I like to think I’m a pretty strong rider. I ride 1-2 horses every day, both of which are challenging from a physical standpoint. My gelding is 18h and requires an active, thought-provoking ride although he is not usually heavy in the bridle or difficult to move off my leg. My mare, a green bean OTTB, is built like a traditional old-school hunter so helping her long and low self rock back, engage her hind end, and really supple through her back and neck requires a fair amount of rider balance and well timed leg/rein aids. It’s safe to say that each horse is doing approximately 30-50 minutes of flatwork appropriate for their level per day. I jump my horses once a week during the winter (maybe twice is there’s a show), and slightly more in the summer as show season ramps up.
Like everyone, I have my weaknesses. I’m cursed with terrible ankles so on days when flexing my ankles is painful, I grab with my knee. I also tend not not close my right leg quite enough (even though I think I am), a flaw that I used to blame on my gelding…. until I started having the same problem on my mare (doh!). I try to ride without my stirrups as much as I can, usually on my mare because she doesn’t have quite as much suspension as my gelding, but some weeks I *forget*.
Outside of riding I don’t do too much. I’ve never been a gym rat and other sports have always taken a back seat to riding. After working a full day at work and then riding two horses, I was finding it hard to imagine fitting another thing into my daily schedule that would be sustainable.
Recently my trainer started going back to the gym to improve her overall fitness. She told me about a class she was taking and how in part of it she had to “plank”. I’ll admit, I had no idea what planking really was or how effective it could be. A few conversations later, I was googling planking routines to see if maybe it would help my riding.
So here’s what I learned about planking. First off, I’m a little late the the party – looks like planking has been a “thing” for awhile. From what I’ve read, folks are using it to tone up, but also to improve core strength. Bingo! What rider doesn’t want to improve core strength?
Second, there are so many different plank work outs. So. Many.
The good news is that if you want to plank, there’s a work out for you! The position and duration (the amount of time you can hold the position) determine the intensity. Most beginner planks are only about 20 seconds long and you can work up from there. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything magical about 20 seconds, so if you can’t hold it that long, no worries. The general idea, however, is to be able to hold the position longer and longer. The longest plank time in the workouts I saw was 5 minutes, which at the moment seems like PLENTY of time.
Thirdly, planking can help your core, but also your legs, arms, abs, glutes… pretty much anything you want to work on! So if you are trying to focus on a specific area, you can find a planking position to help.
Lastly, you don’t need any special clothes or equipment to plank… you can do it anywhere! In fact, my trainer showed me how she planks right in the barn aisle (there were rubber mats, they were clean, it seemed legit).
After all my research, I think this is something that can really help me, it takes very little time, and I can sneak it in anywhere. My initial goal is to try a very basic plank during the day and a second one after I ride (this time in the tack room, not in the middle of the aisle). Once I get in the routine, hopefully it’s something I can continue with… and maybe get up to a 5 minute plank AND be able to close my right leg on course! 🙂