There are very few things that motivate me like my horses do. And so, when asked how I started exercising, it always begins with the horses.
After riding day in and day out all throughout my teens and twenties, it began to take a toll – most specifically in the area that almost every rider will attest to – the lower back. It didn’t help that I took a fall that landed me skidding sideways into fencing. While I walked away from what could have been much worse, it also impacted the entire left side of my body.
After many exams, x-rays and physical therapy hours later, it was strongly encouraged that I begin a regular exercise regime. Prior to this time, I had gotten my cardio in the saddle, strength training from working with my wild gelding and flexibility from when he would try to take off during turnout. I didn’t know the first thing about the gym other than sometimes I got on my friend’s treadmill. To say it was daunting was an understatement!
Luckily, I landed at a gym that offered personal training to help get me going in the right direction. Under the watchful eye of the trainer, I began to feel like this was something I could do after all and there’s been no looking back.
Working out has become an indispensable tool in my amateur arsenal box. With hours in the saddle a precious commodity, it only makes sense to do everything possible to maximize that time. Otherwise, pain, chronic or acute, is an issue that can easily affect the quality of your riding experience or pull you out of the saddle entirely.
Join me for our upcoming series of some great exercises that can help keep you fit in the saddle, less injury prone and more adept at handling the physical demands of everyday life. First up – get in some stretches before we jump into the exercises.
I will admit that I am the first one to forego this critical step when I’m short on time but making sure that you stretch before any workout is a great preventative measure and helps your body adjust to the task at hand. Just as we wouldn’t tack up and send a horse galloping off towards a jump first thing, our own bodies need a few minutes to warm up.
A simple “touch your toes” hold (it’s less important with how far you can reach but rather try and focus on holding the stretch and not bobbing up and down) can be a good place to start. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds for two to three times.
Sitting with the soles of your feet touching and back straight (commonly referred to as the butterfly pose) is a great stretch for your inner thighs, groin and knees. These areas are usually tight muscles for riders so targeting them with this stretch is particularly helpful. Clasp your hands on your feet and flap your legs up and down in slow, steady movements.
Targeting your abs, stand straight with feet about hip length apart, lift one arm up and stretch over your head. Look forward as you stretch but your head and torso can lean too – just not too much! Hold the stretch where you can feel it but it’s not painful. Then switch arms and do the other side of the body.