What is Sport Specific Training?
Sport Specific Training simply means fitness and performance training (exercise/workouts / Sessions) designed specifically to help develop and improve athletic performance in their chosen sport.
For a rider, this would mean exercising / training off the horse to improve the skills required when on the horse. Such skills would be
- Reaction speed (agility)
- Mobility (different to flexibility)
Why is a specific training program important for sport?
Undertaking a training programme which has been designed with your sport in mind helps your ability to perform that sport. It is also known as Sports Conditioning, Functional Training and Building Condition Programmes.
Typically the training programme will consist of corrective and restorative exercises, strength training, conditioning and cardiovascular training, sports specific techniques which have been chosen specifically to mimic the movements and demands that your sport needs.
Many believe that being fit and active is enough to be ‘fit to ride’ but not all exercise is equal.
Imagine you are a rugby player, an equally dangerous sport, but you don’t work off the pitch on your strength, power, cardiovascular or agility skills but you walk the dog every day, work on a construction site -lifting heavy and difficult objects and do Pilates once a week.
- Do you think that the Rugby player would be effective on the pitch?
- Do you think they would be at a higher risk of injury from impact?
- Do you think they would be a player the team could depend on?
If a Rugby player does not ensure that they can deal with the cardiovascular demands of running on a pitch (c.5miles per match) without fatigue and still have the ability to skilfully play, or have prepared their muscles, ligaments and tendons to be hit head-on by another player of 14+ stone at full speed, and probably moved in ways they are not designed to go, then they are not able to be part of the team, they become a hindrance, slowing the possibility of success for the team and putting themselves at serious risk of injury.
Horse riding is no different. Horse riding is actually one of the most dangerous sports in the world where we are required to sit balanced, stable and provide clear effective aids on an independent thinking animal that weight more than 5 times our body weight.
What are 5 Sport Specific Training principles?
Going above and beyond. Training your body in either agility, strength, power, endurance etc beyond what is required in the sport allows the body to deal with the demand of the sport easier. Imagine you only had to ride a test or jump a course which took 2 mins but you trained to ride it for 6mins, riding the 2 mins would be easier for your body to deal with meaning that you would perform optimally.
The human body is amazing. If you practise a given programme, movement or regime without changing the demand in some way then your body will adapt, and you will no longer make progress. To continue to progress you must gradually increase the stimulus or overload so that the body doesn’t adapt and become stagnant – or your performance will to.
As a rider this is really important – Running is not going to help your stability, mobility or balance but it will help improve your cardiovascular ability. The training should be relevant to the demand of the sport.
Don’t become stuck in a routine. The body thrives on being exposed to different stimulus and enables the body to utilise different muscles and body systems to perform which in turn allows greater performance, lower risk of over-use injuries and helps to maintain the need intensity (overload).
Don’t give up or be prepared to lose what you gained. If you have a prolonged period of time off training then yes, you will lose all of the good gains you have made. Your fitness level, strength, mobility, stability and balance will all start to decrease back to zero.
It is easy to keep going than to start again….it should become a way of life, not a ‘quick fix’.
If you want to ride without the aches and pains after, feeling exhausted during a lesson, lacking in confidence when onboard, struggling to step up to the next level, collapsing in transitions, not able to give clear effective aids, struggle to sit a spook or take forever to recover from a general injury then you would benefit from a Sport Specific Training Programme.
There are just too many benefits not to. Learn more about RiderCise programmes by watching a short video:
GETTING YOUR LEG OVER
by Tracy Thompson, Endurance Rider since 1990. Tracy suffered a spinal injury in 1998, but with the continued support of her fellow riders and husband, Tracy has been able to compete alongside her son, Jamie and complete yet another 160km.
Many years ago I worked in a trekking centre and was stunned by how much difficulty people could have trying to get on the horses, with the more mature amongst them saying things like” I have lost my spring”. At the time I couldn’t comprehend what on earth they meant and suspect I was far from sympathetic but their words have now come back to haunt me and I realise I owe them an apology!
