Workin’ on my fitness

At the Glow Run last August with a friend, her sister, and Johnny.
I’m in the orange.

Riding has been my primary source of exercise for most of my life. In elementary school, my parents enrolled me in dance, gymnastics, and soccer in addition to riding lessons. I had a brief stint of competitive swimming in middle school, which was given up when it conflicted in both time and money with riding. I was on my school’s track team in high school, but only so I could have a school-sponsored sport to put on my college applications. I ran 400M hurdles and threw shotput; I was terrible at both.

As a member of the collegiate equestrian team, I had a rigorous gym and riding schedule that kept me reasonably fit. I also did Muay Thai/MMA for the last two years of college, swam a couple times a week, and dutifully played on many of my sorority’s intramural sports teams. After college, I lost most of that fitness and gained some weight after I discovered that when you live in a city, you can get Chinese food delivered to your apartment. (This was a revelation, y’all.) My workplace in Wichita had a gym onsite that I rarely used (because I wanted to get away from work as quickly as possible), and though I played polo a couple of times a week, I was definitely feeling tubby and lethargic.
Now, I’ve never been a svelte person; as a kid, I dominated the top of the height and healthy weight charts. (True story: my dad, who I love very much, used to tell me “You ought to play basketball, you’re good and stout! Those other girls won’t knock you down!” Thanks, Dad, all teenage girls want to be called stout.) But I’ve always managed to be mostly happy with how I looked and felt. I’m also 5’9, which is a pretty forgiving height. 
For the better part of the last three years, I worked as a therapeutic riding instructor, which required a lot of walking. (We’re talking 20,000+ steps per day.) It also required some low-activity level riding. I also did self-care on my horses three days a week, which meant more walking, hay bale carrying, stall mucking, etc. However, I didn’t lose much weight and I still felt out of shape. 
Johnny was in a similar boat- in college, he played Ultimate Frisbee, jogged, and walked everywhere. Now working 40+ hours a week at a desk job, he’d put on about 40 pounds since 2009 and felt miserable. (We won’t mention his out-of-control sweets addiction.) At 6’6, he still looked pretty skinny, but he was definitely feeling bad. 
So starting on March 1, Johnny and I completed a Whole 30. We didn’t buy or read the book; we just read the website, thought it sounded doable, and jumped right in. Whole 30 is an eating program that strips away foods that may potentially have a detrimental effect on your health. For 30 days, we ate no added sugar (no honey, maple syrup, etc.), no alcohol, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no white potatoes, and no ingredients we couldn’t pronounce/weren’t sure what they were. Basically, we ate meat and vegetables for every meal for 30 days.
We both felt way better after completing the program; I lost 8 pounds and my skin (which has been doing this weird, rosacea-like thing) has cleared up. I stopped feeling so lethargic and bloated. Both Johnny and I found reserves of willpower we didn’t know we had. As a result, we’ve loosely stuck with eating that way. (We now eat small amounts of dairy and grains sometimes; we also indulge in giant cheeseburgers every now and then.)
Doing the Whole 30 sent me off on kind of a fitness rampage. I’ve realized that just riding isn’t enough for me to stay fit and healthy. So I’ve taken up Couch to 5K for what feels like the millionth time. Running isn’t my favorite form of exercise, but it’s reasonably cheap, widely available, and thanks to RunDouble’s Couch to 5K app, I don’t even really have to think about it- I just have to listen to the little voice in my headphones tell me when to walk and when to run. Johnny and I will be running the Rainbow Run in Tulsa in June and the Porter Peach Festival 5K in July. I am a terribly slow runner who gets side stitches constantly, but when I think about giving up, I tell myself that I went a whole month without eating any cheese. If I can do that, I can do anything.
In addition to the (very slow) running, I’ve started doing a little bit of strength training at home. I’m mostly doing stuff like pushups, situps, squats, lunges, bicep curls, and tricep extensions. I realize strength training is important; I feel a little lost with establishing a routine, though, so any advice is welcome! 
I’ve also started doing a yoga video once a week; I enjoy stretching and I love the soothing voices all yoga instructors seem to have! 
I can already tell a difference in my riding- I can stay in two-point longer, I don’t lose my breath as quickly, and I feel way, way better. I’d like to think the horses appreciate the the 8 pounds I lost, too. 
What kind of workout routine do y’all have? Any advice on strength training at home? 

