Fit to Ride: Strength Training

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By Kim Harries

Whether you prefer to workout in the gym, at home, or one-on-one with a trainer, the benefits of strength training can be experienced in the saddle and in our every day lives, making every move seem more effortless as your strength increases.

As a personal trainer and horse trainer I have seen the benefits of strength training firsthand in clients ranging from young riders to older athletes wanting to increase their edge. In addition to being stronger and enjoying more endurance and pain-free living, your toned up muscles will look great and burn calories long after you have finished your workout for the day. Weight training builds muscle, which causes your metabolism to increase, burning more calories throughout the day.

The main thing I hear from my clients who begin a strength training program is how much more energy they have. We all try to pack a ton of things into our days. We work, we ride, we horse show, and oh yeah – there’s family time too!

You will find that strength training will help with several facets of your life including your riding. Increased endurance in the saddle might be the first benefit that you will notice. How many times have your legs given out during the Tuesday flat lesson? Does your trainer pick a random day here and there to take your stirrups off of your saddle? Fear the equitation ring no more! Adding strength training to your workouts will give you the confidence to move up to that next lesson group or medal class.

Increased abdominal and back strength is an extremely important foundation in riding. Maintaining proper posture and alignment to remain in balance with your horse both on the flat and over fences will make for smooth rounds, no mater what arena you are in. A strong back will make that two point effortless and your sitting trot a winner in the work-offs. Long, strong legs that can wrap around your horse and keep the weight in your heels, benefit us in being able to squeeze just hard enough to keep the canter stride supported, and then when needed, add pressure for that extended canter or long distance to the jump. Don’t forget about the arms and upper body. Soft and quiet hands start with a strong shoulder girdle, and help to create a stable place for the arms to start.

Some common questions:

What time of day is best to strength train?

How many days a week is most beneficial?

Like anything else in life, consistency is key. When my clients ask me these questions I tell them the most important thing is to plan their workout at a time that it easily fits into their day. My moms with young kids workout right after they drop the kids off at school, they get ready for the gym before they put the kiddos in the car, then they are already out and about, it’s easy to head right to the gym. If you work 8-5 ask  yourself when your best time of day is, are you a morning person? If getting up 45 minutes earlier to get out the door to the gym and make that 6 am class is appealing to you, or at least sounds do-able, give it a try. Benefits of morning workouts include increased energy throughout the day, and leave your evenings for winding down. If you prefer evening workouts, they can be a wonderful way to alleviate stress from the day and may enable you to sleep better at night. The single most important thing is consistency, pick something that works for you and that fits easily into your day. Working out three days a week works best for most people. Three days of strength training, coupled with riding and the rest of our busy lives, still leaves us with enough time to enjoy the journey, as we get stronger along the way.

All the best in Health, Kim Harries.


Photos from Beth Allen’s Livewell Fitness Studio in Clarksdale, MS (www.livewellclarksdale.com).

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of The Plaid Horse.


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