I have mobility problems as a result of a spinal injury in my thirties but have been fortunate enough to be able to continue to ride. The horses have been my sanity and provide me with the freedom to go places that I could never reach on foot.
Through my love of Endurance Riding, I have been able to explore lots of the British countryside and I am very fortunate that my fellow Endurance Riders are a great group of people and are all too willing to open any gates that I can’t manage from the horse.
Over the last few years, I have noticed a marked decrease in my range of movements and mobility. One of the biggest issues is getting on the horse. (When I say horse I actually mean 14hh pony but let’s not split hairs). I use a mounting block and provided the pony stands still I can just about launch myself into the saddle. This is a far from an elegant procedure and often involves a little swearing and cursing. If for any reason I have to get off I am completely stuck and have to hover about hoping some well-meaning hiker will take pity and hoik me into the saddle.
At the start of 2019, I was feeling pretty despondent about the whole situation and was beginning to wonder what I could do to remedy things. A friend mentioned RiderCise® and suggested it might help.
RiderCise® is the brainchild of Clare Gangadeen who is a rider, Soft Tissue Therapist and a Personal Trainer with much experience in the Fitness Industry. Using all her skills, knowledge and real-life experience with riding and training people Clare developed a series of programmes that are specifically designed to improve fitness, strength, mobility, stability and balance in the saddle. RiderCise® provides Online Programmes to riders at any level, in any discipline across the world, making Rider Fitness Easy and Affordable.
It sounded too good to be true but I contacted Clare to learn more and she explained how you can access her training programmes via an App on your phone and given my individual needs she was able to adapt the programme and was always available to help.
January 7th found me starting on the RiderCise® 9 Week Rider Challenge, which is something that Clare offers riders to allow them to see how easy it can be to improve their Rider Fitness, totally Risk Free! Not only do you get direct access to Clare for help and guidance when needed but you can cancel anytime.
Despite being useless with technology I found it very straightforward. The ‘Challenge’ starts at Foundation level and begins with ten minute sessions that are easy to fit into your day. There are a set of exercises with written instructions and a step-by-step video of how to do them properly; there are also a range of stretches. As the programme needed to be adapted due to my mobility issues, Clare took a very detailed medical history so she could customise the programme. She plays a very active role in the ‘Challenge’ and regularly messages to see how you are getting on. I have been amazed that despite messaging her at some random hours she still responds very quickly.
At first I found some of the exercises nigh on impossible but was surprised to find that each week they became a little easier. They focus on quality rather than quantity and gradually you increase the repetitions. They are something you can do almost anywhere, which makes it easy to fit into a busy schedule.
I did encounter a slightly embarrassing moment when I was doing the” Bear Walk”. This involves walking along on all fours and I was doing my best Grizzly impression around the kitchen floor. I had not put in my hearing aid and so did not hear the arrival of the delivery man. I had my back to him as I wandered around the kitchen on all fours and it was only when I turned round I spotted him standing at the door looking somewhat bemused. I inelegantly hauled myself to my feet and thought I owed the poor guy an explanation.
I told him I was doing an exercise programme and that it involved Bear Walking. There was a look of horror on his face as he practically chucked the parcel at me and shot off muttering” bloody hell, naked exercising whatever next?”
I was bent double laughing at the thought of him going back to the depot with tales of crazy women.
On a more serious note I can’t believe what a difference a few minutes a day can make. I feel suppler and my posture has improved, as my core muscles have got stronger. I love the way that the workouts can be moved around to fit in with your life and that the exercises are very varied so you don’t get bored. Clare manages to find something to challenge you and is so supportive. It’s like having a personal trainer at your beck and call.
