Day One - Aerobic Exercise
The cornerstone to any fitness program is good aerobic fitness. Aerobic fitness increases our overall endurance and helps to maintain a healthy weight. Start by running or walking briskly for 30 minutes. Maintain a comfortable pace, slow enough to be complete the exercise but fast enough to get your heart pumping. At no point should you be out of breath -- if so, slow down.
As you get more fit, increase the speed and duration of your workout. To mix things up, consider signing up for a local 5K race or run with your local track club. You can even halter your horse and take her along for the run! This is a great way to exercise your horse.
Day Two - Pilates
Pilates has recieved a huge following the this country. Pilates focuses on developing your "deep postural" muscles. These muscles, generally in your abdomen help increase your balance and stability. This is a great benefit to you when in the saddle to help improve your seat.
The best way to start out with Pilates is to take a few classes at a local fitness club. If your club doesn't offer Pilates, take a look at your TV guide. Many cable and satellite providers have an exercise channel that will have a daily Pilates workout. Just tune in (or record it to play at a time convenient for you) and join for a 30 minute workout. Also, Horse Magazine has an article series that shows you a few basic Pilates exercises that will help your riding.
Day Three - Yoga
Yoga is another exercise program that has developed a strong following. Yoga is a traditional exercise that comes to us from the Orient that focuses on flexibility, posture and relaxation. The techniques you will learn from yoga will improve your riding position and allow you to relax and be more comfortable while in the saddle.
As with Pilates, beginner yoga programs can be found at nearly any fitness club. Your satellite and cable TV providers will also have daily yoga programs.
Once you are familiar with the basic yoga positions, check out Yoga For Equestrians by Linda Benedik. This book will take your yoga to a new level, focusing on exercises designed to benefit you as a rider. You can even practice while mounted, adding a new dimension to your exercise while strengthing your bond with your horse.
Day Four -- Weight Training
Nothing says exercise like weight training. A good weight training program doesn't have to mean bulging muscles -- by training with light weight and high repetitions, you'll develop string, lean muscles with great endurance.
Start your weight training with a set of two dumbbells. Pick a weight that is comfortable for you to use for an entire 30 minute session -- if you are unsure opt for a lighter weight. 5 lbs (2.5 kg) is usually a good weight to start with.
Practice these 6 exercises spending 3 minutes on each exercise and resting 2 minutes between exercises.
Day Five -- Intense Aerobics
On Day One, we did light aerobic exercise, keeping our breathing under control. Today's goal will be to push our aerobic envelope. This effort will increase your aerobic capacity, allowing you to work longer and harder.
Today, start with a 10 minute easy warmup. Once you feel adequately warmed up, increase the effort of your activity. Your goal is to exercise for 15 minutes and at the end of that time to be breathing hard, but not exhausted. After you complete 15 minutes, cool down for at least 5 minutes.
This exercise will help you compete better by helping you adjust to periods of intense effort -- such as while you are competing. If you are able to push yourself for 15 minutes, you'll be better able to be at your best for the duration of a jump-off or cross country course.