Fit to Ride Redux, Introduction
Years ago, I wrote a blog series called “Fit to Ride,” on the subject of why endurance riders ought to be as fit as possible and how they might accomplish such. I offended a few people who misunderstood me. They thought I’d insulted the riding skill of some people who are overweight or dealing with other physical limitations. In fact, here is what I said:
“I believe that an ideal endurance athlete — the human half — must be both lean, that is, have a low body fat [percentage] and strong… (Note that, as discussed in the comments precipitated by this post, “lean and strong” looks different on different people. I’m not talking about preparing for a beauty contest here. This is about contributing my fair share in a team event.)”
Note that I was talking about the ideal endurance athlete. Most of us can’t be “ideal.” We can, however, be our personal best.
Admittedly, I did throw down the gauntlet with some tough love in the Straight Sailing post to which the above quote refers. Maybe I wouldn’t put it quite that way today. (Maybe I would. Depends on my mood.) But even in that post, I went on to say this:
“In fact, one of my favorite things about endurance is that it’s a rare sport in which kids can compete alongside their grandparents, and some of its top riders excel despite physical ailments that make them look like everybody’s last idea of a champion athlete.
What I am saying is that if you’re settling for mediocrity, you’re failing your horse. Even if your fitness level is “not that bad.” Even if it’s “above average.” If it’s not your personal best — and that’s a moving target, ladies and gentlemen, so keep striving — it’s not good enough.”
Now, I know some endurance riders who are heavier or weaker than their ideal. Some of them are much better riders than I. But here’s the thing: That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t work on their fitness. It means I should work on my riding. We can all improve, and if we want to be the best partners for our horses.
Thankfully, none of us have to be supermodels or superheroes to do well in endurance. Many of us, including me, have some physical issues that prevent us from achieving our ideal bodyfat percentage, range of motion, balance, straightness, or whatever. Horses are generous animals that put up with our many shortcomings. Still, wouldn’t you agree that it’s our job to minimize the impact of those shortcomings?
I got to thinking about all this again when Dennis Summers, on his 4th Gear – Power Up Your Endurance Horse Facebook page, challenged fellow riders to join him in setting measurable fitness goals and holding each other accountable. Dennis talks about rider fitness in 4th Gear, too.
I’m always glad to read what other riders have to say on the subject, not least because nutrition and fitness are major passions of mine, right up there with horses and endurance. I’m forever digging up more information on the subject, and I’ve learned quite a lot that has changed my personal habits for the better since the original Fit to Ride series posted.
Hence this redux. I’ll keep it short — just a few posts to cover nutrition, exercise, and some miscellaneous other topics that I’ve found surprisingly helpful. I hope you’ll read along with an open mind, gather up scraps of information, and consider them as one opinion of many as you reach your own conclusions.