If Gareth Bale swears by it, then…
Pilates and ‘Pure Stretch’ for Walking Footballers
Real Madrid star Gareth Bale swears by it as a means of keeping his body in tip-top condition, but how can Pilates help footballers and is it really worth giving it a go? We spoke to Polly Hamilton of Fit to the Core to find out more.
As a nation, we love to sit down – we sit in an office at work all day, before getting in the car to drive home and positioning ourselves on the sofa to watch the TV.
Granted, this might be a sweeping generalisation – and as a walking footballer you’re probably fitter than most – but our increasingly sedentary lifestyle makes it much more difficult for our bodies to keep up when we go out there and exercise.
Think about it, we go from shoulders crouched over a keyboard all day, for instance, to suddenly twisting and turning – beating a man before, hopefully, rifling a shot into the top corner of the net. Even in walking football, the pressures that we put on our muscles and joints can be quite significant – as we can often tell the morning after!
Polly Hamilton, personal trainer at Fit to the Core, suggests that Pilates combined with the new and dynamic ‘Pure Stretch’ techniques could be the answer. Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is a well-known advocate of the discipline, which uses a series of stretches to improve your core strength, flexibility and mobility.
Similar in some ways to Yoga, which was reported to be the key factor behind Ryan Giggs extending his playing career at Manchester United beyond the age of 40, Pilates places less of a focus on the mind and more on the body than its slightly more famous cousin.
“Football is a sport that puts strain on the hips, ankles and knees, as well as the lower back,” Polly explains. “When combined with rotation and short sharp movements, such as kicking the ball, it can have a negative impact on the ligaments and tendons – causing injuries.
“Pilates can help to counter-act that because it gives the player a greater suppleness and flexibility – it also gives a better core strength and improves your posture, too.”
We all want to avoid injury, and no doubt you were taught at school about the importance of stretching before heading out onto the football pitch.
Pilates takes this onto another level with converts reporting increased fitness and endurance. Work on the joints, meanwhile, makes it easier for players to stretch when they are reaching for the ball.
“I see different benefits among all my clients,” Polly considers. “It really does depend on what they want to get out of it.
“For many it simply helps them to stay fit and healthy, while keeping their body fat levels to a minimum. For others, it can help them to increase their levels of performance so that they can excel in a particular sport, such as walking football.”
“What makes my job so rewarding is seeing my clients use Pilates to get those results that they want.
“Footballers in particular notice an improvement in their balance and strength – all of which makes It easier to perform and produce the fundamental movements needed to pass and shoot.
“But ultimately we’re looking to improve players’ health and fitness and allow them to reach the performance levels that they are aiming for.”