Fitness Fridays for Equestrians - Part 1
What makes elite equestrians so successful? There are a multitude of factors; time and experience in the saddle, exposure to lots of different types of horses, networking connections in the industry to create opportunities, and for some (but certainly not all!) a lot of money - these can all play a significant role in determining the success of any rider. However, one often overlooked element for those equestrians aspiring to do better is FITNESS. Any equestrian will probably tell you they've been met with comments from non-riders such as 'riding isn't a real workout' or 'you're just sitting there' (I heard that one just last week!!). It's frustrating to hear, because if you've spent much time in the saddle you know how much strength is involved, and how much extra activity goes along with it like barn chores and carrying around bales of hay. But to be fair to our detractors, do we really treat it like a sport when we're out of the saddle? Do we train our bodies well enough to be successful riders? How many riders do you know that you would say are 'out of shape'?
Diet and exercise play an often overlooked role in our success as riders. Time in the saddle is excellent for balance, experience, and core strength, but it may not be enough to propel you to the next level. A strict, healthy diet and an exercise regimen focused on core training, cardio, and balance give you the stamina and physical strength to deal with the rigors of riding and competing. Importantly for the competitive rider, this often sets you at an advantage over others who dismiss the importance of fitness beyond the saddle.
So where do you start?
In this series, I'll provide you with my diet and exercise strategies for developing greater stamina and improving your overall fitness, with the goal to increase your performance as an equestrian athlete. I'll be posting articles and videos to help you make the most of your time in the saddle. But first up, I know many of you, like myself, are very short on time. So how can you even incorporate a fitness regimen into your busy life, when it can even be so challenging to find time to ride? Here are my five tips to get beyond the inertia and get active:
1. Plan for it. Take a look at your week ahead and plan in advance. Are there days when you can wake up early and get a workout in? Do you have a decent break at lunch where you can go for a run or a swim? Are there areas of 'dead space' in your day that you could fill with yoga instead? You'd be surprised how much time you can carve out if you really look for it. Schedule it if you have to - workout time is your time to look after your health, and you deserve it. And don't forget, you don't need a gym! There are plenty of great at-home workouts, whether it's DVDs, video on demand, or even YouTube.
2. Set goals. Look at what you want to achieve and how you can get there, then break it down into reasonable steps that you can aim for. Maybe your measure of success is being able to run a half marathon - instead going straight to that distance, start with a 5K and set a time-frame in mind. Even enter a race to give yourself something to aim for! If it's a big equestrian event that you want to be fit for, then maybe aim for some smaller, similar events before the big one that you can tackle. This will also help you to grow your confidence.
3. Stay accountable. Write down your diet and exercise, or use a fitness tracker. Logging your diet and exercise helps you to track your performance in reference to your established goals. There are so many great devices and apps out there! I religiously wear my Fitbit, and which helps me to keep to my goals and ensure I'm on top of my diet too. I love that it shows whether I'm within my target for calories in and out.
4. Find a workout buddy! This really helps you stay accountable if you have someone to work with. If you have to meet up with someone after work, it makes it that much harder to ditch out on your workout as you don't want to let your friend down. It also makes it more fun - my workout buddy is actually my 3 year old son! A lot of people will say that it's hard to find the time when you have kids, but why not incorporate them in the process? My son gets on his 'dancing shoes' and loves to do a workout with me to Shaun T's INSANITY. He never makes it through a whole DVD of course, but he enjoys the jumping around and the active time with mommy! Plus, he just makes me laugh so much that I feel like I'm getting in an extra ab workout :)
5. Ditch the excuses. I know, easier said than done, but equestrians are all about tough talk so there it is. Do elite riders make excuses? No. They just suck it up and get on with it. If you need an extra kick in the pants, head to Denny Emerson's FaceBook page. Denny is proof positive that staying in great shape not only helps you to get to the top, but it also helps maintain your longevity in equestrian sports!
I hope you enjoy this Friday Fitness series, and please get in touch with any questions or comments that you have! I'd love to hear your ideas for future article topics or video ideas :)
All the best,