What to Do When You Fall off the Fitness Wagon
by Emily Beasley
Confession time: Over the past couple of months I haven’t been very active. I’ve been eating things I advise others to avoid. Worst of all, my seat bones are sore and bruised from riding once this week—once in the past two months! I’ve let myself slip into the trap of “too busy/too tired/too whatever.” Basically, I’m telling myself anything so I feel less guilty about not caring for my body.
I feel guilty because I know better. I know that with each birthday I am losing bone and muscle mass. My bones are becoming more brittle and easier to break, my muscular system is declining and with each passing year I’m becoming more susceptible to a myriad of injuries and illnesses. Like most women, as I age my weight will increase, even while I’m losing muscle and bone mass because my adipose (i.e. FAT) mass will be increasing. The worst part of my confession is admitting that I spent the better half of my morning meticulously snapping selfies of a less-than-desirable backside when trying on a new pair of breeches. I was busy analyzing exactly what was going on back there these days and trying to figure out how it happened “overnight.” I know I’m not alone. More than one woman is concerned about her increasing fat mass and a quick internet search proved it.
|Phrase Searched||Results Returned|
|“tummy control riding breeches”||4,760|
|“body shaping riding breeches”||14,200|
|“body flattering equestrian clothes”||116,000|
|“body flattering Western riding jeans”||66,900|
|“body flattering Western riding clothes”||3,670,000|
Is it any surprise that every single link I clicked on was targeted toward women? I can have an hourglass figure, hide those extra pounds and finally have the flattering waistline I’ve dreamed of simply with a click of the mouse and a hit to my credit card. I almost succumbed to the temptation before reality hit me: Titan doesn’t care how defined my rear-end is! Those expensive pants won’t impress him one bit and they certainly won’t help me live a longer, healthier, and happier life. The good news is that not a single woman is doomed to body-shaping breeches. Even though we may have to deal with losing some muscular and skeletal mass due to aging, we do not have to deal with increasing fat mass. That’s right. Even though fat weight tends to increase with age, it is not inevitable. We are not doomed to shop the “fuller figure” aisle at the tack store! We can protect our egos, wallets and health by reminding ourselves and each other of a few things:
- Silence the Scale
Ever heard that “a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat?” Not true. Think about it: a pound weighs a pound. However, a lean pound takes up less space than a fat pound. Building muscle may initially make the numbers on the scale jump, but more muscle requires more energy. Guess where we store energy- in adipose tissue. Staying off the scale helps us all avoid disappointment and discouragement when beginning (or reinstating) a fitness regimen.
- Make MORE Muscle
Building muscle will help sustain muscular and skeletal mass while keeping fat mass in check as the years pass by. I have no doubt the best way for riders to build and maintain beneficial muscle is through simple weight bearing activities. Plank poses, wall sits, tricep dips, and pushups are all simple exercises requiring zero equipment.
- Burn MORE Fuel
Using more energy shrinks fat cells because that’s where our “energy” likes to hang out. Maximize the benefit of muscle building exercises with fat burning cardio respiratory activities. Start out by walking briskly for 10 minutes a couple of times a week (build to 30 minutes 3x a week), or try a nice gallop in the field. I know which one I prefer!
- Feed Muscles, not Fat
More muscle is going to require more fuel. When more energy is used it will need to be replenished. Think about how nerve racking it is to drive around on an empty tank with no gas station in sight! That’s what happens when muscles don’t have fuel. The trick is simply to put premium fuel in the tank. Otherwise, muscles will have to resort to burning energy stored in reserves located in muscle tissue (not fat). To avoid this, replace sugary carbs (like my favorite, donuts) with lean meats, legumes, high fiber fruits, vegetables and grains. The trick is to increase protein and slow-burning carbs.
- Keep Going
A healthy lifestyle is not all-or-nothing. When you fall off the wagon (no need to point fingers here) it’s essential to keep trying. Health is a journey with ups, downs and bumps in the road.
When all else fails, sometimes connecting with others and remembering you’re not alone can help you gain a little perspective, even if that perspective comes from a few embarrassing selfies.
Emily is the owner of ATF Wellness and the creator of Bootcamp4Breeches: Functional Fitness for Equestrians. She coordinates the Health & Physical Education teacher education program at Louisiana State University, is past president of the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, teaches Yoga classes, and researches how women of all ages can develop a positive physical self-concept. She spends her free time eventing with her OTTB, Titan, and TB/Cleveland Bay cross, Bean, in Baker, LA where she and her husband share a small farm with four dogs, three cats, and three horses. You can reach her via email at email@example.com; follow her on Twitter @DrBLovesPE; or like her Facebook page, Bootcamp4Breeches: Fitness Training and Wellness Consulting.