We have made it through Christmas & New Year, eaten our own weight in turkey, mince pies and chocolate and hopefully had some fun with our horses! Event riders have been furiously planning in front of the BE calendar, entertaining the idea of some dressage and jumping practise before Tweseldown, while the dressage riders are well into their regional preparations. It's all systems go!
There is still time to start some work on yourself! In our first blog we looked at simple ways to find your own weaknesses and imbalances. If you haven't tried the tasks from the first blog, pop back and have a look! They're really quick and easy to do & will help you decide which exercises will benefit your riding the best.
For part 2 of this blog we are looking and some simple exercises and stretches you can do at home, with out gym memberships or equipment, that can help improve the specific muscle groups we use for riding! We caught up with Personal Trainer, Georgie Tweddle, from GT Fitness UK. Georgie has a strong equestrian background and loves helping riders improve their strength and fitness.
Here is what Georgie has to say!
"Winter is a great time to take a breath and assess what needs working on - for both you and your horse! Just as you might have been addressing some weaknesses in your horses training over winter, the same goes for you. Are you stronger on one side (Try the exercises from Part 1 to find out!)? Run out of puff half way through a dressage test or XC round? Now is a great time to work on this ahead of the season!
As riders we should take a look at all components of our fitness - crucially cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. A balanced, even and flexible rider with a strong core will make for a happier horse. If you know, for example, that you’re stronger on one rein, there are some simple exercises you can try at home to work your body in a way that will help you identify - and correct - that imbalance.
If time isn’t on your side and you don’t have access to a gym, there is plenty you can do at home. Core strengthening exercises are a rider’s best friend. They can be done anywhere, and you will start feeling the benefits in as little as 4 - 6 weeks. Again, if redressing imbalances is your goal, consider incorporating exercises that challenge your balance and won’t allow your stronger side to dominate. Examples that will give you more bang for your buck than crunches are:
Plank shoulder taps
Supermans (in plank or hands and knees)
Side plank raises
One-legged glute bridges
You would look to do 10-12 repetitions of each exercise a couple of times through, so you can really feel that your muscles have done some work! A few important pointers include;
Alignment - trying to focus on alignment of your body. In these pictures our models (Thanks Hannah & Maddy!) show lovely lines from shoulder, to hips and toes with no soggy backs or hunched shoulders!
Breathing - Remember to keep breathing throughout the exercises!
Progression - Make sure you build up the repetitions slowly. If the exercises give you any back pain keep the reps low and try adapting the exercises to make them easier. If you continue to have, then seen a physiotherapist before pushing yourself any harder!
In terms of cardiovascular fitness, if the weather isn’t too treacherous and you don’t have any joint issues that could be made worse by higher impact exercise, getting out for a run once or twice per week can reap great CV benefits. If you want a challenge and to really see your cardiovascular fitness increase, try incorporating intervals into your runs - periods of running faster with recovery periods. The ratio of fast to slow depends on your fitness levels and goals. Whichever length intervals you choose (anything from 30s on / 1 min off, to 4 mins on, 1 min off) the key thing is that by the end of your ‘fast’ interval you’re feeling like you want to slow down!
Always remember to do a gentle warm up and cool down - 5 mins of slow jogging for both - to ensure your muscles are prepared / your heart rate has a chance to come down, respectively. This session can also be done on a bike, or if you go to a gym, on a cross-trainer, treadmill or static bike. Skipping can also be a great way to get the heart pumping if time is limited or you don't fancy running!
Finally, don’t forget to stretch! Riders get especially tight calves, hips and lower backs, so make these are your priorities when stretching, if your time is compromised. Always make sure your muscles are warm before your stretch - so after exercise is the best time to go into deeper, longer stretches. Pilates also does an excellent job of lengthening and strengthening muscles (especially core), so is a perfect choice for the rider."
Here is a selection of stretches that are super useful for riders to open up the hips & stretch out through the back. Stretches should be held for approximately 20 seconds to be effective. Do this a couple of times on each side and you should really feel the difference!
So there you have it! A great selection of simple exercises and stretches to get you riding fit before the season really kicks off - go on, give them a go.... your horse will thank you!
For those of you who are keen to improve their imbalances and asymmetries riding and find some extra marks in the arena, why don't you consider a Ridden Assessment with Rider Focus Physio? We can come to you, video some specific movements, pop you on the couch for an assessment and treatment before hoping back on to re-video and look for the improvements! We then analyse the videos, send you the before and after photos and provide you with a bespoke and individual exercise plan, complete with pictures and videos of the exercises, for you to work on in your own time! What a great way to start the year!
For more information on Ridden Assessments please contact Hannah via our website: https://www.riderfocusphysiotherapy.co.uk/about-us
To contact Georgie regarding Personal Training please visit her website:
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Coming up next: Our next blog will be all about riders nutrition! As riders, we tend to have "on the go" lifestyles so fitting in healthy eating can be a real challenge - especially at shows when all that's on offer is bacon baps, chips and burgers!