Is holiday havoc erupting between your eggnog and riding schedules? Give yourself a break! Here’s how to have your eggnog and hold your horses, too.

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This bit of holiday mercy just in from our friend and trainer, Denise Barrows of Practical Equine Solutions who shares:

“This is a really good newsletter- right along the same lines as what we are doing/promoting.   While it is probably focused toward riders who are already knee deep in a fitness and riding program, it is also good for the not-so-serious riders to hear (I can relay it as, “See? there ARE times when you can take a break from regular riding and planning and stretching! Just not 51 weeks out of the year 🙂

I also appreciate the emphasis here on maintaining hip mobility. This seems to be an issue many of us struggle with. It’s nice to see that so many others are on the same page as we are!”

The fabulous resource Denise connects us with here is equifitt.com. Go there and click on the blue box on the upper right portion of the home page (scroll down to the bottom for the free stuff, but there are some cool things to purchase on the way to the sign up box!) to sign up for their free monthly tips and articles — and then click around this great site to explore the many fitness ideas and opportunities there to fit a variety of needs and interests!

Meanwhile, Denise shares their November newsletter (couldn’t find the link for you, so here it is in all its glory!) that got our attention after our recent Pilates enlightenment.  Enjoy!

EquiFiTTip November 2011: Make the Most of Your Time

© Heather R. Sansom

Forward to a friend, subscription to monthly FiTTips is free.

It’s that busy festive time of year again when many riders find themselves torn: you really want to be at the barn, but there is that office party/social event/crammed holiday schedule and they just have not perfected cloning.

 It can be a time of year when fitting in ‘extra’s like your own fitness plan really fall by the wayside.

Relax.  The beauty of a yearly training plan is that it’s understood there are times of the year when optimal training cannot occur.  In fact, there are times when it shouldn’t- your body needs to recover.  I usually view the month of December as a maintenance only/alternative period of time.  There is no point in fighting it- you need to have the balance of being able to connect with friends and family, and enjoy the general hum and extravagant well-wishing of the major holiday season.

Before you get ready to put on the fuzzy slippers and pour yourself something that warms you, you really do need to know that recovery period does not mean it’s time to slack off completely.  The purpose of a recovery period in your usual training regimen is to help you loosen up a little; to let muscles recover from long periods of use in order to avoid strain, and to let your brain unwind so that you can bring creativity and freshness back to the ways you are thinking about your sport.  Letting yourself sink into a comfortable chair for the season, or run around with elevated blood pressure from shopping and socializing with no time for yourself, do not count as legitimate recovery.

Keep the end goal in mind: going into the New Year, picking up where you left off, having thought about your goals for the new year and ready to give it your best shot.

Total slacking or stressing for a month will not set you up to walk into this picture.

Recovery periods in an athlete training schedule are often referred to as ‘active recovery’.  When you think about the concept applied to your horse, it makes sense.  For example, in the off season (if you compete) you may take him out hacking, or play with gymnastics (if you are a dressage rider) or work on your dressage (if you are a hunter/jumper).  You will generally give your horse some work that is light to him, and a little different from his usual routine.  You’ll bring the fun back in.  If he is injured, you don’t leave him standing in a stall.  You keep him moving.  In some areas, riders just turn their horse out for the winter where he can stay exercised going through snow and up and down hills, but otherwise get a mental break and just be a horse to get re-energized.

You both need a period where your horse’s training is lighter.  This is a good season to do it, and there is a hybrid solution that can help normally busy riders, go through the busy holiday season and still be physically and mentally recovered and ready to pick up where you left off when your normal training seasons begins again.

You do not need to feel torn about not maintaining your training schedule, if you have planned to ride less, or make your rides shorter.   You do need to plan in short segments of activity for yourself to replace the lost riding time.  Luckily, it does not take nearly as long to go for a 20-minute walk as it does to head to the barn and back in an evening: you can fit in the walk AND the holiday party in on the same day.

Short bursts of intentional and fun physical activity will help keep you riding fit when you can’t ride as much or as long.  They will also help reduce stress, build proprioception and neuro-muscular vocabulary (increase your ability to move and follow your horse), and even help you avoid potential strain issues that could be caused by your riding and are typically prevalent in middle-aged and older riders.

