These four Olympic hopefuls make Pilates a key part of their training.
by Anne Marie O’Connor
Pilates is not an official Olympic sport (at least not yet), but there will be plenty of method practitioners in London for the XXX Olympic Games, which open July 27. Athletes in a wide-ranging array of sports, from gymnastics to swimming, beach volleyball to diving, cycling to track and field, include Pilates as an integral part of their training. And they credit it with making them faster, stronger and more flexible, as well as helping to increase their body awareness and enhancing their overall performance. They also believe it will give them a better shot of landing a place on the medal podium. Pilates Style talked to four Olympic hopefuls about how the method is helping them achieve success in their sport.
Career Highlights: Two gold, two silver and one bronze medal from the Athens 2004 Olympics; a record six wins in Beijing, 2008: gold in the 100-meter backstroke; silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and the 4×100-meter medley relay; and bronze in the 200-meter individual medley, 4×200-meter freestyle relay and the 100-meter freestyle
Hometown: Vallejo, CA
Years of Pilates Practice: 12
On Her Passion for the Method: “I really think that [doing Pilates] was one of the things that got me in the right mental as well as physical state for my Beijing Olympics.” Plus, she converted an extra bedroom to a Pilates studio, which she has equipped with a Reformer, Chair and CoreAlign.
Typical Session: Mixes it up on the Reformer, CoreAlign, Chair, Cadillac and on the mat.
Favorite Apparatus: “I personally like the Chair the most. You get so much out of it—you get a full body workout—yet it takes up such a small footprint.”
Early Bird: Coughlin does a Pilates mat routine to warm up every morning at 5 a.m. before she gets in the pool. “I feel like it gets my body so ready to work in the pool.”
Coughlin is the poster girl for adding Pilates to your training regimen. “I started doing a kind of hybrid of yoga and mat Pilates as part of my team training regimen,” when she was a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley, Coughlin recalls. “I noticed that it helped me a lot in my swim training, so eight years ago, I started seeing a private instructor, Tom McCook [at Center of Balance studio in Mountain View, CA], one to two times a week.”
Every one of her Pilates sessions is different, she says. “Tom does such a great job of showing me how to apply Pilates principles in the water,” says Coughlin. “And I really enjoy it.”
Without her Pilates training, she might not have been so successful at the Beijing games. “The Olympics are such a stressful time,” she explains. “They’re emotionally stressful and they’re physically exhausting. When I first got to Beijing, I was about a week away from my first swim, and I really wasn’t feeling great in the water. So Tom gave me a 20-minute series of breathing and relaxation exercises to get me aligned before bed every night. I really think that was one of the things that got me in the right mental as well as physical state for my Olympics.”
Pick up the July/August issue of Pilates Style to read about Misty May-Treanor, Ariana Kukors and Nick McCrory along with how the method has helped them stay in top Olympics strength.
Photos by Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics; Natalie Coughlin photo by O’Neill 365.