Lets Talk Fitness

(This is a monster post. I feel like I should apologize ...)

A week ago Saturday, Nancy returned from Florida to destroy Guinness and I in our first lesson of 2014. (A wrap up of that is on it's way, once I get the video clips edited. For now, I'm in complete show-prep mode and the lesson video hasn't left my television.) While the ride was good, she was tough on both Guinness and I, really trying to iron out some issues that are getting to be a big problem.

At the end of the ride she turned to me asking, "So are you still happy I'm back from Florida?"

"Oh hell yes I am," I said. "I'm just happy I spent the whole winter you were gone busting my ass at the gym!"
So happy I put the time in here...
And, you guys, it's true. She murdered me. I would not have been able to physically accomplish this April's lesson back in December. The 30 minutes we spent at the sitting trot working solely on shifting my inside hipbone forward and my inside elbow back would have been completely impossible. Let me repeat that... we spent thirty minutes at the sitting trot. No breaks (well, we cantered once, but I'm not counting that because cantering is cardio). I have never been so happy to be fit in all my life.

Then I got up the next morning... with sore abs.

Damn. Dressage is a workout and a half.

Now, part of the reason I'm so sore from a lesson is because of my picky horse. He's a legitimate hard ride, and very demanding of me. Teaching him dressage has never been easy, and as I am at the point of asking him for more work he is demanding even more from me. The other part of the reason I was sore is because I was asking for more flexion from my body than I normally do, and I just didn't have the strength developed to hold that flexibility. As such, it's back to the drawing board for me.

For those of you who don't personally know me, I take a lot of pride in my fitness work and truly do enjoy it. I know it's not a lifestyle for everyone, but it really works well for me. Right now I try to get to the gym 2-3 times weekly for strength training and run between 13-16 miles weekly at an average pace of 9 minute miles.
A good running buddy is essential!
With my busy schedule, all this fitness is hard to squeeze in, but I love being fit, I love the energy it gives me, and I love that I am able to keep up with my intense life without physically crashing. As such, I make it work, usually by getting up at 5:30am to fit in some running or gym time before getting ready for work.

Evenings I don't ride I have a lot more time. Often on those days I'll do a long run after work, then spend the evening with friends or catching up around the house. I take one total rest day during the week, where I do not go to the gym or run at all. Sometimes I'll even take those days on a non-riding day and just lounge around the house like a giant lazy cat. It's weird, but I don't often enjoy those lazy days. I tend to feel restless.

I'm not the only one on a fitness schedule. Guinness' routine is also set up for regular workouts. He and I do 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours of solid dressage schooling 4 days a week. We take frequent walk breaks, but the work is hard. One day a week (typically a Sunday) we will do a conditioning ride. These vary between field gallops, long slow distance work, and hills. He's also out in a pasture with fairly hilly terrain 24/7, which makes a huge difference in his fitness.
Tired Thoroughbred has the tired. This was after a long dressage school last week. We were both dying.
Of course after this last lesson, it looks like it's time to take another look at both Guinness' and my fitness for our increased workload. I'm switching out some of my weight lifting sessions for a little more dynamic cardio (think kickboxing/martial arts sort of stuff) and yoga. I really detest yoga, so we'll see how long this lasts. Guinness, meanwhile, is going to be getting a lot more long and low work fit into his regular dressage schools and a lot more suppling flexion added to his warm up.

What about you guys? Do you think about your fitness as it relates to your riding? Have you ever made changes to increase your flexibility and strength in your riding? Did it work?


  1. I'm really bad at keeping up my fitness level. I absolutely abhor working out :( The closest I get to exercise is walking my dogs. It sucks because I quit my weekend job mucking stalls/throwing hay several months ago and all of the muscle developed from that has waned away. I've tried to implement gym work into my schedule, but ultimately just can't keep to it. Any tips on exercises for people who absolutely hate exercising? I keep trying to convince myself that I want to do squats/yoga/pilates/run but it never seems to work :(

    However I do stretch a lot. I'm not super flexible, but it has definitely helped my riding!

    1. Do you like walking your dogs? That can be great exercise. Maybe look into ways to incorporate exercising your dogs into your exercise routine? For example, I like running with mine and they get used to the routine and force me out the door even when I don't want to go.

