Getting fit for your ride

A little pre-trip physical preparation will go a long way towards making your riding vacation a wonderful experience. As we all quickly learn, riding uses muscles we didn’t know we had and it is best to find those muscles before the ride begins. It is much harder to admire the views and enjoy the riding with sore muscles or a chafed behind. Of course, the best way to get ready is to spend some hours in the saddle but if that isn’t possible there are some exercises that can help.

Good overall fitness, strength and endurance are helpful because riding taxes many parts of the body. Sure, the horse is burning most of the calories, but all your muscles are working to hold your position on a moving horse and the faster you go the more they work.  After five or six hours in the saddle you will have had a good workout. Your legs, your back, your core and your arms all come in play. Exercises like walking, running and biking can certainly help you, but they do not use all the same muscles to the same extent as riding properly does and you can surely be a better rider if you make a special effort to develop the ones you need most. After a long ride most people are pretty tired, but there is no reason at all why you have to be sore.

Here are some specific exercises that can help get you ready for a ride without a huge requirement of time or energy. If you would like to go a little more in depth, the book “The Riders Fitness Program” by Dennis, McCully and Juris provides much more detail about an exercise program. For the true overachiever, “Athletic Body in Balance” by Gray Cook will help get you ready for anything. You don’t have to become an Olympic athlete, but a little time spent on getting in shape 5 or 6 days a week can be a life changer.