“Deep work” in Pilates — and the astounding results it brings — makes “pain” well worth the gain.

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This came in last week via email (posted with permission—thanks Cassandra!) in response to my post about my morning-after-Pilates misery. Now, before we even get started, as you’ll see below, Cassandra did ask me to stop whining and describing the consequence of this “deep work” by the less than flattering term, “pain.”

So. . . As I search my brain (and the Internet) for a better word to describe what stopped me from being able to sit or stand without whimpering for two full days, I’ll just footnote here that once this unmentionable feeling passed, I did feel stronger and more in control of those tiny, deep, elusive muscles. (Once you locate them you tend become obsessed with the “zip up” exercise – or at least I have.) In the immortal words of Max on CBS TV’s “Two Broke Girls” sitcom, “I want both more and less of it — and I am obsessed with it!”

And, I’ll also have to tell you that, playing with these muscles while riding last week, I discovered the AMAZING difference they can make in communicating with my horse (even when he has his hoofs stuffed in his ears in “La la la I can’t hear you” fashion.)

After a great conversation with Cassandra about all this  — and I’ve invited her to be a guest on our blog to tell us more about this amazing (if a little bit gut wrenching, in the most literal sense) exercise form — I share now her insights on the connection between Pilates and riding and midlife horses. (She’s actually one of us!) Cassandra firmly believes that Pilates is key to putting Midlife Horses success within reach for all of us —  with benefits that reach far beyond the saddle.

Cassandra writes:

“I must speak to you as I can not believe that you are the woman I wanted to contact for half a year! First of all, I have ordered your book…second of all I am definitely a Midlife horsewoman…having left New York 2 ½ years ago to finally have my dream of owning a horse come true. And Pilates has been immeasurably helpful in this journey to overcome all the adult “stuff” such as fear, lack of confidence and just not having grown up on a horse. And may I add a hip replacement…

“Two corrections however. We do like to keep pain to a minimum in Pilates. Deep work in muscles yes, but we try to avoid crippling you!  The other is that Pilates is not just for “high level” riders. The others in the class you mention have been doing Pilates for awhile, and it has helped several of them be successful in overcoming obstacles to their riding and increase their enjoyment even more.”

Stay tuned for more vital info from Cassandra about incorporating Piliates into your Midlife Horses fitness regimen. Meanwhile, pony up! I invite you to share your own Midlife Horses fitness insights, ideas, strategies, and any secrets you’ve discovered on your Midlife Horses journey. Post your comments here, email me (especially if you’d like to remain anonymous but nevertheless have something important to add to this conversation!), post on Facebook, show us your favorite moves on YouTube, or Tweet your best midlife horses fitness tip when this header pops up on my Twitter feed! And, if you haven’t seen it yet, click here to check out our new video about how our Midlife Horses keep us fit.

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!