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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 31, 2009
    USEA-Area 3/USHJA-Zone 4/USDF-Region 3

    Talking Riding Lessons vs. Gym Membership

    I was kind of beating myself up this morning on my way to the barn. I am still pretty flabby from having Mr. Baby 11 months ago, and I miss my former fitness. "A gym membership," I told myself, "would get 3x as much use for 1/3 the cost of weekly riding lessons. Why are you wasting your time and money on horses when you should be working out?"

    But I forgot about that nagging inner voice as soon I entered Mr. Heart Horse's stall. I lost myself in the ritual of grooming and tacking up, and spent the next hour focused on riding my best. And after jumping a really fun course, I found myself grinning from ear to ear.

    In fact, I smiled all the way home, something I have NEVER done after leaving the gym.

    Leadline is a legitimate reason to have children.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 19, 2009


    Lol. So true. I don't get half as much satisfaction working out as I do having a really awesome ride.

    However, I have to say that there got to be a point in my riding where I could no longer consider my riding my "fitness" (this was when things got much more challenging on a very athletic horse) and in fact needed to up my fitness in order to ride effectively! So hopefully you can find something that lets you do both

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May. 6, 2009
    The Left Coast


    Ditto what KateKat said. I once read a profile of Anky van Grunsven, the dressage Olympian, who after a day of riding ten horses and then teaching lessons, would go home and get on the treadmill.

    Even if you only go once or twice a week, the core strength from working out will greatly improve your riding. I can't tell you how much less hand I use, for example, because I can use my core muscles to slow my horse's canter. You would not be wasting your time at the gym.
    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

    A helmet saved my life.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec. 31, 2000
    El Paso, TX


    What about buying a bench and a free weight set, which is pretty cheap, and working out at home 3 days a week, and still riding?
    Hillary Clinton - proven liar, cheat, traitor and defender of rapists! Anyone but Hillary 2016!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 21, 2009


    Buy a bunch of fitness dvds that you LIKE and WILL use (and make yourself use them). Buy enough that you can mix and match depending on need/enjoyment/time - I love the Stott pilates ones.

    Then have your weekly lesson and call it "therapy". Works for me!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov. 17, 2006


    I'm with Old Mac Donald. You CAN do video workouts. You cannot ride your pony with a video! Enjoy the lessons.
    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
    ¯ Oscar Wilde

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 8, 2008
    Delaware Valley


    You become a better rider by riding I go to the gym almost every day b/c I can walk a few blocks to the gym from home or work, and the barn is an hour's drive away. It's great to be fit - and I do smile after a work-out - but the muscles you use for riding are not necessarily the same muscles you use at the gym (and, yes, I've done Yoga and Pilates). Good riding is as much about feel and finesse and having a good "eye." Now, if you want to be fitter and don't care about the riding, that's a different story. . .
    Last edited by Jeito; Sep. 11, 2012 at 06:58 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2009


    I ride only a couple times a week... I also "force" myself to get to the gym on a routine, at least M,W,F and Sunday. I do weight lifting as well as cardio on 3 of those days, and then pure cardio on the 4th.

    I can't vouch enough how much better shape it's kept me in. As much as I try to convince the BF that riding is a work out..... I'll go out on a limb here and say it really isn't unless you're riding multiple horses and mucking stalls and running around in the process. Use your riding time to supplement a real work out routine, especially if you aren't happy with being flabby. I understand the happiness and love that goes along with riding, but it's not going to keep you in tip-top shape.

    The only way to get in shape and to change what you don't like is to actually be proactive and do something about it. Weight lifting + Cardio is the perfect balance to start losing fat. You might not notice numbers dropping, but after a legit routine and sticking to it for a while, you will notice your body looking different. Combine that with a calorie tracker, set goals for yourself, and you're going to be a healthier person over all. You love your horse, so why not love yourself and take care of yourself?'s myplate and fitness trackers are great, btw!

    If you aren't smiling after you leave the gym, you aren't working hard enough. You should feel blissfully pumped when you leave... and ready to chow down on some protein afterwards.

    Oh, and if you have one of those memberships where a friend can get in for free if they're with you, it might be worth going in halves and having either one of you swipe each other in. I'm at a Planet fitness and pay for a black card membership which means I get in at any location and I can swipe a guest in every single time without them paying anything. It's always a lot more fun working out with someone and it might get you motivated to work harder.

    Set goals for yourself. Even if it's just "I'll do 3 sets of 8 reps of these 5 exercises, then walk briskly (3.7-4.1 mph) for 45 minutes."

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct. 10, 2007
    down south


    The p90x videos will do wonders. It's tough but you won't have to spend money on a gym and if you o the workouts like your suppose to you will tighten up and gain strength. You can get them on eBay for a decent price also than buying from online stores.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep. 30, 2007


    Same situation for me. I picked riding lessons. I did start running again and about to start lifting weights at home too. It is possible to get in shape without joining a gym.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan. 21, 2012


    I think of exercise as something I do for my horse.

    No, the gym really doesn't help my riding technique or eye, per se but it sure helps with the endurance and strength to work on those things when I do ride.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2011


    You can do things that improve your riding in the gym, such as pilates. But I agree, you dont need a membrship to jog, cycle, or walk outside, do videos on your own time, or have a pair of weights in your office at work.

