As WEF comes to an end and those of us living in the Arctic head into our competitive season, kicked off ceremoniously as always by the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair and Spring Classics in Alberta, it’s time we talked about avoiding that mid-competition burn out.
Riders are unique in many ways, one of them being that often we do not get the same style of off season as other athletes do. We migrate for our sport, heading to warmer weathers to continue competing and training or surviving the colder temperatures and reverting to indoor training and competition. Those of us that do take an off season are found somewhere between jealousy of those who do continue through the winter months, and pure hibernation.
Competing at longer events such as RMWF and WEF means we need to get smart about how we manage ourselves. We know enough to give our horses strategic days off or quieter days, treat them with special blankets, massage, and nutritional supplements- but often you can see riders sloughing around competition grounds with starbucks, canteen food, and energy drinks looking like they just went through a traumatic event.
I remember the wall I used to hit half way or near the end of a long competition. My limbs no longer listened to my brain, and I was delirious half the time. Somehow I managed to remember courses and ride through the delirium, but I can only imagine how much better my performance would be now knowing what I do about athletic development and management.
Those of you in the midst of these season end/launch shows- try these five things. They won’t take long and I can guarantee you’ll feel better for it.
- Eat some gd (gosh darn) veggies
I will never stop ranting about Equestrian’s insane nutrition decisions. Ever. Would you see a high performance athlete in any other sport downing a Monster and a plate of french fries? Absolutely not. It doesn’t help that the options at most horse shows range from deep fried to 7/11 gourmet, but there usually is options not far away and easily accessible (not to mention more affordable. Make a point of sourcing out something naturally colourful (think greens) and pair it with some high fat + protein option like cheese, eggs, avocados, or nuts. My fav? Head to a grocery store and find some pre-cut veggies, deli meats, avocados, pre-sliced cheeses and you have yourself a lovely snack for the long days at the show. Not only will you likely avoid the notorious Keystone cold/flu, your energy will be more sustainable and you will recover better overnight between show days.Of course, enjoy yourself during the night classes with whatever treats suit- just please don’t make that your staple meal.
- Hydrate intelligently
In competition we NEED to be drinking a minimum of 3L of water/day. You wouldn’t be okay with your horse not drinking consistently when they are out of the ring, and you shouldn’t be okay with that for yourself either. Have a water bottle with you at all times (coffee doesn’t count!!!). I also recommend that you add electrolytes to your water. The routine I suggest to my athletes, related to the point above, is source out a protein powder, and/or a greens powder (email me for my recommendations!) and make that your first thing in the AM water intake, then in between warm-ups and classes make sure you have H2O handy. Electrolytes added to your H2O through the afternoon and evening to promote a good sleep and recovery later on (and proactively counter the Barn Bar in the evening).
Rotate, Hinge, Rotate, Flex and Extend
It SEEMS like a great plan to just slouch down into the stands or in the barn in between events, but is it really? By Day 3-4 of a 7day + event most people are complaining of sore backs, stiff joints, and headaches. Yes, it’s normal to be fatigued- but yet again, would you see athletes in other demographics not taking care of their bodies the way we tend to avoid that process?? Cooler’s make excellent make-shift yoga mats. Get yourself down on the ground and try these three moves BEFORE you ride and AFTER you ride- as well as before bed and when you get up in the am. They won’t take you more then 5min, and can help with the next two points.
Breathe and Go Inwards
I talk about breathing A LOT. In competition this takes on a whole new importance. Our breath influences everything from our mind, emotions, and physical capability. Got nerves? A few well placed deep breaths can make the difference between a complete disaster and a well managed situation. Top athletes all across the board have a routine of taking a few deep breaths right before entering the ring, going inward, and getting in the zone. Practicing this is how it becomes a rock solid prep for any situation. Even if you aren’t about to go on course, practice riding courses while you’re watching others, visualizing the ride and breathing through it. You’d be surprised how often athletes hold their breath during a course, and how big a difference teaching breathing through the ride can make.
Start and End each day with 5min
Take 5. Seriously. Find a quiet space, practice your breathing, do some of those mobility exercises, get both in and out of your head simultaneously. Finding time to connect with your body and mind, especially in the midst of competitions, makes a HUGE impact on maintaining focus, energy, and drive during performance. In a situation where we are constantly surrounded by others, our coaches/parents, horses, organized chaos- bringing it back into our little circle and recharging ourselves is super duper necessary. It seems annoying and like people will think you’re weird for making this an important and valued part of your routine- BUT, they are more likely to be jealous that you’ve found a way to connect and stay connected to YOU and your performance. This is a great time to slowly eat a healthy snack or sip some H20.
Have questions about these steps? Message us or comment! Have a routine that works for you? I want to hear about it! Comment and let us know what keeps you rolling through long competitions!