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Fitness after a long absence?

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  • Fitness after a long absence?

    I just started riding again after a little more than ten years. As a junior, I rode at least a couple of horses each day, five days a week for probably 15 years. I know how to ride, my balance and timing are still good, etc., but my body is not in the riding shape it used to be. (hello loose lower leg! )

    Has everyone else ever resumed after so long? How long did it take you to get back in shape? Any advice on extra exercises to do? Any guesses when I'll be ready to jump 3'6" again without too much air between the saddle and my legs?

    Thanks for the tips!

  • #2
    I'm still working on it after a year.... but really, 6 months of large amounts of riding is what it takes to make a HUGE amount of difference. I think the better a rider you were, the harder, because you KNOW how to use all those muscles... only never realized how strong they were until they're not. Expect to be sore regularly...
    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.


    • #3
      I have been back for a year, and I am not quite up to the level where I once was. I am pretty happy with my progress, though-- I am jumping 3' and my flatwork is better than it has ever been, thanks to the best training I have ever had

      I usually ride once or twice a week, take pilates once a week, and do cardio or interval training on most other days. Because of my fantastic trainer and my out-of-the saddle fitness program, I am more correct than ever in the saddle, and when I do get back to my former level, I am almost certain to be better than I ever was as a junior/young rider!

      If you ride at least 3 days a week, I agree that you could get it all back in 6 months, especially if you have a good trainer and/or a complementary workout regimen.
      The journey is the destination.


      • #4
        I took about 6 months off once - not as long as you, for sure, but I still feel your pain. I remember posting the trot in my ride ride after and thinking I was going to *die*. I didn't, but it did take a few months to feel like I was "normal" again.

        Right now, I train a number of re-riders - ranging in time off from 4 years to over 10. All adults, with years of experience as juniors. I can tell you that the time it takes to feel "back at it" will range, but a ton of that is in your head. Example: two of my riders started are nearly the exact same time 6 months ago. Both had been away from riding for 4+ years. One is pretty determined & has progressed quickly. The other is doing OK, but has progressed significantly slower. They are both physically about the same, in terms of riding muscle development, and were riding the same horse through the whole time. However, the second rider is pretty timid & holds herself back. She's physically capable of doing more, but her mind keeps telling her to stop / be afraid. That's her biggest challenge - more so that the first rider, who continues to progress without limits as she gets stronger and stronger.

        So, what I'm suggesting: keep focused & try to come to every lesson ready to learn and ready to be pushed! Your body will catch-up quickly, so be aware of the rest. Finding a good trainer that will adjust to your needs is key. And of course a horse that makes it fun (and safe). With the right combination of exercise, mind focus, and horse capability - I'd guess you are back to 3'+ within 6 months, if that's what you truly want. Your body will be fine.

        As for exercises - this book is GREAT: "The Rider's Fitness Program"

        I did the whole program in the book myself a couple years back, after being off riding for 3 months from a broken ankle & surgery. I not only felt like I got back up to speed faster than expected - but my core was significantly stronger than when I'd stopped riding to begin with. Well worth the $15 to purchase it and have it on-hand. I didn't have all the fancy equipment, but found enough in the gym to complete most of the exercises - or adjust them to work with what I had. I still do some of the exercises when working out (the few times I do!), and have suggested many of the exercises to my re-riders for their own benefit.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks guys for all of your kind advice! MR -- I'm definitely going to get that book. I am pretty fit already -- I do advanced yoga three times a week, and run, too. But riding muscles are different! I was humbled last week I can't wait to be strong again!


          • #6
            I have that book, and I wish I could say I used it. The exercises in it are awesome, but I am way too chicken to try to actually carry them out at the gym
            The journey is the destination.


            • #7
              Ha! MUCH longer here...30 years off! I rode 1-3 horses every single day as a junior and was regularly showing at 3'6". Then I didn't ride at all, except a very (like years between) occasional casual hack on a horse here and there.

              I've been back at it for three months, riding 3-5 times a week. My leg came back quickly, probably because I've run or biked on a regular basis and haven't gained any weight in the 30 intervening years, so it "fits" the way it did before and my legs weren't flabby, they just needed riding specific muscles strengthened again. My upper body is my current problem. I'm tall, thin, long waisted and heavy/large breasted, ugh. Despite decent core strength, I'm still struggling with upper body control. I'm getting fairly solid on the flat and have jumped a whopping three cross rails , but I've got a ways to go. I won't be jumping 3'6" courses any time soon, if ever again . It comes in spurts, sometimes there will be weeks of no progess, then a little epiphany where something clicks physically, then a few more weeks of stagnation.

              Despite my rather advanced age and the fact that I have dependents now, I'm not afraid and and that REALLY helps. I ride with a few other older "re-riders" and those who are frightened move much more slowly.


              • #8
                I feel your pain! I started riding again about 2 months ago after about 1.5 years off from riding at which point I was doing dressage instead of jumping.

                I'm now going back to my H/J roots and found it extremely frustrating in the beginning. I couldn't stay in the saddle for too long before I'd get really tired and sore. My legs hurt, my angles were super tired and I felt like a totally piece of jello with no substance.

                Fast forward two months and I'm finally feeling solid enough in the saddle to begin jumping again and to feel secure in most of my flatwork. Here are a couple of things that have helped:

                1) saddle time: I try to ride at least 4x/week.
                2) No stirrup work: I ride bareback (w/pad) at least once a week and sometimes twice per week to work on inner leg strength and balance. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to exercise a very nice small horse for a family in exchange for basic barn work at their private farm. works great for everyone all around.

                3) I do a lot of exercises w/o stirrups in my lesson as well as exercises in 2 point to help stretch the back of my leg (hamstring?)

                4) In the gym I do exercises on a Bosu ball occasionally. I put the spherical side down and then stand on the platform. I do my exercises w/ handweights that way. It engages my core muscles much more than just doing the weights while standing on the gym floor.

                5) I also work on stretching my calves and back of leg by standing on steps and sinking into my heels, the repeating for about 20 reps.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks everyone! It's encouraging to hear how well you are all doing in similar situations.


                  • #10
                    ^^^In the beginning you may feel like you take one step forward and one or two steps back. Then the next week it's two steps forward and one step back. there may be some really good days in the beginning and some bad ones where stuff falls apart. However, you will eventually get to a point where things just click, kind of like turning on a light switch.


                    • Original Poster

                      I rode for the second time yesterday, and today I'm much less sore than I was after riding last week. Good sign, I hope