Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In the Arena #47 - You can't have one without the other

I've read some good posts about getting in shape recently... Kate over at A Year with Horses and Carson at The 7MSN Ranch. They got me thinking about fitness, and what makes a successful fitness program, specifically riding related fitness. It's certainly that time of year, when we're stuck indoors more than we'd like, and may be dealing with holiday over-indulgences.

After putting on several pounds a year for a few many years, I found myself huffing and puffing, uncomfortable in my clothes, heading down the road to ill health. And worst of all embarrassed to be seen on my ride at the time - Ginger the Banker pony - who topped out at a strong but petite thirteen hands. Photos don't lie...

I am super lucky that my job is a physical one, because otherwise, I might be as big as a house, as much as I love eating :) I basically get paid to exercise, and much of it is weight bearing activity. (which helps to avoid osteoporosis!) For instance, this time of year, we get our mulch delivery in. Forty or so pallets, seventy bags per pallet, forty to fifty pounds per bag. I handle every one of those bags at least once. If you do the math, that's a total of sixty three tons - minimum.

Dieting by denying myself food has never worked for me. Eating is such an integral part of life, and should be an enjoyable experience. Better food choices, proper timing and size of meals are all helpful approaches.

I struggled with weight for half of my life before I had any kind of success. I've lost (and kept off) twenty pounds for the last three years. My weight still fluctuates seasonally, but the fluctuation is very minor now. Weight finally doesn't feel like an issue.

Increasing activity and controlling consumption are typical approaches to fitness. In my experience there is a mental component that is equally important. Mental energy. Focus. Focus helps with improving eating habits. Shop for and prepare food mindfully. Eat mindfully. Appreciate the look, smell and taste of the meal. Stop eating when full...

Focus is essential to riding as well. You can practice mindfulness and improve your riding skills when you're not on a horse. For example, focus on engaging the core - all day, in all activities. Focus on posture... shoulders up and back, head in line with your spine. Stand with your weight evenly in both of your feet. (not more heavily on one foot than the other which torques your hips)

Being mindful / paying attention is harder that it seems, as are all new habits. It's like learning a new language. Multitasking, in a good way. And I don't know about anyone else, but I always benefit from more focus when I ride. Use your mind to slim down, tone up and ride right - it's all good.


  1. Wow, I just assumed you were naturally slim (and I promise I didn't hate you :) )
    I agree that dieting doesn't work and exercise, healthy foods and reasonable portions make sense. Right now I'm addicted to fresh fruit salads and maybe it's coincidence, but while all those around me are suffering from colds, I've been cold free, so there's a double bonus.
    Anyway, you look great. Your work is so healthy!

  2. It is a struggle to maintain a reasonable weight. I've been battling weight creep for a long time but it seems to get harder the older I get. Like you, I can't give up food. I try to eat healthy with mostly vegs but the big thing for me is portion control. I just can't seem to master that one!

  3. You're right - dieting is useless - it just produces yo yo weight loss/regain. I try to focus on the quality and loveliness of the foot, and I also try to do mostly my own cooking. I'm actually fortunate that I don't much like sweets (except fruit pies and ice cream) and I love all vegetables and fruits. And portion control is key - small plate and small portions - and no seconds. At restaurants, where the portions are almost always too big, as soon as my plate arrives I divide the food into the part I'm going to eat and the part I'm going to take home.

  4. Carol-

    Not slim, I don't have the build to be slim. I'm just not so round and soft anymore!


    I struggle with knowing when to quit too!


    I cook most everything too. Slowing down until your belly talks to your brain helps with the portion part as well - no gobbling lol :)

  5. You're right, focus is often the missing element, for a lot of goals.

  6. I really like that you mention focusing on how you hold your body all through the day. I started to focus on how I seat in the car seat when I drive and found out that I lean forward and onto my left seat bone. I stopped doing that and it made a big difference to my riding.

  7. Great job at keeping the weight off that is a huge accomplishement! Having just lost 40lbs I am on the road to learning maintnance again. Great tips!

  8. I used to work at a training center, then a breeding farm, then a labor camp (erm, polo barn), and then doing all the physical stuff here. I was buff as hell with freakish man arms and washboard abs. It. was. awesome. Then I got promoted. While I still ride 100 horses a year, I no longer do the bitch labor and it has taken its toll. I have gained 25 pounds since I started the office end of things and I'm struggling to get it off. Where I used to stuff my face day in and day out, I now watch what I eat. Where I used to spend my weekend nights vegging on the couch, I now look for extra activity to burn calories. I wouldn't say that I'm heavy (yet) but I rode a 14.1hh standie the other day and it was the first time in my LIFE that a horse complained about my weight. talk about embarrassing. You should be very proud of yourself. Good work!

  9. Barbara-

    The older I get, the more energy it takes for me to maintain focus, I require lots of reminding - hence this post :)


    My posture when I ride the tractor (all summer) really affects my riding. I try to be aware of how I'm holding myself every minute - it's so hard though :)


    Congratulations to you! I wish you the best in your effort to stay fit :)


    Yoga has helped a lot with my "man" arms and shoulders... lengthening and stretching counteracts the bulking up thing.

    I'll probably be working on my abs for the rest of my life, but engaging them throughout the day is helping :)

  10. Great post. Dieting doesn't work for me either. A whole lifestyle change of eating differently is the way I have to go now. Exercise is always good, my nutritionist said a solid 30 minutes a day is what's needed. You've exceeded that with your job. It's good to get it off and keep it off now, it's a lot harder once you're over 40. Trust me I know. I've been struggling for years to get off the excess and keep it off.

  11. GHM-

    I crossed that bridge a while back - and it is much harder ;)

  12. OOU The Topic of this time- o-year!
    Winter is definately my difficult time for keeping focus on what is best and right to do for myself. Being a sufferer of S.A.D. makes it more difficult for me as the hormone change makes me crave all the worng things..but now that I know that, I can try not to buy them in the first place!

    I started to read again, Mary Wanless's book "Ride with your Mind", and how she describes the zigsaw puzzle piece that the pelvis is and how to move it into the right riding position. THAT has really helped me...I am working on that constantly now with my trail riodes and eventually hoping it helps us in the arena with me not blocking her...even sittting here.

    I loved your post, you really write well.Good job with keeping it off by staying your mind upon the good habits.


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