Riding Fit

Cross Training for Riders

Equestrian fitness expert Emily J. Harrington offers advice on becoming a healthier and more complete rider.

Looking back over my career as an equestrian fitness rider, cross training is what has kept me in the saddle.

The basic benefit of cross training is that you get the training effect of a variety of workouts without the over-use that comes from focusing on only one workout. And, yes, riding is a workout.

Nothing can replace actually riding for getting better at the craft. But it is possible to over-use muscles. With that in mind I have put together a cross training plan for any given week.  The result should be a healthy, balanced athlete.

If you ride every day, then the best thing to do is add a gentle training to your day. We all need cardiovascular training to keep our heart muscle strong.  Twenty to 30 minutes of aerobics on two of the days that you ride is

a modest amount that will add up quickly. If you can do longer than 20-30 minutes, then keep the intensity lower. The shorter workout should have an increased intensity to it. And alternating your workouts with one short and one long workout a week is even better.

Adding one to two days of yoga is very useful for the rider.  Ultimately, doing one Pilate- type exercise and one yoga-type a week would accomplish overall body strength and flexibility with attention to the core.

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Or if you prefer the gym setting for strength training with free weights and/or machines, go for it. Do not forget to do some abdominal or plank-type exercises. Take 10-15 minutes after this training to stretch all of the large muscle groups. This improves flexibility.

If you ride less frequently, then you need to increase your cardio workouts to three to four times a week and spend three to four days on strength and flexibility.

The big key with adding this variety in exercise is to keep your body moving and get you trying new things. Go try a Zumba class! You may find a new way to have fun and get a workout.  This all adds up to better overall health and a more complete rider.

-Emily J. Harrington, CPT, equestrienne fitness trainer, is a multiple AQHA world champion and top-10 AQHA World Show finisher. Visit her website, www.bodybalancefitness.org