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Rider Fitness..fitting everything in?!

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  • Rider Fitness..fitting everything in?!

    Am I in the right section? I am struggling with my rider fitness. I aim for 6 days riding a week, usually get 5 and on a rare week only about 3 times...just have the one horse. I'm a big person and I know that I should be out doing cardio, pilates, yoga, weights, cross training etc, etc, etc, to improve my core strength and fitness for riding. But, I have a full time job and a family to look after too and am now starting to get a bit 'wound up' because I'm not doing all the things that I read about, that good riders should be doing to improve their riding. And I need to improve!

    So, who rides dressage and doesn't do anything extra exercise....and who does, and manages to fit everything else in as well?


  • #2
    I am very beginner eventer and I will tell you the dressage portion kicks my butt!! I don't know your age (I am 51) but I can tell you, 6 months into it, my fitness level is getting so much better just by riding. I almost have a 6-pack just from sitting back in the canter. You say your big but I am not sure what you mean. Tall, large boned or overweight? You will gain a lot just getting to a healthy weight. I don't feel nearly as balanced if I gain 10 pounds although some of it may be mental. If you are riding 5 days a week, with the rest of your schedule, maybe just adding in push ups (I love push ups for whole upper body), incline sit ups (helped so much with core) and squats with hand weights. This can take you maybe 15 minutes tops and helps with core strength. How long have you been riding dressage? Do you feel your fitness level has topped out and you need to step it up?
    "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope


    • #3
      1. you have to get creative
      2. you have to set your priorities appropriately
      3. you have to make sure that the right part of you is calling the shots
      4. you need a heart rate monitor.

      Here's the thing... it can all be done, but if we think of life in terms of "big rocks" and "little rocks" you can forget about those little rocks getting accomplished.
      Here's my average day
      I wake up at 5:30am, care for the inside critters and head to the barn with breakfast and while I drive. Work my two, plus client horses, maybe a lesson or two. done by 11:00am. Shower, lunch, check work emails. Bike 20 miles (or teach kickboxing), then hit the gym and do weights for about 30-40 minutes. Shower, fix dinner, work out in the field (I'm in upper mgmt with travel). Head home, watch an hour of tv with mr. psj, and then go to be around 10:00pm

      It helps that I have a home office and no kids.

      When I had the traditional 9-5 style job I woke up at 5:30, worked out, showered and went to work. went from job to barn, rode mine, taught and trained, came home, cooked dinner, and vegged out for an hour.

      I'm an all or nothing person. Understand that you don't HAVE to be an all or nothing person, but you can't have all or nothing expectations for your performance.
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


      • #4
        In an ideal world I would ride at least three horses a day and do strength training plus either yoga or pilates every day. Since that doesn't fit my schedule, I instead accept that there is more soreness and less progress than I would make if totally fit. I generally eat well, stretch at least twice a day because tightness is my biggest physical issue, and ride as often as possible. You have to just balance to your best, and forgive yourself for being human beyond that. I get sick and set back if I don't get enough sleep, so it's worth not working out as much to not miss several weeks in the saddle due to asthmatic bronchitis/pneumonia which is my body's illness of choice when I overdo things. I am trying to develop my career in such a way that I can work fewer than 40 hours/week in the future and still do well, because my ultimate goal is GP and I currently doubt I can ride FEI on my horse if I don't get more saddle and workout time based on how challenging 2nd/3rd type work on my horse is physically for me.
        I think a lot of limitation on moving up the levels come from life balance preventing the rider fitness necessary. I don't think that's necessarily terrible, though. It just is what it is.
        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


        • #5
          Ive had some success recently with multiple, shorter workouts. On my lunch hour, I sneak off to the gym and get in 20-30 mins of cardio plus (if 20) a few lifts done as a superset. Before bed, I take anywhere from 5 mins to an hour to do crunches and stretches while drinking wine and listening to music...I just do it till I'm bored or run out of time. I also do leg and core exercises on horseback during the cooldown walk. I try to squeeze in a long run /walk on the weekend at the trail by the barn, though I cant always make time for it. Lastly, we recently started doing yoga together once a week at the barn...hopefully we can keep that up, because it is fun!

          Now if only I could stop eating like the apocalypse is coming, id be in good shape!!!

