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Weighing In

In recent years, I’ve developed a bit of a “food problem.” It started in college, like it does for many, when I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and it was all mere steps from my dorm. At the time, I never thought: 1) that’s NOT how I ate in high school plus 2) with my horse at home I was no longer riding every day would equal 3) I gained weight.

And to this day not a pound has come off. To be honest, I’ve gained a few more. While I subscribe to the good old “eat less, exercise more” weight-loss theory, actually putting that into practice has been pretty difficult. I lack motivation and self-discipline to get the job done.
I recently had a long conversation with Sam about some of this, and really didn’t some to any conclusions. Then today this article pops up on the Chronicle of the Horse: “Your Horse Deserves A Healthy Rider” by Megan Kepferle. While I’ve thought to myself if I were more in shape riding would be easier, I never thought about how my weight might affect my horse’s health or my riding goals.

This gives me a new perspective, and hopefully some much-needed motivation. Sam and I put together a workout plan that we’ve been doing for about three weeks now, which is going fairly well. Unlike Megan, I am not a gym rat and never have been. I hate the gym and I’ve honestly never worked-out with any consistency… ever. Like, never ever in my entire life. Maybe this is part of the problem!

Megan also mentions how horse owners are obsessive about what their horse(s) eat — which for me is totally true. It might not be to the extent she mentions, but I would cut my horse’s grain if he gained too much weight. And I always checked labels when we moved to a new barn to ensure the ingredients were in acceptable ranges. Why don’t I feel this same way about the food I put into my own body? I feed my horse like the athlete he is… why do I not feed myself (also an athlete!) the same way?

In addition, I’ve struggled for with fitness in the equestrian context for a while: the first day of a horse show is usually the day I ride better, because by the second I’m tired. I always assumed this was because I don’t ride very much — hardly ever back-to-back days. But maybe that’s not really true: maybe it’s because I’m so out of shape in general.

kettleball

I’ve also been struggling with folding and flowing over fences… is part of that because I’m over-weight and not as aware of my body being this size? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that a certain size rider is going to be better. But I am saying that personally, I wonder if my body awareness hasn’t caught up with the size that I am now.

When I ask myself these questions, I obviously have no answer. I do know that in some aspects I have worked hard since Visa passed to accomplish my goal of showing at 2’6″, and I’m still not there yet. I have budgeted until my eyes crossed, skipped out on shopping and eaten in. I have worked through lunch and stayed at the office late to make more money and earn time off for shows. I have religiously taken lessons with an excellent trainer and practiced every arena exercise she has suggested. But the end result is I am still at 2′.

Have I overlooked a key component: my health and fitness? How can I look myself in the mirror and say I’ve tried everything and worked as hard as I could to make my dream come true … when there is something I haven’t tried?

Tracy

Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

16 thoughts on “Weighing In

  1. I am a big fitness and nutrition person, I believe riders don’t do enough to be actual “athletes” yes riding is hard and you got to put in time and practice but we don’t do what other athletes do, we (collectively) don’t cross train, we don’t strength train. We can always do more.

  2. You are preaching to the choir on this topic. I struggle and struggle and can’t seem to make a change. Maybe this is something us fluffy bloggers could support each other with somehow?

  3. I definitely think you hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s so easy (a concept) and yet so hard to put to practice. Good luck!! If you take it one step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself I know you can do it.

  4. We are on the same page. The weight I have now, 60lbs more then my ‘normal’, I did to myself in the last 8 years. It does feel hypocritical to get my horse all in condition when I’m not really doing anything myself (other then ride the horse). I did just start playing soccer again and will continue as long as my knees don’t freak out again. I think even just playing 1 night a week has boosted my metabolism and cardio. I’m actually riding a whole lesson. I also lost income at work and stopped eating out (which was always). Over the last 3 weeks I’ve lost 6lbs and kept it off (yay! 55 more to go). I also find I snack less if I spend more time at the barn, haha. So I think a major key has been jump starting my metabolism. I’m also riding more time/days because I’m not so tired all the time. Finding something you like to do that’s exercise (outside riding) is an fun way to ‘workout’.

    1. Congratulations on what you’ve lost so far! That’s awesome. I think your final point is where I struggle so much — what do I like to do outside of riding??

  5. Good for you for reflecting on this. I think that as L said all riders as a whole should attempt to be better athletes not only for ourselves but also for our horses. I have been saying(and saying and saying) how I am going to start exercising so that I can get stronger and do something on the days when I do not ride and I STILL haven’t done it. I know that if I don’t stop treating my body like a garbage disposal that I will end up in a spot that I am not comfortable with – yet I continue to do it for so many reasons (read: excuses). We (the blogger world) should figure out some kind of challenge – honor based obviously… Not just to lose weight but to be in better shape for our horses. I won’t pretend to understand your exact struggles but I do also struggle with body control (as many people do) when I am not fit. Unless I do something to make a change I will continue to have that struggle.

