Wow! Holy Cow! Smiling so BIG!!
The Pilates Golf Athlete is officially available on the iBookstore!
There’s a sample chapter below for you and a link to buy on iBookstore
What This Book Is All About
As a Master Pilates Instructor and retired dancer, I am acutely aware of the physical demands of golf. Golf is for athletes just as dance is for athletes. The best golfers speak the same language that I speak. It’s a language that describes intimate knowledge of the body: An intimate understanding of the body’s exertion from large movement to seemingly inconsequential subtleties. It’s a language that you automatically begin to use when you are relying on your body to carry you through to the next tournament, the next round or the next stage in your athletic career. The deeper your knowledge of your body, the more your mind must become involved. The better the communication between your body and mind, the better your performance.
Golf Is Not One-Dimensional
This book is about using the communication between body and mind to most efficiently integrate your body’s movement systems; all of them. It will do you no good to simply monotonously repeat rotational isolation exercises if what you want on the golf course is rotation integrated with balance, integrated with core control, integrated with precision. It’s not about spending time making one muscle stronger because golf is not one-dimensional. Golf is not about one muscle. If you want improvement multi-dimensionally, you will have to practice multi-dimensional movement patterns.
When you want improved performance, you must practice the same integration in your exercise regime that you will be using in your game. You must bring all the elements together if the effect you are ultimately looking for is more than a single stronger muscle.
The mind is an important part of the multi-dimensional approach of an effective exercise program for an improved golf game. Every time you exercise you choose to either train the mind to concentrate or to not concentrate. Staying focused during an exercise program allows you to practice staying engaged. Staying present and not tuning out. And that is a critical element in golf. When you play 18 holes, the likelihood that your brain is getting over-worked is just as likely, if not more likely than your body is getting over-worked.
In this book you will be challenged to become stronger in body and mind. You will improve your mind’s focus and your body’s strength and coordination. Your mind will practice concentration and understanding. Your body will practice the elements of coordination and strength that you will replicate on the golf course. Together, these exercises will engage body and mind. No zoning out allowed. And no arguments, or even minor quarrels between mind and body.
Jump-Starting The Mind-Body
I spend a lot of time working with clients with chronic pain. These clients represent just how far the mind-body conversation can degrade. But these clients also, at the other end of the spectrum, make good examples of how the mind-body dialogue can easily be re-started. The body wants to move and it will constantly nudge you to get up and get going. The mind, on the other hand, in someone with chronic pain, is hyper-vigilant about all pain and discomfort and is ready to send stabbing pain if it perceives that the body has even barely crossed the line of safety. Hence the body moves just a little too much and pain results. The result is that the mind and body communication has become a quarrel, not a conversation.
It’s Like This.
Imagine that you have a security alarm system on your home and someone is able to break in anyway. What would you do? You would make the alarm system more sensitive. It would take less pressure on the windows to set off the alarm. The brain does the same thing with pain. If pain continues for too long after an injury, the brain has ways of making the body more and more sensitive to pain. Therefore instead of getting used to pain, as a lot of people think they eventually become, it is the opposite. They become more and more sensitive to pain. Yes, they become more used to managing the pain but definitely never used to the pain. The brain’s alarm system has been placed on high alert.
How does the mind-body communication ever improve? With back pain, or any sort of pain, the conversation begins by applying a successful movement experience. Put more plainly, that means moving without pain. Pain-free movement results in success for the body and success for the mind. The body is beyond thrilled to be moving and the mind is able to relax its hyper-vigilance. The result is a positive mind-body communication and the brain’s alarm starts to get tuned down.
Positive mind-body communication affects more than back pain. If you want to improve your body’s performance in anything, sport or otherwise, you need a positive movement experience. It’s that simple. There are many red flags that may signify a breakdown of mind-body communication when we swing a club. If you start recognizing any of these you may as well walk away for a while. You are wasting your time. Red flags include yelling at yourself, moving blindly through a movement (golf swing) without really knowing what you’re doing, pain in the body and frustration. Just like with chronic pain, to lower those red flags you need achievable changes to open up mind-body communication again. Hire a coach if you can’t get rid of them on your own. For me, it definitely meant getting a coach. I wanted a perfect swing on the first swing. My coach, Jeff, was able to break the swing down and give me small successes within the elements of the swing. Those small successes are really important to open up mind-body communication and to put the red flags to sleep.
