I want to preface this column by admitting that I’m not feeling on my A-game this month. My workouts have been tough, and my stomach has been needy. I, ladies and gentlemen, have found myself in a slump.
What is a slump, you may ask? You know when you’re on your favorite, awesome horse and you’re just having a crap ride and call it a day, but then you go back the next day, and it’s still crap? That’s a slump.
When you fall victim to a slump, you may find yourself suddenly starting to overanalyze your abilities or the horse’s potential, inevitably falling into a deep, dark abyss of horrible riding that’s just waiting to be publicly ridiculed by George Morris.
Or, you can choose to ride better.
I figured after I got so much positive feedback about my recent article in the Chronicle’s annual Eventing Issue and was invited to become a columnist on health and riding here on their website, I probably shouldn’t start coming on month after month sounding like Richard Simmons. I already look enough like him, and I literally ride ponies. Instead, I wanted to talk about what really happens when the going gets tough.
I’m currently growing gray hairs because, as I write this, we’re leaving first thing tomorrow morning for Richland Park Horse Trials in Michigan. Not that I’m not super stoked that Sinead is already ready to hit the start box again, but my life keeps getting in the way of… my life.
And when life gets in the way of life, I tend to eat whatever life decides to make convenient for me. And if I’m not careful, I then justify eating that delicious chocolate muffin that my working student’s little sister keeps making and sending to the barn: “Oh Megan, you are so busy and work so hard!” Blah, blah, blah, BOOM! I’m fat again.
I have accepted this weakness, and you should too. Then you should seek it out and destroy it.
Day By Day, Meal By Meal
Now this is the part where the gray hairs begin growing. When I’m in my routine day in and day out at the barn, and I’m able to lift weights with my meathead bros down the street and do burpees well into the nights, all is well. I keep sugar out of my house and Brussels sprouts aplenty in the fridge. I literally banned said working student’s little sister from making baked goods… because they are so delicious.
But horse life plus routine really is a reason for you to point and laugh because no one in the horse world realistically keeps a normal schedule. Breaking from my schedule is hard, because I worry about derailing from my code and thus undoing all the work I have done in the last 10 months, ultimately leaving me cold and alone with no friends. (That last part is a joke. Fat people don’t get cold.)
Spending 15 hours a day in a trailer with someone who only eats cheese and meat is not really the easiest environment for someone like me to be in. There are things we can control and things we cannot. For instance, I cannot control that my kids eat Dunkin Donuts every day. I cannot stop Sinead from eating cheese. (No seriously, I can’t. I’ve tried.) But if you come into a situation well prepared, you’re able to seek out that slump and destroy it.
What’s the secret? Consistency and preparation. Boring, right? My guru says, “Day by day, meal by meal.” And he is right.
Let me tell you, I can put back some food. I will never be one of those people who eats small amounts. I love eating. Nom. Nom. Nom.
So when I’m in a slump like I am now, I have to be extra careful. I spend the first 30 minutes of my day or the last 30 minutes of my night prepacking my meals for the day. Don’t tell me it’s unrealistic. Annoying? Yes. But very possible. And every day that I do it is that much better.
I try to keep carrots by the bagload around because I can eat them to my heart’s content. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that they taste better than salt and vinegar chips, but as your diet changes, your palate does change too. Carrots and a jug of water on hand at all times helps keep my mouth busy when my proverbial “FULL” gauge is broken.
This kind of routine is hard to initiate but worth the effort. Because you’re going to need a strong foundation the next time your Achilles heel inevitably gets attacked. For me, this is my love of a good social outing.
Vodka And Cheesecake
Last weekend was Sinead’s engagement party. This was an event that I’d been looking forward to and planning for a long time. I knew I was going to eat things I normally wouldn’t and drink more than I normally would. But I committed myself to having a good time that night, and to dealing with the aftermath the next day. Here’s a tip: Don’t weigh yourself after a cheat day.
I also committed myself to working out before the party. I have a code that I follow strictly: If I have not worked out that day, I cannot have any alcohol.
Making little black and white rules like this keeps your head out of the gray area of emotional decision-making. Emotional decisions are usually made when we are stressed or happy or sad; I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling any of those things, I want cheesecake or a bottle of vodka.
Long story short, I woke up feeling horrible. And every day since then I have been really craving simple carbs. My workouts have been flat, and I don’t like the number on my scale or how I feel in my clothes, but I STILL WANT cheesecake! When are my body and mind going to get on the same level?
I will tell you when: When I eat clean and work out, I will feel great and look great. When I drink VIP Vodka and eat finger sandwiches all night, I enter a slump.
The best way to crawl your miserable self out of your slump is just to push a little harder. Run a little faster. Replace that order of French fries with kale. That’s when changes happen. I am so tired right now, and the thought of going to the gym and working out sounds about as much fun as the 12-hour drive to Richland Park. But I just have to commit myself for 45 minutes, and when I think I’m tired, push 5 minutes more.
I’m still in my slump, but every day is a little better. I tell myself I just need to hold out a couple more days, and it won’t feel so hard or so tiresome or so boring. How do I know this? Because I remind myself how it feels when I am at my peaks. It is the same reasoning behind why we all ride horses, and we don’t just quit when everything seems to be going wrong. We keep pushing through day by day because eventually it will be going right again, only this time we will be donning a new pair of slim-fit breeches!
And so here I raise my glass of club soda and lime to you destroying your weaknesses and making it through the slumps. And staying free from fitness ridicule of the great George Morris!
Til next time,
“Meg Kep” as she’s best known in the U.S. eventing community, resides in Chester, N.J., and works as head groom and manager at Sinead Halpin Equestrian. Meg, 28, is also committed to sustainable avenues promoting good horsemanship and the sport of eventing, and her recent dedication to fitness has inspired her to share her story and help others toward “the path of awesomeness” at MyBodyTutor.com.