Let’s Discuss: Cross-training

I think it’s safe to say that we can all agree that additional exercise outside of riding can only help our time in the saddle. But what that cross-training actually looks like for everyone varies. Some people don’t do any exercise outside of riding at all, and there are people on the other side of the spectrum who do other sports basically full time and go to competitions and the like for said sports.

I’d say most of us fall somewhere in between. Probably getting in some form of non-riding exercise a few times a week maybe, but regularity is hard.

I’ve done a few different things to try to get more fit for my horse, but it really didn’t matter that much until we started doing harder things and bigger jumps in the last couple of years. My balance and strength were good enough to get by without extra workouts, and until I graduated from UT, I was walking several miles a day just getting around campus.

Beginning of last year, when I started really getting serious about exercising outside of riding.

But suddenly I found myself sedentary in an office for 40+ hours a week, with only time for extra rides on the weekends sometimes, and I was really in need of some kind of program. I tried working out with one of my best friends who was training for the Navy, but I clearly VASTLY overestimated my own fitness level and that didn’t stick.

I eventually found a great workout program that worked really well for me for a while. It was a 12 week program in a downloadable E-book. Three workouts a week that were killer and only 30 minutes was pretty darn doable, except that I really suck at self-motivating when it comes to working out. So I would get anywhere from 4-6 weeks into the book, and then I would peter out. (It was this program by the way if you’re curious.)

To my credit, it’s hard to get home after a long day at work and maybe the barn and find the energy to still workout and shower and cook dinner for myself. And as much as I like being out and about in the mornings, I’m so bad at waking up early, so working out in the morning and actually making breakfast to replenish my protein was out. I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

January of this year in the same breeches but so much stronger!

Recently though, my office has started having trainers come in and do classes in our gym for dirt cheap. Like seriously cheap. I’m paying $50 for as many classes as I can find time for. It’s great.

And this seems to be sticking. I take “Cardio Kickboxing” on Mon/Wed and want to die, and then on Fridays I take an hour long yoga class before work because riding gives you tight hips and hammies (who knew?). I’m a lot more motivated to actually workout knowing that someone will be there to push me, and I’m also paying for the classes, and I know that the more of them I attend, the more I’m getting my money’s worth.

Clinging like a monkey at 4’3 last summer (and barely holding on on the back side)

The class atmosphere works well for me as well, because I’m pretty competitive, and that pushes me to really get the most out of my workouts. Even when it’s just me and the trainer, I feel like I’ve got to be better than their expectations, and I get a lot more out of a workout than I do when I’m on my own. I mean, that’s maybe something I should limit in my yoga classes, but I’m sure there’s a trophy for best at yoga if I just keep working harder, right? But the moral of the story is that the classes encourage me to really push myself.

I’ve definitely gotten stronger and my cardio better in 5ish weeks of this than I did working out on my own, but even working out sporadically on my own made me so much stronger and more in control of all of my body parts. Not only does cross-training help build your fitness, but it really makes a big difference in your balance and body awareness as well, both of which are important no matter where you are in your riding. But it’s been so hard to stick with it, even knowing that. For me at least.

After really buckling down over the winter though (mostly in the gym), we’re both so much stronger at the same height!

What has your experience been with cross-training? Do you just go to a gym and workout alone, or do you actually take classes for another sport like kickboxing? Or maybe you just run, or you’re one of those crazy people that does Cross-Fit (crazy because I could never be coordinated enough for all of the things they do in those classes)? And how do you stay motivated to keep doing it? Have you noticed any difference in your riding as a result of cross-training?

14 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Cross-training

  1. I really struggle with the self-motivation part. I need to keep working to find something though, because like you I was able to skate by at 2’… and then 2’6″ worked because I picked up an extra regular ride in Moiya. But 3′ is going to remain elusive unless I get stronger!!

  2. i was a low key treadmill runner for years… like, ~20min walk/run mix 3x a week. lowwwwww key haha. it was great tho and surprisingly effective. kinda fell off the wagon then broke my leg and changed jobs (therefore losing my cushy university gym, and my delicate tootsies can’t bear running on pavement, the horror!!) and haven’t returned…. maybe one day? agreed tho, nothing beats feeling stronger and fitter!

    1. I hear you on the low key treadmill. I hate running, so my treadmill days are usually just 45 minutes of power walking on an incline. Anything makes a difference though!

  3. It’s funny, almost every eventer I know does some other form of working out as well. I dunno if it’s because we’re more aware of conditioning for our horses too, or because we don’t want to die on XC, but riding plus working out is kind of the norm in this sport, and everyone manages to make it work. I run every other day and to me it’s not that hard to get it done. After all, if you really want to do something, you will. 😉 It doesn’t take that much time commitment for me. I just get up at 5 to run so that I can still be at work by 6:45. Not the end of the world. That said, if other people don’t want to work out I’m not judging them for it. I can’t STAND group classes though, omg. I dunno how you do it lol. Spin is the only exception, but even then I have to have exactly the right instructor. First mention of a “go team” and I’m out. Solitary things like running and biking and swimming are so much more appealing to my people-hating heart.

    1. It probably helps that my instructor says things like “Why aren’t you running faster?!” and basically never says “go team!” That and the fact that there are never more than 1-2 other people in the class and they just serve as motivation to be the best person in the class. I might have a problem but it’s working for me.

      Growing up in the h/j it was never really emphasized for me, but I was also riding a ton of horses every day and I didn’t necessarily need the extra workouts, although they probably wouldn’t have hurt. I wish I’d been better trained to workout as a kid though because I am so bad at solo workouts.

  4. I need to get back on a schedule right now I do some cardio maybe once a week but it’s definitely not enough. I hate group classes but I’m very unmotivated… need to just commit myself.

  5. I go to the gym alone and walk on a treadmill at a brisk pace for about 20 minutes and then do some weight lifting. Running stresses me out, but I enjoy walking. I go to the gym about 3 times a week, and it’s nice. Johnny and I do PiYo at home a couple of times a week, which has been really helpful with balance and strength!

    I like the idea of group classes, but the reality is that they make me feel super stressed. I was an avid MMA/muay thai kickboxer in college, but haven’t found a gym in Oklahoma that isn’t full of super scuzzy wannabe UFC fighters. :/

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