      My biggest tip for exercising is to find something you honestly don't mind doing and schedule out your week. Then commit to sticking to the schedule, no matter what, for a span of a few weeks (a month is good). That stops you from being able to talk yourself out of the workout while you're still building up a base of fitness and really don't want to work out. I even set alarms on my phone. "Oh, it's 5:30, I have to go run." I don't let myself negotiate about it. The run is on my calendar. I have to do it.

    2. I do enjoy walking my dogs :) Every day - at least a mile since the little one can't handle much more than that. I tried jogging with the bigger one before but he's such a spaz that he tripped me multiple times directly onto concrete which didn't end up well! You actually inspired me today - your post plus a random message from a friend encouraged me to sign up for weekly games of Ultimate Frisbee. Not much but its a start!

    3. Awesome! Hey, Ultimate Frisbee can be a killer workout!! Honestly, the best workout is one you'll enjoy enough to stick with. :)

    4. I second Ultimate (and the part about the best workout being the one you stick with)

  2. I used to stress myself out so much trying to fit it all in. I trained for two half-marathons last year (ran them both) and various 5Ks. Between working full time, going to grad school, running to the barn, and rehabbing a house, I had no time for the hubs or friends! Working out was seriously stressing me out because it took up so much time and I felt guilty if I couldn't work out. So I would stress about when I could fit a workout in and judge myself when I couldn't (or didn't want to).
    Finally, after taking the winter off, I am trying to bring back in fitness with the major caveat of balance. I've been taking Yogalates (Pilates & yoga combo)- which is good, because I'm reign supreme as Most Inflexible Woman Ever. The pilates combination gives it that challenge that leaves me incredibly sore for the next two days. I can definitely feel my muscles strengthening. I'm also adding in some strength/core training - found out I have no obliques whatsoever!
    I'm doing all of that BUT only when I have time. I refuse to stress myself out like I did. Where I work we have to pay to park so I park a half mile away - so there's a mile of extra walking. Plus I take the stairs, have a standing desk, and have to walk all over to get to other people I work with.
    I really do think not stressing about my fitness has helped me - I'm eating healthier and not as much because I know I'm not working out as much. I think I actually feel healthier.
    HOWEVER, I know trot sets are going to be murder once school is out and I have time for that. My thighs are going to be so mad at me. :)

    1. Yogalates sounds like exactly what I need! I think I could give you a run for your money on the title of Most Inflexible Woman Ever! ;)

      Stressing out over fitting things in is a serious issue, and one I struggle with too. Once I manage to find a schedule I like, I've been working to make sure that there's a little flexibility in it and that I don't smother myself in guilt when I don't hit all my goals for the week. It's so hard, though. Damn perfectionism!

  3. Riders who left are fucking sexy!! :D I know because I am so sexy !! :P

  4. I am so eager to get in the saddle and kill my abs soon!

    I got into yoga and stretching some the past few years (tried to keep up with it ...but....life...) to help me gain balance, awareness of my body, and increased flexibility in the saddle. My lifestyle is one that is so active that I stay in great shape without much effort, but gaining acute balance and evenness in my movements is something that is lacking. I've picked up yoga again this week with goals of keeping it going so I can be the best rider possible. No more being crooked in the saddle like I *feel* like I've been for awhile.

  5. I actually wrote about rider fitness myself a few weeks ago. :)


    Like everyone else, my life is JAM PACKED. I leave for work by 6:15 a.m. so morning workouts are hard, but I carve out at least 20 minutes to get it done. I then squeeze in another 5 - 25 minutes in the afternoon when I get back from the barn.

    At 43, it's imperative that I work out to some degree due to the slowing metabolism thing. I swear; the day I hit 39, my metabolism came to a screeching halt! :0)

    I do jumping jacks, planks, resistance bands, push ups, etc. I also LOVE the treadmill because I can do 5 minutes on it without needing to drive anywhere or make a plan. I just pop on my shoes and in no time I've done a quick run. This afternoon, I planned to do a quick 5 minutes and ended up running for 15.

    Being fit makes riding much easier, and I think my horses appreciate the fact that I can hold my own self up and in balance (for the most part).

    1. Haha, I'm only 28 and I can feel my metabolism slowing down already. That's probably not good. ;)

      I think you and I could have a pretty good competition when it comes to "full days". I am seriously impressed when you manage to ride both boys in the same day. I don't know how you do it!

      Great tips on how to fit in little bouts of fitness work throughout the day. That is so effective, especially for people with crazy schedules!


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