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “Workin’ on my fitness”

    1. Thanks! Rider fitness IS really easy to overlook, because riding a horse is hard work!

      I don't have it together as much as it probably sounds like I do; I am running a balling 12 minute mile (lolz) and still weigh 198 pounds.

  1. I am always interested in doing those programs that strip food, and I would probably have a six pack right now on my abs, but the one stickler that gets me is the booze part. I love drinking socially and I don't do it a lot so I don't want to knock out what little I do drink completely.

    1. I really liked doing the Whole 30- although I don't seem to have any obvious food sensitivities, it was helpful to strip away nearly everything and see how I felt. I felt REALLY good, but I did miss drinking (because I LOVE drinking). I am a social drinker too, but because most of my social activity is currently saying hello to other people at the barn, it was pretty easy avoid alcohol. If I had a group of friends that say, I went to happy hour with regularly, I would probably struggle.

  2. Wow!! That is awesome! Good for you 🙂 Me and hubby are also thinking about doing Whole 30. It seems doable…except for the cheese part. I love cheese!! And wine…

    1. Thanks!

      Whole 30 was totally doable, but you definitely have to COMMIT to it! I LOVE cheese. (True story, I once got cheese-of-the-month club for my birthday and it is still the best present I have ever received.) I also love many varieties of alcohol. Johnny's big thing is sweets; that dude can put away a carton of ice cream in one fell swoop! When we did Whole 30, we didn't have some big, dramatic clean-out of our fridge, freezer, and pantry. We just bought stuff each week and stuck to our meal plan. (Which is what we usually do anyway.) There were a LOT of times after dinner where I'd think of nothing but driving to go get a cheeseburger, or where Johnny was jonesing for an ice cream sundae REAL BAD. But we told ourselves that we only had X amount of days left, or we'd already completed X amount of days, etc. and would just eat a banana with almond butter.

      So anyway, I said all that to say this: Go for it! I felt physically better almost immediately. I had more energy, I felt less bloaty, and wasn't hungry very often. 🙂

  3. I had never heard of Whole 30 before – now I think it's something we might have to try. We've been slowly eliminating things we know are bad, but we're too easy on ourselves and too non-critical of each other. We know how important it is to get over the hurdle of obesity and into shape before breaking 30, so we really have to get serious about this soon. I'm too ashamed to tell you my weight, but know that you are miles ahead of me and that I'm happy for and proud of you.

    1. Thanks! I'll be happy to provide what moral support I can. 🙂

      Whole 30 is more of a mental challenge than a physical one- I found it helpful to keep a journal and write down how I felt every night before bed. When I was REALLY feeling the pull of Braum's, I would reread entries. Seeing in writing validation of how good I felt and how I had resisted cravings made me stay strong.

      Whole 30 also forced us to eat at home ALL. THE. TIME. which was nice for our wallets. We were spending more on groceries, but were saving money because we weren't eating out. Let me know if I can help you! 🙂

  4. So true! I'm in the same boat but having trouble finding time to fit everything in. Just gotta kick it into high gear, I suppose!

    How did you like MMA? There's a free women's BJJ class in my city and I want to try it out, but in don't want to embarrass myself, haha.

    1. I LOVED MMA. I thought it was super fun. It was a mixed-gender class, but everyone was treated exactly the same by our instructor. The class was about 90 minutes; the first half would be warming up followed by learning/practicing techniques like punching, kicking, grappling, throwing, etc. The last half of the class would be sparring. Usually we'd just form lines and rotate opponents every 5 or 10 minutes. It was grueling, but I found it very satisfying. Sparring was usually full contact unless someone requested light contact- I knocked a guy out once, and regularly came out of class with lots of bruises and bumps.

      Most people that took the classes weren't looking to be big, bad MMA fighters. (Although both of the friends I took the class with DID go on to do some amateur cage fights.) Almost everyone was nice and there was a great sense of camaraderie. I'd start taking classes again, but most of the places in my area are focused on producing cage fighters, which is not something I'm interested in. I just want to be fit and punch people in the face!!

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