Rider Fitness: The Importance of Rest, Recovery and Reinforcements

Laura Crump Anderson is an Equestrian Fitness Specialist at InForm Fitness Leesburg. She is certified as a personal trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine and specializes in working with riders of all ages and disciplines. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science, is a Certified Personal Trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine, and has evented through Training level. Read more of her EN fitness columns here

Could you imagine a world where the fitness instructor is telling you to do less? Well, welcome to that world Eventing Nation. I am here to tell you, start scheduling a day off into your week immediately.

For many riders, professionals and amateurs, 12-hour days are the norm, and the occasional eight-hour day is the exception. You will get laughed out of the barn if you mention a day off. In our industry it is almost a badge of honor to tell someone how many days you have gone without a day off. However, you would never abuse your horse this way, so why are you doing this to your own body?

Your horse gets a day off once a week and you need one. I am not saying do not exercise, but what I am saying is take care of yourself because it is essential to doing your job well. You are busy so exercise smarter not longer, get the eight hours of sleep your brain requires, fuel your body with nutritious food and make sure you take a day off once a week.

Take Time Off

When an event rider is in the studio one of the initial questions I ask is “How much sleep are you getting?” The importance of sleep cannot be understated. Sleep is when your body recovers, builds muscle, improves mental clarity, and prepares you for keeping your important routines. That said when people are looking for more time in the day sleep is often the first thing to go. So looking at your schedule, block out those eight hours as not optional.

We live busy lives and are incredibly used to waking up early and going until we crash. Rinse and repeat day after day, week after week. Overtraining is the process of not getting enough rest and recovery, and the impacts are not just physical, they are also mental and will lead to burnout, or worse, making dangerous mistakes.

You Can Not Do Everything – Hire Back Up

I am no stranger to overbooking my schedule, I work full time, I am the sole caretaker of my two horses, and I have the honor of serving as chair of the Health and Wellness Committee for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. Plus my only “vacation” so far in 2018 was volunteering in the vet box for the World Equestrian Games.

This year we made the big decision to expand our Equestrian program at InForm Fitness. This was so exciting and a dream come true, but it also meant that I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, and we needed to hire a new person. Thankfully, I quickly found the perfect person to take on the position.

Cameron Rouse is an H-A Pony Clubber who holds a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science and recently completed her Power of 10 Certification, all while working on her Masters and actively competing her horse Rummy throughout Area II. Five months into having Cameron on the team, I am just beginning to delegate successfully, and she is stepping up to the mounting block.

Training someone to fill a roll that you currently do is challenging, and amplified greatly when it involves a half-ton animal. However, finding conscientious people who can be taught is essential. Even more challenging, yet just as important, is learning to give them safe opportunities to learn and carry out the responsibility.

Cameron Rouse on Rummy at Morven Park. Photo by Lee Rouse.

Delegate or Suffer

In order to take the time off to attend WEG, I had to hand over all of my clients to Cameron. This is an incredibly tall order for a new strength training instructor, ultimately the hardest part was letting go of the reins, and she rose to the challenge. I am so incredibly proud of her for doing an amazing job. That was no small task on her part, the clients loved her, and she has quickly proven to be an incredibly talented and valued member of the team.

Hiring another equestrian fitness specialist was the best decision for the company and for myself. As this will allow me to stay focused, not burn out, be more organized and even ride more consistently. It takes time to learn to delegate and it requires you to pay someone to a do a job that you could be doing. That said freeing up time for yourself to rest and recover, is essential to your success as an athlete!

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” -Pooh

My strength training travel routine:

1) Wall Sit
2) Lateral Work
3) Slow Motion Push Up
4) Half Passes for the Obliques
5) Side Plank (see video)

6) The Plank

Each of the exercises are done to a point of momentary muscle failure, with little or no rest in between exercises. Perform once or twice a week with a minimum of three days’ rest in between routines.

Get some rest, then Go Eventing!