    Riding is definitely a sport but I don’t think that just riding is really enough to get us fit. We might be able to maintain fitness but I could ride every day and still not be able to run a mile in under 10 minutes (example – no idea how fast I can run a mile).

    When I worked at GE there was a fitness challenge (though more like a straight weight loss challenge) where everyone paid $10 (which was then added for prize money) then everyone was weighed (only you know your weight) and then once a week you calculate what percent you have lost. I think it was 8 or 10 weeks and then again like a month or 2 later and you were rewarded for keeping it off. I think that it was a great challenge because everyone could participate and we all were cheering each other on. It got me more motivated to be healthy and I started walking with my co – workers at lunch. Not saying that everyone in the Blog-O-Sphere would want to participate but its an idea to keep us all motivated. And I know that everyone in the blog world loves to support each other so it could be a good network.

    Sorry for the rambling!

  6. I by no means think weight necessarily equals health/fitness. I have always been naturally slim, with just the ‘vanity’ pounds, but I have by NO MEANS been fit! Last year when I qualified for the American Eventing Championships, I realized if I wanted to be competitive I needed to be as fit, if not more so, than my horse. If I was making him run around the xc course, I needed to be doing the same, and not huffing and puffing after the first 60 seconds. Hell, who was I kidding, I couldn’t even make it around the stadium course without becoming out of breath.

    So I started running, and *trying* to eat better. I also hate the gym, so I just walked up this big hill I have in my neighborhood for about a week or two. Then I started to jog it- as far as I could go up it. Then slowly, I realized I could make it to the top and not be that out of breath… and then I could keep going… and going. It was really crazy, I’ve NEVER been able to run. And that DEFINITELY translates to my riding. I ride so much better and more effectively when I am in shape.

    Which I have done a bad job of keeping up with this summer 🙂 I’m trying to get back into running, and I’ve had some luck with equestrian yoga as well (but omg, so hard…). Good luck in your own fitness pursuit!! I think it was much easier for me to exercise when I had a goal in front of me- the AECs. When I didn’t want to, I’d think about how bad I wanted it, and pushed through. Now that I just have a baby, I’m not as driven… maybe some kind of goal acknowledgement would help you as well? I want to try to move up to training this November, hence why I’ve suddenly starting pushing myself again. I def. think it helps to have a (realistic) goal in mind to reach 🙂

    1. I think not currently having a very defined goal does make things a bit more difficult for me. But I still feel that “if not now, when” question rolling around in the back of my mind.

  7. You can do it girl! Baby steps! I can never keep something up unless I start small and am realistic with my expectations 🙂

    I have just started incorporating running back into my weekly regimen- riding 4 days a week and running 2. Here’s to hoping I can keep it up 🙂

  8. Definitely a frustrating part of life. I am 42 and find that it just gets harder in your 40s. Be realistic though. Not many of us can look like the models we see on TV. Eat good food, get some exercise, and love yourself no matter what. :0)

  9. I hate the gym and hate paying to go to one! I also unfortunately have flat feet, which means running does a number on my knees(we’re talking full on swelling and pain). I’d really like to get into yoga, but have yet to do so :-/

  10. I love this post because I’ve noticed the same thing about weight gain and my riding. When I’m a little bit fitter and trimmer I am more in tune with what my body is doing on the horse. Adding those pounds back on has caused a noticeable difference in my endurance and feel.
    I will say that I’ve had moderate success with the Weight Watcher program. For all of us technologically savvy bloggers- their e-tools are simple and effective. I’m always amazed at how the simple act of tracking what I’m eating can help me shed pounds!
    Good Luck!

  11. I haven’t had an issue so much with the weight related component, but I do struggle quite often with the fitness issues. I was a college and high school athlete and I could ride quite a bit better when I was fit. Now, I have some pretty major issues I am struggling with and I know that my inadequecies affect how my horse rides. When I am stronger and can not guard my (bad) back or can correct my damaged left shoulder, the mare is more comfortable.

    We demand a lot from our horses in terms of health and fitness and I think we should begin to expect that from ourselves. It’s hard because of the time limiting factor, but I figured even if it’s a short period of time a day (for me, maybe 10 minutes on the elliptical and then doing crunches and other core work) then that’s 10 minutes more than I would have done.

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