Eventing is a hard beast to master – it’s hungry for your time and cash and having wrestled your horse for the evening the last thing you feel like doing is working on your own fitness and weight management.
I always used to think I was pretty active and by that I would run 2 miles once a year just to check I still could, I would be fairly active doing my horse stuff and occasionally I would go on a diet if I felt I was too fat which would last for 3 days at the most.
During the last two months I have actually made an effort with my fitness and the differences I have seen in my riding are great. I am stronger in my core, two point position is easy, I power march round cross country courses without breaking a sweat and over the weekend I managed to run 7.25 miles in the morning and ride my horse in the afternoon and felt ok, though tired at the end of the day! Best of all my clothing looks better on and I have greater energy levels. I am also hoping I will have quicker reactions with spooky horses and a better core to cope with it!
But hey, you already know all this….. We have thousands of people preaching at us each day about the benefits of losing weight and maintaining fitness on the internet, on TV, social media, newspapers, magazines, celebrities and through sport itself. So why are we not doing more?
My number one reason for not doing more was time and laziness.
I have a pretty sedentary job which involves wrestling a computer mouse. Sadly this does not burn calories. Combined with the regularity that cake appears within the office and before I know it several pounds of weight have been added. In the evening, I ride my horse, do the horse chores and then go home and warm up food (I do not do cooking; only heating up). I would leave the house at 7.30am and return at 7.30pm. I do not like getting up any earlier than I have to and I have minimal spare money to throw at the problem. I struggle with my weight. If I do not keep an eye on it then before I know it through yummy cakes, chinese, bread and potatoes I have put on half a stone. I just love food!
I am 5’9 and I like to be around 12 stone 2lbs which is just on the BMI border for being overweight. I am built like a rugby player despite being female and the lightest I have ever been was 10 ½ stone which was thanks to splitting up with my boyfriend, my housemates never being at home and thus spending 2 hours in the gym. Oh and I lived off white wine and no carbs so not exactly a sustainable lifestyle!
I hit just over 12 ½ stone recently and I was tired all the time so I had to do something about it. I joined a running club. The deciding reason was that it cost £18 a year to run with them. I also thought it might motivate me. Did I mention that in the last 10 years since I ran the Nike 10km back in 2003 that I have run roughly 2 miles a year?
Running club has been a revelation. I actually enjoy it, someone else plans the routes and you have group motivation to keep going as you do not want to be left behind. I run twice a week in the evenings and then I usually will run by myself over the weekend. I have seen the differences in my mentality, my body and my energy levels. The horse still gets plenty of work being ridden 5 days a week and I get the social and exercise benefits of running. If the horse needs more work then I switch to exercising in the morning (though this is incredibly painful to me and very hard work!)
My second revelation has been Myfitnesspal which is an iPhone app where you plug in all your calories. I have been doing it with friends and we have all got quite competitive. It also helps motivate you to exercise as you want to stay under your calorie limit. It’s a faff to begin with but you soon get in the habit of recording everything you eat. I cannot sustain diets but this is all about making healthy choices and giving you a kick up the arse if you have binged on cake. 4 weeks down the line, I am half a stone lighter and hoping to continue.
With a sport like riding every pound you lose/tone up can only benefit your equine partner. I am never going to be a willowy lightweight rider but I can try my hardest to make sure I am in the best shape possible so I am able to assist my horse rather than hinder.
My top tips for exercising & eating
- The Nike Fitness Club App is amazing on the iPhone and Android. You can download it for free and they have loads of exercise programmes from 15-45 minutes. I bought hand weights and a sports medicine ball for £20 from TK Maxx and that is all the equipment I need. It fits in with your schedule and it actually goes pretty quickly. I hate aerobics type stuff but this I can cope with.
- Get a running App – there are loads on the market and free. I use Nike Running App because I like the format but there are loads out there. It will tell you how many calories you have burned and it’s really satisfying to measure your own performance. I have run 182 miles in 41 runs. I NEVER thought that would happen.
- If you take up running get the right trainers – I always bought good running trainers but I stepped up the mileage and had terrible problems with my ankles. I then went to a running shop where they gait analysed me and I had the wrong trainers. They are a worthwhile investment.
- Make the most of your lunch hour. If I am really struggling with time then I will use my lunch hour. I am lucky to have a swimming pool close by so can fit in 30 lengths or it’s easy to switch some music on and go power walking.
- Myfitnesspal is a revelation. It counts your calories and the more you exercise, the more you can eat. Horse riding and grooming is included as an exercise. I had a terrible shock when I started using this App with how many calories I was consuming but a few tweaks that I barely notice and I can keep my calories under control. Bread has been one of the ways that I have substantially reduced my calories. I also tend to drink white wine instead of cider and beer as only 140 calories for 175ml. As with anything it’s all about balance. I never feel hungry but I do make substantially better food choices to stay within my calorie limit.
- I love Pilates; sadly I can never find a class that fits with my time scales but if you can, grab the chance!
- Vegetables are incredibly low in calories. You can basically eat as many as you like and they will fill you up. For potatoes, I tend to live off new potatoes at the moment. I also eat a lot more salad.
- Flavoured water – I hate water, it’s horrible stuff but I realise I need to drink it so I cheat and drink sugar free flavoured water. It has barely any calories, is not fizzy, rehydrates you and is refreshing. My favourite is Asda’s lemon and lime still water.
- Everything has to be workable within your life. If it feels like a chore you are not going to fit it into your life. Give everything at least 2 weeks as you will see results and it is a fair trial.
- Easy cardio work outs include – walking, cycling, 30 day shred DVDs, skipping, a fitness class and swimming.
- Get your friends involved. I have several horsey friends on Myfitnesspal and we also run together. We are mildly competitive with each other but most of all we are supportive and have a laugh while doing it.
- An exercise ball is an easy way to improve your core – there are loads of videos online to follow and 10 minutes a day will see a difference.