Complementary Concepts: The Spinning Program and Pilates

You may think that the Spinning program and Pilates share no common ground. Well, you just may be in for a surprise. These disciplines share many significant and meaningful concepts, including the mind/body connection, core stability, breathing, and alignment and form.

Mind/body connection is an important philosophy in both the Spinning program and Pilates. It comes in the form of visualization, body awareness and thought process. Visualization doesn’t necessarily mean the trees on the road or the blue oceans we ride past. Instead, it is based on physical form—how the body is working and how each body movement is engaging a particular muscle or muscle group. Postural alignment patterns, muscle use and development, and human body movement are directed and coordinated by the activity of our nervous system. Therefore, in order to change our movement patterns, we must change our neurological activity, or our thinking. As the mind directs these movements, the participant becomes more aware of physical performance and the connection with the working body parts. As we gain a higher level of awareness and connection with our body, we will be able to perform more efficiently, have better control over the intended and needed muscles, and therefore realize our desired goals.

Core stability is the key to nearly every functional and athletic activity we engage in. This remains true for the Spinning program and Pilates. As we better stabilize and strengthen the core, we can better control the power and movement of our extremities. In Spinning classes, this results in more powerful pedal strokes and more efficient use of energy. The more efficient we are in the use of our energy systems, the better we are at oxygen utilization and at achieving higher heart rate ranges (and therefore anaerobic thresholds). Pilates strengthens the muscles of the core while simultaneously improving your posture and increasing overall flexibility. As your posture and flexibility improve, so do your stamina, strength and endurance.

Breathing, while thought to be a natural and automatic task, yields more results, plays a huge role in performance and provides benefits well beyond baseline oxygen intake when we actively focus on it. Proper breathing techniques, in both Pilates and Spinning classes, relax tension in our bodies and allow for better exchange of oxygen. On the inhale, breathing supplies much needed oxygen to the working muscles during our ride. The equally-important exhale eliminates carbon dioxide and other toxins from our body while making room for more oxygen. Thus it is easy to see that with proper breathing, the body can function for a longer period of time at a higher level of activity. Proper breathing techniques enhance our performance, minimize stress and keep our minds focused.

Alignment of our bodies and our form while on a Spinner® bike will significantly enhance our performance while riding. In Pilates, alignment is crucial to the proper execution of the exercises and helps promote uniform development. Much like Pilates, Spinning dictates that we perform each movement with the proper form while maintaining body alignment. Hips, legs, upper body, spine and neck must all be correctly aligned to promote the necessary flow of energy, power of movement and proper uniform muscle development.

Realizing the similarities in the principles and philosophies of the Spinning program and Pilates is the first step towards understanding how these disciples complement each other in a well-rounded exercise program.

David Curry is a STAR 3 Spinning instructor and a certified Pilates teacher. Contact him at bikeman726@yahoo.com.

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