Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lets Revisit One Resolution

Ahh, the typical "Work out more", "Go to the gym", and "Get in shape" resolutions for the New Year, few followed through with. Heres my stance, we focus so much on our horses' fitness and body, but sometimes some of the issues can be rooted from our own. Fitness for Riding. This has been something that Ive been remotely interested in for a while. Ive always been inspired by Melissa and her ability to stay driven with her workout routines. I know that good fitness is an important part to successful riding, but I always just figured that my weekly pasture cleaning was sufficient enough.

I've noticed over the period of time that I have been riding, that my core is weak, which I think attributes to my tendancy to lean forward and hold myself that way. Now, Im doing better than I did when I first was faced with my bareback riding (I would literally be out of breath after a few solid minutes of rising trot work), however, I still feel that my physical weaknesses are hindering our performance. Its something I hear from Melissa frequently, "My mind knows what to do, but its getting the body to do it." I know that I need to sit up and not lean forward, but that darned muscle memory pulls me back forward every few strides (especially when loping). I also lose some leg control at the lope. Im concentrating on sitting upright (failing at it), relaxing my back and letting my hips swing in motion, that I seem to lose some functionality in my lower leg. Yeah, I can cue a bit, but I tend to just "quit riding" I guess you could say. The legs so slack, and are definitely not symmetrical in their requests from one side to the other. They are still a long ways away from being independent from my seat.

So how can I help these issues? I think some additional fitness exercises may help. I'd like to see myself naturally being in the correct position, so I can stop worrying about that and start focusing on my aids and my horse. I have the opportunity to get free membership from a local gym (I have that cool of a boss - just write it off as Health and Wellness!) and I feel sheepish and lazy to not pursue that. However, I am concerned about fitting it in. Remember when we were kids and we would listen to our parents always saying "There just isnt enough time in the day"? And we would sit there, rolling our eyes, thinking "Theres always time if you make the time." Its just going to be a matter of fitting it into the normal routine, such that eventually, the new routine, is the normal one.

But, I am also trying to get classes set up for WSU Online, which will be another time sucker. So, how can I make this all work, by still committing 4-5 days a week for ride time, and avoiding additional gas costs to an already sky high bill? Leave earlier in the morning? Well, the only feasible thing for that option would be the two days a week that I dont go in early (or rather - earlier than scheduled), Monday and Tuesday. I arrive at work on these days at 7:30am. Any other day, its 6:30am (office cleaning for additional pay, and early release on Fridays for pasture cleaning). What I suppose I could do would be to say arrive at a gym at 6:00, workout for 45 min to an hour, than take a shower there and arrive at work on time? That is an option indeed. But are the gyms open that early? Im sure a simple website check will determine that question.

Well, Im not exactly a fan of working out alone with a bunch of strangers, nor taking a hurried shower in a public location (call me crazy). What could I do to combat say, going to a gym? This is where the ever handy and inspirational Horse & Rider Magazine comes into handy again. As I've been contemplating setting a fitness routine for a few weeks, they just so happend to post a great read about how one equestrian, Liz Blackburn, stays fit, and her routine at home. Here are some exerpts from that article:

"I start with gentle stretching, daily. I hang by my hands from a one-inch wooden dowel suspended from the ceiling on chains. It feels terrific on my spine! I follow this with basic stretching of my legs, shoulders, and arms." I have a lot of tight back problems in my lower lumbar area. It gets exacerbated by my continued sitting in my work chair for nine hours, and is hindering my overall wellness, but I cannot for the life of me relax that area for a downward transition. Its easy to blame Milo for the sloppy transition, but I know his back is only reflecting my own. I have heard wonders of this simple stretching exercise and would like to enforce it myself.

"Three times a week, I use moderate free weights (I started with 3 pounds and advanced up to 10) in simple routines to work my biceps, triceps, and shoulders."  I would like to get in a routine of weight training, which would be beneficial to my overall body condition, but help me drag that mud laddened wheelbarrow across the pasture, and not kill my back.

"Building a strong body core is especially important ... my thrice weekly  strength program includes an on-the-floor rowing exercise to strengthen my back muscles ... (Rowing can be done using a machine or with inexpensive latex bands)." While I would like to look into that rowing exercise, what most caught my attention in this quote is the idea of resistence from the latex bands. I believe resistence exercises would be most beneficial.

For abdominal strenth, integral to core strength, the author says she used an Ab Lounge instead of normal on the floor crunches, which fatigues her neck (mine too). And it just so happens that Boyfriend has such equipment. I think I will be dragging that into my spare bedroom.

Lastly, the author depicts that she walks a brisk two miles four times a week, as jogging was hurting her knees (Lord, I hear that too). I know that this is an important step for aerobic wellness, as it promotes heart health, bone density, and calorie burning, this step my friends, will be the most difficult to live up to. Ready for the excuse train? Daylight. My ever present nemesis for these long, long dark Washington winters. Can't get up early to walk - its 5:30am and black as night. Can't walk when home - its after 7pm before I make it home from the barn and surprise, daylight has vanished once again. So, this is where the discipline wagon will have to come in. If I could at least get one good walk a week (via the weekend) that should suffice, right? Plus my dog will be pleased to go on an outing, and who knows, maybe I could get Boyfriend to accompany me? Although doubtful if its raining (Washington strikes again!). Although, I have read that even a thirteen minute exercise, three times a week, will benefit our heart. So if I cant walk that much, what else could I do to get my heart rate pumping?

 A simple Google search gave me some good options. Cardio: Jumping rope for five solid minutes, three times a week. After 4-6 weeks, move up to 10 minutes, and later 25-30 minutes. The spare room's ceiling isnt high enough to be safe, but the living room would serve as a good location.

Stretching exercises, plus some for my back depicted at a great site here. Yoga is something that intrigues me as well. Many might complain about it being listed in my stretching paragraph, but I dont believe I would take it to a very strenuous level, just to help loosen things up and tone up a bit I think.

For strength, my weights can help, but what else? Ive heard great things about the exercise ball, and have been compemplating asking the boss for one to sit in at work. Not only can it help in stretching and balance (key for riding), it will help strengthen my core by requiring me to hold myself up all day at my desk.

So thats it. Thats my goal. I want to create a routine I can stick with and make it become my normal routine. Stay tuned as Im sure periodic updates and thoughts will transpire.


An Image of Grace said...

"I want to create a routine I can stick with and make it become my normal routine."

That's the key right there - a routine you can stick with. My days at the gym are on hold right now as I close out one job and get ready to start the next one. I will be taking the bus to the new job which will include walking a total of 3 miles a day to and from the bus stops. I say, get the exercise in where and when you can. The turning point for me was when I realized that I consider my horse an athlete so I train and condition her accordingly, but I wasn't doing the same for myself. Good Luck - and keep us posted!

in2paints said...

I have trouble with cardio also because I have terrible knees, courtesy of the USMC. I did decide to start walking again and today was my first day. The loop is exactly 3 miles, so it works out pretty darn well. I'm shooting for 3 times a week, but we shall see.

Good luck getting a plan together. The hard part for me is sticking with it!