It doesn’t really matter what activities you choose in your recovery period as a rider.  However, they should be selected to meet specific goals that help your riding, such as:

 

  1. Maintain bone density and improve ligament strength(impact activities).

Examples:   walking, jogging, kickboxing, aerobics, skiing, snowshoeing, training with weights or bodyweight/resistance tubing

  1. Maintain hip mobility (for following the horse’s motion).

Examples: walking (probably the best one), cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, yoga

  1. Build core strength.

Examples: core exercises, martial arts, swimming, dance (jazz, hip hop etc..) pilates, integrated training with exercise tubing

  1. Improve rhythm and connection.

Examples: dance- especially social dancing with a partner, aerobics or other music-driven group classes, ‘mirror’ motion games with a partner

  1. Maintain or build cardio-vascular stamina.

Examples: many of the activities above, as long as your heart rate is elevated for 15-20 minutes.  If you are an Eventer, your cardio training should be twice as long.  Using intervals of more intense activity are the most efficient way to train.  For example, walking on hills or walking the dog with intervals of faster or slower walking; or swimming lengths with fast/slow combinations that you can keep up. 

To get the most out of your exercise time as a mental break and for proprioception, it is best NOT to multi-task.  Proprioception, or the finetuned control you need as an athlete and a rider, needs to be constantly honed.  Stay focused on what you are doing so that you can give it 100% even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes. 

If you have a busy family holiday season in addition to your riding and other commitments, 5 minutes may be all you have at a time.  

Have fun, and Happy Riding and Training! 

© Heather R. Sansom

Equifitt training draws on multiple sport and fitness disciplines to help riders of all ages and types balance their bodies and reach their riding and fitness goals.  Heather is a certified personal trainer and Level 1 Centered Riding® Instructor.  Equifitt offers online eCoaching, clinics, personal rider programs, and Centered Riding® instruction.

 

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Happy Trails!

Thirty years ago, Jane Fonda gave us a new glimpse of 40. Yesterday on the Today Show she showed Boomers who we can be at 73.

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And may I just say, Go Jane!  Here is someone who invented reinvention, sounded the first siren call for midlife fitness (and in so doing revolutionized the fitness industry. Remember those snazzy leg warmers? Did anyone else buy her first Workout and “feel the burn” prompted by her voice coming from a vinyl LP?),  and is STILL showing us all that the way to extend our vitality through midlife and beyond by staying active, getting fit, and working within our limitations (she’s 73, had a hip replacement, knee replacement and is still out there working out every day. That sure let’s the air out of my excuses!) Jane says the message of her work in the fitness industry is and has always has been “It’s never too late.” Doesn’t that resonate well with what we’re doing here with our Midlife Horses? Yay, us!

Jane told Matt (Do you like how I’m suddenly on first name basis with these two?) that after doing a lot of research on the role of exercise and aging to write her new book, Prime Time (It’s about about making the most of all your life. See the connection?), she confirmed what she always suspected: staying physically fit and active is the number one ingredient in staying mentally sharp as well. “As we age,” Jane explained, our brain actually shrinks (Oh no! where will we put all this stuff we’re learning?), and regular exercise actually postpones and slows down this natural process.

So we talk about getting fit to ride — and how riding keeps us motivated and fit (Check out our new Video about How Midlife Horses help our Fitness!), and the question is,  where are you on this trail? What are you doing these days on your Midlife Horses Fitness Quest? It’s getting colder, food is getting heavier and squishier, the Holidays are approaching, making finding time to exercise and the motivation to ride when it’s cold and yucky outside in increasingly low supply.

So let’s shore each other up with a few ideas for keeping our fitness up and our brains from shrinking . . . you’ve heard all about my Pilates escapades. And if you go back to my September posts, you can learn about and even download Rebecca’s Garanimals Workout plan!) Now let’s hear some of your fitness war stories. Misery loves company — and so does motivation! Post your workout regimen here as a comment, take it to our Facebook community or re-tweet what exercise option you do when it’s too cold and wet to ride (I don’t know about you, but I can do one of those things, but not both. Call me a baby, tbut there it is.) Share your favorite exercise moves on our YouTube channel and let’s start building a library of winter workout ideas!

