I admit it. I’ve been lazy this month. Summer is winding down, fall busy-ness is looming, and for the life of me I can’t seem to work up enough motivation to do any of the things I know would help. Like exercise.
Anybody else feeling that way about now? Has your fitness program, like mine, slid beneath organizing your sock drawer on your list of priorities? Earlier this summer, when I was laying out my upcoming blog topics and themes, I thought I would designate August as fitness month. But, since here it is the middle of said fitness month already, let’s just agree to ease back into this fitness thing and hit it hard in September. Deal?
I don’t know what derails your personal fitness routine, but for some reason I can’t identify, mine is way too hit-or-miss to do me (or my horses) much good. And I know better. With all the research and writing I’ve done on the subject of owning and enjoying horses, I truly believe that as horse owners, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are strong, flexible and have enough stamina to do our part, both in and out of the saddle. It just makes good sense —and keeping ourselves strong and healthy is a major key to being safe and riding well.
But even so, I struggle. And usually, this is due to too many choices, not enough time — and no real plan. Which exercises will I do today? What if I don’t have 30 minutes . . .or even 3? What if all I can manage to do is get to the barn, do enough groundwork to get my horse’s attention, and then ride for just long enough to say I rode, but not nearly long enough to do myself or my horse much good? What if I just don’t FEEL like exercising with all the other stuff pulling on me today? Have you ever spent more time trying to decide what to do than it takes to do it?
If so, take heart.
After a lengthy chat with Rebecca Slemmons, Fitness Director at Colonial Country Club who rides AND designs fitness routines for all kinds of people to meet their specific goals and priorities, we arrived at a plan that incorporates key elements of conditioning for riding and working with horses as it takes into account busy schedules, conflicting priorities and wobbly motivation. The plan is simple. First, using Rebecca’s Midlife Horses Daily Rating Sheet, rate how you feel today and what else you have on your plate. She cleverly uses horsey terms: “walk,” “trot,” “canter,” and “gallop” to describe your energy level, not your horse’s gait. Just to be clear.
Then, see where your exercise opportunities are just for today. Got an hour between appointments? Cooking dinner at home tonight? Taking a kid to the orthodontist? How long do you have at the barn? Now, considering your energy level and time frames and location opportunities and preferences, choose:
Something from the aerobic category (walk, jog, hop in place, go up and down stairs, dance, muck a stall or mop the floors . . . whatever gets your heart rate up and engages your big muscle groups) for at least 30 minutes,
Something from the strength category that you can do for 8-10 reps; three times; and
Something from the flexibility category while engaging your core (we’ll get into some great examples of these in coming posts!).
For ideas and specific exercises, check out Rebecca’s Midlife Horses workout template. Use this as a starting point. Add your favorite exercises/activities as you find them. We’re going to be exploring some of the best ones for our purposes here in the coming weeks–feel free to make suggestions! The idea, of course, is to keep it on a day to day focus, making sure you do something in each essential category every day. Just this simple decision and day-to-day awareness builds your determination muscles. The flexibility of it keeps you from feeling locked in to a specific workout or routine — and it completely derails that all-or-nothing thinking that stops most of us when we hit a snag in our time, our schedule and our energy levels.
Chances are, you’ll find yourself doing more than what you schedule, but by following this simple plan, you’ll be making sure you’re doing something in each category every day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the results add up. Trust yourself. You’ll know what areas need the most work. You’ll know when to up the intensity and duration of what you’re doing, but no matter what, stick with the minimum of one small thing in each category, every single day. And let us hear how it goes! (There’s really nothing like peer pressure to keep us going — especially if others are sharing their success stories!)
Meanwhile, what’s your favorite fitness routine? What are your obstacles? How do you overcome them? What challenges do you need help with? Let’s help each other get back in the fitness saddle and stay there!