If you’ve ever taken a Pilates reformer class, chances are you’ve done footwork. Footwork is a series of exercises done lying down on the reformer that incorporate different foot positions to work muscles in the lower limbs, and encourage better alignment. Footwork is so common that it’s easy to take it for granted. We think we know everything there is to know about footwork, and tend to rush through it as a warm-up, simply pushing the carriage back and forth vigorously. These exercises are so much more than a warm-up if we take the time to do them right.
Joseph Pilates believed that health and mobility started from the ground up. Lots of the original Pilates repertoire focused on the feet and lower limbs for balance and strength. It’s no wonder why decades after Pilates’ original exercises were developed we still see the value in working with the feet.
The shape of our feet can affect our gait (the pattern of movement in our limbs as we’re in motion, either running or walking). Our feet can greatly affect muscle balance and activation throughout the rest of the body as well. How many of us wear flip flops around this time of year? This causes us to grip our toes, or curl them under, reduces arch support, and can strain the calf muscles and surrounding muscles of the tibia (shin bone). Footwork on the reformer can help balance the muscles of the leg and reverse some of the daily wear and tear to our feet.
So that all sounds pretty good, but what am I really saying? Aches, pains, and injuries of the lower limbs and feet plague lots of us. Earlier this year I posted about my stubborn plantar fasciitis that kept me from running, one of the things I found helpful for treatment….FOOTWORK! Even further down the line, clients who have had hip/knee replacements, and osteoporosis can benefit greatly from doing variations of footwork on the reformer. Better yet, by balancing the muscles in the legs and improving the alignment from feet, to knees, to ankle maybe we can avoid such surgeries all together!
There’s no doubt that footwork on the reformer is a lifelong practice that I’ll continue to teach clients, and to do in my own Pilates workouts. It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with the reformer in the first place! The benefits are endless, and although it can feel repetitive sometimes, I still always seem to appreciate footwork by the end of the series. If you haven’t tried footwork on the reformer, what are you waiting for? Get yourself into a reformer class near you, or if you’re in the Toronto area come take one with me! Check out my schedule here.