The Winter Equestrian Festival will be starting in just a few weeks. While most equestrian athletes train year-round, focused conditioning in the weeks leading up to an event will ensure that your body is ready to meet the demands you are about to make on it.
Riding makes demands on several specific muscle groups including the core, the lower back, the quads, and the neck and shoulders. In addition to that, you will need flexibility and balance. If your body isn’t able to respond well to the requirements of the competition or if you tire too easily, you can end up with injuries or lower scores. With that in mind, here is how we recommend that you focus on off horse training from now until the beginning of the festival.
Develop Your Plan
- Identify and list your goals for your performance. Make them specific, for example:
- I want to be able to complete an entire course without fighting for breath.
- I want to be able to compete without back pain.
- I want my legs to be able to do more with less fatigue.
- I want my posture to be better.
- Identify the skills that are required to achieve your goals. If you run out of breath easily, you’ll want to emphasize cardio. If you suffer from lower back pain, you’ll want to strengthen your core. If you have poor posture, you’ll want to focus on your neck and shoulders. If muscle tightness is keeping you from having a nice deep seat, you’ll want to work on flexibility.
- Match workouts and exercises with each skill you need to improve. Focus on parts of the body that you know need work. Ask yourself how you will build stamina, strength, and flexibility all at the same time.
- Develop a conditioning schedule. Make sure you include rest days in your schedule and plan for gradually increasing your performance over time. You should participate in off horse training three or four times a week for at least an hour. If you can’t fit the entire hour in during one session, you can complete groups of exercises in smaller chunks throughout the day or divide your workout into morning and evening sessions. Use a calendar (either online or on the wall) and schedule the days you will cross train and the times you will workout.
- Track your progress. If you’re using interval training to increase your cardio-vascular capabilities, you should start to see longer periods of exercise with less time needed to rest. If you want flexible calves or hamstrings, you should be seeing a gradual increase in your range of motion.
- Ask the people on your team to observe you as you ride, if they aren’t already. They’ll notice if your balance is slightly off when you jump or if your muscles are so tight that they are affecting your form in the saddle.
- Talk with someone who is knowledgable in equestrian fitness about which exercises you should be doing to meet your goals and how often. Ask about specifics such as number of repetitions and how to make progress without injuring yourself.
- Consider adding functional training to your routine. Functional training incorporates the usual movements of your sport while working all of your muscles together using your own body weight for resistance. You will likely need to do this type of training in a gym or class. Training systems such as Queenax provide a convenient way to engage in functional training, even if you’ve never done it before.
Focus on This Essential Cross Training Checklist
- Cardio. We understand the benefits of intensive cardio workouts and provide you with a number options for both endurance training and high intensity interval training. If you can’t make it into the gym, schedule regular power walks. The intensity should be high enough that you’re breathing through your mouth.
- Strength training. You should be doing this twice a week. We don’t recommend lifting heavy weights for rider fitness. Try lighter weights with more repetitions or participate in functional training.
- Glutes. If you’re not sure where to start, this article gives you 50 exercises for stronger glutes. Or you can take one of our Booty Camp classes, which will give you a stronger butt in record time.
- The essential core, including the lower back. Core strength here is the foundation of every other movement or exercise you will do. If you have chronic back pain and poor posture, there’s a good chance your abs are weak too. Check out this list of great core exercises and here are some ideas for strengthening your back.
- Neck and shoulders. The neck and shoulders are easy to overlook when planning a training regimen. This article from WebMD is a perfect place to start if you haven’t paid enough attention to the area that gives you perfect posture.
Now that you’ve finished reading this and are highly motivated to train, don’t let the moment pass. Get out that notepad or device and commit to your plan and schedule. If you’re thinking that this would be easier if you had some accountability, stop by and see us. We want you to be the very best competitor you can be at this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival.