Many of us have been unable to ride our horses during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with its necessary restrictions on activities ensuring we maintain social distancing and stay at home. Needless to say, this has affected many of us in every area of our well-being; fitness, mental health and diet. We asked some professionals to give their personal tips to help riders stay fit as best as possible in the comfort of their home.
“For me, the key to keeping in shape for riding during the Covid-19 crisis is to find a balance between actually working out and getting outside,” explains Alberta-based western horseman Josh Nichol, who lives on a ranch where he trains horses and clients in his Relational Horsemanship method.
For his own workout, Nichol mixes it up between 3-4 different exercises. “I will do 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, 15 pull-ups, and 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine. This lets me stay connected to my body, though I have to say that just doing the regular chores around the ranch is more exercise overall.”
As Nichol said earlier, getting outside and walking is key to any fitness routine during this stressful time. “I’m also making an effort to walk around the ranch rather than drive, which I find refreshing for both mind and body.”
As for an exercise you can do at home that mimics riding (especially if you work from home and sit a lot) Nichol has the answer. “I will sit on my exercise ball to continue with my overall balance. I think that’s one of my favourites, as it makes me feel like I’m actually riding!”
Jaimey and Tina Irwin
For dressage riders and trainers Jaimey and Tina Irwin, staying fit includes riding several horses per day, but they sympathize with their clients who are stuck at home. To help demonstrate their fitness activities and entertain at the same time, the couple have posted hilarious videos on social media of them taking on various “challenges” including the difficult “koala” and this fun (but tough) one:
The dressage power couple have also been working on their yoga skills with daughter Marlies, who has been showing them what she’s learned in Kindergarten. They also suggest that regular activities contribute to physical and mental health such as walking, yard work or simply putting some upbeat music on and dancing in your house.
Cardio and Core
For all riders, both cardio and core exercises are key to maintaining fitness at home so that when you get back in the saddle, you’ll be ready to go.
Cardio: Maintaining good cardio health is vital; not only will it contribute to fat and calorie burning for weight loss [ed. if you’ve gained a few pounds like most of us, remember there is a reason they call it COVID-19!], it is instrumental in building a stronger heart so it doesn’t have to work hard to pump blood, and increasing lung capacity. Like Nichols, the Irwins also use the old standbys of sit-ups, crunches and jumping jacks but suggest walking up and down stairs in your home, or using a treadmill if you have one, or skipping rope ‒ any rope will do.
Work Your Core: this is an area that riders get to work out when on a horse (think sitting trot without stirrups) and a strong core is essential for good posture and to prevent back pain. In addition to a fitness ball as Nichols uses, we found Self Magazine’s 20 Core Exercises Top Trainers Swear By that range from the plank to the jackknife and everything in between, made especially easy to follow to get the job done.
Whatever exercises that suit your needs and your fitness level, always start off slowly before increasing repetitions and duration of exercises. And if you have any underlying health conditions you should consult your doctor before introducing new exercises into your routine.
Coming up: Mental Health and Diet