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Performance Coaching Tips

Charlotte DuJardin on the morning of her gold medal winning performance 2012

  Obstacles (2)

There are other obstacles that we put in our own way that can make achieving your goals more difficult. To be able to ride well we need to have a certain level of physical fitness and ignoring this aspect will impair our ability. However, making lack of fitness an obstacle for not riding well is to give yourself a reason for failing. Better to acknowledge that there are improvements to be made and start a fitness programme and to use your knowledge and expertise to counterbalance this issue. Whereas we might all like to have the perfect, long-legged figure for riding, remember that many para riders have overcome considerably greater physical problems than you will ever have to address .

Poor goal setting will also be an obstacle to success, if you set yourself goals that are too ambitious within a time scale, if they are not sufficiently specific or not entirely within your control then you may fail to achieve these goals which will have a negative effect on your self image. This can also be caused by intentional self-sabotage for example by giving yourself goals that you know you will not achieve. Another example of self sabotage would be the person who gain weight in order to avoid being attractive and therefore to avoid becoming involved in person al relationships that might lead to heartbreak. So it is often necessary to go beyond the initial symptoms of the obstacle to find the real issue.

Most of the obstacles we put in our way involve kicking yourself when you are already feeling down but no-one would kick a friend in an attempt to get them back on their feet. You have to accept that you have not chosen your problems although you may me stuck in a pattern that makes your problems worse. You can take responsibility for overcoming your emotional disturbances and be kind to yourself in the process. Being kind to yourself when you are working hard to improve makes sense, particularly if you consider that a lot of the work involves change which makes you uncomfortable in the short term. Try being your own best friend instead of your worst critic for a while and see how this improves your ability to make positive strides in overcoming those obstacles.

(Claire Knowles on Pendragon of Independence)

 Rider Nutrition (1)

Despite rumours to the contrary(! )riders are athletes who need to treat their bodies with respect and ensure that they are in a peak physical state to perform. The key areas to focus upon with regards to nutrition and hydration are; Fluid replacement; Muscle refuelling; repair and Immunity; Regeneration.

Starting with fluid replacement, water alone will support only 63% of fluid loss whilst sports drinks can take this figure up to 79%. The best policy is to avoid diuretics (particularly caffeine based drinks) such as any form of cola drink or coffee when exercising and to add electrolytes or a small amount of fruit juice & a pinch of salt to your water and take a drink at least every 15 minutes, more often in hot or humid conditions and particularly before exercise. Feeling thirsty is a poor indicator, by the time you reach this state you are already technically dehydrated. Lack of correct hydration reduces mental as well as physical performance- a dehydrated runner can reduce their speed by 6 seconds per mile.

Aim for a minimum of 2 litres of fluid every day, avoid more than 2 cups of tea or coffee a day, drink filtered water and diluted fruit juices no more than 1 unit of alcohol a day (7 units a week can be beneficial to the heart but avoid binge drinking so no more than 3 units if you are saving up your allowance) and ensure you are well hydrated before starting any physical or mental exercise. The next article will focus on the optimum food intake to cover the other areas.

Former RoR winner Cheryl Jackson

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep 

Quality sleep is essential for good health and concentration and lack of sleep can lead to many stress related problems including a weakened immune system, poor memory and weight gain .In addition tiredness can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel which is reported in almost 20% of motorway crashes . Insomnia is a common problem in Britain with 10% of people suffering from the condition and nearly 70% of people reporting that they have at least one bad night’s sleep a week. Whilst there may be obvious short term problems such as back pain, temporary stressful situations (and the longer term noisy/snoring partner! ) there is much that you can do to ensure your sleep is undisturbed to make you alert and ready for the new day.

Modern lifestyles tend to involve too much mental stimulation and not enough physical exercise combined with a lack of exposure to daylight. For many riders this may be less of an issue than for those poor folk who spend their weekdays travelling to work, sitting in an office and travelling home again ready to spend their evenings in front of the television or computer. However don’t be complacent and try to ensure your routine includes 15 minutes of exposure to daylight in the morning as this will tell your body to expect to sleep 14-16 hours later. In addition try to get 30 minutes of exercise in the evening which better than doing all your exercise early in the day.

If you do have problems with your sleep patterns, check that your mattress is even, supportive without being hard - as a general rule they need replacing every 6-8 years but a matress topper can also help. Check that your bedroom is free from electrical appliances, such as mobile phones, laptops and Televisions and if you must have them in the same room ensure they are not switched on or charging during the night and as far away from you as possible. Even a small amount of light can disrupt production of sleep inducing melatonin so invest in blackout blinds or use a sleep mask. Keep the bedroom at 16-18 degrees and if you are a woman plagued by those damned hormones then keep a jar of iced water and a spritzing spray next to the bed and wear only natural fibres.

There are many foods which can help in your evening meal such as bananas, turkey, oatmeal, warm milk and honey and if you avoid eating a heavy meal after 9pm ( and even earlier as you get older sadly!) and avoid caffeine after 5pm if you have any sleep related issues. Try to have a routine and regular bedtime relative to the time you got up that morning and all of these tips should help you ensure you get the best rest to face the big test tomorrow

Christine Kershaw with Uri

Goal of the Month -

Optimal Nutrition

We have previously worked on the rider’s core stability and now it is time to take stock of one of the other elements that can contribute to your fitness to ride successfully. I am sure that you always are careful to feed your horse in accordance with the work done, to ensure that there is always clean fresh water available and that if the horse does not eat or drink according to his normal patterns then you are straight on the telephone to the vet for advice. Now is the time to make sure you do the same for yourself! This month and next there are articles on this page to help you think about nutrition- this will put it into action

Many riders do not think of themselves as the athlete in the arrangement but failure to use the right building blocks in terms of food and hydration can lead to injury and poor performance both physically and mentally. So for 1 week maintain a detailed food diary and then review how you are going to improve it and put the plan into action in week 2. Also note how you feel each day- which foods tend to energise you and which only give you a short term “buzz”. Review your BMI (Body Mass Index) to ensure that you remain within healthy guidelines and if you are outside these then start a revised eating plan to reach an acceptable target.

Ensure that you are drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water a day (excluding tea & coffee which contain chemicals that dilute the hydrating effect and can be diuretic which drains the body of fluid). You should be taking in 3 servings (approximately the size of your fist) of different fruits and 3 of different vegetables (excluding potatoes which are classified as starch not vegetable) each day- try to maximise different colours as they have different anti-oxidant properties. Aim for one wholegrain carbohydrate in each meal (rice/oats/pasta/pulses), 1- 1.5kg of protein per day to help improve recovery from exercise, 3 helpings of oily fish a week (salmon/tuna mackeral), and to replace high fat content with lower fat polyunsaturated fats (eg brazil nuts instead of peanuts). Of course , the occasional treat is not going to stop you from riding well but you owe it to your horse to be in the best shape you can be.