          I guess my advice is don't get hung up on making exercise be a two -hour proposition. Break it up into the essential components (cardiograph, core, flexibility, strength, whatever you believe in) and then get creative. I have no family, but I travel a lot for work and have one of those life -consuming jobs. Multiple small sessions has been helping my riding a lot.


          • #6
            A lot of it is mind set. Heavy people's minds seem to work subconciously to save calories. You need to retrain your mind to spend calories! That means parking at the back of the parking lot so that you walk further, taking the stairs up and down instead of the elevator, etc. etc. Move as much as you can whenever you can. There are committed people who even walk on a treadmill while at work.

            I have also found that exercise videos that have 10 minute segments are awesome. I do 10 mins after my coffee in the morning, and then do 40 mins to an hour on weekends and holidays. Weights are great because you build muscle which burns more calories even at rest.

            I haven't used them, but there are a number of smart phone apps that you can use that count your steps, and you can use them to track your calorie input and output. Apparently people are finding those to be tremendously eye opening.

            Good luck, Just remember that no time exercising, no matter how little time, is wasted.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


            • #7
              My trainer doesn't do anything extra, but she rides 10 or more horses 5 days a week

              My advice is the thing I am struggling with the most -- you have a laundry list of things you should do: pick one. Start with really reasonable goals. It takes 21 days to create a habit, so you need to schedule and, while being kind to yourself, keep to your schedule.

              During your full time job you should be taking breaks every hour, or at least every four hours. I am sedentary and it's really difficult to break away, but I've started to look forward to a 10 minutes walk break 2x a day. My company health plan gives us pedometers and incentives to "achieve a healthy life style" ... give yourself a nickle every time you walk.

              Eckart Myner's book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/157...?ie=UTF8&psc=1) offers good ideas for exercises you can do at your desk for a few minutes here and there, or in the car ...

              Every time you do squats, or even balance on one leg (with your eyes closed) instead of having another helping of anything other than leafy greens, you are in the right direction. Do housework (do everything) with Good Posture!!! Keep a journal or diary and rejoice in your progress.

              Fitness is a gift not a punishment.

              *end of non-specific advice masked as general pep talk*


              • #8
                I feel your pain, OP, and I don't have the excuse of a full-time job or a family, other than my Dad, who's in a retirement home nearby. I'm by nature laid-back and lazy, frankly.

                I've had two coaches tell me that I'm not strong enough to ride 3rd and 4th level well and MUST start cross-training. Riding one horse a day does not make you fit enough to ride that horse competitively! I can't afford another horse, so...

                On days when I'm short of time, a series of core exercises are easy to fit in. Look for them on the Mayo Clinic website. They have other series of exercises, too, and you won't need special equipment. I try to go to the gym to work on the elliptical machines and/or weight machines OR take my bicycle out for a ride a couple of times a week. I'm asthmatic and I've found either the ellipticals or the cycling is really helping. I'm lucky to have a nice state park about a mile away to bicycle in.

                Walking is good, too, and again, besides a good pair of walking shoes, no special equipment! I like to "go fast", so I prefer the bike.

                The most important thing is to find something you like doing. If it's a form of exercise that's repugnant to you, you won't stick with it. Try several different things and give them a fair trial to see what will work for you.

                Ten or fifteen minutes a day will help, and you'll find yourself doing more as your fitness improves.


                • #9
                  You can just ride your horse, if that is what you want to do. It is fine-lots of people do it. It just depends on what your goals are. I found it difficult to be in competition with out being fit. But I know a lot of people who don't cross train. I have gone from being .... let me just be frank .... fat to being a fitness freak. I started by get doing 1/2 hour on the treadmill 3x a week. Now I am training for a 1/2 marathon.

                  Here are my suggestions;

                  Set a reasonable but small goal for yourself, like 30 minutes on the treadmill 3x a week. I don't have to run, walking is fine. Do what you can do comfortably. If it's torture, you won't continue. But if it isn't torture, you can maintain and continue. If you continue, you'll improve.

                  If you are competitive, tap into that. But don't compare yourself to others-be competitive with yourself. If you did well at your last workout, see if you can do a little more this time, maybe increase your time by 2 minutes or set the speed or incline a little higher if you are using a treadmill or an elliptical.

