Focus On Fitness February: Warm-Ups

Warm-ups.  You do them on your horse.  You do them before a workout.

But do you do them before your ride?

As equestrians we have agreed that horseback riding is indeed physical exercise…so if you’re NOT warming up…WHY?

Warm-ups are critical before beginning any physical exertion.  A good warm-up will increase your heart rate.  Your heart will pump and deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles.  Your muscles will LITERALLY warm up.

Have you ever stretched a cold rubber band?  It snaps.

Cold muscles are quite similar.  Cold muscles are more likely to undergo damage and tears. If you start stretching and working cold muscles you are bound to experience muscle soreness at some point.


If you are warming up be fore a ride…EXCELLENT…what are you doing?

Standing still and stretching (isometric stretches) are important but best left until AFTER the exercise is finished…when the muscles are already warm.  As stated before stretching COLD muscles can lead to muscle strains and tears.

Instead we should be focused on what I call dynamic stretching and simple cardio to encourage our blood to get flowing.

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Here’s an idea to help get you warmed up before you get on.

  • Jumping Jacks
    • I love jumping jacks because they get everything moving.  Your heart rate elevates. Your arms, your legs, and your core all get engaged.  Go for 50.  You should do enough to feel the warm tingle throughout your muscles and the need to breathe just slightly harder. This will get the blood pumping.  You’ll start to feel warm.  While you’re doing them really aim to keep your arms straight and feel the full length of your “wingspan.”  Your blood is flowing AND you’re stretching.
  • High Knees
    • You can make this high impact or low impact if you have bad ankles or knees.  High knees will get your blood flowing and also engage your core as you lift your knee.
    • If you’re opting for the low impact option take out the hop and simply catch your knee at the top and hug it into your chest (or however high you can get it).
    • Don’t get lazy, get those knees as HIGH as you can to get the most benefit!
  • Knee Circles
    • Keeping flexible supple knees is important for our riding.  Knee circles help loosen them up a bit.  Keeping both feet together gently bend at the hip and place your hands on your knees.  Draw a circle with your knees together, about 5-10 and repeat in the other direction.
  • Hip Circles
    • Our hips are often tight as well so getting some movement in the hips before getting on your horse is a good idea too.  With feet, hip-width apart place your hands on your hips and draw a large circle with your waist.  Repeat 5-10 times in one direction and repeat the other way.  You should feel your hips and core stretching as you move.
  • Ankle Mobility
    • I have sprained and hurt my ankle time and time again so sinking down into my heel is always a huge struggle for me.  To help loosen your ankles up and get them prepared for the movement and range of motion, trace the alphabet with your feet.  Keep your leg still so that all of your motion comes from the ankle itself.
      • My ankle significantly improved when I did this daily!

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  • Shoulder Shrugs and Circles
    • A common mistake a lot of us make when we’re stressed or exerting ourselves is shrugging our shoulders and creating tension in our upper bodies.  Good posture in life and in riding is to keep our shoulders back and down.
    • With your arms relaxed and by your side roll your shoulders 3-5x in each direction.  Shrug them up and push them back down 3-5x.  Finally end by rolling them back and down.
    • You can do this throughout your ride.  If you notice you’re getting tense, go through a few shrugs and rolls, take a breathe, and continue on.
  • Torso Twists
    • Our core gets used throughout our ride.  Waking those muscles up is just as important.  This includes your abdominal muscles and your back.  Keep your feet planted and twist side to side.  It’s important not to throw  yourself around; use your core to twist.  After a few continuous repetitions.  Find an anchor (walk, stall door, etc) and hold for a few seconds.  Then twists a few more times and hold the other side for a few seconds.

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2 Comments

  1. Fantastic warm up list. I try to warm up before a ride, I know if I’m going to fall I need to be as soft & supple as possible otherwise I don’t bounce, lol. Sometimes my warm up is if friends drop in on their horses ready for a ride. the warm up is usually rushing around dressed, saddle up & go. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

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