Horse riders spend a great deal of time and money getting horses fit but we are inclined to be a bit lax when it comes to our own fitness. Recent studies have shown what a dramatic impact the rider can have on the horse’s way of going. Injuries and weakness in riders often cause them to sit unlevel and this can have a very negative impact on the horse. Perhaps we owe it to our horses to try and sort out our own niggles as well as looking at their problems.
Success vs Failure
Have you ever wondered why other riders around you seem to be reaching their dreams, achieving goals, in the limelight or simply just making progress? Is there something that you don’t know or aren’t doing, despite how much hard work you put in and the effort you make?
I believe there is and it’s as simple as taking a different view on how to get to where you want to be.
We are all the same deep down!
As equestrians we all have our own aspirations, whether that is to simply be able to ride without feeling the consequences, have the confidence go to pleasure rides with friends, being the best rider we can be, to get out and about at shows or compete to the highest level possible. We all have these aspirations.
The mistake we often make is focusing so much on those that make progress and achieve their aspirations and not realising that there are many who had had the same aspirations but didn’t succeed at achieving them.
So if the aspirations are the same for those that succeed and those that fail, it cannot be the aspiration that differentiates them but the way in which they go about achieving them.
Are Aspirations the same as Goals?
When you look at the meaning definitions it isn’t clear cut but breaking the words down can help give you a clear difference:
GOAL: The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
ASPIRATION: A hope or ambition of achieving something.
Similar in that both describe a future state but different in that Goals are objective and measurable such as winning a competition, whereas Aspirations are subjective, unmeasurable and intangible such as an emotion or feeling.
So why should I think about aspirations rather than goals?
A Goal may be to have the confidence to go to A pleasure ride, to go to A show, to win A competition. A specific measurable goal.
Whereas an Aspiration may be to go on many pleasure rides, to regularly attend shows, to win at various competitions. A future state of being.
As a Rider Performance Coach, I speak with so many riders that are so focused on achieving a particular goal (short term) rather than the aspiration (long term) that they do not realise that achieving that one goal will only affect them positively momentarily. After you have achieved your goal, then what? All that hard work that you put in just disappears and you return to how you once were? You start to feel the aches and pains, lose your confidence, stop going to shows or don’t manage to go to the next level?
Imagine your tack room is a mess, you set yourself a goal to tidy it.
If you summon the energy to tidy it, you have a clean tack room – for now. But, if you maintain the same sloppy habits that led to the messy tack room then it will soon be a total mess again. You are left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the cause.
Taking a different view
The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone.
If you focus too much on a Goal it can create a “yo-yo” effect, much like dieting. So many riders work hard for months but as soon as they achieve that Goal they stop. There is no longer anything to motivate them. This is why many people find themselves reverting to their old habits after accomplishing reaching their goal
Furthermore, goals create an “either-or” conflict: Either you achieve your goal and are successful, or you fail, and you’re a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness.
True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It’s about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it’s your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
To reduce aches from riding you must continually work on yourself to condition your body. As soon as you stop, so will your progress.
To improve your confidence you must slowly challenge yourself to do and believe in yourself more. It doesn’t happen overnight.
To win a Championship you must first place high in many outings to be in the position to attend a Championship.
“The difference between success and failure is that those who succeed realise it is not the Goal they must focus on but their Aspiration and to reach it there is a process of learning, refinement and constant implementation of the action, not a single achievement.”
Feel tempted to learn more? How about 5 Easy Steps to Achieving Goals? Click >> HERE<< to read my blog and share your opinion with me in the comments!
There is a difference between being fit and being fit for riding (Conditioned). Being fit generally means, having the ability to perform every day tasks with ease, with a good level of muscular strength, endurance, aerobic capacity and flexibility.
There is more to riding than not being out of breath. Riding requires coordination, balance, control and independent movement of limbs to provide clear communication. Unfortunately, running, cycling and swimming (as examples), whilst beneficial to general fitness, don’t provide the stimulus to prepare the body for riding.