                  Measure progress by how your clothes are fitting, don't be concerned about weight. I am 56, 5'9", size 10-ish and have large frame. I weigh about 175lbs, nobody believes I weigh as much as I do. It used to really freak me out. But now I accept it is what is. It helps that I look pretty good.

                  Don't under estimate the power of rest. If you are building muscle, you'll need a lot of quality sleep, at least 8 hours night. And if you work out too much, it is very difficult to control your appetite. If you don't get enough sleep, you body actually goes into a kind of shock that causes you to hold onto excess weight. Find the balance and work to maintain it. I can't stress how important that is.

                  Be patient, it takes a while. But one day, you'll wake up and be in a very different place. Your horse will thank you for it.
                  See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                  • #10
                    It's all about scheduling.

                    I have a full-time job and I'm married. I am the primary cook for the household and my husband is NOT picky. I tend to cook things in batches - things that can provide 4+ servings, the more the better! Lots of soups/stews in the crockpot, whole turkeys that kind of thing. I do have a small selection of frozen pizzas, boxed dinners, but not many.

                    I tend to do most of my cooking on only 2or 3 days of the week. I clean in small bursts as I go, and do laundry one load at a time (I don't let it pile up). I also tend to do a lot of things passively. For example, I'll run the dishwasher overnight. I'll load up the washing machine and set it on a timer so that when I when I wake up, it's ready to be moved to the dryer, or I'll set it so that it starts an hour or so before I know I'll be home.

                    I do mostly cardio for exercise, but I do add toning and strength training exercises in between.

                    Here's what my riding/exercise schedule looks like:

                    Zumba AM
                    Ride PM

                    Ride PM
                    Zumba PM

                    Ride PM
                    Zumba PM

                    Ride PM
                    Zumba PM

                    No riding
                    Bellydance class PM
                    Sometimes Zumba afterwards PM

                    Ride a LOT PM
                    20 minute workout video PM

                    Zumba AM
                    Ride PM

                    You HAVE TO find an activity you enjoy. If you're not having fun, you won't do it.

                    SparkPeople has TONS of 10 and 20 minute workout videos.


                    • Original Poster

                      Sorry for the late reply everyone. Thank you heaps for everything you've said on here, it's given me lots of good ideas. My main problem is that it's all or nothing and I'm going through a 'nothing' stage at the moment. A little bit here and a little bit there is better than not doing anything. Time to start planning again and making a bit more effort. :-)


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Spice Girl View Post
                        My main problem is that it's all or nothing and I'm going through a 'nothing' stage at the moment.
                        I think that is something that our mind likes to do to justify the status quo. Another trap is to decide to do something, say, "three days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday." You can be sure that something will come up each of those days, and that even though you have the time on Tuesday or Thursday, you won't do it because it is not the right day.

                        I never got into a steady program until I decided that I would take 10 minutes to do the bear minimum every single day, and do more when I have the time. No mind games possible that way.
                        Last edited by Eclectic Horseman; Jul. 15, 2013, 10:35 AM.
                        "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                        • #13
                          I don't "work" but care for a small arm with 11 horses, goats and garden. While i spend to much time on the internet, usually when the weather is bad or when I'm taking cooling breaks like now, I don't watch TV or go shopping.

                          TV is a HUGE timesucker
                          I wasn't always a Smurf
                          Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                          "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                          The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                          • #14
                            It's unorthodox, but I've found that painting various rooms in my house is excellent exercise. Lots of getting up and down off of chairs and keeping my core engaged so I don't fall off the ladder. Just 3 rooms and already my dress boots are noticing a difference.

                            Mowing the lawn with a basic pushmower is also a great workout for your lower body, especially if you have any hills at all. Or if you've accidentally let the grass grow for two weeks and it's rained nearly every day so your yard has become some sort of bog/marshland.

                            I struggle to exercise for the sake of exercise, because it feels like I'm not getting anything done. At least at the end of swearing at my lawnmower and lawn for an hour, I can see what I've accomplished: neat, trim lines degenerating into drunken swerving about halfway through. It's the little wins in life.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by carolprudm View Post
                              TV is a HUGE timesucker
                              TV is a great distraction while using a treadmill/elliptical/exercise bike. More with the elliptical or bike though as treadmills can get noisy.


