How Ironman Nicole Walker relies on Pilates

How do I use Pilates as part of my training? 
At different parts of the season I use Pilates in different ways to compliment my triathlon and ironman training. In the off season, I use Pilates to develop core & stabilizer strength. Usually I incorporate 2-3 full hour-long sessions in a week, however, as the season progresses and my triathlon specific training volume goes up, I use Pilates more and more for maintenance. Maintaining muscles balance, correct movement alignment, range of motion/flexibility, etc

Right now I am just finishing a build phase to get ready to Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 8. The amount of training I’m doing far exceeds what is needed for “health” purposes and if anything puts me more at risk for injury. So in addition to the 20+ hours a week spent actually training I still maintain a minimum least two 20-30 min Pilates sessions a week plus a short series of daily exercises. The goal for me from Pilates at this time of season is to accomplish 3 things: injury prevention, maintain joint range of motion and muscle length, and work the oppose muscles group to combat the repetitive positions and movements I’m constantly doing. My daily routine takes only about 5-10min and abs and flows with what I feel my body needs. Here’s a glance into 3 exercises that I’m including daily right now, I’m sure you’ll recognize them from my classes! I really do practice what I preach.

1. Breast Stroke/Swan Dive
Think of the position you are in when you are  riding your bike around, now drop the handle bars below the height of your seat and stay balance on your forearms with your neck cranked up for 4-5 hours at a time! Aerodynamic? yes? Neutral neck, shoulder, spine position? No! (I am comfortable however, my body has adapted over time). So to combat this I want to strengthen the opposing position, therefore, upper back extension is a must! I opt for one version of breast stroke prep and either full breast stroke or swan dive prep with my arms on a foam roller—To explore further into training with a foam roller, I suggest checking out one of our latest MELT foam roller classes. See the demonstration below:

 Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman

Keys to remember: Extension must come from the mid back and higher. Keep transverse abs on to help keep lower back long.

2. Shoulder External Rotation
In all three sports, swimming in particular, you are alway rotating your shoulder forward and inwards so again here, I want to strengthen the opposing muscles. Therefore one of my daily exercises is shoulder external rotation. I do this either seated/kneeling sideways on the reformer (1/2 spring on) or I do it with a theraband around my ribcage and crossed in front of me.

Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman
Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman

Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman
Key: Make sure you rotate my humerus (upper arm) as oppose to just squeezing your scapula (shoulder blades) together. Maintain good posture throughout.

3. Single Thigh Stretch
Now the movements in triathlon are all very repetitive. For example running, I’m often doing the same action with my legs for 2+ hours. Think of the action at your hip when you’re running and how many thousand times you use your hip flexors to pick up your leg. No wonder I often find that my hip flexors get tight! My favourite stretch is any version of Single Thigh stretch. My absolutely favourite is on the reformer (luckily I happen to be around those a fairly often)! But if I don’t have access to a reformer I often do it on a stability ball or even just kneeling on the floor.

Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman
Key: Make sure you are actually stretching the front of my hip and not let the pelvis tip forward then you’ll only feel it in your lower back
Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman
Nicole Walker, Pilates Manitoba, Ironman
To follow Nicole at Kona October 8, 2016…stay turned on the Pilates Manitoba blog or

We are so proud of Nicole! To learn these techniques with one of our advanced instructors, drop us a line and we’ll see which class is right for you!

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