Will yoga & mobility help my riding?
Fitting all areas of fitness into your weekly or monthly training programme is hard work; it’s a juggling act but it’s important that you include all areas of strength training, cardio work, mobility, stretching to make you the most rounded, functional, injury-free rider you can be.
Finding a programme that encompasses all these areas should be a must-do for all riders-it’s time-efficient & you make sure you don’t neglect any important areas of fitness. This is what all my programmes incorporate into them.
Now strength is important, 100%, but if you lack mobility or flexibility you’ll get to a point where the skill of your movement breaks down, you may not be able to progress & you’ll probably find you experience injuries or soreness in both your riding & training.
I’ve said before that yoga & pilates alone aren’t enough for riders & I stand by this. You need to be doing more. But making sure you do still include a good amount of flexibility & mobility work in your week is really important.
When we’re talking about mobility we’re talking about how much movement you have at your joints & muscles, how well you move, how freely & efficiently you can move through full ranges of motion.
Flexibility on the other hand refers to how you can move, bend & stretch. It is defined as the ability of a joint to move through an unrestricted, pain free range of motion.
To sum up the difference is that flexibility refers to passive ranges of movement, so holding a fixed position & seeing how far you can stretch the muscle whereas with mobility we’re moving our joints & muscles through active ranges of movement such as swinging your leg forward & back to warm up our hamstrings & mobilise our hip joint.
For most of us who are training to improve our riding we’re simply looking to start moving better & more efficiently so making sure you include a good dose of mobility & flexibility work is important to help you achieve this.
If you can improve your range of movement you’ll find your strength improves, stiffness eases, you find movements easier, you move faster & your progress will be smooth! As well as finding riding easier & more comfortable.
Spending time working on your mobility will also improve imbalances & asymmetry. As riders, we all tend to have a dominant side but often what happens is our stronger side can become very tight & restricted in it’s mobility as it’s always overworking or compensating for the lack of strength on the opposite limb.
So keeping the strong side loose & mobile is super important. As you work on your mobility you’ll get to know your body & joints better; you’ll engrain a stronger mind-muscle connection & should be able to feel where your movement is restricted or areas that need more work. Most of the time for riders this will be around our pelvic/hip joints & our spine!
Building your strength, reducing pain & getting yourself fitter is a combination of strength & the above so make sure you put the time into your mobility work is only going to benefit both you & your horse in turn. Yes, I know it can be boring but just like hacking, the boring stuff does pay off.
Yoga can be a huge help to your riding & performance alongside mobility work, not just physically either. Yoga gives our bodies & minds a chance to switch off & become truly present; something many of us will probably struggle to do around our busy lives.
Taking time to calm your mind is really important, if your body is in a constant state of stress your movement will be impacted & pain well may be increased. This is really important to be aware of if you’re struggling with injury. Allowing your parasympathetic nervous system to truly slow you down, reduce your heart rate & relax your body is essential & yoga allows this to happen just as a cool down post-workout does.
When we train & ride we place stress on our bodies so yoga is a great way to alleviate this stress & give our bodies a chance to dissipate fatigue & tightness. Your strength can be improved through yoga as well, improving your mind-muscle connection on a deeper level & understanding how to hold challenging movement patterns or poses will transfer back into your strength work both in the gym but then also into your riding seat.
With regular yoga work, you should find your mobility & movement improve relatively quickly as well as helping you to balance your stress. As well as increasing your flexibility by taking the muscles to end ranges of movements with stretches, yoga can help to improve posture, essential for those of us who spend a lot of time sitting or at desk!
It can help to improve your body awareness, proprioception, balance & control as well as reducing the risk of injury & helping you to become more even & alleviate imbalances.
Improving your mobility & flexibility should be something you’re constantly striving for & it’s important as well that as we age we consciously work to keep ourselves as mobile as possible especially if you’re still wanting to be riding at 75!
As we age our mobility will become reduced as does our strength so working on both these areas is a must-do for riders & to keep us healthy & fit in older age for general life as well as keeping us in the saddle.
Mobility & yoga hugely compliment a progressive & structured strength training programme, it’s important you don’t neglect one area or the other & this will help you to become the most balanced athlete you can be!
At Event Rider Fitness all of my training programmes incorporate mobility & flexibility work into the session so no area of fitness or movement is left neglected. Adding in extra yoga or stretching work will only benefit your performance & your horse further.
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