Thursday, April 7, 2016

How Working Out Impacts My Riding

As you work your way up the levels of your chosen riding discipline, you may find the your body becomes less and less cooperative...  The parts just don't seem to do what you told them to do...  Or what you *thought* you told them to...

Do you follow a workout program, or do you just stick to one thing all the time?
(such as running, biking, walking, whatever)

I've been following my programs that:
 - change up the muscle groups that get worked each day
 - include cardio components
 - schedule in stretching and flexibility
 - establish core strength and stability

You wouldn't think that any of that really affects my riding one way or another...
But, when it comes down to upping the ante, I'm realizing it *is* my own solid foundation!

Working out increases my confidence!
Now, I don't fully understand why breaking a sweat each day should make any difference in my confidence, but I still notice a difference.  I think body language has much to do with it.
Check out this TED Talks Life Hack by Amy Cuddy!  If you get a chance to watch the video, I highly recommend it!
I think exercise puts me in power poses (and for more than 2 minutes at a time) and contributes to my increased confidence.  I don't have any other science to back this up.  It's just a hunch.

confidence to stick with my horse when she puts in an extra push!

Working out heightens my body awareness at all levels!
Are my heels down?  Are my hips even?  Am I sitting up straight or collapsing forward?
These questions get easier to answer by feel when I'm working out.  Out of the saddle, I'm finding all of these tiny muscles between the big muscles and slowly becoming aware of all my body parts in relation to the rest of me.
In triangle pose, I feel squished between 2 panes of glass, but when I look up, my right shoulder is a bit forward.  So, I figure out how to bring it back in line.  That translates to square shoulders in the saddle.  Because I work on it every day.  At home.  Out of the saddle.

awareness of my position so that I stay centered and out of the way when we take off from a bad spot!
(I can't see that expression without cracking up!!  LOLOL)

Working out improves my posture!
Whether I'm lifting weights or stretching into a yoga pose, I must put my body into alignment.  The actions themselves slowly install a muscle memory of balanced body parts.  Squats, especially with weights, push my weight into my heels, helping them stay DOWN when I'm in the saddle.
Resistance training teaches me to keep my chest and chin UP.
Yoga and Pilates help me keep my spine and pelvis aligned.
Because I'm training every day.
Bonus - it improves my posture OUT of the saddle, as well!

Working out solidifies my balance!
Oh, the crazy things I do at home! Yoga balance poses.  One-legged squats.  Side plank.  Chair pose!!
The better my balance is, the easier it gets to stay out of my horse's way when we work.  And when I can get out of her way, she truly becomes brilliant!
As the muscles get fatigued, my ability to balance declines.  By pushing my limits out of the saddle, my muscles gain endurance.  If I fall out of a pose at home, it's not going to impact my horse.  I can push harder and harder - all the way to my limits!  Then, I can push those limits farther!
When I get back in the saddle, I have more to offer my horse.  More stability.  More balance.  More quiet allowance.  More partnership.

I'm putting as much effort into our performance as my horse is!

Working out manages my pain.
I am a rider with a chronic back injury.  Bulged discs never completely heal.  By maintaining my core strength and flexibility on a daily basis, acute flare-ups are shorter and less painful.  It helps me build what I call "coping muscles".
Recently, my back was so tied up, I couldn't sit the canter.  I had a performance to give. Since I couldn't sit the canter, I cantered in half-seat.  I had the strength to do that much, at least.  The flexibility comes and goes, but I continue to train it anyway.  I learn how to work in a way that protects my injury while still being effective.  The hurt goes away faster.  The muscles remain more pliable.  I remain functional!!
That doesn't mean I never have bad pain days...  I still have occasions where some outside force that I have yet to identify lays me low and all I can do is take NSAIDS and lay on the couch and wait for the spasms and ache to pass.  But it's no longer taking DAYS to pass.  It seems to only take 24 hours or less.  Then, I can step right back into my routine.

It doesn't mean we're perfect, but it does mean we are both doing our best!!

Shameless Plug
I'm not at my ideal weight, yet.  I don't have a 6-pack.  I modify and work around chronic injury and pain.  I like bread and chocolate and ice cream...
Despite all of that, I am succeeding at a pace that works for me.  I am sustaining small, consistent improvements.  And I am helping others do the same thing!!

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