Pilates reformer

Practicing Pilates While in Recovery or Injured

Pilates offers a variety of mental and physical benefits that impact your overall health and well-being. When you are injured, however, or have a recovery day, Pilates offers the flexibility to meet your fitness needs, even when you can’t—or shouldn’t—be doing other types of exercise.

Although you encounter big differences when using a Pilates reformer while injured compared to while in recovery, they also have some similarities. This post breaks down how to approach your Pilates workout so that you can use your Pilates equipment at home to enhance your health while in recovery or injured.

Pilates reformer

What Does Recovery Mean for Me?

You may read or hear a lot about recovery, but understanding what recovery means for you and how it keeps your workouts healthy and balanced makes the difference between increasing your risk for injury or burnout and keeping your workouts challenging.

If you have been injured, you’re coming back to fitness while in recovery, and that’s a completely different approach than just a recovery day. If you’re not injured, your body needs rest between workouts to rebuild from the inside out. So taking a break—a recovery day—is important so that you can continue getting stronger and seeing improvements in your strength and stability.

Pilates can make recovery more effective in these scenarios:

  • Pilates-only practice: If you only use Pilates and no other form of exercise, you can safely do a Pilates reformer workout every day of the week, but you have to make some concessions. You shouldn’t repeat the exact same flow every day, and if you typically do high-intensity workouts on your Pilates reformer, a recovery day should be less intense.
  • Cross-training: For those who use Pilates as sport-specific cross-training or a way to add variety to a fitness regimen that includes resistance training and cardio, Pilates can be done on your rest days and keep your muscles active and moving, a workout typically referred to as “active rest.”
  • Physical rehabilitation: On the other hand, if you’re recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery, Pilates offers a flexible regimen that can adapt to your needs. Often after an injury or illness, whether minor or major, you may assume that you can no longer work out until you’re healed completely. However, you not only can use your Pilates reformer during recovery from illness or injury, but you can also enhance and speed up your recovery.
  • Mental rehabilitation: If a surgery, injury, or illness took your independence or took you away from doing the things you love, your mental health can suffer a blow. Exercise helps to relieve stress, boost energy, and moderate your mood, but if you’ve suffered from a physical injury, you may think exercise is out of range for a while. However, you can use your Pilates reformer while rehabbing an injury or recovering from surgery or an illness. Unlike other forms of exercise, your Pilates equipment can be safely used in recovery, and it reinforces a mind-body connection that enhances your mental health. You get the mental health benefits from being able to exercise, and you also build new neural pathways through your Pilates movements, stabilize your mood, and increase your focus.

Whether you’re working through a recovery day or working through injury or illness recovery, a Pilates reformer offers a safe, effective, flexible workout you can use each day. If you have Pilates equipment at home, like a Frame reformer, you can easily fit a workout into your schedule and comfortably work out in an environment that you control, making it as relaxing or high-energy as you choose.

Pilates reformer

How a Pilates Reformer Impacts Injury Recovery

Although you can use a Pilates reformer during a recovery day, a day from which you rest or take off from your usual routine, you can also use a reformer during recovery itself, whether you’ve had an illness take you away from working out, an injury, or surgery.

Pilates has been utilized as a recovery treatment since its inception. Joseph Pilates developed a unique form of body conditioning that he employed while helping to rehab the bodies of soldiers during World War 1. Physical therapists around the world continually use Pilates as a recovery treatment because even when recovering from an injury or illness, you can use Pilates to strengthen your core, increase agility, and improve posture and overall stability.

From patients recovering from a stroke to athletes rehabbing an injury, Pilates equipment offers a safe and effective workout because of its dynamic approach. This complete workout that concentrates on your breathing, core, stability, and mind-body connection can be adapted to meet your needs in recovery.

Typically, when you think of rehabilitation, you may think of targeting one part of the body, the part that was affected by the injury or illness. For example, after knee surgery, you might think of rehab as exercises targeting your knee joint and its mobility. However, Pilates gives you an enhanced route for rehabilitation and recovery. Pilates concentrates on the whole body—body and mind, in fact. So you work on the entire body, not one specific area. By doing so, you increase strength and mobility over your entire body which helps to decrease the risk of further injury.

Pilates offers the benefit of also targeting your mind. You can see advances you’re making even while injured or in recovery, which helps motivate you to continue and get even stronger. Because of its adaptability, you can adjust your Pilates movements to accommodate many types of health conditions or injuries. So you don’t have the same limitations you might experience with other forms of exercise.

Using your Pilates reformer while in recovery gives you an effective workout because of the following things that happen while practicing Pilates:

  • Increased bone density: When your body moves against gravity, you help build bone density, and increasing your strength and muscle mass helps to support your bones.
  • Improved balance: Improving balance helps prevent falls, and keeping your body in alignment helps protect your joints.
  • Greater muscular balance: Unlike balance alone, muscular balance doesn’t refer to standing up or moving and not falling. Muscular balance zeroes in on discrepancies in strength. As you work through Pilates, you develop muscles on both sides of your body, restoring the balance of strength in your muscles. Often injuries can be traced to an imbalance of muscles. When you have weakened muscles, some of your other, stronger muscles overcompensate in regular, everyday movement, but Pilates concentrates on developing those weaker muscles. This muscle balance helps reduce your risk of future injuries.
  • Better posture and body alignment: Poor posture can often be the cause of injuries or exacerbate issues in your recovery, but Pilates helps to improve your posture and your alignment. Your improved alignment further aids in recovery because it cushions your joints so you can make dynamic movements without stressing your joints.
  • Enhanced circulation: You need good blood circulation to bring vital nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. Pilates aids in circulation, not only offering a great source of exercise for those looking to improve their heart healthy, but the improved circulation can also aid in your recovery. Proper blood circulation supports the healing of injuries, giving affected areas the resources they need to recover quickly.
  • Improved joint mobility: For those with joint issues, recovering from knee or hip replacement, or for anyone wanting to enhance their mobility, Pilates aids in that effort. The targeted movements in Pilates strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility, and with each workout, you can work on increasing your range of motion in a safe controlled manner.
  • Better understanding of movement: Instead of simply performing exercises, you connect with your movements and increase your body awareness. While you perform specific movements in Pilates, the focus is on control and understanding how your body is positioned and aligned. The more you do Pilates, the more you understand your body’s movements and proper alignment. Rather than performing a set amount of rehab exercises or stretches for a specified period of time, you learn how your body should move and align and how to correct your body to be in the proper position. This connection allows you to correct movements before injuries occur and give you a springboard to healthier movement post-recovery in addition to keeping you healthier throughout recovery.

Movement is part of our lives, and when an injury or illness limits our mobility, it’s easy to suffer both physically and mentally. However, you can use your Pilates reformer while recovering from injuries, surgeries, and illnesses without the same limitations you might experience with other forms of exercise. Although you may have to modify some movements, Pilates keeps you moving and improves your mobility, posture, physical, and mental health throughout recovery.

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