Running for Rider Fitness

Running is a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness and increase lean muscle mass. It is also Free!! You get to see areas from a different view, challenge yourself with different terrain, and get high on endorphins!

For many, the feeling of being cardiovascularly challenged is the definition of fitness. If they are not sweaty, aching, and/or unable to continue. They have not worked hard enough.

The sense of achievement and satisfaction, the endorphins, when you have run as much as you can physically endure is highly addictive.

But is running good for Rider Fitness?

What benefits does Running provide Riders?


Running is an excellent way to improve your cardio fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF)) – Your ability to uptake and supply oxygen to skeletal muscle mitochondria for energy production. When oxygen is used for energy production it is known as aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercise means that the body uses different systems to produce energy. In the absence of oxygen.

Cardio fitness is expressed as your VO2 Max – The maximum volume of oxygen you can take in through your lungs, pump around your body using your heart and blood vessels and then make use of the oxygen in your muscle’s energy expenditure.

In addition, running can help develop lean body mass but this is highly dependent on whether you are fuelling your body correctly for muscle growth.

Running for Rider Fitness

Running improves your cardiovascular fitness. Improving your body’s ability to uptake and utilise oxygen for energy production. 

Event Fit

Why is Cardio Fitness Important for Riders?


A normal heart rate at rest can vary between 60-100 beats per minute. The ‘ideal’ range is 50-70 beats per minute. The lower the resting rate, the fitter you are, and the less stress on your heart to pump blood around your body.

When riding your heart rate will be higher than its resting rate. Mainly because you are actively using your body to ride but also because of stress, anxiety, and excitement.

If you have a low level of cardio fitness, this puts excess stress on your heart and can leave you feeling weak, dizzy, or sick.

In worst-case scenarios, it can also lead to stroke and heart attacks.

Because your heart rate will fluctuate when riding, depending on what you are doing, how your horse is feeling beneath you, how you are feeling, and of course how fit you are.

Cardio fitness is an essential component of Rider Fitness but not classed as Rider Fitness.


Running Considerations


Whilst running itself is not harmful to the body. The way in which you run can be.

Your running technique will be influenced by your level of fitness and your posture.

  • If your posture is compromised it affects your body’s ability to run efficiently and absorb impact which can lead to injuries.
  • If your fitness level is low then you will be training anaerobically which can lead to lactic acid build-up (heavy legs / burning sensation) which in turn affects your body’s ability to run with good technique.
Is Running good for Rider Fitness

If you have a compromised posture you would be best advised to correct your posture first through corrective exercises (where possible) so that your body is able to deal with the impact effectively, reducing the risk of injuries and the damage to joints that can occur.

Postural imbalances such as a Kyphotoic posture where your upper body is rounded and you will probably have a posterior pelvic tilt (bottom tucked under) can be made worse by performing exercise activities such as running, rowing or cycling. This is because the muscles that you should be using to perform these activities will be shortened/tight:

  • Hamstrings
  • Abdominals
  • Glutes
Pelvic Tilts - Posterior

This will inhibit their ability to function correctly because these activities typically force you into a crouched/rounded position (running because it’s hard and how the majority of runners run). It further shortens those muscles and contributes to the weakness of your hip flexors and lower back

If you have a low level of fitness, start gradually by walking with small intervals of jogging. There are many running programs available on the internet for beginners. Take your time and build up your fitness slowly.


Running Technique

  • Posture: Ensure that your posture is in the best alignment possible before starting running.
  • Function: It is important that you run by pushing yourself forward by using your glute (bum), not dragging yourself forward. Using the incorrect muscles will cause fatigue quicker and also alter your body’s running posture which will reduce its ability to absorb shock.

Watch this short video to see the differences between incorrect and correct running technique.

Note: Sally has good posture and runs regularly and is coached in her technique. It is very difficult to run incorrectly when you have learned to run correctly. This means this video will not show the true extent of running incorrectly. It will be much worse.


Once you have gotten past the hardship of learning to run correctly and have built up a good level of cardiovascular fitness. Running is enjoyable and delivers high amounts of endorphins.

It is satisfying and rewarding and improves heart and lung function. Best of all, it’s free and you can explore your area and participate in local running groups and take part in a variety of running competitions.

But it’s not for everyone. Riders with a compromised posture are best seeking other activities to boost their cardiovascular ability. Once which doesn’t put them at risk of injury. Activities such as walking, swimming, and using a cross trainer. Cycling and rowing are also options if you don’t have a kyphotic or posterior pelvic tilt.

Running can improve muscular endurance if you run long distances and can improve lean muscle development if you are eating for performance.

  • Muscular endurance and lean muscle development are not typically achievable or considered a benefit of running to the average runner. This is due to many running short distances and normally in a calorie deficit.
  • If you run as a sports activity. You will be combining your running with sprints, hill work and resistance training in order to enhance your muscular endurance and lean muscle. 

Running is a beneficial form of cardio exercise for riders but running doesn’t make you rider fit. There are 7 more components that make up rider fitness: Balance, Coordination, Stability, Agility, Mobility,  Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance.