training plans

My [Horse’s] Fitness Plan

Hello, my name is Sara and I’m a crazy 28 year old living in Baltimore, Md. I have 2 crazy dogs, a very feisty horse, and live with my boyfriend all while trying to maintain a job, keep the house standing, keep the dogs from running away, keep the horse from kicking me, and try to lose a few pounds. Normally I rant all about it at my but today I’m going to share something I didn’t outline on my site – my horse’s fitness plan.

Just recently I made the commitment to buy a horse I have been working with for about a year. Circumstances presented themselves and I had just enough pennies in the bank to make it happen. Meet Smash.

Smash being camera shy

She is a 7 year old 17HH Holsteiner Thoroughbred mare. Just to give you a better understanding I am 5’5″ and I’m standing on flat ground next to her in that picture. Being a warmblood breed means she is big, powerful, and agile – AKA a WHOLE lot of horse! Being a mare and young equals a whole lot of attitude. Put those together and you’ve got your hands full! As an experienced rider (I’ve been riding for 22 years) and a feisty female myself  I love challenges like Smash because she has a great work ethic, has the ability to ride up to my level and beyond, and always keeps me on my toes. What does this have to do with 110pound’s theme of healthy living, you might ask? I’ll explain.

I am a competitive person by nature and I love to go to horse shows. Horseback riding is my passion in life. I LOVE it! Currently our ability renders us to the Beginner Novice division in Eventing. Beginner Novice means all of the jumps in Stadium and Cross Country are approximately 2’6″ high. Eventing is the most demanding discipline I’ve ever competed in because it’s like a triathlon for horses. You compete in dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country jumping all in one day. If you or your horse is not in shape it can get pretty ugly pretty quickly! It is essential you and your horse are fit so you are not only be safe at the competition but also so you can kick some major butt and get a pretty ribbon. (It’s all about the ribbon!) At my last horse show I ran into some fitness issues. I completed dressage with flying colors and even made it through Stadium jumping with a clear round (no knocked rails or refusals) but by the time we were done those 2 elements Smash was dead tired. I had to retire from the competition for her safety and ultimately mine. It broke my heart since I was tied for second place but I knew it was the right decision. Now that I’m 100% responsible for Smash’s fitness/well being I have come up with a training plan.

Mondays – Endurance training. Unfortunately there aren’t many horse treadmills in the world so I can’t just tie Smash to a treadmill and tell her to run for 3 miles. Instead this is when I do what are called trot/canter/gallop sets. (trot, canter, gallop are all speeds of the horse) Sets are similar to human suicide runs/sprints. If I’m in a big ring shaped like a square I would walk one length then trot/canter/gallop all the way around the ring until I reach the end of length I started at. Then I repeat until the desired number of sets are completed. These sets work on endurance and heart rate/cardio recovery. Just like in humans – the better your HR recovery/cardio is, the longer you can run!

Wednesdays – Jump training. Jumping can be sort of compared to weight lifting for horses. But only sort of. When jumping Smash needs to use her hind end to balance herself and propel her body over the fence without knocking it over. The set up and take off also help her land correctly on the other side of the fence. Jumping training is important because of the muscle memory it creates, the ability for horse and rider to see take off points easily, and endurance to jump over and over again. Plus, once a horse gets comfortable jumping a certain height it is easier to increase the height and move up in training/competition.

Fridays – Dressage work. Dressage is a discipline that demands the horse perform balanced and use their body to the fullest degree. Here’s an example of what I mean – say you are a swimmer and you like to swim freestyle BUT you only use your arms, hardly any flutter kick, and when you breathe you lift your head up instead of tilting to the side. Now compare that swimmer to one who uses arms and legs equally and tilts their head to breathe. Both are swimmers but not only is the second swimmer faster and more efficient they are getting a much more even full body workout than the first swimmer who probably goes home stiff and sore and extremely fatigued. The same is for horses. Some horses carry themselves with their front 2 legs, shoulders and neck/head. Dressage encourages them to use their core (yes, horses have a core), hind end, and back to propel themselves along with engaging those same muscles to stop, too. Once a horse is balanced they can perform lateral work like a leg yieldshoulder in, and haunches in to name a few. I typically work on circles, sprials, surpentines, transitions, and a few lateral exercises for my dressage work. For beginner novice you must perform a Test for a judge you critiques you on how well you perform each movement. You can view my last dressage test here.

