Pilates reformer

3 Ways a Pilates Reformer Strengthens Your Mental Game

When you see a Pilates reformer in action, you may wonder why so many elite athletes have begun incorporating Pilates into their workout regimen. After all, it looks deceptively simple, and you may even think it’s just a fad. However, athletes of all levels are embracing Pilates workouts for the numerous benefits it offers both physically as well as mentally.

When you practice Pilates with a reformer, you perform a whole-body workout that strengthens both your body as well as your mind. As any athlete knows, your mental game is just as crucial to your success as your physical performance, and Pilates offers a way for you to take your skills to the next by pushing your mind-body connection. This post explains how using Pilates equipment can enhance your mental game and provide a solid foundation for increased athletic performance.

Pilates reformer

Exploring the Pilates Mind-Body Connection

Pilates already offers an amazing full-body workout that strengthens your muscles, builds better balance and mobility, and reduces your risk of getting injured. In fact, Pilates makes a perfect complement to intense workouts, giving you an excellent workout on recovery days or an option for working out even while you’re injured and unable to perform normal workouts.

However, all of that balance, coordination, and strength come entwined with a mental connection. Pilates is uniquely positioned to strengthen your mental game because of its mind-body focus required while practicing Pilates. This connection you develop with regular Pilates workouts will enhance your mental game and amplify your overall athletic performance.

Because your mentality is tied to your athletic success, working out on a Pilates reformer is an experience you don’t want to miss if your goal is to become a better athlete. You can boost your game by reaping these mental benefits with Pilates:

  1. Increased mental focus and concentration: Mental focus covers a lot of ground in sports. You have to be mentally focused on your strategy so that you’re not deterred by the moves and strategies of your opponent, and you have to be mentally focused to multitask when you perform. Playing basketball isn’t simply dribbling down a court, and swimming doesn’t rely on mindless movement in the water.

No matter what sport you’re playing and no matter the level at which you perform, you have to focus on making your specific movements while navigating around defenders, not taking the bait when opponents try to throw you off your game, all while anticipating what might happen in the next moment, calculating how you can work around obstacles, and ignoring any pain or exhaustion you’re feeling. Oh, and you do it all with magnificent coordination, explosiveness, and speed. In short, you have a lot going on.

When you practice Pilates, you simply can’t progress through the flow successfully without focus. While Pilates may look simple from the outside looking in, when you’re on a reformer and making movements, you realize just how much focus you need to concentrate on what your body is doing while ignoring outside distractions. This mimics the real-life experience you have while competing.

The more you practice Pilates, the more you learn to focus on making strong, coordinated movements with balance, flexibility, and confidence. So while you might be working out on a recovery day or simply cross-training, you’re giving your mind an intense workout. You get the chance to practice how to focus on what needs to be done to make successful physical movements and to push past how you’re feeling or other things that may be distracting you. And the more you practice, the more that focus is normalized.

  1. Increased body awareness: Body awareness sounds like a simple concept, but it’s quite complex. Body awareness refers to scientific term, proprioception, the ability to sense how your body occupies space. Proprioception is important to understand because it involves more than just deliberating changing your body’s position, it focuses on how you sense your movement.

In fact, proprioception gets its name from the neurons that help facilitate this sensory experience, called proprioceptors. These special neurons communicate and store information about your movement in your brain and nearby receptors in your muscles. So when you hear someone refer to muscle memory, typically, that’s what they mean. How your neurons store information and recall it so that your muscles, tendons, and joints make the appropriate movements.

So while you may be deliberately moving through drills to “drill in” specific movements or plays you need to make, you can increase your body awareness, your storage of movement information, simply by practicing Pilates regularly. Pilates offers a distinct opportunity for your body to work through large and minute movements of muscles, tendons, and joints working in harmony.

The more you practice Pilates and incorporate the focus and concentration necessary to complete the flow, you increase your body’s ability to understand how your core moves in conjunction with your limbs, how your arms balance certain positions, and so on. So when you practice drills or complex moves, your body has already learned information that relates to the coordination, balance, or explosiveness you need.

While increasing your body awareness, you stock your body’s library full of information on how your muscles move independently yet in harmony. This body awareness is what gives your body the ability to translate complex moves with ease and power when you’re in the midst of competition.

  1. Increased mental health: Many ignore the mental health of athletes, thinking that they either have it all or that the workouts they consistently do must give them the mental health boost you normally get from exercise. However, athletes are just as much at risk for mental health issues as any other individual.

For competitive athletes at any level, they aren’t exercising for a mental health boost, they are working. High school and college athletes are working to get or maintain scholarships, and pro athletes are working for their paycheck. For some athletes, even pro athletes, an injury means losing all that they have worked for.

In addition to pressures from working in their sport, athletes are just as prone to the depression and anxiety that continues to rise across the country. Seen as superhuman instead of just athletes, some expect athletes to push through the pain and perform regardless of an injury and certainly with no thought to how they’re feeling. Athletes are presumed to be mentally tough, and when they step back from a competition, like Simone Biles, everyone assumes something massive must be wrong when in fact, they’re being healthy, and most importantly, normal.

So having a way to practice self-care can be incredibly important to athletes, and Pilates gives athletes a break from their sport to not only cross train but also to work on their mental health. Many people carry stress in their bodies, especially their necks and shoulders. However, Pilates helps you release those physical loads of stress you may not realize you’re carrying.

The mind-body connection you build also helps you release any unconscious tension you might carrying. Pilates reinforces good posture as well, and that helps you keep your body from reverting into postures that carry stress on your frame.

Building the Mind-Body Connection for Athletes by Practicing Pilates

As any athlete understands, your mental game is like another muscle that needs regular exercise to become stronger. Pilates offers a way to build that connection through mindful movement. Pilates creates a way to unite your mind and body so that you can make gains while working out on your Pilates reformer, and once you understand the mind-body connection, the faster you can amplify your mental game.

Describing mindfulness and the mind-body connection is often easier if you recognize it’s opposite—phoning it in. You may have had a distracted day in your athletic career when, for whatever reason, you simply phoned in part or all of your workout. You mindlessly lifted weights and ran through drills in a fog of distraction that made your effort, at least mentally, seem careless.

Phoning it in usually happens when you take a passive stance toward your mentality. You allow one thing or several things to seep into your thoughts, and that keeps you from truly focusing on what you should be doing. However, to perform Pilates successfully, you can’t just go through the motions distractedly, you have to actively focus and intentionally think about what you’re doing.

Pilates demands intense focus, and the more you incorporate Pilates into your workout regimen, the more this mindfulness becomes second nature—you build and strengthen your mind-body connection. It’s this connection that not only ensures that you build the strength, balance, and mobility necessary to perform Pilates and increase your effectiveness in athletic competition, but it also elevates you mental game.

Being an elite athlete requires a mental commitment, and as you achieve deeper levels of focus and body awareness through Pilates, those benefits impact your mental game in a positive way. So the more you work out on your Pilates reformer, the more you work that mind-body connection. Through Pilates, you can gain not only greater strength and mobility to achieve your goals, but you can also gain a mental edge that offers an intense focus and connection to amplify your performance.

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