With the start of the eventing season only 8 weeks away and festivities almost certainly over I’ve turned my attention to loosing the 16lbs of baby weight I’m still holding onto, generally getting fitter and trying to get my core muscles back in shape.
Despite trying hard to focus on this it seems that my leg injury and family life have really taken over. It seems like now is the right time to make positive changes in my lifestyle so I can get the best out of my riding and also look great in my kit (vanity plays a large part here!).
To help me along my way I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by The Active Rider. http://theactiverider.com/
They provide Health & Fitness Solutions for Riders via workshops and programmes that help you develop your riding through simple exercises that you can do from home with just a mat, a band and a fit ball.
Apart from the fact that the course is home based and can fit in with family life the big draw for me is that the programmes are written by riders with expert knowledge. The Active rider team consists of two key members:
Carys Jackson, the strength and conditioning consultant. Carys has been working in the Sport and Exercise Industry for over 10 years, spending nearly 5 years working for the English Institute of Sport as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, helping athletes prepare for Beijing 2008 and London 2012. She currently works as a consultant for the British Equestrian Federation, working with their development riders. Carys is also a mother to two little girls and clearly understands what it’s like to be a busy working mum.
She is joined by Helen Mathie, a physiotherapist for both riders and horses on the para-equestrian dressage World Class Development Squad. She also works with the Performance squad riders and has accompanied them to the Beijing 2008, WEG 2010 and the London Paralympics 2012.
Helen joined the World Class team in 2007. In addition Helen is a National RDA Classifier.
Obviously such a strong team instils confidence and I have also worked with Carys personally when she helped me tone up before my wedding about 8 years ago.
To support me with my training goals Carys suggested that I worked through the online 12 week course. You can either by a hard copy booklet for £69 or follow a downloadable course for £59. To spread the cost you can also pay £25 per month over 3 months. Compared to personal training or gym membership costs the course is very appealing as I don’t have a lot of spare cash after I’ve paid for kit and entries.
I opted for the online course and was sent my first week’s programme over the weekend. Over the next 12 weeks I will be able to focus on warm ups, cardio, toning exercises and stretches. The really unique and stimulating part of the course is that the on the ground exercise plan is linked directly back to the work you do on the horse. Anatomy is explained in accurate but easy to understand terms and you get a sense of how your personal fitness will enable you to ride and compete more effectively.
Each programme includes a video so you can see the exercises in action, an easy to follow photo sheet and a weekly feedback email, helping you to stick to the plan. It’s all easy to follow and the exercise element is designed to be quick, another big draw for me.
So as from tomorrow (13th January ’14) I will be following the Active Rider Programme.
The first week looks like a great start. Nothing too intensive but some great exercises that look at the core, riding seat and shoulder posture – all areas I want to work on.
The start of week one has a great little lifestyle section, challenging you to make small changes to your daily lives in order to become more active and less stressed… there is also a little note about how it could boost your sex life (bonus!). Simple ideas like standing and walking while taking phone calls, having walking meetings or even timing yard duties and trying to work more quickly. All changes that are achievable and will help with fitness and wellbeing.
There is an interesting section on cardio vascular fitness in riders. Research has shown that experienced riders used 60-90% of their maximum oxygen consumption, whilst elite riders only used 38-58% (Westerling,D.,1983). Add to this an increased heart rate caused by competition stress or riding a ‘flighty’ horse, or even having spectators watching you and it makes even more sense to be a fitter, leaner rider.
Before the exercise section of week 1 kicked off there is also a great section of core muscles and their importance. The term ‘core’ is banded about a lot in fitness literature but this small section really explains the muscle groups, the overuse of back and abdominal muscles and also the importance of a strong but supple pelvis and shoulders.
Lastly, week one’s pack contains a simple warm up sheet featuring some great stretches that will get your blood flowing. Following this are some exercises to get the pelvis moving, the core activated and gluts fired up. Finally, a section on stretching and the importance of finishing off a workout correctly.
In sum, week one is well thought out, engaging and exciting but not overwhelming. It’s also simple to read and understand, again great for me as I really don’t have much time to read lengthy instructions. Each weeks plan is sent to you via an email. You simply click on the link which takes you to a Dropbox download. The great thing about this is you can download the programme onto several devices, so you could exercise away from home or read the theory while commuting or on a lunch break.
I’m aiming to complete week one’s exercises at least 3 times this week and have also made some changes to my lifestyle in order to get more active and lose some weight. I will be blogging about how I’m getting on and also Tweeting @bandw_eventing
Personally, with the eventing season really nearly here it seems a great opportunity and I am really grateful to The Active Rider for giving me the opportunity to take part on the plan.