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  • Writer's picturekmbleekman

Boost Your Energy

Every rider I've worked with at the start of their journey admitted their energy levels were not good. Being exhausted after a competition day then driving home & barely making it through the door absolutely knackered.

Your energy has a huge impact on your ability to withstand fatigue, ride effectively & be there to support your horse all the way around a competition or training. Let's be honest at that last combination 2 from home you don't want to be flopping about like a fish, do you! (Sure we've all been here!)

When it comes to energy there are 3 main nuggets to think about;

  • Sleep

  • Food

  • Stress

Sleep is 1 of the most underrated things. If you're not prioritising your sleep you're going to end up burning out & feeling exhausted & it's something that many riders just don't put enough value on.

Ideally we should be aiming to get a minimum of 6 hours sleep a night & in time working up to 7-8 hours each night consistently. Your sleep doesn't only affect your physical energy but also your positivity, mental acuity & your hormones. If you're not getting enough sleep your hunger, growth & stress hormones will all not be able to function at optimal levels & this will have a big impact on your progress whatever your goals!

I've written a blog previously about why sleep is so important & the effect not having enough sleep will have on your body which you can check that out HERE if you want to learn more.

If you're experiencing the changes of menopause (which the majority of my clients are) & finding sleep is disrupted there are lots of things you can try to help improve your sleep quality & hours but I highly suggest checking out Dr Louise Newson. She is an ex GP turned menopause specialist & she has so much information about menopause & the changes your body & brain go through so I highly reccomend checking out her website & podcasts.

Most of us have an incredibly high level of stress in our lives. You might think, no I don't feel stressed day to day but when I say stress I'm talking about all the things you've got going on in your life & your to-do list. This might be your family, horse or work commitments but it's also your exercise, relationships, finances, sleep that all have a big impact on our stress levels.

There are negative & positive types of stress with exercise being a positive type of stress but it's important to remember that stress is stress. The body doesn't compartmentalise physical from mental stress so whether that's an argument with your husband at home or a bad day at work or equally a really intense training session the body puts all of this into what I like to call your stress bucket. So it's worth thinking about what you've got going on & how full your bucket is.

I like to envisage it as a bucket because that way it's easier to identify how full your stress levels are. Think about it, do you have room & the mental capacity to add more to your bucket whether that be social occasions, work tasks or things to do or do you feel like you're just about keeping your head above the water or equally totally overwhelmed or anxious and like there's absolutely no more room & 1 more added must do will tip the bucket over?

If that's you then it's worth sitting down, writing out all the things you have going on in your life & re-evaluating where you might be able to reduce some stress & your priorties. Keeping the balance is essential & if you're stressed it will lead you to feel exhausted both mentally & physically. Your cortisol levels (that's our stress hormone) will be so high that the body will be hugely affected & this can lead to many things happening including;

  • Weight gain

  • High blood pressure

  • Mood swings

  • Reduction of muscle mass

  • Studies have even shown it can lead to illnesses such as osteoporosis, irregular periods & the early onset of menopause

So it's definitely worth sitting down & thinking about how much you've got going on. I think most of us were brought up to just get on with it and that's a fantastic attitude and work ethic to have, but it's also really important to realise when the balance is tipped to too much that it's going to have a negative effect on you.

Food is fuel just the same as what you feed your horse fuels his performance. It always makes me laugh when riders spend 100s of £'s on their horse's supplements, high quality hard feed & good hay or haylage then feed yourselves McDonalds & Red Bull. Sometimes this simply is down to a lack of knowledge & not being educated enough on the nutrition side of things which at some point of our lives we're all here!

But often it's a case of just not putting enough effort, thought & time into what we eat. I know it's hard when you're busy & time is short which let's be honest, for all of us who have horses in our life time is always an issue but eating well does NOT have to be time consuming or cost you 100's of £'s. Trust me, good quality human food is alot cheaper than horse!

Start small by improving your diet quality. Reduce the amount of high sugar, processed foods & drinks in your diet & try to get 80% of the food you eat each day coming from wholefoods. So that's food's that are in their most natural form & least processed. Things like fruit, vegetables, good starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, wholegrains, pasta & rice, sources of protein from either animal or plant sources & good fats.

Reducing the amount of sugar & processed ingredients you eat will have a huge impact on your energy levels. When you eat high sugar foods your body produces insulin to help absorb the sugar but super sugary foods lead to a rapid increase of insulin rising that your body just can't handle so what happens is it spikes super fast & your energy levels will feel high for a short time but then pretty quickly after you'll have a huge energy crash.

So try to swap out those sugary carbs for those starchy ones that. As they take a longer time for the body to breakdown you will have more sustained energy for a longer period of time & shouldn't experience those huge energy highs & lows! Ensure you're eating enough too. If you're consuming less calories than your body needs to maintain your daily activity levels then this is going to have a big knock on effect on how you feel too. I've worked with many horsey girls who find they forget to eat & when you're busy it is easy for this to happen but if you're serious about feeling better in yourself this has to change & most of this comes down to conscious behaviours & putting steps in place to help make eating more easier such as prepping up good snack options or packing your food the night before work, competing or training days!

Make sure 20% of the time allow yourself the foods you like. Choc or wine is fine & it's important to keep those foods in your diet otherwise you'll feel like you're missing out but we just want to focus on increasing the quality of our food the majority of the time. Eating high levels of protein also assists in keeping your blood sugar’s s balanced so make sure you get a good balance of all your macronutrients!

Not drinking enough water can also lead to you experiencing serious levels of fatigue. The body needs fluids! Just like our horses most of our body is made up of water so we must keep hydrated. If you're not drinking enough you'll find you feel tired & also experience brain fog & a lack of mental clarity; never a good thing!

Focusing on these 3 nuggets & making a conscious effort to improve your behaviours & habits in each area will have a huge positive impact on your energy levels. It's easy to try to change too much all at once, and even though that comes from a good place, I see this mistake made all too often.

Changing too many things at once, is often overwhelming, and it's going to feel like a really big chore. So focus on one small change at a time. Implement that first, be consistent with it for a week/two weeks and from there build into another small change, and in time, this will create really good habits, and it will have a huge impact on your energy levels!

It's easy to look at people who get a lot done in their days, are super successful with their riding or work out hard and think, "Wow, must be easy for them. They've got great energy levels I'd love to feel like them."

But it's important to remember that we create our own energy through conscious behaviours. So if you're experiencing low energy right now, I really urge you to have a look into these 3 areas and think about any changes that you could make.

Believe me, a small change goes a long way!


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