Low-Impact Exercise

Why do we wait until after an injury when we can prevent it in the first place?

Story by Katie Kannapell Ryser

Photos by Kathryn Harrington

My nephew Davis is a standout kid in our family; not just because he towers over every one of us (he stands tall at 6’ 4” and weighs in at 240 pounds) but because he plays football for Centre College.

To our delight, Davis plays in close games and scores touchdowns. While my extended family is no stranger to high-level collegiate athletics, this distinction has eluded our little branch of the family for, um… ever.

“We have more heart than raw talent,” we remind ourselves from the sidelines. At any rate, I know way too many former athletes (many of whom are now my clients) who have damaged their joints from over-compression in sports, lifting and running. They come to CycleBar for the cardio, endurance and endorphins. They come to Club Pilates to get flexible and toned from head to toe (literally).

Knowing this, I always encourage Davis to take as many free spin and Pilates classes as he can when he returns home on breaks – hopeful to help him avoid chronic pain and limitations that he is otherwise nearly guaranteed to have.

Fast forward to last week when I told him I was writing about why people should start low-impact exercise way before they “have to.”

Davis chimed in, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you how Pilates helped me out this season.” He immediately had my attention.

“It increased my performance in my running and blocking. I feel a lot stronger in my legs and more explosive in my hips and back. I’m pretty sure the other guys on the field don’t realize how much core is involved in running, cutting and blocking. I know I didn’t until I started adding Pilates into my training.”

A college convert

I fondly refer to Davis as my college-age Pilates convert. All the lower and mid-body Pilates work gave him added strength and stability in muscle groups like the groin and hamstrings that tend to give out and pop when he got tackled.

“The classes I took before and during the season caused a noticeable change in how strong my core felt,” he said. “And I started to feel more confident in my blocking.”

How on earth did a dozen Pilates classes change a football player’s season both mentally and physically? Here’s how: Pilates strengthens core and postural muscles to realign your body to neutral so that it is ready to take on the impact of our daily movements, assisting with everything from sitting to contact sports.

Pilates accomplishes this by combining hundreds of no- or low-impact functional movements that build up the small stabilizing muscles that surround our joints, particularly the ankles, knees and shoulders.

Pilates core work takes care of the spine, and Pilates glute and hamstring work takes care of the hips and lower back. Specifically, it handles:

Mobility: through the intended range of motion

Stability: moving the joint freely and being able to control it without stressing or adding pressure to any other part of the body

Strength: can only be accomplished if 1) mobility and 2) stability are truly there

Sum of all three: this is where power comes from, and the confidence follows

Avoiding aches and
pain starts now

Just being strong without proper mobility and stability is completely useless; actually, it is really harmful. Without mobility and stability you involuntarily recruit muscles that have no business being recruited. An example we hear of too often is a thrown-out back. Anyone without a strong core and mobile/stable hips is at risk.

So, let’s extend our “prevention game” to our joints and spines. I see it as quite similar to brushing our teeth. We don’t wait until we need a root canal to start our brushing practice; we start dental care early and often.

I can only imagine what my knees and ankles would feel like if I had begun spinning 10 years before I “had to” at age 25 after years of too much running. I know if I had begun Pilates 20 years ago, at Davis’s age, I undoubtedly would have a completely different spine and joint health report.

It brings me so much joy to provide studios that can help my peer group and older generations reverse some of the damage done. It makes me downright giddy to know that we are offering an affordable way to prevent a lot of these aches, pains and chronic issues for the next generations. VT

Katie Kannapell Ryser is the owner of Club Pilates and CycleBar. Both studios are located at the 4600 Shelbyville Road Plaza.