Sundays – Lesson Day. Once a week I train with my instructor. She teaches me new things, refines the stuff I’m already working on, and is a second set of eyes on our progress. Lessons can vary from dressage work only to a day of jumping or both. My Mom and I alternate lessons on Smash.

Ok so now that you have a basic and hopefully not too confusing idea of Smash’s training here’s where MY training comes to play. If I am not in shape there is no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I’d be able to ask Smash to do all of this let alone even keep up with her. I have to have my own fitness routine so that my balance, core, strength, and own endurance is up to par.

Currently this has been my fitness routine:

Mondays – Weight training at Planet Fitness and Riding. For $10 a month you just can’t beat it. I take 20 pound hand weights to the Weight Circuit area so while I’m not at a weight machine I can do another strength training exercise the machines don’t really allow for. Example – I’ll do the leg press machine then pick up my hand weights and do bicep curls instead of just stepping on their stepper for a minute.

Tuesdays – Running. Tuesday is my Weight Watcher meeting and since I live only 2.5 miles from the meeting I run there, weigh in, get some motivation, and run 2.5 miles home. This is my main cardio day.

Wednesdays – Rest or Weights and Riding. Depending on how Tuesdays run went I either rest or do the weight circuit again.

Thursdays – Rest or Ride if weather is craptacular on Wednesday or will be on Friday.

Fridays – Easy run and Easy weights and Riding. The only way you get better at running is to run. So on Fridays I like to do a short, fast, easy run.

Saturdays & Sundays – only riding.

I follow the Weight Watcher plan to help me lose weight (Only 9 pounds left until goal!) and keep me eating lots of produce and whole foods. While I love Weight Watchers I don’t always love what they do or don’t push in terms of nutrition so I do my own thing by eating as many whole foods as possible with a few treats here and there.

You may think after reading this I don’t have a life and that’s true but I still do have and make time to see my boyfriend, other friends, and family. While I don’t really go out all that much, the opportunity to do other normal life things aside from working out or training Smash does exist. Most of my workouts are done at lunch time and riding is done right after work. On the weekends I ride early in the morning so I have the rest of the day to do what I want or need to get done. And don’t think this schedule is set in stone. There are plenty of times I change it or adapt it depending on weather or what my body or Smash’s body is telling us. If I’m too tired, I’ll rest. If Smash is cranky or tired we’ll just do a lighter version of whatever workout we were planning on doing. Life is unpredictable. Horses are even more unpredictable. I can plan it out as much as I want but it doesn’t mean it’ll go that way. 🙂 Heck, most if not all of my plans are usually rewritten! But as long as I have a general outline of what I’d optimally like to happen, I get there eventually 🙂

I hope this was a new way of looking at fitness and how being healthy ties into everything else we do or would like to do in life. It’s not just about a number on the scale or size in the tag of your pants (even though those are added bonuses!) but it’s about being able to do the things we love to our fullest capacity. If you have a passion in life that you’ve kind of been struggling with, consider upping your own health/fitness by cross training to help. Essentially I’m using conventional workouts as my cross training for riding but maybe you love running and want to use bike riding as a cross training exercise to improve your cardio endurance and to help your whole body than just your running muscles. Everyone benefits from cross training – even Smash!

And remember – if you LOVE what you’re doing it won’t feel like exercise at all!

Lisa’s Note: Thank you so much Sara for sharing this with me. I loved horseback riding as a kid and I’m always interested in alternative forms of fitness. 

QUESTION: What is your favorite “alternative” form of fitness? Do you like horseback riding?

Training Plans

When I first decided to start running, it was because I’d reached my goal of losing 100 pounds and I was feeling “lost.” I needed a “goal” and something to work towards to keep me motivated. I decided, “I’ll train for a 5k.”

I really had no idea what running was, or how to train. I just started running. I foolishly thought running meant Run As Fast As You Can. Um, no. That’s not running! Michael gave me a Polar Heart Rate Monitor for my birthday a few years ago and that really opened my eyes! I’d been doing it ALL wrong. I started to really figure it out. I realized that my goal should be to stay within the  range for age, sex, weight, etc. I started to run differently and it made all the difference in the world.

I’ve mentioned previously that Heart Rate Monitors are wonderful things. I think everyone that works out should get one–even if you’re not a runner. It works well for swimmers, bikers, everything. I wear mine hiking! And don’t be intimidated by the insane cost of a Garmin. While they are fancy and fun, you don’t need something like that if you’re just starting out. My Polar was about $100 and works great for what I need: my heart beat range and calories. Now that I’m more into running and training for events, I’d love to have a Garmin to give me more detailed information.

That being said, learning how to run the right way made all the difference in the world. And if you’re new to running, I have more tips.

I finally finished reading “Fast Track” by Suzy Favor Hamilton. I posted about it previously in regards to Over-training. I’ve accumulated some excellent info, some of it is copied right out of the book, but I tried to summarize the best I could. 🙂

Here are a few tips she had for training:

The Importance of each Training Phase [pg 217]

1. BASE PHASE: prepares you body for what comes next. You need to have a strong base of mileage runs to sustain you through a long, intense year of training. Increase mileage 5-10% each week.

2. CONDITIONING PHASE: you are conditioning your body to perform at a higher level. Start adding speed or track workouts to your routine 1-2 times a week. You are conditioning your body to maintain a faster pace.

3. COMPETITION PHASE: your mileage will decrease as you get closer to the race. Taper training, give your body and mind time to rest, and recuperate. But not so much that you lose your fitness.

4. RECOVERY PHASE: give your body the TLC it needs to recover. Without proper recovery, you risk burnout, injury and over-training. Rest 1-2 weeks, or switch to cross-training or easy runs.

She gives more tips on how to “fast track” your workouts:

1. Downhill running: will improve your leg turnover, but unless you have a good base to begin with, don’t attempt this. Warning: it can take quite a toll on your quads. [pg 219]

2. Fartlek: also known as “speed play.” 3-6 total miles of surges of various lengths and speeds. Do over varied terrain.

3. Hill Repeats: do during your “conditioning” phase. This improves leg strength. Use uphill for intense part of workout and downhill as recovery.

Hill Repeats

4. Intervals: repeated surges of  200 meters or longer followed by recovery intervals. Improves speed and lactate threshold. Do this during conditioning and competition phases.

5. Speed endurance: for the condition/competition phases. Run at a RACE pace or faster for 200-1600 meters, taking a full recovery after each repeat. Example: do three 600-meter runs with 8-10 minute recovery.

6. Speedwork: do short, intense sprints of 5-150 meters, taking a full recovery after the repeats. Example: three 50-meter sprints with 3 minute recovery.

7. Tempo Running: run at a pace 10-30 second per mile slower than your current 10k race pace for a distance of 2-4 miles.

8. Tempo Intervals: run 400 meter to 2-mile repeats with short recovery of 30-120 seconds. Total distance run should equal 2-4 miles.

9. Cross-Training: aqua running, biking, elliptical, cross-country skiing. Helps minimize injuries and adds variety to workouts.

10. Form Drills: improves leg turnover. The more efficient your stride, the faster you run. Basic drills = high knees, buttkicks, skipping, grapevines, backward running.

I started reading “How to be an Adult in Relationships” by David Richo. I came across a quote in there that I wanted to share. I feel like it can be applied to any situation–including losing weight! Yesterday I wrote about in your face wake up calls and how we have to want to make a change. I think this quote speaks to that too:

“As a war hero Tom Daly said, ‘Often, the events we regard as our deepest wounds are in fact initiations that break us out of the unhealthy enchantment of innocence, grandiosity, passivity, violence or addiction.’ We need such initiations, for without them we may resist growth and change or even deny our responsibility toward others and our destiny to transcend personal ego.” [pg 67]

QUESTION: Are you a runner? What are your training goals?