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Pilates for Golf

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White
Pilates for Golf: President and Program Director
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; 11:00 AM

There's pilates, there's golf, and then there's Pilates for Golf.

Pilates for Golf "is based upon the concept of building strength while simultaneously increasing stability, flexibility, balance and core control: all the elements proven to be essential for a great swing," according the official Web site for the Pilates for Golf program.

Sarah Christensen, president of Pilates for Golf, and Marianna White, program director of the Pilates for Golf program, were online Tuesday, April 19, at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions about the program.

Keep an eye out this week for The Washington Post's feature, "Swing 2005: A Guide to Washington Area Golf." The special section will highlight a printable course map online, descriptions of the most scenic holes around the Washington, D.C.,-metro area, and tips and tricks to improve your game.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


washingtonpost.com: Thank you for joining us online today to talk about the Pilates for Golf program. Can you explain the overall goals of the program and how it is designed?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Thanks for inviting us! The purpose of Pilates for Golf is to help golfers consistently hit the ball farther and straighter, while reducing the risk of injury and back pain.

Our local Washington, DC program includes personal training & group classes, and 2-hour golfer clinics where you learn Pilates exercises for golf and receive a manual for home practice. We also do on-site clinics for groups at their facilities. We have a national teacher training program and you can find a teacher in your area on our web site www.pilatesforgolf.com.


Silver Spring, Md.: My husband is training for a Long Distance Qualifier. Would you suggest pilates to improve distance?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Sarah - Yes! Crystal O'Shea in Las Vegas and I work with Butch Harmon. Butch told me recently that since starting Pilates he is hitting the ball 20 yards farther.

To hit the ball farther you need to generate sufficient power through the swing. Power is the result of both strength and speed. Yes, strength is essential in the extremities, but it is core strength that will provide maximum power.

But strength alone is still not the entire answer. Elastic energy is stored in a stretched muscle. Good flexibility at shoulders, hips and spine will provide more power because the club will act through a greater range of motion. Pilates naturally builds long, lean muscles that are ideal for generating the kind of power we need for long drives.


Chicago, Ill.: I saw on your Web site that you have a manual available. That's great, but are you connected with anyone in the Chicagoland area that could provide similar Pilates for Golf classes?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: You can go onto our web site www.pilatesforgolf.com for a list of teachers throughout the country.


Haymarket, Va.: Sarah
This is my second full year of golf so I consider myself a beginner. I am beginning to hit my driver consistently (approx 170-180 yards) off the tee. How do I gain more power so I can increase my distance? My goal for this golf season is to consistently break 100.

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Power is addressed in the previous answer to Silver Spring, MD.


Denver, Colo.: Why would a golfer benefit from doing golf pilates vs. regular pilates -- what is the main difference?

Are more women or men taking up golf pilates and why?

Why is flexibility so essential to golfers?

If a golf pilates program is not available in my location, what do you recommend?

Thank you.

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: Pilates improves performance of any sport but in our Pilates for Golf program we focus on the specific exercises needed for the biomechanics of the golf swing.

We have both men and women in our programs.

As mentioned above, strength alone is not enough. It is strength combined with flexibility that gives us power. As we get older muscles that are tight are more prone to injury.

We have a Golfer Manual available with photos and descriptions of exercises by calling our studio to order at 703-207-9120.


Arlington, Va.: Just a comment for those looking for the list of instructors on the pilatesforgolf.com Web site. It is not obvious where that list is found. The list is under "instructor training."

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Thanks!


Rhode Island: This is more about pilates than golf, though I've played golf and I haven't tried pilates. Can pilates really be successfully done with a video/DVD at home? I have a DVD, but am having a tough time getting motivated to even open it! Is pilates more than just stretching? Is it "exercise" in the sense of cardio or strength training?

Thanks so much! I'm just trying to establish a solid fitness routine that fits my work and life style.

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Sarah (born in RI): Yes you can learn from a video but since Pilates is more than just a bunch of exercises working with a certified instructor will help you learn the principles of Pilates which are key to success.

Yes! Pilates builds strength and flexibility simultaneously. It also increases core strength as every movement generates from the abs. In addition, Pilates improves stability and balance, elongates the spine and separates the vertebrae.

Pilates can be cardio exercise when you reach the intermediate/advanced level but generally is not.

I believe there is a teacher we have trained in RI. Check our web site under "Instructor Training"


Charlotte, N.C.: This sounds pretty gimicky. Why not simply weight train and aerobically exercise? In other words, what makes your program better than time tested exercise?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: Joseph Pilates developed his techniques working with injured soldiers in WWI, dancers and athletes and the general population over a period of at least 30 - 40 years.

He was one of the 1st to recognize that short, bulky muscles that we get from weight training are easily injured, increase pressure on joints and the spine, and in golf tend to hinder movement and generate less power.

