Remember, it's always a good idea to get your blood flowing and warm up
your muscles before doing any kind of exercise, including riding. So take a
walk around the block, run up and down a stairway, or jog in place.
The exercises presented below focus on improving muscle strength and
endurance, but this is only part of true fitness. Your cardiovascular system
also needs to be maintained and strengthened. Walking several times a
week, running, or using a treadmill or exercise bike are all excellent
options. Do, however, get your physician's approval before beginning any
The following stretches can be done after five minutes of aerobic activity,
just before class at the barn. To keep strain off your back, place your feet
hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly, and hold in your abdominal
muscles. Repeat each of the following four times before moving on to the
next, holding each move for a count of ten.
Reach way up over your head with both hands. Reach higher with the left
hand, then the right. With arms stretched out on either side, twist gently
left, then right. With hands on hips, bend sideways to the left, then to the
right. With hands on hips, bend forward from the waist, then backward as
far as you comfortably can.
Stand on a step with the balls of your feet on the edge. Grab a hand rail or
balance yourself against a wall. Gently let your heels drop below the balls
of your feet, hold for two seconds, slowly lift up for two seconds, and lower
for two. Repeat five times initially. Do more as you're able.
Modified Leg Lunge
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Take one step forward
with your right foot. Bend both knees until the left knee is about one foot
off the floor, then slowly rise and bring the left leg forward. When bending,
keep your knee even with or behind the toes of the forward foot. Repeat
the exercise with your left foot forward. Do three repetitions on each leg at
first and gradually build up.
Back and Abdominals Strengthener
Lie down on your back. Straighten one leg and bend the other at the
knee. With elbows bent, put your hands behind your head and rest your
fingers gently there. (Don't pull on your head).
Tilt your pelvis so your lower back stays on the floor. Simultaneously lift
your straight leg about eight inches and your upper body a few inches off
the floor. Keep your elbows back, out of your peripheral vision, and your
chin off you chest. Lower your upper body and foot to the floor
simultaneously, lift up again, and then lie back. Repeat for the other leg.
This is a difficult type of sit-up, so only do a few repetitions the first time.
Don't do it at all if it causes you pain anywhere. Gradually build up your
stamina for this exercise.
Inner Thigh Strengthener
Lie on your left side on the floor, with your left arm under your left ear and
fully extended. Place your right hand on the floor in front of you. Bend
your right knee until it also touches the floor in front of you. Lift your left
foot (from the bottom leg), hold this position for three seconds, and then
lower. Do two sets of each side. Increase the number of repetitions as you
Lie on the floor on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight.
Make a fist with each hand, and with palms facing down, slide fists under
your buttocks. (This protects your lower back and helps keep it on the
floor). Your head also should remain on the floor.
Lift your straight leg as high as the top of the bent knee, and then lower it.
Now reverse your legs and repeat. Take it slow. Gradually build up your
strength. Do only a few repetitions at first.
While standing with your hands on your hips, place your feet hip width
apart, your toes facing forward.
Keeping your back straight and lifted, slowly lower your buttocks behind
you, as if you were going to sit in a chair. If you can, stretch your arms out
in front of you. If this is difficult, place your hands on your hips or out to the
sides. Slowly rise to standing and repeat. Throughout the exercise keep
your stomach muscles tight and your weight in your heels. If you bend
straight down and don't sit backward somewhat, it could create pressure on
Upper Back Strengthener
Stand up and raise your arms to the side at about shoulder height. Bend
your elbows 90 degrees so your hands face forward. Move your arms
backward so your elbows come toward each other. Hold for about three to
five seconds, and then release. Be sure to keep your arms at shoulder
height so you work your upper back. Repeat about five times initially, more
if it's comfortable for you.
Get on all fours. Lift your left leg straight out behind you (not higher than
your buttocks) and stretch your right arm straight out in front of you (level
with your head). Take a deep breath, keeping your tummy tight. Hold for
eight seconds. Repeat using the other leg and arm. Repeat exercise three
times on each side.
Building a Stronger Back and Hips
Lie on your stomach. Bring your hands together and rest your forehead on
them. Slowly lift one leg off the floor about two inches, hold for two or three
seconds, and then lower it. Switch legs and repeat. Start slowly, and
increase the number of repetitions gradually.
Get down on all fours, nice and square. With your knees under your hips
and your hands below your shoulders, draw an imaginary line from the tip
of one forefinger to the other. Drop your nose to the floor one inch in front
of the imaginary line. Want to crank the intensity up a step? Drop your
nose three inches in front of that line. Repeat three or four times at first;
gradually build up the number you can do comfortably.
If you have bad wrists, you may not want to do this exercise or you may
want to try it with your hands on a countertop instead of the floor.
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