Picture the scene, you are at the start line, patiently waiting to run head first into the water along with
50 or more other people in your wave start or treading water desperately trying not to tire yourself out
before you start the swim ahead.
I mainly used the Reformer to focus on my swim arms – as much as I could understand from
what the coaches had said. I developed strong rotator cuff muscles, and kept myself open in the
chest with GYROTONIC® method. My core strength helped to give me some lift in the water
and not totally sink my legs. Planks on the Reformer definitely developed my streamlined torso
so if I ever did manage to suss out the technique needed for swimming I had the internal
stability and external strength for it! The Chair helped my spine stay subtle and rotate in a face
down position, being able to move with control from one side to the other as if in the water. My
leg kick wasn't too bad on land – but again as soon as I hit the water and I had to coordinate I
became dissociated from what my upper and lower body were doing! My legs were an issue as
they are with most bikers and runners – they tended to drop in the water too much and create
drag. With a strong core and glutes it helped to minimise the drag, but not as much as I needed to
keep up with the lead girls.
Why did this not all come together in the water itself? Might be due to a near drowning when
I was 9 leaving me a deep subconscious fear of relaxing as I swam – instead I tended to fight
the water. So as calm and smooth and graceful as I might be on the Pilates equipment, it never
held well enough together in the swim.
However, I never developed any swim injuries due to my total body stability and I used to swim
12km a week using hand paddles too – I developed strength to swim as opposed to form, not
ideal but it worked better for me. Pilates and my knowledge of movement and the body and
positioning kept me injury free.
I still swim – normally with a pull buoy and now I enjoy it more, very little focus on my 100m
time, but I still have the coaches' voices going round in my head in an attempt to help me
become a swimmer.
Article written by Lisa Jones, Pilates Master Trainer and Triathlete