Happy Trails!

Make Your Own Midlife Horses Fitness Cocktail: Find the Right Mix for YOU

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Did your ears perk up at the word “cocktail?” I know mine did. But alas, on the better nutrition front, those frozen margaritas are going to have to go the way of fried chicken if I’m going to get anywhere with this Midlife Horses Fitness Challenge. Probably just as well, but I’m hoping I can still get away with a small glass of wine at the end of the day.  No sense getting too crazy here.

But I digress. What we’re talking about here is a daily fitness cocktail.

So how many times have you listened to or read a fitness program or regimen developed by someone who knows what they’re talking about, all right, but it just doesn’t seem like something you could or would want to do for the long haul?

I know. Me too.

I’ve been an athlete all my life and I have enthusiastically (some would say obsessively) participated in everything from tennis to taekwondo to cycling to downhill skiing — and now, of course, horseback riding. So I know all about running, I know about weightlifting, I know about circuit training. I’ve jumped, kicked, run, walked like a duck, hopped like an overgrown kangaroo and crawled like a crab, all in the name of conditioning for something. And, up until now, I’ve never been able to get excited about working out just for its own sake. For me, there has to be a bigger, more tangible purpose for it to stick.

And now I have one. My object now is not winning, getting better, achieving any particular level of accomplishment. My object is protecting my body from injury, getting stronger, staying flexible, and building endurance. Which means leapfrog, while effective, will probably not make the list. I want to be in good enough shape to ride my horse well and keep riding for as long as I possibly can. (In years, not hours, although sometimes that happens, too, like it did to me the day we got lost on a trail)

And, for those of us who have found our thrill with our midlife horses, the struggle here is not only which activities we should choose, but even more important, when and how we will weave this additional commitment  into our lives when we’ve just converted all our free time to “horse time.”  When we scarcely have time now to do all the things we’re “supposed” to be doing, how in the world can we work in a workout?

Just like elsewhere throughout the book, I remind  you again here that the answers you seek are usually hanging out somewhere between your own ears. To coax them out of hiding, however, you have to ask yourself the right questions. Here’s help in the form of our first midlife fitness task. Continuing the recipe analogy, get out a piece of paper and identify your favorite and most readily available fitness cocktail  “ingredients”.

Got a dog that likes to go for walks? Put him on the list. Enjoy the mental clarity you get from  yoga, pilates, tai chi or some other “moving meditation?”(You are allowed to double dip!) What muscle groups are involved in your regular house, barn or horse chores?  With a little focused attention and creative grouping of these activities, regular chores, slightly tweaked, can also become reps of this or sets of that.

When you string these normal daily and weekly “ingredients” together in a more deliberate way over a period of time, you can end up sneaking up on midlife fitness with a cleaner house, cleaner barn, a well-fed, watered, exercised and and shiny horse and rockstar conditioning. We’ve all heard “take the stairs instead of the elevators” (yawn), and “park farther away from the door of the store” (snore), but what about taking those stairs two at a time to simulate a step up into the stirrup from the ground? (Yes, people will stare, but another glorious thing about this time of life is it’s getting much easier not to care.)

The trick is if you can find some activity already in your life that can be amped up just enough to make it useful as a fitness component, you can sneak this new fitness “cocktail” into your life without a lot of drama. And another benefit is, if it’s something you already have to do anyway, you’re less likely to find excuses not to do it. Instead, you’ll start to get weird satisfaction from the routine things in your life that are suddenly doing double duty as fitness tools.

Here’s more big news. “They” (whoever the heck “they” are) use to say that we have to sustain our aerobic activity for 30, 45 or 60 minutes to do any good. NOW we know that five minutes here, three minutes there, ten  minutes somewhere else, strung together over the course of a day, gets results just as effective and a whole lot less irritating and disruptive to our routine.

What’s already  in your daily activities that could become fitness tools? Let’s help each other by pooling our ideas. Post your list of favorite fitness cocktail ingredients on our Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses Facebook page and get a free set of  Midlife Horses fitness flashcards!

 

Happy Trails!