The Hardest Part is Getting Started!

Committed to Get FitIt’s the beginning of the new year. Show season starts in a few months. You have goals and ambitions, and you know you have to step up your game to reach them. Your trainer is asking more of you in each lesson. Your back is sore, your body aches after each ride. You know you need to lose that 10lbs you gained over the holidays so you can fit into your show clothes. But, your job has gotten more demanding, and your already limited riding time is getting more limited. It seems impossible that you could possibly add time to go to the gym. How do you get off this roller coaster and really focus on your true passion – riding?

Here are a few strategies that can help you get out of a rut and get on track to reaching your goals for this competition season.

Start gently. Health and fitness experts agree: diets are temporary fixes, and exercise must be consistent over time. Diets do work if they are adhered to, but once they are “over” the weight usually returns within a year, if not sooner. Workout programs rev up your metabolism, increase lean muscle mass and lower body fat, but jumping into a rigorous workout often ends as abruptly as it begins. Workouts hard enough to effect health are painful at first. If you are sore for two days after each workout, you are not going to be motivated to continue for the long haul. The only sustainable way to lose and keep weight off is committing to a true lifestyle change. But, lifestyle changes can be daunting. So, start gently.

Bring your diet into the 21st century slowly. Switch out one unhealthy item in your diet for a healthier alternative each week. Keep in mind that “low fat” foods and “sugar free” and sweetened with artificial sweeteners are NOT healthy alternatives. Healthy alternatives are fresh fruit instead of a blueberry muffin, chocolate Yerba Mate tea instead of a Starbucks mocha. Eat protein at breakfast instead of carbohydrates like cereal or a bagel. Choose organic, non-GMO, and locally grown whenever possible – especially for corn, wheat and soybean.

Many of us eat reasonably healthy, but simply eat too much, so strategies to help reduce caloric intake can be quite useful. Drink an 8oz glass of fresh clean water before each meal to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller, so you are less likely to overeat. Eat vegetables before you eat any meats or starches. Vegetables contain more fiber and can make you feel fuller than starches and meats, and help you control your portion sizes when you do get to those foods.

There are many ways to reduce your calorie intake and eat more healthfully that can be incorporated into your daily routine, without upsetting your life balance or causing hardships. Start experimenting, and before you know it you will start noticing that it’s easier and easier to make healthier choices.

Find a fitness program that is fun and challenging, but not so difficult that you can’t walk afterwards. You can build up to a tougher workout over time, but start slowly so that you can sustain the momentum long-term. Remember that a rider needs cardiovascular fitness, core stability, balance and a great deal of flexibility.

Be careful of programs that over-strengthen the large muscles of the legs and arms. It is common for riders to rely on those muscles to compensate for losses of balance on the horse – which prevents the rider from really learning to use their stabilization muscles correctly. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to ride well… in fact, bodybuilders are often too inflexible to move freely with the horse. Programs like Crossfit are not recommended for riders either, as they can put one at risk for fatigue related injuries.

Zumba is a fun workout that really turns up the heat on your cardiovascular fitness. Pilates is a good strength training program for riders, as it focuses on isometric strength and stability rather than short-twitch/explosive strength. Flexibility and freedom from restriction in the joints of the hips, shoulders and spine are critical for riders. There is a saying that you are only as young as your spine is flexible. Yoga is a powerful practice for maintaining your spine health; something riders often take for granted until they start experiencing back pain while riding. Yoga also provides great balance and proprioceptive benefits, as well as being a great way to release the tensions and stresses of the day before going to see your horse.

If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to do three different kinds of fitness programs to reach your riding goals, the Ridefit program might be your best choice. Ridefit addresses all four areas of full body fitness critical to a rider performing optimally on the horse — strength, flexibility, cardio, and balance/proprioception – in one fun workout that can be done at the barn, in your riding clothes, with minimal equipment, and it’s GUARANTEED to improve your riding. Learn more about the Ridefit program here.

Putting it all together: It doesn’t take a drastic overhaul of one’s diet and exercise to make sustainable changes that will ultimately result in dramatic improvements in your health and wellness. If your riding is being limited by your current health and fitness, try making small changes over time. Be willing to experiment, try new things, and have fun with it. Small changes consistently practiced will allow you to reach your riding goals in 2015!

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