Sixteen inches of snow fell on my farm over the weekend. They turned my regular farm chores into a sweaty affair involving trudging through drifts with armloads of hay, swapping out horse blankets bedazzled with icicles, and digging out the truck in case of veterinary emergency.
In this weather, everything is harder and takes longer. Chore time winches up from ten minutes to half an hour. Eventually, I stomp back into the mudroom, dragging my coat and brushing damp hair back under my beanie… and go change into my workout gear.
What is it that compels me to maintain official workouts even when daily life offers exercise aplenty? What, in my nerdy little brain, separates "workouts" from "general activity?"
For me, this is different from general activity.
Now, general activity can certainly confer the benefits of physical exercise. It’s arguably the most natural way to stay fit. Just doing stuff – trudging up hills, pushing wheelbarrows, carrying posts, digging holes, heaving feed bags – it all makes me stretch and strengthen, bumps up my heart rate from time to time. What’s not to love?
I’ve certainly dragged inside after some exhausting days of building fence. I’ve enjoyed putting my feet up after riding a tough 50. At these times, I may consider myself to have gotten plenty of physical activity, but I don’t credit myself with a workout.
Splitting hairs? Probably. But I find value in the distinction.
On a related note, as beneficial as general activity is, very few of us do enough of it. I often hear riders claim they don’t need to work out because they get their exercise taking care of their horses. After all, just feeding and grooming and paddock scooping earns them more steps than your average Joanne!
I’ll grant you that. But is Average Joanne the right benchmark? “Average” these days is pre-diabetic with chronic back pain and mood swings. I don’t want to be average.
I could probably maintain reasonable health on farm chores and a decent diet. I could certainly still ride long distances. People do it all the time! But I wouldn’t get any better. You know what Henry Ford said: Do what you’ve always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always got.
I want more. So, for me, general activity – even when it gets an extra boost from snowfall or unexpected groundwork with a frisky pony – is only a baseline. I’ll spin and run and lift my way up from there.
All the best riders I know make their own fitness a priority. Can you be a distance rider without working out? Yes. You can be a knowledgeable horseman and get your horse fit and make it through 50 or 75 or 100 miles. But will you be the best rider you can be?
What do you think? What is a workout? Is there a different definition that works better for you?
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Thanks for dropping by! I'm an endurance rider in the northwest region of the United States. This blog is about the practicalities of distance riding and the practice of being my best self for my horse. I hope you'll come along for the ride.
The Sweaty Equestrian