“I had thought I was fit with a good core strength from doing pilates – but not so! The RiderCise® exercises really do what they say, develop the muscles big and small and the balance needed for riding”
Heather, Endurance Rider
What is Conditioning?
Sports, such as horse riding, at any level, in any discipline, requires the individual to have the appropriate strength, power, endurance and stamina along with the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required. Why? ……to ensure that the individuals’ body is equipped to deal with the demands of the sport so not only can you perform, but also so you are at a lesser risk from injury.
Conditioning focuses on improving your muscular strength, endurance, stamina, control and agility (ability to change the body’s position in an efficient and effect manner) and uses ‘Training Overload’, which is required for adaptions to happen in the body.
The strain (Training Overload) applied to your muscles causes physiological changes, resulting in growth, increased strength and greater endurance.
These physiological changes not only help improve your riding but you generally feel better in yourself, and every day activities become easier. Another huge advantage to conditioning is that it reduces the risk of injury, through improving muscle strength along with connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) – the stronger the entire structure, the less likely you’ll experience a joint (sprain, dislocation, tear) or muscle (pull, strain) injury while in motion.
Why do I need to be conditioned?
Whether you are a leisure rider or a competitor, being conditioned is important for you and your horses welfare.
As a rider, if you are not conditioned you may have difficulty getting on, sitting astride, moving with your horse, giving clear aids and having constant communication. In addition you may find progressing in a discipline feels tough or even impossible and sometimes, you ache way too much the day after a ride…
As a horse, if the rider is not conditioned, the horse has to deal with their own balance, coordination, control, strength, endurance and stamina, along with the issues that an un-conditioned rider brings; miscommunication, unclear aids, leaning and/or dominant on one side, unbalanced and bouncing in the saddle, inability to control body movements. This can often result in a horse becoming ‘one-sided’ and/or developing muscular atrophy and/or soreness.
Us equestrians are great at just ‘getting on with it’ without putting much thought into the difficulties we physically experience when we ride or the aches and pains that come from life, work and riding. However, I can assure you that the horse notices.
If you think that a horse can sense a fly land or move in the direction you are looking when in the saddle, just think of how they respond to us in the saddle when we lean, are imbalanced or not in control of our movement. Let me give you an example.
You are imbalanced and collapse through your upper body in rising trot, this could be due to muscular restriction or lack of strength to hold yourself correctly so to compensate you grip with your knees and hands to stabilise yourself. This will be automatic and you may not feel like you are doing this but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t. Your horse reads that you want them to stop by the gripping of the knees and pulling yet you are ‘kicking/squeezing’ with your legs to get the horse to go forwards as they keep stopping.
You are giving a mixed signal and disciplining the horse through the ‘kicking/squeezing’ of the leg yet they are responding correctly to our movement.
Overall, we ask a lot of our horses, they don’t ask much of us but, to be in control of ourselves when riding.
How do I become Conditioned?
To be conditioned for riding, you need to improve the muscular strength power, endurance and stamina along within the range of motion (ROM) for the movements required.
The RiderCise® programmes have been personally designed by Clare, to help improve the condition of the specific muscles and their recruitment, required for horse riding, of all levels, in any discipline.
“Over the years I have tried gym memberships, video’s, DVD’s and other online fitness programmes but I have to say, this is the best by far.”
Jane, Leisure Rider
The programmes are progressive throughout each 6 week period of each of the 3 levels (Foundation, Intermediate & Advanced). This ensures that a training overload is applied to enable physiological changes in the body.
We recommend, whatever your current fitness and/or riding level, that you start with Foundation. This will start to prepare your body, and mind for the more complex and demanding exercises that follow in Intermediate and Advanced. It is also important to start from the begining as we want to minimise the muscle aches and keep you motivated. You still need to go to work, live life and of course, ride your horses!
To purchase your programme, visit: https://www.ridercise.co.uk/ridercise-rider-programmes/