The thing that is so magical about having a great coach like Jeff, is that he knows what I can achieve next. He knows where I am in the learning process and he knows what to challenge me with next. If I’m not learning, I’m getting more frustrated (up go the red flags). Great instructors know where you are on the path of learning golf and they know where you need to go. They are the fastest path to getting rid of frustration, pain and confusion and opening up the mind-body communication that you need. Your friends will just tell you what helped them. If their advice doesn’t fit your need and the result is not successful, the mind-body communication shuts down. On the other hand, advice from a great coach often results in positive communication which will almost always equal a positive result. Ever notice how much better you play when you are taking a lesson?
In terms of using exercise to enhance mind-body communication, we want to imitate off the course the same tasks that are required to be successful on the course. These movements don’t have to look like a golf swing, and it’s often better that they do not, they just have to integrate everything that a golf swing requires: balance, core control, precision, breathing, coordination and fluidity through relaxation. You are teaching your body and mind a new language. And just like learning a new language it helps to drill yourself on components of the language before putting it all together. Drill the individual components to create a stronger whole.
Compensations and Performance Plateau
Imagine I have a client who is a tennis player. I can, through a series of fitness assessments, analyze where his weaknesses occur. These weaknesses will be there whether he is playing tennis, doing Pilates or baking a pie. Our weaknesses and our compensations follow us through all of our activities. And even if I did know how to play tennis, which I do not, it would be better for my client to give him an exercise that does not look like tennis. Why? Because he has already figured out how to use his weaknesses in his forehand and backhand swings. He has compensated. The better the player, the better the compensations, by which I mean you will have a harder and harder time finding the compensations. Yet, it will be these compensations that will create a performance plateau. The next step is to take the tennis player out of his sport and give him the movement that he needs in a situation he is not familiar with. Since he is not familiar with rotating his body while he is kneeling on all four’s, he is less likely to default into compensatory patterns. And if he does default to compensatory patterns, they will be much easier to recognize and correct. This makes learning new movement patterns much easier, like starting with a clean slate without the bad habits. He learns the movement; he is successful; and then the body automatically applies the new-found strength and integration of movement when he goes back to the tennis court. It’s really that simple. When the body successfully learns a movement pattern, it carries it over to all parts of life.
A Hunting License to Golf
The first club in my hands was a 6 iron. Once I felt at ease with that club I really didn’t want to try any other clubs. I felt like I had something figured out about this game and I just wanted to enjoy it for a minute or 27 years. My coach, Jeff, spoiled my feeling of success by handing me another club. If I continued to used my 6 iron to drive, chip and putt he was never going to allow me to wear a t-shirt with his school’s name on it. Anyway, he said, “You swing every club exactly the same.”
I can tell you, I was pretty sure he was lying to me about swinging every club the same. Was he hazing the new girl? My confusion was that if every club was supposed to be the same, then why did they feel so different? Why could I hit pretty consistently with my 6 iron, while the only thing my driver did consistently was scoot balls across the grass at warp speed and kill birds… quite literally. I eventually had to get a hunting license for that swing. It was all frustrating as hell.
Jeff kept telling me to apply to golf everything I already knew about Pilates and dance. He’d say, “You are a Pilates instructor, and you aren’t using your core!” “You are a dancer and you are letting the driver pull you off balance. Aren’t you used to standing on one toe?” My response to him was a nod of my head. Inside my brain was a cacophony of obscenities fighting back the welling up of tears. Gus, my basset hound and caddie from Golf Day One, gave me those sad eyes that told me he was pretty sure that, like baseball, there is no crying in golf. Take a straw and suck it up.
Okay… It was humiliating that I’d been using my body for my entire professional career yet I couldn’t figure out how to apply all that knowledge to this “game”. I started really paying attention to what was happening at the pause in the backswing and Jeff told me to hold the follow-through until the ball hit the ground. “Pay attention,” Jeff said. “Learn something from every swing.”
Finally I was able to start pin-pointing my challenges from each swing. Trying to learn something from every swing. I was slow on the driving range to begin with, but now? A bucket of balls in two hours was becoming the norm. And I was learning.
This Is What I Learned
Every club feels a little different and groups of them pose the same physical challenge. Swinging the long driver pulls me off balance. The putter has precision and patience challenges. My middle irons have fluidity issues, where I try to over-control the club instead of relaxing. Pitching and chipping engages my core in a unique way to keep everything contained, controlled while still engaging many aspects of a golf swing. Every swing relates to strong principles that make up the substance of Pilates: Balance, Fluidity, Control, Precision, Breathing, and of course, Core Engagement. When I got frustrated on the range or on the course and I was able to take a step back, take a deep breath and choose which principle I was going to focus on. I was no longer swinging a golf club, I was focusing on balance or core, precision or breathing. The club happened to be in my hands, but I stopped “playing golf” with that club in order to actually be able to swing the club with the principles I already knew so well.
I have turned golf into my own language, a language I understand. And a language that bodies understand, in general. I know, also, that these are universal principles that all bodies can be taught and readily understand. Once the understanding begins to happen then your body begins to change. Pain subsides, posture improves and your body becomes a fine-tuned instruments. Most professional athletes know this and that is why they practice Pilates. Aubrey Huff, when asked why his 2011 season didn’t go so well with the San Francisco Giants said that it was because he stopped doing Pilates but that he’d be sure to be doing Pilates in the off-season and throughout the next season. Pilates breaks down the principles for bodies to excel regardless of what those bodies are choosing to do: Golf to Gardening; Baseball to Bowling.
The Pilates Edge
When I retired from dancing professionally, I moved to teaching Pilates. I had been doing Pilates throughout my dance career and in fact, my dance instructors told me that I would never dance professionally if I didn’t do Pilates. How else could I compete in an audition with other dancers who were already taking advantage of the edge that Pilates provides? Just six weeks after starting a Pilates program, I landed my first job. And yes, I was committed to Pilates. I was in the studio seven days a week, one to two hours at a time in that six weeks. I spent my dance career doing Pilates and when I stopped due to time constraints the back pain that plagued me since childhood returned full force and I stopped dancing professionally six months later.
What was it about Pilates that made sense to my body and helped me move to the next level? I often find myself trying to articulate that. I think the best answer is that it’s a system that allows the body to communicate with more of itself. So, instead of arms doing one thing and legs another or the right shoulder not knowing what the left knee is doing, everything is now working together in a smooth system. It’s like bringing all the players onto the field at the same time instead of pushing them out one at a time.
When you use Pilates to create a more efficient body you’re entering into a system that you don’t have to believe in or “make happen”. You do the work, your body takes it in and creates a more efficient system. Whether you are trying to perform a triple pirouette or a more effective golf swing it is a system that works. You just have to put in the practice time. It’s kind of like food that way. You don’t have to believe that sugars and fats are going to make you fat, they just will. Just as fruits and vegetables will be able to give you nutrition and anti-oxidants your body can use to fight disease and create health.
In this book, I will be teaching you a language that combines intelligence of large movements with intuition of subtleties. And it’s because I have spent a lifetime learning the language of the body that I feel comfortable telling you how to make your body a more effective and efficient tool.
I have heard comments about my swing on the course like, “She’s a natural athlete”, or “She’s sandbagging us, she’s not really a beginner”. Yes, I am a beginner and NO, I’m not a natural athlete. I am, on the other hand an SAHP: Stubborn-As-Hell-Princess. I spend hours trying to figure out the swing, the chip, the pitch, the putt. I probably spent more hours on the course in the first few months of learning the game then most people spend in the first five years of playing the game. And I’ve already learned the universal truths of the body through dance and Pilates. Now, I’m applying them to golf.
The work that follows will allow you to create a more efficient tool of your body. A tool that will be more predicable and precise. The result will be a responsive and ready body that will allow you to more easily make the intelligent and intuitive decisions that need to happen in golf. Ultimately, when your body is more efficient, performance will be improved and pain or injuries will subside.
So, it’s been at least three paragraphs since I mentioned my coach, Jeff. When my friend Keith, a professional tour player, and I play we’re always quoting Jeff to each other and I’ll be quoting Jeff to you. Like any good coach, his words ring in our ears. So, we’ll get this golf ball rolling with one more Jeff-ism:
“Life is how you Finish. Not How you Start.”