Beast Mode On: Why CrossFit is Grabbing More Riders

Some newcomers may automatically associate the CrossFit culture as one with extremely strict diets. While this may be true for some, it’s a decision that must be made on a personal level.

This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Heels Down Magazine. For more stories worth reading, subscribe now in the app and get a new issue delivered every month.

You may have seen photos on your social feeds of sweaty dudes pushing tires around or pulling heavy bags of sand. Yeah, that’s CrossFit.

Some call it a cult, others call it a lifestyle. At a time when rider fitness has ramped up in recent years with an advent of new, more accessible platforms for exercise outside of the saddle, more are turning to CrossFit.

Don’t be intimidated. CrossFit is great for those who are seeking an avenue for an all-around fitness regime with a strong focus on cardio. It’s especially appealing for athletes who are inherently competitive. CrossFit is also a way to up both mental and physical strength.

International event rider Jimmie Schramm is one such CrossFit believer. She got her first taste of of it when she and a few fellow competitors tried a class in preparation for Fair Hill International. Jimmie was hooked on the high-intensity movements which grabs inspiration from many different sports.

“I really liked it,” she said. “I like doing something different all the time, and with CrossFit the work outs are always different. I also like the idea of feeling stronger.”

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There is a learning curve involved when you first start out with a CrossFit program, Jimmie admits, but once you get the hang of things, the challenge becomes enjoyable. “There’s a lot to learn, and you can really injure yourself if you’re not doing the workouts in proper form,” she described. “I’ve been able to find a good schedule that fits me and my fitness needs.”

One of the end goals of implementing a better fitness program for any equestrian is to improve their riding. Jimmie says CrossFit is great for building strength in core muscles, which aids in her ability in the saddle.

You really find out how far you can push yourself.

“That’s been fantastic. It’s really big on posture, too, so shoulders back, heart rate up – which I think is good for riding,” Jimmie said. “I did end up adding a couple of (exercises) on top to help me maintain mobility, which is important for riding. CrossFit can make you a bit tighter, so it’s good to incorporate yoga or a good stretching routine.”

Higher intensity workouts are also influential for mental strength, regardless of how competitive you are naturally, she said.

“My gym is not so competitive, which is nice,” Jimmie said. “We set a lot of personal goals, which is good for me. I have done two CrossFit competitions now, though, which has been great. You really find out how far you can push yourself.”

As with any fitness routine, results are tied not only to exercise but also to nutrition. Some newcomers may automatically associate the CrossFit culture as one with extremely strict diets. While this may be true for some, it’s a decision that must be made on a personal level.

“The horse lifestyle makes it harder to follow a restrictive diet,” Jimmie said. “I find that more often than not I don’t eat enough. We’re always going, going, going. So I try to bring snacks to the barn with me so I’m not going home and consuming a huge meal. But you have to be willing and able to adjust and know where your limits are.”

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If interested in trying out CrossFit for the first time – even if you’re a fitness junkie already – Jimmie advises self-care after exercise, similar to how you would cool your horse out. “We use the foam rollers a lot to roll out lactic acid,” she said. “That and stretching are super important – riding horses when you are really tight won’t work. And making sure that you are taking in enough protein. That will help you recover quickly as well.”

A stronger focus on her own fitness has been a priority for Jimmie, who feels she should be at the same standard and level as her horses. Her experiences have also given her perspective on her own regimen for the horses.

“You talk about how you find out how far you can push yourself, it’s similar with the horses,” she said. “Sometimes we put all this fitness work, and they still get tired. But the fitness for the horses is out of the world important, and I don’t know that everyone focuses on it enough. And I think that it’s only fair that we have the same standards of fitness for ourselves as we do for the horses.”

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