                              • #16
                                I too feel your pain. I am 53, was a track star in high school - too long ago to remember almost and luckily am not over weight, but I could be stronger. It seems we are all slaves to time and figuring out ways to fit things in has become all consuming for many. I get up somewhere between 6 and 6:30, go out to clean stalls, feed, turn-out. I am usually taking a shower by 7:30 and eating breakfast by 8:00. I head out of the house by 8:30 and am at my desk by 8:45. I work full time as a psychotherapist - a job I love, but it can be mentally and emotionally draining. So my lunch break is sacred. I usually use it to eat a sandwich and go for a 30 minute brisk walk. My city is hilly so I do get some cardio. I get home around 5:30 - it's usually 6:00 by the time I've changed into riding clothes and 6:30 - 6:45 by the time I am in the saddle. I try to ride six days a week but it probably averages out to 5. I am usually done riding around 7:30 -8:00 depending on when I got on and whether I longed first or not and by the time I have untacked, washed down the horse and fed everyone for the night it's 8:30 p.m. By this time I am pretty darned tired. My husband and I share a light supper - we watch an hour to an hour and a half of TV, spend some quality time together, and then go to bed. it takes me a while to fall asleep so if I go to bed by 10:00 and am asleep by 11:00 I can get 7-71/2 hours which for me is crucial or I don't function very well. So when do I stretch or work out? When I have a client that cancels or doesn't show up. I get down on the floor and stretch, do planks and leg lifts, etc. So far, it's the best I've been able to come up with. All we can do is the best we can do. Everyone's schedule/lifestyle/needs are different - go with what works for you.


                                • #17
                                  OP, I've been where you are and I know how frustrating it is. I've been a sporadic exerciser, trying to fit it in "whenever." I've also got some torn cartilage in my right knee, which makes walking fast up hills painful sometimes. This summer my son is teaching at the university where I work. He has to arrive 45 minutes before I usually start, so I've been using that time to work out at the fitness center. 12-15 mins on the elliptical, then some cybex machines for core stuff. Wow--what a difference these three weeks have made, with very little time spent. It really is true that you can feel better in only 15-30 mins a day. It doesn't even have to be all at once. Break it up if your schedule doesn't allow for a longer session. Good luck!!!! You'll start feeling great once you get started.


                                  • #18
                                    Full time work, 10 acres, 4 horses, husband. I exercise 5-6 days a week, ride as many as I can (when I have a sound horse), and am making the time to work my 2yo a few days a week on ground stuff.

                                    Things need to get prioritized, and you have to be ok with things not getting done that don't NEED to get done. The house does not have to be spotless. Clothes don't need to get laundered they minute they get dirty.

                                    People told me when we were looking to buy property and move the horses home that I'd never have time to ride because I'd only be taking care of the property. I said riding WILL be a priority and would only fall on the back burner for a day at a time when other non-essential items worked their way up to the essential list. Otherwise, where are always days when riding is not possible, and that's when those things get done.

                                    Same with exercising. Figure out what time of day it works best for you, both mentally and physically, and just decide that IS going to get done, period. Go look at www.beachbody.com and look through the many programs. There are a ton of them designed for lighter work (to get you started and hooked ) and for shorter periods of time. A friend's 70yo mother has started with Chalean videos - if she can, well... Don't rely solely on cardio work. Get weights in there as soon as you can so you start building calorie-burning muscle.

                                    Eating! You can't out-exercise a poor diet, so if your goal is to reduce your weight and be healthier, you have to improve your diet too. It WILL take you more time in the beginning because there is a learning curve to it, both in terms of learning what to eat, and in terms of how preparation works for you.

                                    It really is a mindset issue. If the mind is not in it, any and every little excuse will get in the way. On days where you simply don't feel like exercising, do NOT give in to that. Instead, adopt the "well, I'll just put on my clothes" or "well, I'll just do the warmup" mentality and go from there. 99% of the time, IME, that's all it takes to get going and finish the job

                                    You schedule dinner time - 6:00 or whatever. Schedule your exercise time. If that's 5am, then you do that, and you go to bed a bit earlier. If it's 9pm after the kids are in bed, then you do that. Or you do it while kids are doing homework. Something. But schedule it and say this is MY time.
                                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with JB. Treat exercise like a job. You have to go at xyz time or you'll get fired.
                                      chaque pas est fait ensemble