In the past decade the GAA has seen a major shift in terms of athletic conditioning. Players at all levels, from junior right through to elite inter-county operate as professionals in amateur games.
Training a few nights a week in preparation for a game on a Sunday is also a thing of the past. Players at all levels are putting in a huge amount of work, on and off the field. Early morning Gym sessions, weight programs and nutrition plans are commonplace for most Gaelic Footballers and Hurlers.
While improved training and nutrition has had many benefits for our games the advent of modern training techniques has also had some negative effects, muscle imbalances have become more of an issue of late. Recent research has shown links between muscle imbalances and many non-trauma related injuries.
So how can we address these imbalances and the injuries they can lead to?
Perhaps Pilates is the answer.
Media coverage of Pilates has lead to the perception that it is a form of exercise for girls and unfortunately that has put many men off before they even give it a chance. The truth is that Pilates is for everyone, men can benefit just as much as ladies.
Pilates, when done consistently, will strengthen the body where it needs to be strengthened and will stretch the body where it needs to be stretched. This process of strengthening and stretching will bring the body into balance and as a result will reduce injuries.
How do I know this? Well I have played Gaelic football since I was 5 years old, and I am a Certified Pilates Instructor. I first became interested in Pilates when I heard about Premiership Footballers doing it as part of their training and thought, well if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!
My first class was 8 years ago and since that time I can honestly say adding Pilates to my training regime has brought many on field benefits. It has improved my core strength, which has increased my speed and power. My balance and co-ordination have also improved, on the field this pays off when it comes to being tackled, I now find I can more easily evade tackles and when I do take a hit it is easier to stay on my feet. My flexibility has increased which has definitely meant fewer injuries and I have also seen a general improvement in my overall body awareness. All of these elements combined has resulted in an improvement in my on field performance. I am also hopeful that my career will be longer now that I am looking after my body throughout the season.
For any Gaelic footballer or Hurler the improvements in physical conditioning gained from adding Pilates to existing training will mean better performances, bringing the body into balance will reduce injuries and possibly even prolong your career something I think all of us would like.
For clubs it means having more of your players available more of the season. This is particularly important for smaller clubs who don’t have a large pool of players to pick from in the first place. Pilates could also lead to a reduction in rehabilitation costs, something every club treasurer would be happy to hear!
Championships are won and lost in fine margins. Pilates might just give you the advantage you have been looking for…