    Those of us who work 8-5 plus a commute probably are not doing enough "working out" at the barn in the evenings to justify skipping out on working out all together.

    I dont agree that if you are not smiling leaving the gym, you didnt work hard enough. Ha. I leave the gym looking pissed off because cycle or pilates really sucked that day. Later, though, I never regret doing it

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 22, 2006


    Crosstraining really is the key for me. I don't have the excess of time to ride as I did in college anymore and let's face it, it's not just the 30 minute ride, it's the 20- 45 minutes of prep/cleanup on either side that makes it difficult to get to the barn 6 days/week. Plus a good ride only burns about 150 calories or so.

    I would recommend jogging or if you really want to get a good burn either road biking or mountain biking (not a leisure ride). I found biking to be great cross training for riding as it strengthens legs & core while buliding cardio. Besides, beyond buying a pair of sneakers or a bike there isn't any membership to go outside!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2009
    a little north of Columbus GA


    I can't believe the amount of money I wasted on lessons when I simply could not (did not have the strength, flexibility or balance to) do what my instructor was telling me to do.

    "Sit up and shorten your reins!" sounds so simple to someone who rides multiple horses a day and stays in shape. But when your core and back are weak, you may not physically be able to do it, or not for an entire lesson.

    My case is somewhat extreme (lost 50 lbs over a year working with a personal trainer) but when I went back to lessons, the difference was amazing. I felt balanced, secure and *confident*. I'm a nervous rider to begin with... now it seems that a lot of that is tied to fitness. If I have the strength in my core and arms and legs and the balance skills... I no longer feel like I might fall, and I'm more willing to push outside my comfort zone.

    You certainly don't *need* a gym to get in shape, but getting started with a good personal trainer is not a bad idea. You have a riding instructor, why not a fitness instructor?
    ... and Patrick

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May. 11, 2004


    mmmmmm I must have done something wrong then almost 26yrs ago when I had my oldest. I went to the barn every other day after work and managed to lose the "baby fat" on 6wks. And I and put on 57 1/2 lbs with him dont ask... I was a heffer...

    A gym membership was not an option for me. I rode 3xs a week after work, what ever horse my trainer told me to ride as I didnt own a horse then. Sometimes I would ride difficult horses someoime not so difficult.
    Friend of bar .ka

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2006


    I remember one day when I showed up at work after arising at 4:30, driving an hour south, riding two horses, driving an hour north again, showering/changing and then taking the train in for another hour, to an email which stated: "We are starting a group gym membership, do you want in??!"

    I was like, yeah, what I really need right now is to go to the gym.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb. 8, 2007


    When I lost a bunch of weight a couple of years ago, I started off going to the gym in my building during lunch. My boss originally said that it was OK for me to go at 1:30 when the gym wasn't as busy, but then he changed his mind so instead, I started getting up at 4 a.m. so I could get there before work and exercise in peace and quiet without having to worry about getting a machine. It was great for a while, and then I moved my second horse home and was trying to handle self-care in addition to riding after work, so it just got to be too much in addition to the 1+ hour commute each way.

    Now, I have one horse leased out and the second one is going to my trainer's place to be ridden by her during the week and then by me on weekends. I never thought I'd be the "weekend warrior" type, and I'm not crazy about it, but right now I think it's the best thing for my horse and for me. I'm hoping that it will give him some much needed quality training and give me the opportunity to accomplish some other important things right now that just don't fit into my current schedule, including getting my butt to the gym again on a regular basis during the early morning hours. It hit me the other day how much I miss it and I hate how I've regained some of the weight I had worked so hard to lose. But yeah, the trade off is that I'm really, REALLY going to miss my horse, especially because he's coming along so well right now and I will miss his wonderful personality!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec. 16, 2006


    Back when I was a working student, I would work 8-10 hours a day at the barn, then go to the gym for at least an hour every night. I've never been in better shape. Obviously, it's more fun to hang out with the ponies, but the gym time really helped me survive those long days.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2009


    I highly recommend a treadmill for your home if you think you would walk or run. Even a gym quality treadmill costs less than a gym membership in less than a year or two.

    I say that, but I have not been using my treadmill much lately, lol. Truly, though, I have always found running to be very beneficial to my riding (very good for the abdominal muscles). So much so that when I lived in Chicago and worked at a very high powered, time consuming job, I ran every day and it enabled me to ride once a week and still be able to competently jump 3'6" courses. When I am not running...I just don't ride nearly as well. Even if I am riding 6 days a week, which I am now.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2001
    Finally...back in civilization, more or less


    There is nothing wrong with choosing a gym membership, if you want to... but it's also not necessary, and if you want to keep taking lessons instead, there is plenty you can do to improve your fitness without a gym.

    You can incorporate simple changes into your daily routine that will help; for example, always park in the furthest space from the door at work, the grocery store and make it a habit to walk *briskly* from the car to the entrance. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, skip the self propelled mower and use a push mower... etc.

    As previously mentioned, there are also lots and lots of good workout videos available, and most routines can be done with very minimal equipment. I personally really like Power Yoga, but there are all sorts of different ones out there; Ebay is a great source but Amazon often has very helpful reviews if you aren't sure what might work best for you.
    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.

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