Skiing demands strong core muscles. Pilates can help you reduce core muscle imbalances, reduce your chances of injury, and maximize your performance. It also helps increase your body awareness, your accuracy, and your overall enjoyment of the sport.

Pilates and Skiing—A Natural Marriage
Pilates utilizes principles similar to those needed in skiing, such as concentration, control, breath, flow, and precision. And concentration fosters control. It ensures that your movements are focused and streamlined. When you practice skills that require coordination and control, you begin to “program” specific movement patterns for successful performance. Centering is also important because your movements for each activity must originate from the core. The abdominal, hip, and back muscles must establish a strong and supported base for the arms and legs to optimally execute a specific movement.

To properly work your core, you need to use your diaphragm muscle, which pulls air into your lungs and helps kick in your abdominal muscles to support your torso for movement. Getting air into the back of your rib cage ensures that you get adequate oxygen into your system. And it helps your posture by aligning your spine.

If one muscle or bone of your body is out of alignment, the whole structure is affected. Problems with alignment can affect your breath, posture, and movement. When you begin to master smooth and skillful movements, you’ll begin to achieve a defined sense of flow and precision.

The Pilates Challenge
Pilates challenges the deep abdominal muscles that support your core. For beginning skiers, it adds a helpful dimension to the learning curve. It’ll give you the foundation you’ll need when you’re finally ready to strap two solid objects on to your feet—objects that don’t always go where you want them to go. For advanced skiers, activating your stabilizing muscles helps maintain balance and poise at greater speeds or off-piste.

Doing Pilates with a knowledgeable instructor offers benefits on and off the slopes. You’ll feel the difference in your structure, your balance, and your performance. You’ll have muscles that are long and strong, and you’ll be able to pound the slopes hard and fast all day long.

Core Exercises
Here are a couple Pilates exercises that will help your skiing:

Chest Lift with Rotation: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Exhale as you lift your head, tuck your chin, and reach your hands to your heels. Inhale at the top of the lift, as your shoulder blades are off the mat. Exhale and rotate your chest to one side. Inhale to return to the center. Exhale as you rotate to other side. Keep your arms relaxed and avoid pulling on your neck. Rotate from the waist as though your ribs connect to your opposite hip. Keep your lower back stabilized by engaging your deep abdominal muscles each time you exhale. Do two sets of 12 reps.

Alternating Leg Lifts: Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and your lower back pressed into floor. Don’t lose this position during the exercise. Exhale while lowering one leg to the floor, keeping your knee bent. Only the hip moves. Inhale as your bring your leg back to the starting position. Then exhale to lower the opposite leg to the floor. Your pelvis should remain still as your abdominal muscles support your spine and you raise and lower your leg. Do two sets of 12 reps.

Brent Dodge, PT owns Alpine Physical Therapy in Missoula ( Samantha Schoeneman, PT, CPI is a Pilates instructor and a physical therapist at Alpine Physical Therapy.