“By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air that you can”– Joseph Pilates
Pilates. What does the word conjure up images of? Stuffy studios? Something a bit like yoga? Perhaps not the type of exercise often associated with the great outdoors…
Yet, Pilates is much more than elaborate stretching… It’s founded on the idea that “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness”; Joseph Pilates was an innovator. His method focused not only on the exercises that have made his name famous, but were built around the principles of Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow with the aim to achieve total body health. A method he termed ‘Contrology’. Getting outdoors, and soaking up the elements was a fundamental part of his approach.
For myself, as well as having fun exploring Australia one adventure at a time, one of my other passions is Pilates, and I’m a qualified instructor.
I love combining my passion for the outdoors with my passion for Pilates. I find the two go hand-in-hand beautifully, especially in helping to prevent injuries on hikes, getting strong for those over-nighters with heavy bags and keeping you nice and supple.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve found from combining the great outdoors with the Pilates method… the way Joseph intended!
Start on the right foot
At the start on any hike, (sometimes on the train platform!) I’ll take 10mins to have a good ‘ol stretch. This often involves roll downs to touch my toes, peddling my legs out in pike position to stretch through the backs of the legs, and dynamic arms movements to get my limbs nice and juicy ahead of the hike.
Get out of the studio & connect with nature
More often than not Pilates classes are taught inside a studio. Whilst this is often the convenient and practical there’s nothing quite like the view of an open, blue sky vs. the studio ceiling!
There have been numerous studies showing the positive effect of getting outdoors, with it being linked to lower stress levels and better short-term memory. Which also links to one of the key principles of the Pilates method; ‘Centering’. The connection of mind and body is intended in each Pilates exercise as it is in yoga poses, however Pilates has a definite and continuous focus on the body’s physical centre as the axis of the practice.
Pilates helps to create body awareness and allows you to be more mindful of your posture, and links to the principle of ‘Concentration’ and ‘Control’. Both are really helpful when scrambling, trekking, and leaping (often over rocks) whilst carrying large heavy packs!
Not only that, Pilates helps with balance, flexibility and muscle tone. It also strengthens your smaller stabilising muscles, as well as the core which help you become more efficient and more balanced in movement, all helping to prevent injuries.
Something fun to do at amazing lookouts!
This one might not be for everyone but, once I reach a summit, or an epic view-point I love finding a large, flat rock and to take some time to mindfully move through a short and simple pilates routine. It feels great to stretch out the body whilst taking in the view.
Build Strength (especially in your arms!)
Unless there’s a large amount of climbing involved on a hike, your arms are often more the support act rather than the main show.
Taking some time, either at the campsite, or during breaks, to hold a plank or smash out a few pilates push-ups makes sure these lovely limbs are worked too, and are stronger to carry heavy bags full of camping gear!
See things from a different view
Taking 20mins or so once at your destination or campsite for some Pilates moves will help you take in your surroundings from a different perspective. From holding a plank and taking time to study the ground, or lying on your back and taking in the sky! After all, Pilates is the second best exercise you can do on your back…
Below is a short routine you can have a go at on your next hike. As a bonus, none of the moves require a mat so there’s nothing extra to carry!
Pilates Gone Wild: Hiking Routine
Start with a…
Start from standing, draw your shoulders back and down.
Slowly start to roll down, one vertebrae at a time until your hands hang down towards your feet.
Maintain a slight bend in your knees.
You can choose to stay there, or slowly move side to side.
After 30secs slowly roll back up. Imagine you are piecing yourself back together one vertebrae at a time, and let you head be the last thing to come up.
Repeat 3-5 times. After your final roll-down walk out into a…
Be mindful that your shoulders are directly above your wrists, to have a slight bend in your elbows and that you’re in one long line (with your bottom neither poking up or dipping down)
Hold for 30secs-1 min and then push your bottom up into a…
Peddle your legs one at a time, keeping the ball of your foot connected with the ground. After 30secs bend only the right knee and try to get your left heel to touch the ground. Hold for 30secs then switch sides.
End by trying to get both heels to connect with the ground, and enjoy the deep stretch through the shoulders and down the backs of your legs.
After, slowly transition back into a
High Plank (with additions)
Add in the following variations.
Raise alternate feet off the group. Be mindful to stay in one long line.
Repeat 15 x each side
Tap alternate feet to the side. Ensure hips stay parallel with the ground.
Repeat 15 x each side
Mountain climbers, bringing alternative knees into the chest
Repeat 30 x
End in a high plank & slowly walk your hands back toward your feet. Slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time.
For more on Pilates Gone Wild follow Kat’s Instagram @pilatesgonewild