10 Steps to Start To Build Your Riding Fitness
First things first the fitness industry loves to overcomplicate things. It is an unregulated industry where these days anyone is able to give advice through platforms such as Instagram or Tiktok irrelevant of the fact of whether they are a qualified Personal Trainer or nutritionist or not & have learned their trade.
For many of you who are at the start of your journey or were there once it can be a hugely confusing place & if you take on incorrect or misinformed information it can also be dangerous as long term it can create some really negative beliefs around food & fitness for you
I was there & you start to doubt & question everything.
"What exercises should I be doing in the gym?
"Do I need to split my training up to train my chest separate from my legs?"
"Do I need to be doing booty day?"
"How many days a week should I be training?"
"Are rest days bad?"
"Do I need to be doing HIIT? "
"What should I be eating?"
"Do I need to cut carbs?"
"Are fats not bad for me?"
"Do I need to add in supplements?"
The answer is there is no right or wrong, it is about doing what works for you & what will help you to become stronger & avoid injury but also what you enjoy. Especially when it comes to diet & nutrition; people love to overcomplicate it & forget to share the evidence-based facts which is what you want to be focusing on following whilst making sure your plan is realistic to fit into your life.
Trainers & “influencers” (regardless of if they actually hold any qualifications or not) often try to re-invent the wheel. Quite frankly when you tell someone the best thing to do would be to eat fewer calories they are left underwhelmed. I’ve been asked before;
“But is that it? Do I not need to cut carbs?”
They had been waiting for that golden secret and that is the misinformation that the fitness industry spreads & it just confuses you rather than help you. My mission as a coach is to challenge you to keep fit, help you to gain independence with your fitness journey, persist through the hard times, educate you on the way so you understand the reasoning behind your actions & most of all enjoy the journey & can sustain your results long term. If you don’t understand or know the reasons for doing something then I highly doubt you will commit to doing it for the next x many months.
So to help you to start to improve your health & fitness to boost your riding performance here are my 10 simple tips;
1; Exercise 3-5 times a week- focus on getting into a consistent routine & make sure whatever exercise you are doing you ENJOY it. If you don’t enjoy it & it doesn’t excite you it will be far harder to adhere to long term. A mix of aerobic & strength training would be perfect. Make sure it works for you time-wise too as that is the key to consistency.
2; Sleep Aim for 7-9 hours every night. A hugely overlooked component of health & fitness is your sleep. Your body needs rest to repair & recover from all of the stresses of the day & lack of sleep can be a number 1 reason for injury & lack of profress
3; Focus on single-limb stability & balance work within your training. As riding is classed as a single limb sport training your limbs unilaterally is key to help to strengthen each side of your body & reduce imbalances. Imbalances hugely affect your movement & strength and then when loaded on a horse directly impact their movement & gait reducing their performance quality. We all have a more dominant side, just like our ponies, so training to become as balanced as you can be is imperative if your goal is to ride at your best.
4; Introduce a simple mobility routine 2-3 times per week for 10 minutes a day. Focus on moving & mobilising your spine, hips, ankles & shoulders and spending a little time on you improving your range of movement off the horse. This will have a big positive benefit on your riding
5; Eat a healthy balanced diet; focus on the majority of your diet coming from mainly unprocessed, whole foods sources including all of the 3 main macronutrients in your diet. Make your diet as colourful as possible but don’t restrict certain foods! Think of the 80/20 balance
6; Eat yummy foods, don’t restrict tasty foods you enjoy, everything in moderation. Restriction in the long term leads to unsustainable diets, poor food relationships & you will get to a point where you can no longer stick to the diet as you crave the foods you enjoy. A diet containing foods you enjoy & a good balance is a healthy one.
7; Hire a coach/trainer to keep you accountable & learn. A coach should be someone who helps you to achieve your goals but on the way, you learn & understand why you are doing what you are. Your coach should give you the accountability to “get shit done” & hold you to goals but should also give you all the tools you need that in the long term if you wish to do so you can go it alone with your training & nutrition. Investing in a coach is the best way to keep accountable for your actions & to learn hence why I have a coach
8; Move more. Movement is the best medicine & let’s face it, we all spend far too much time sitting whether that be in the car, on a chair or in the saddle. MOVE!
9; Make time for your training & steps. Aim to hit 8-10,000 steps + as a minimum daily & diarise your training sessions. Getting your steps in is such a simple way to keep energy expenditure high, get your heart working & keep your body moving. Treat your training sessions as you would a meeting, put them in the diary, commit & get it done.
10; Track your food intake & aim to consume 1-1.5g X kg/BW of protein per day. Hitting your protein is key to keeping yourself satisfied & full after meals but also to make sure your body & muscles have the nutrients it needs to repair the damage you do when riding & training. Tracking your food on an app like My Fitness Pal is a great way to educate yourself on what you are currently eating & the calorie content of your foods. It should be used as an eye-opening tool, not a diet shaming tool.
The most important thing is to keep things simple. It may not have all the bells & whistles but for long-term success, you don’t need those gimmicks or tricks. Focus on consistency & turning small, easy habits into routine & over time you will find you start to know exactly what you need to be doing & get results.
Hope this helps,