Pilates really re-educates the body to overcome a lifetime of compensations in movement due to sitting, driving, computer work, etc. A fundamental change to the golfer's ineffective movement patterns is a solution that will allow you to consistently hit the ball farther and straighter, while reducing the risk of injury and pain.

Pilates is a LOT more complex than mindless exercises~!~


Pau, France: Will Pilates help my short game?


Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Sarah: Bon Jour~! Ma famile est francaise!! Yes, it will help your short game. Putting & chipping can be greatly improved with the increased stability and balance of the exercises.


Washington, D.C.: Realizing that everyone is different, in general how long would it take for a golfer to see and feel a change after starting a pilates program?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Pilates re-trains the body to overcome natural tendencies and learned compensations. Over time and with practice, the body will start to "self-correct" as it wants to be in the aligned, natural position that is free of discomfort.

Joe Pilates used to say: "In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you'll have a whole new body."

We generally see improvements to posture after the 1st lesson.


Naples, Fla.: I have Medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow). Is there a pilates exercise that can help strengthen area and prevent recurrence?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Strangely enough many injuries to the elbow and wrist are really due to weak abs! When we hit the ball using our entire core (upper & lower abs, gluts, etc.) less work is required by the arms, elbows and wrists.Alignment is also an important factor. Poor alignment is like trying to hit a crooked nail.

I would recommend improving core strength first.


Washington, D.C. : What kind of results do you see in your clients after working with them? How many of your clients say they show some progress on the golf course after participating in the program?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: All of our clients report feeling better with reduced back pain. Butch Harmon told me he is hitting the ball 20 yards farther since starting with our teacher in Las Vegas.

We see improvements to posture right away at the 1st lesson. Our web site has a link to a USA Today article with reports from golfers & professional athletes after starting Pilates.


Rockville, Md.: What do you think of these fools who think activities like pilates and yoga are exercise and will help them lose weight?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Pilates is not like yoga. Pilates can be aerobic at the intermediate/advanced levels and bring weight loss but that is not usually the goal of Pilates.

Pilates will strengthen muscles and increase flexibility while aligning the spine, improving balance & posture and building core/ab strength.

There are many teachers out there who are not really trained so be sure you find a certified instructor who has completed at least a 6-month apprenticeship.


Salt Lake City, Utah: Hi, I've been having painful spasms in my levator scap muscles for the last few months. I'm 45, very fit and have been weight training. I can drive the ball 300-yards, but these spasms are driving me nuts. Thanks!

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: The weight training may be exacerbating the problem. The spams may be from lack of flexibility & build-up of lactate acid. Most people who weight train may stretch for a few minutes but that is not enough.


Falls Church, Va.: As with the previous poster, I have been playing less than two years. I am 60 years old with arthritis problems, but I am reasonably fit and very flexible (I drive the ball 170-200 yds). I am beginning this year to experience "pain," more like stiffness, on a line across the upper points of the pelvic girdle in my lower back. It is NOT located in the spine. I am flexible in the spine so that is not apparently the problem. Could it be that the abdominals have not gained the same strength as the back and there is a muscle disparity causing the "pain"? Would doing abdominal strengthening possibly help eliminate this situation?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: Having strong abs will always benefit the back. It is hard to diagnose via e-mail but exercises for ab strengthening could only help.

You may also have alignment issues, tight musles in the hip region and possible SI joint problems.


Kentucky: Just curious, is the program basically the same for all ages? I am 51 and was wondering if this will work for me. Also I am not so much interested in hitting the ball further, I want to be able to repeat my swing. My problem is at times I become very stiff in my back, hard to make a good turn. Will this help?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: Yes! Pilates will benefit all ages and we are starting to work with young people on high school golf teams to get them started right. Our oldest client is 80 years old!

Consistency will be achieved with core strength, alignment, flexibility and stability.

Yes, Pilates will help stretch the entire body .


Ashburn, Va.: I saw on your Web site that you have regular eight week Pilates training seasons. Do you offer that for the Golf Pilates also, or just the clinics and manual?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Sarah: We do have Golf classes in the fall & winter but not during golf season. There are men-only Pilates equipment classes, one of which is taught by a golfer.

The next 2-hour golfer clinic is May 21 at 11 am. in Fairfax VA.


Monkton, Md.: I generate respectable power even though I have two herniated disks. Will this help me improve my flexabilty and balance without irritating my condition?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Marianna: Many Physical Therapists use Pilates in their re-hab programs. As with any program, exercise caution and modify the exercises to take your limitations into account.


Las Vegas: I was impressed with the distance the women were getting off the tee at last weekend's LPGA tournament here and with their level of conditioning. Any current pros working with your system?

Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: From Sarah: Crystal O'Shea in Las Vegas and I have been training Butch Harmon. Many pro golfers are training with teachers we have trained in our programs.


Sarah Christensen and Marianna White: Thanks to everyone for participating in our forum!


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