For any age rider, long days at the barn full of chores and a challenging lesson can leave muscles sore for days. While nothing conditions us better for time in the saddle than riding there are things you can do outside of the barn to improve stamina, strength and balance while in the saddle and stay in tip-top shape between rides (and for shlepping saddles!)
Try adding these simple activities into your time between rides:
— Cardio: To improve stamina and endurance, make sure you get plenty of aerobic exercise. Simple things like brisk walking, jogging or cycling are easy and effective. Other activities like swimming or using a elliptical machine are also great choices. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes per day.
— Strength: Keeping muscles strong can improve balance and stability while on the horse. Weight training is effective, but easy body-weight exercises like squats, push-ups and lunges can be done anywhere. Aim for 3 sets of each exercise, 12 reps per set.
— Balance and Focus: Yoga and Pilates are great classes to take to improve balance, flexibility and core strength. As an added bonus, a regular yoga practice may help improve your focus as a rider, which can be beneficial during intense training or competitions. Breathing techniques taught in yoga classes can also help calm nerves, which is beneficial for both horse and rider.
— Eating right: Fueling your body with healthy foods is important for everyone, especially athletes. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and if you have a long day at the barn or a show, pack lots of healthy snacks and water. Fresh fruits, granola bars; graham crackers with peanut butter; almonds, and whole grain crackers and cheese are great choices. Try to steer clear of sodas and sports drinks – they are loaded with sugar. Water is always the best choice for hydrating.
Happy, healthy riding!