With winter here, my trips to the barn to ride are becoming less and less. During the week the sun sets before I'm off work, and with only an outdoor arena to work with it makes it hard. Weather plays a huge factor as well. This week we've had temps in the low teens and below zero at night. If it's windy or snowing you won't find me braving it at the barn! If it's icy I refuse to risk injury to the horse I'm riding.
I like to compensate for my lack of riding by going to workout, more so in the winter versus summer . I've done different types ranging from just running the treadmill, zumba, pilates, weight training, and even burlesque dance classes.
However, nothing could have prepared me for how beneficial Barre classes are for those of us who ride horses! Not only does it improve your posture in and out of the saddle. It engages your core, which we know is very important for riding! It helps build your body in a way that leans out your muscles instead of adding mass and bulk to them.
You work every single muscle group in each class. There's not a lot of cardio (you still sweat a lot!) but you do small isometric movements. It's low impact which is really good for your joints (this is great since riding can be hard on knees and ankles!). You work your muscles so hard you will start to shake, this is normal. "Embrace the Shake!" is something you will hear a lot. There's a lot of variety so you won't get bored with the workouts.
Usually a typical class starts with a warm up that works your arms, usually with 2-5lb weights. Then you move to working your legs. Then you usually move to working those butt muscles. Lastly, you end with the core portion of the class. Afterwards, you cool down with stretching.
The thing I noticed most, especially with being a dressage rider, it really works those hip flexors in a way that improves your leg tremendously. In a past post (click here) I talked about how sitting all day can really negatively affect your riding position, and how it tightens your hip flexors. Not only does Barre help loosen those hip flexors with flexibility, it builds all the muscles related to them and improves your strength. Having problems getting your leg back and cue effectively for half pass? Barre might be the answer!
Cross training not only improves your fitness, but it adds a variety so that all of your muscles are getting worked in one way or another.