Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions for My Horse and I

It's the new year! Time to start a new chapter in our lives. About two months ago, I promised I would publish my endurance/fitness training plan and schedule "soon." Well, here it is! Finally. I just hope that I'm more dedicated in my execution of these plans than in my planning of these plans.

As a reminder, my goal is this: The Tevis. 100 miles in 24 hours, in the roughest, most mountainous terrain imaginable, at high altitude. To get there, Annie and I need to be FIT. I would like to lose at least 40 pounds. 60 would be ideal. Annie and I both need to be able to run/walk some serious mileage too.

First, I've already entirely remodeled my food supply. I went through my 'fridge and cupboards with a giant trash bag. I stocked up on a few sweetish snacks to satisfy cravings (dried fruit, yogurt, jello, popsicles, orange juice). I don't want to deny myself all "real" junk food, because that's a quick route to failure, but I do want to make some permanent healthy changes in what I eat to satisfy cravings. I also went through a couple of diet books and picked out foods that were healthy, but not A) disgusting B) expensive or C) hard to prepare. This was tougher than I thought. Who the hell has access to organic kumquats? Does anyone really own Hawaiian sea salt? I think all diet books are written by people living in L.A. or New York, next to some fancy whole-foods-diet-store. Me, I've got Piggly Wiggly.

Around here, we call it "The Pig," as in, "hey, there's a special on ground beef at The Pig!" I love the Midwest.

My diet plans are probably boring you to death, but here's the deal: you can't expect your horse to perform well if you aren't performing well. I know for sure Annie is going to be happier, more sound and have more endurance if I can see to it that she isn't carrying around an extra fifty pounds of my un-athletic lard. That principle would apply to our riding no matter what sport or past-time I set my sights on. We have to remember that horses aren't "meant" to be ridden. They didn't evolve with a  sticker on their backs saying, "place human butt here." They can, with enough conditioning and training, carry us-- but we also have a responsibility to make that extra burden as light as possible. We can be fat if we want to-- hey it's your own life-- but when our fat affects others, it's time to re-think.

I'm sure this lady loves her horse. I'm equally sure 100lbs less would make him feel even more loved.

Annie gets a fitness plan too. Her diet will remain pretty much the same, with the addition of some supplements-- but she's going to have to do more work. To help her out, I'm going to be reading and re-reading the excellent book, "Centered Riding," which has already helped me maintain better balance and posture while riding-- something Annie appreciates. I should mention, at this point, that I'm not counting on Annie going to the Tevis for sure. I love her, and would never sell her, but I do need to be realistic about her abilities. She's a big-ass cowhorse, built like a tank, not a runner. Already I can tell she's going to have problems keeping up the necessary speed, and there's still the lingering question of how her old injury will affect her performance. However, I am still determined to do it; I just might need to buy an extra horse in 2-3 years. (Yay for horse shopping!) In the meantime, we'll do our best.

Below, I've posted our fitness schedules. Mine come first; "W" stands for Walk or Workout (as in, walking, running, walking with a weighted backpack, etc). Riding comes next, with an "R," except for the first couple rides where I anticipate having to walk Annie down some of the trails as she adjusts to new/scary surroundings; that's a Walk/Ride.

For both of us, I'm concentrating on mileage here, instead of minutes. That's an endurance thing; it's also a mental thing. It means that I'm pretty dedicated to going the distance, no matter how long it takes. If I have to run it to get it done in one night, fine. But if I ain't got the gumption to run, I'm still going the distance.

My own training program peaks at thirty miles in one day; at my usual walking pace, that's about nine hours of walking. That goal dovetails nicely with my expectations for Annie-- I'll only be asking her to carry me as far as I'm willing to carry myself. (Annie won't be eligible for longer than 30-mile rides until she's five years old.) This is also a training program roughly based on the suggested training program for the Vierdaagse, the famous four-day march through the Netherlands, where participants walk 30-50km each day for four days. It's one of my dreams to go there and do it. You can check it out here.

Wk 1 5 mi W / 2 mi W/R
Wk 2 5 mi W / 2 mi W/R
Wk 3 6 mi W / 2 mi R
Wk 4 5 mi W / 2 mi R

Wk 1 8 mi W / 5mi R
Wk 2 8 mi W / 2 mi R
Wk 3 10 mi W / 5 mi R
Wk 4 12 mi W / 3 mi R
March/Wk 5 15 mi W / 5 mi R

Feb./Wk 1 20 mi W / 5 mi R
Wk 2 15 mi W / 7 mi R
Wk 3 25 mi W / 10 mi R
Wk 4 12 mi W / 5 mi R  -- Trip to the local horse trails park
Wk 5 20 mi W / 10 mi R

Wk 1 20 mi W / 10 mi R
Wk 2 12 mi W / 15 mi R  -- Trip to the local horse trails park
Wk 3 25 mi W / 10 mi R
Wk 4 12 mi W / 15 mi R  -- Trip to the local horse trails park

Wk 1 20 mi W / 10 mi R
Wk 2 12 mi W / 15 mi R  -- Horse camping trip (weather permitting)
Wk 3 20 mi W / 10 mi R
Wk 4 30mi W / 20 mi R
Wk 5 10 mi W / 5 mi R  -- Trip to the local horse trails park

June 3rd: 12 mile novice endurance ride in Palmyra, WI

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