Five Exercises to Increase Strength and Endurance
by Emily Beasley
In my last column I promised to provide information on the multiple components of fitness and how they can benefit riders of all disciplines, as well as how each component could be improved without entering a gym. Now, as I sit staring out my window into a pasture that looks something like a dark and muddy abyss, it has dawned on me that I should also provide you with practical ways to improve your fitness without stepping outside into what may look like a winter prison.
Components of Fitness
When it comes to the term “fitness,” we often think of things like looking great in a pair of breeches or how fast we can run to catch a loose horse. Fitness is actually much more than that. There are two categories of fitness: skill related and health related. Skill related components are things like agility, balance, power, coordination/reaction time and speed. Health related components include cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility and body composition. Notice anything different about the two? If nothing else, you might be thinking that skill related components seem like something that would be very important for elite athletes and health related components are things the entire population can benefit from. If so, you are correct! Although skill related components of fitness do play a role in our everyday lives, they are not quite as important for the general population. However, I believe equestrian athletes should be competent in both types, not only for performance but for functionality as well.
Speed vs. Cardiovascular Fitness
For equestrians of all disciplines, cardiovascular endurance is going to play a more vital role in performance, but that does not discount the importance of speed training. Although there are certain times in our life where we would like to move as quickly as an Olympic track athlete (like the time Titan decided to buck me off and head toward the road), the majority of the time it is more beneficial for us if our heart and lungs can deliver oxygen and fresh blood throughout our bodies during extended periods of time of exertion (hello endurance riders!). However, as a rider, I also want my cardiovascular system to work efficiently during short bursts of activity (any calf ropers out there?), so I still need to incorporate speed work into my training. Like any training program, balance is the key, and luckily we can incorporate cardiovascular work into our daily lives as we patiently await the arrival of warmer days. Granted, I have yet to find the perfect exercise that mimics the demands placed on our bodies like a nice afternoon filled with long trot and gallop sets, but the ones below come close. This workout includes exercises that address both speed and endurance and that can be performed with limited space, time and equipment.
Dr. B’s Spring Workout
Complete the following exercises, in order, for 60 seconds (or begin with 15-30 second increments with longer rest periods to build up to 60 second intervals) each with a 15 second break in between. Repeat 4x and you have completed a 20 minute high intensity cardiovascular workout that will have you ready for both a leisurely trail ride and a quick gallop.
High Knees and Butt Kicks:
While jogging in place, try to lift alternating knees at or above waist height. Maintain for 30 seconds, then immediately transition into glute kicks. To perform kicks correctly, bring alternating heels toward your back pocket while attempting to keep your knees close and aligned with your hip joint.
Complete a 60 second interval of jumping jacks, making sure to completely extend both arms overhead while at the same time jumping wider than shoulder width. For an added challenge, complete jumps on your toes.
From a plank position, bring each knee up toward your nose and alternate legs as quickly as possible. Maintain a fast speed for a continuous 60 seconds.
Find a sturdy and secure box/step/bench ranging in height from 6-12 inches. From behind the step, jump forward onto it, making sure to keep your ankles and knees together (using your arms to propel you forward). For added challenge, complete 1-leg box jumps (alternating legs each interval).
Published in April 2015 Issue