Improving Rider Fitness
So with winter over and the season starting, I wanted to let you know what I have found has helped improve my fitness as a rider. I have been guilty in the past of focusing on building my horse’s fitness and that coming number one, whilst my own fitness taking a backseat. The rider’s strength, flexibility and fitness play’s a crucial role in the ability to perform for both horse and rider. It’s hard to find time to focus on your own fitness in between work, horses and everyday life; however there are a few fun ways I have tried to improve my fitness when riding that doesn’t take up a massive chunk of the day!
1) Yoga- so after hearing yoga helps improve flexibility, core strength and focusing on your breathing, I gave it a go. So I grabbed my friend to come along too, and found it extremely relaxing, fun and definitely what I needed when life can feel a 100 miles an hour. Learning to focus on breathing is extremely important for riders, as it helps balance, co-ordination and reaction. Yoga also is great for improving flexibility and posture for riders. Lack of flexibility prevent’s movement in the rider’s seat, pelvis and lower back. Finally core strength. Yoga promotes the same core position as riding and engages the core muscles which are vital for balance whilst riding. So it’s a win win !
2) Pilates – Pilates improves your balance, alignment, posture, seat, focus and feel and core strength. No you now this why aren’t we all doing Pilates? I decided to give it a go and took my mum along, after my instructor a little while back talked about Pilates in relation to improving core strength. Again I found it was extremely relaxing but wasn’t for me. You often hear in the equine world things like ‘use your core’ ‘your core needs to be stronger’, and this is because every movement of the horse is received from the rider’s pelvis and like Yoga vital for balance.
3) Gym- I have definitely struggled to find time for the gym over the past few months and the motivation! I decided to give the gym ago after getting my horse Robbie last year, and realising I definitely needed to improve my strength and fitness. I wanted to run in the opposite direction the first time I saw the weight section, as I didn’t have the slightest clue where to start. So I had a couple of personal training sessions for my birthday to understand how to use the equipment properly and to target the muscles I wanted to improve my rider fitness, this definitely improved my strength in general. I have definitely been guilty of feeling tired whilst out on the cross country course before and when the rider feels tired your horse WILL know. To improve stamina so you are not feeling tired whilst riding, focus on cardiovascular fitness using equipment such as treadmill, bike, or cross trainer (brilliant for riders). If you are like me and prefer to be outside and the thought of the gym makes you sigh, lots of this can be done outside too!
4) Pole dancing/fitness – now I know there is still lots of stigma around pole dancing/ pole fitness but it is brilliant for building core and upper body strength and flexibility to improve any rider of any level’s fitness. I gave it a go a few years ago now and found it extremely empowering and fun. After several months of pole fitness, my riding instructor commented on my core strength during a lesson and the improvement was down to pole fitness! Not only does it improve core and upper body strength but flexibility which improves rider’s posture and balance and control in the saddle, reduces tension in the back which is vital for riders.
There is probably loads of sports that support and improve rider’s fitness, however these are the ones are have had a go at and wanted to share my experience. The most important thing to remember when exercising to improve rider fitness is to give your body a day off. We do it for our four legged friends, so remember to do it for ourselves too!
Hope this has been helpful to help kick start our fitness this season!
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