Meet Rebecca, our new architect of the Midlife Horses Fitness Quest. Here’s why she gets it — and how you can, too!

There are a lot of realities working against us in our Midlife Horses Fitness Quest. There’s  that dad-blasted 24-hour day. No matter how efficient we are, we can’t have more hours than that.  Then we have WAY too many options. And, if you’re like me who has accumulated a lifetime of interests, no way to really do any of them at the level that feels like “enough.”

And speaking of “enough”, there are all the rules to consider. Must do aerobics for xx minutes at xx percent your target heart rate, which you must measure at xx intervals. Must lift some weights on consecutive days, some on alternating days. Some to muscle failure, some not. Some stretches and postures must be done in specific sequences, some don’t matter. Which are which?  Some videos have prerequisites, and there are often three people doing the same exercises at different levels. How do you pick which one? How do you remember which one you picked to follow? Can you mix and match or will that cause the TV to blow up?

Then there are our middle aged bodies. As I learned from Dara Torres’ wonderful book, Age is Just a Number that chronicles her own midlife return to the passion of her youth (all the way to an Olympic gold medal, no less!), not only do we need to warm up longer, stretch before and massage after, but we must be kinder and gentler with our body mechanics; we need to pace ourselves and not overtrain — AND allow ourselves more recovery time for our aging muscle fibers to rebuild and get ready for the next assault. (Did I say assault? I meant to say adventure.)

Because, God forbid, if we do injure ourselves it takes a LOT longer for even minor injuries to heal, and if we don’t let them heal completely we risk permanent damage that will prevent from ever being able to do what we want to do again. Unless, of course, we want to opt for complete joint replacement, which is a whole ‘nuther kettle of worms (bigger than a can and much worse than fish).

And above all, who has the time and mental energy to figure all this out ? Not me! When I wrote Chapter 4, “Leg Up!” of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, my focus was on WHAT to do to get in the right shape to ride stronger and longer. Now, on a personal level, I struggle (as I’m sure  most people do) with HOW to get this very important priority wedged onto an already overflowing plate. Knowing I either needed the intervention of a mental health professional,  to quit trying to do all this stuff at my age, or find a personal trainer who would get all this and help me figure out a workable plan, I began “rounding up the usual suspects.”  The challenge here was to find a person who knows about what’s involved with riding and working with and caring for  horses, knows about aging athletes and their peculiar time-warped exercise mentality, and can address my time-crunched, all-or-nothing ADD infused life to string together just enough of the right  kinds of activity to get me to a level of fitness that will help me without completely blowing my circuit board.

In other words, I needed a magician. Or maybe the little old woman who makes the superhero suits in “The Incredibles.”

After my talk to the Ladies Luncheon Series at Colonial Country Club last month, I had a chance to meet Rebecca Slemmons, the  club’s new fitness director. Oddly enough (and I wondered what brought her to my talk), the topic struck a special chord with her. Her 17-year-old daughter had been riding and competing in dressage and eventing for much of her life and had just started her senior year of high school. If you’ve ever been the mom of a senior in high school, that Fall marks the beginning of a year of “lasts” that tug endlessly at your emotions and set you full throttle on the path of “what am I going to do when this child leaves the nest?” Rebecca, you’ll be happy to know, has already decided what she’s going to do. Like so many of us, she found her answer to her empty nest question on the back of a horse.

She has now signed up for lessons and has begun riding her daughter’s horse (They weren’t sure what they were going to do with him once her daughter left for school. Now I believe they do!) In addition to discovering a new passion that will help see her through this life transition, Rebecca has also realized that the years of watching her daughter take lessons have not been wasted  on her — she’s picking it up surprisingly fast ! Another bonus is that as her daughter watches Rebecca learning to ride,  she is able to help her out with tips and pointers that only further reinforce her own knowledge (don’t we all learn something best by teaching it to others? ) — and the bond between them over horses and riding has become an exciting new chapter in their relationship.

And the really good news about all this for me? With Rebecca’s growing personal awareness of the muscle groups involved in riding properly, she has tweaked her own workout — and is the perfect one to help me figure out my exercise conundrum. She loves the exercises in the book, by the way, and encourages me to go read it again as a reader, not a writer. And this time, to start doing them. Consistently. (oh, that c-word again) However, she did agree to take a look at my situation and help me (and the rest of as well) to find a systematic way of approaching the big picture of our Midlife Horses Fitness Quest.

So with great trepidation in my heart (and more than a little dread of appearing in public wearing shorts), I appeared at the Colonial Country Club Fitness Center for my consult with Rebecca.  Looking down at the pasty whiteness of my legs I was surprised about two things. One, of course is the alabaster glare created by an entire summer under jeans. The other is that all this riding has put some new muscles in there I don’t remember ever seeing before. In fact, I thought, squinting a little bit (to get past the aforementioned glare), whose thighs are these?

Happy Trails!


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