Saturday, January 12, 2013


By Catherine Sampson

Preparing to ride is a valuable step in getting the most out of your riding experience.  Not only does this pre-ride warm up engage the physical side of riding, but also the psychological benefits obtained in quieting the mind.  So often this area is neglected and yet it holds the key to a successful and pleasurable ride.  The following exercises will benefit all riders and sets in motion a game plan for our riding whether it is recreational or competitive riding.

In order to feel secure and confident, we can address the physical side of riding through strength and balance.  Between rides, you can maintain tone and balance by practising the following simple techniques.

Pillow Talk for Thighs

Put aside 10 minutes per day to strengthen the inner thigh muscles which tend to be the weakest link in the rider’s anatomy.   These muscles get little workout in day-to-day activities.   

  1. Lay flat on a floor bending your legs to the approximate length that your foot would fit into the stirrup for your particular style of riding. 
  2. Raise your toes as you would do in a stirrup.
  3. Fold a pillow in two and place it between your knees.
  4. With your toes still raised, point them towards each other.
  5. Aggressively squeeze the pillow between your knees and count to 10.
  6. Release the pressure and repeat this exercised 6 times.
*Note:  your back should remain relaxed and not rigid.  It is the thigh muscles that are the focus.
7.  Once you have completed 6 sequences of this exercise, place your heels together with the toes still in a raised position.
8.  Squeeze the pillow again for the count of 10 and release.
9.  Repeat this sequence 6 times.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can raise your seat off the floor.

A good rider demonstrates good posture.   So often our daily work environments lend us to practice poor posture when hunched over a computer or relaxing at home.  These habits are difficult to correct and we must be conscious of poor posture. 

1.              Using a wall for support and orientation to our own skeletal features, stand erect.
2.              Rest the back of your head against the wall with eyes focused straight ahead.
3.              Touch your shoulder blades against the wall, pulling your shoulders back.
4.              Feel your buttocks against the wall
5.              Place the back of your heels against the wall. 
6.              Bend your knees and hold your hands in riding position.  Hold the position to the count of 10.
7.              Repeat this exercise 6 times.

Most riders have difficulty flexing the ankle and dropping their heels in the stirrup.  To help stretch this joint, practice the following exercise.

1.              Standing on a bottom stair, hold a railing for support, rest the ball of your foot on the edge of the stair.
2.              With your position in straight alignment, bend your knees and let gravity stretch your ankles releasing the weight from the ball of your foot out through your heels.  *Do not bounce or force this process. 
3.              Repeat this several times, stretching both the calf muscles, thighs and ankles.

Now that we have accomplished some simple physical exercises, we will now address the psychological methods.

As you turn the ignition key and fasten your seat belt for the drive to the stable, you can use this time to practice simple relaxation.  This is the time to tune-in to yourself. 

1.              With your hands on the steering wheel, stiffen your arms briefly and then totally relax your arms.  *Pay particular attention to feeling your fingers releasing their grip on the steering wheel.
2.              Tighten your buttocks and then release.
3.              Take deep breaths, expanding your stomach and then release the air quickly. 
4.              With eyes focused on the road ahead, gently rotate your head from left to right softening neck muscles.
5.              Again looking at the road ahead, raise and lower your chin.
6.              Reminiscent of the wall exercise, feel the head rest and your shoulder blades making contact with the back of your car seat. 

Continue these exercises repeating them several times.  When you arrive at the stable, you will feel refreshed and eager to ride. 

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