Endurance athletes in South Florida use variety of activities to stay motivated


Special to the Miami Herald

Participating in endurance sports like triathlons, adventure races and marathons in the South Florida heat can be a dangerous but thorough exercise, and cross training can prevent injury while improving your overall performance.

Many common injuries come from overuse, especially those involving the hamstrings, knees, shoulders and the hip flexors.

These can be directly linked to a lack of flexibility, misalignment and weak core strength.

Yoga is supposed to be a great way to lessen tension, build a stronger middle and helps align the spine.

Additionally, yoga can help athletes focus beyond the physical to be ready mentally for a race.

While there are a number of methods, one local fitness expert runs a special Pilates class designed specifically to injury-proof yourself, ‘Pilates for Athletes’ is held on Monday nights.

She is celebrity pilates instructor Christa Gurka, of Miami, a physical therapist and owner of two local Pilates studios.

Gurka has trained Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, pro golfer and Miami native Cristie Kerr and a host of runners and triathletes, and her advice is the same. She says that with Pilates you can decrease your lag time and make yourself more resilient to injury by incorporating Pilates into your training routine.

“I recommend it to prevent injuries,” Gurka explained. “Most athletes have injuries about four to six weeks before an event. A lot of people while training only focus on the physical, rather than flexibility.”

Gurka says people who add Pilates become more stabilized and prevent a lot of commons injuries.

“It is like having someone help you stretch, but you are using equipment. It is different than yoga where you hold a pose,” Gurka said. “With Pilates you strengthen while stretching.”

This can be beneficial in a number of sports, including running, swimming and cycling.

“If you have tight quads you have to take more steps. Thus having to exert more energy and leave yourself open to injury,” Gurka continued. “Swimmers with tight shoulders have a shortened arm stroke. People spend a lot of money on equipment. I tell my clients: ‘You get the most expensive bike, the best shoes and suit. You should invest more into your body.’ ”

Stand-up paddle boarding is a sport that is an excellent way to cross-train and keep from burning out on running, cycling and swimming.

A lot of athletes who get out on a board get hooked.

As you balance yourself vertically on the board you improve your overall core stability. You are using intrinsic muscles that aren’t being worked while running. This will help while running through trails or up hills with increase ankle stability.

SUP also strengthens your upper body and core through the paddling motion and the easy twist actions required to propel you back and forth.

You can also change to the prone position to help improve your swim time.

If you want to succeed it takes a well-balanced training program, which includes proper nutrition and hydration.

It is also important that you seek out proper training and technique, especially since a lot of injuries come from poor technique.

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