EQUUS - - Conversati­ons -

As you can imag­ine, de­sign­ing your own pro­gram car­ries its own risks and re­wards. I rec­om­mend you keep it all ex­tremely sim­ple. To main­tain your level of con­di­tion­ing re­quires a daily over­all rou­tine you can do in a mat­ter of min­utes, fol­lowed by a good stretch to the mus­cles worked to keep them long and strong.

Here’s the sim­ple ver­sion a trainer taught me years ago that has stood the test of time for her clients try­ing to main­tain an over­all level of con­di­tion­ing: You can work all of your ma­jor mus­cle groups with three things: squats, a four-way crunch se­ries and pushups.

• Squats. Sit in an in­vis­i­ble chair, then stand up. That’s it. The only rules are: Don’t let your butt go below your knees or your knees ex­tend for­ward past your toes. Do th­ese in sets of 10 with a quick rest in be­tween. Start with three sets and work up to 10.

• Four-way crunch. 1) Lie on your back with your fin­gers in­ter­laced be­hind your head, knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Lift your chest and shoul­ders straight up to­ward the ceil­ing; re­peat till you feel a burn. That’s your start­ing num­ber. 2) Now straighten your legs and lift your heels to­ward the ceil­ing for as many reps as it takes to feel that burn in your lower abs. Write that num­ber down. 3) Take your left el­bow to your right knee, and re­peat till you feel it in your left side. That’ll do. 4) Now re­peat with your right el­bow to your left knee till you feel the pinch. Don’t overdo this one: Start where your body al­lows and work up to a max of 25 of each with good form. Re­mem­ber to breathe out upon ex­er­tion (when you “crunch”), and keep your abs “zipped” and your belly­but­ton pulling to­ward your spine as you per­form each move.

• Pushups. Can’t do pushups? Try to do just one with good form. (If you can do more, great.) A Pure Barre in­struc­tor told me that just hold­ing your pushup in the “up” po­si­tion with a straight body, square shoul­ders and straight arms for as long as pos­si­ble will work the same mus­cle groups as ac­tual pushups and start to build the kind of strength that will even­tu­ally al­low you to lower your­self with good form into a sin­gle per­fect pushup. Once you can do that, you’re ready to build to­ward adding one pushup a day un­til you get to 10, and then start work­ing on adding ad­di­tional sets of 10, with three sets as a good goal.

“You per­form a triathlon ev­ery time you ride,” says Ste­wart. “In­stead of swim­ming, bik­ing and run­ning, you walk, trot and can­ter!”

What I think Ste­wart means by this sage bit o’ wis­dom is that when we ride, our ef­fec­tive­ness de­pends on our body’s abil­ity to tol­er­ate and re­sist the dif­fer­ent types of fa­tigue. When fa­tigue sets in, our pos­ture changes, our mus­cles tighten as if to brace against it, our breath­ing changes, and at some point, our men­tal fo­cus starts to fade, com­pro­mis­ing our de­ci­sion-mak­ing and cog­ni­tive func­tions in­clud­ing tim­ing, judg­ment and body aware­ness.

Ste­wart iden­ti­fies three types of stamina: mus­cu­lar, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and psy­cho­log­i­cal. “The good news is that an in­crease in one type of stamina nearly al­ways causes an in­crease in the oth­ers,” he says. “The not-so-good news is that to in­crease your stamina, you’re go­ing to have to do a lit­tle hard work.”

• Mus­cu­lar stamina refers to how long you can use your mus­cles and hold good pos­ture and form be­fore fa­tigue and mus­cle burn make this im­pos­si­ble. Im­prove mus­cu­lar stamina with things like pro­gres­sively longer/more in­tense rides, cir­cuit train­ing with light weights, and per­haps a barre class, in which shak­ing mus­cles in­di­cate com­plete

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