport specific training, strength and cardiovascular training, functional training, speed and agility training, flexibility training, meditation training, and now we are seeing Pilates training. The benefits of Pilates for the athlete are unsurpassed and the results are astounding!

One of my prized athletes, whom I have worked with for over 15 years, is Marion Clark, a professional surfer, athlete, professional surfing instructor, and owner of Surf Academy. Marion’s Pilates practice is the key to her profession as a surfer and all-around athlete.

Her passion for surfing and Pilates enables her to make surfing her livelihood as her world revolves around the athleticism and culture of it. For Marion, surfing a board requires bravery, flexibility, strength, stability, endurance, and presence. These are all mental/emotional/ physical qualities enhanced directly by her daily practice of the Pilates method.

Marion is in the water daily which means she needs to acclimate herself to the demands of the water and waves. The slightest misalignment of her body can cause an imbalance in her musculature. Her body has to adapt constantly because sometimes the ocean is gentle and sometimes it is raw and reckless. Every day of the week and every week of the year she is at the shoreline in the sand, in the ocean without a board wearing swim fins, or on a board of varying size. Pilates has tremendously helped Marion to manage the mental and physical demands of her profession and passion, specifically in regards to the recovery from exertion, surfing waves effortlessly with style and from the unpredictable and inevitable wipe-outs.

Her surfing has transformed through the years with the advancement of her Pilates practice. As she demands more from her body and digs deeper from within, the Pilates exercises help her to make sense of where her body is in space and ultimately her surfing abilities sharpen. It allows her to move more economically and efficiently, from popping up onto her feet in a prone position more swiftly and gracefully, or to stabilize her body on a board through choppy waters with improved muscle efficiency. Pilates enables her to consciously rely on her understanding of her body’s neutral positioning to effortlessly make adjustments to surfing waves both frontside and backside. When wipe-outs occur, her lungs have the endurance to manage her breath and her mind has the ability to remain calm in the darkness and chaos of salty whitewater bubbles.

Marion begins and ends each day with her fundamentals: Pilates Mat and Pilates breathing which in her eyes is her foundation. As we know, breath gives birth to movement and Pilates gives movement life! She takes a reformer class daily in the afternoon and private sessions 1-2x per week that are tailored to her body and the one-sided sport she loves and has dedicated her life to.

In our Pilates session, we utilize the BASI philosophy and block system, and incorporate that into Marion’s sport specific training. Her program is tailored to her specific surf goals at any given time. My focus is to provide a balanced program that increases her strength and mobility and focus on injury prevention and recovery.

The Wunda Chair and Ladder Barrel/Avalon Chair are my go to pieces for strength and flexibility, but I also incorporate all apparatuses and ranges of motion. Because surfing requires a high degree of back extension, the ability to create balance in other ranges of motion is critical. Emphasis on abdominal strength with an oblique emphasis is incorporated into every exercise. We work unilateral and bilateral movements in both upper and lower body with an emphasis on pelvic stabilization. The ultimate goal is to provide a balanced and functional program to maintain the integrity of her body alignment to support and enhance her sport.

It has been my personal honor to have introduced Marion to the art of Pilates and mentor her through this amazing journey to help her do what she loves most, Pilates and surfing!

Ofie Dates is a member of BASI Pilates Faculty, a Certified Exercise Physiologist, and an Accredited Athletic Trainer

Also See: Pilates and the Elite Athlete Pt.1 by Ofie Dates

Ofie is teaching a BASI Comprehensive Program this fall. Read More

BASI offers an Enhancing Athletic Performance Workshop for teachers. See dates and locations here

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