Improving Confidence

The last several months my confidence has improved tremendously, and with it my riding has steadily progressed as well. Not only have my times on the barrel pattern improved, but I’m riding more aggressively than ever.

While losing fifty pounds certainly does help to a certain extent, what has helped more than anything is getting stronger, not just in my core but all over. When you feel strong, you feel in control of not only your horse, but yourself as well and that builds confidence.

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I didn’t spend hours at the gym. I have an extremely busy life between working two jobs, running a horse farm, writing books & marketing them, and writing blogs. I don’t have the time to spend an hour every day at the gym.I lift weights and only do a total of 4-5 exercises per workout. It only takes around 20-30 minutes at most to complete the exercises that I do. That’s realistic and achievable for someone that’s busy.

There are three exercises in particular that have helped me the most in becoming a better rider. I like these exercises because not only do you work multiple muscle groups, you also get a cardio workout as well.

The first is a walking lunge with a forward arm raise. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is a great exercise for riding because not only does it work your legs, but it also requires balance to execute the position, and it works your entire core to lift the weights.

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

The next exercise is a plank position with a pull up. Here I’m using a 20 pound weight. Let me say when I first started all this, it was all I could do to pull up a 10 pound weight! I’ve seen the most improvement in this exercise. It’s also an exercise that requires balance and complete core interaction while working your arms.

Plank Position With Pull Up

Plank Position With Pull Up

The next two exercise is a crunch with weights. I use ten pound weights. There’s two variations that I do. One is a regular crunch with the weights just above my head. The other is a crunch into a sit up where I lift the weights up above my head. Both of these exercises simultaneously work your core while you’re working your arms. Because you’re using your core to lift the weights, it’s almost like weight lifting for your core!

Crunch With Weights

Crunch With Weights

Crunch & lift up

Crunch & lift up

The last exercise is a twist in sit up position with weights. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is another great exercise that works your core. If you keep your feet just a couple of inches off the floor while you’re doing the exercise, you’ll also work on balance at the same time.

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In addition to these, I also do the usual weight lifting exercises such as over head press, bench press, bent over row, and squats.

There’s numerous articles on the multiple health benefits of lifting weights besides just building muscle. Weight lifting helps with bone density, and it helps release growth hormones. Look at the bodybuilding grandmother Ernestine Shepherd and you’ll see that’s true! She’s an 80-something grandma that can do more push ups than most twenty year olds and she didn’t start weights until she was in her fifties!

Do you struggle with confidence in your riding? What is it that keeps you from feeling confident in the saddle?

Making Changes…

It’s been a little while since my last blog post. I finally landed a second job waiting tables at an Italian restaurant three nights a week. It’s been a hectic schedule between working two jobs, keeping my horses ridden, and trying to get the farm sold. So far I’m managing, although I will say I do know I don’t want to wait tables as a second job for the rest of my life!

While I have a more extensive blog post planned for later this month, in the meantime I thought I would share an update on my physical progress, and a few quick tips on what has helped me so far. The next blog post, I’ll share some of my favorite exercises, and talk about how some of them relate directly to riding.

Dance night!

Dance night!

When I started the CWC blog a year and a half ago, it was the start of a journey for me. My weight had ballooned up to 208, and no matter what I did or how much weight I lost I was tired, achy, and miserable.

The first step I took was changing my internal dialogue. Instead of criticizing myself all the time, I started to try find positive things I liked. Being kinder to myself mentally was very hard at first, but as time went on it got better.

The next step for me was attempting to just eat real food, and limit the junk, and then also limit dairy. I didn’t count calories, carbs or anything else. I just ate natural foods most of the time.

I usually fluctuated twenty or pounds anyhow, and by eating naturally, over the course of time I managed to drop off that twenty pounds and keep it off. However, there were many days I still felt tired and achy and my mental health wasn’t the best either.

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

This past March, I decided to make even more changes. I started eating protein and vegetables. Again, I didn’t count calories or anything else. I kept it extremely simple – I could have anything I wanted as long as it was protein or veggies.

I also started lifting weights, and just like with my food I kept it simple. Just three or four exercises a few times a week and no more than fifteen to twenty minutes. I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect myself to keep up more than that.

This pic below was taken several weeks back, but this week my scales said 155. I haven’t been this thin since my EARLY twenties!

Two different girls, two different mindsets!

Two different girls, two different mindsets!

I’ve not strayed from the meat and veggies since I started in March. I haven’t had any bread, sweets, or pasta even once. The interesting thing is that I don’t want any! For the first time in my life I finally have control over what I eat. There’s no bingeing or medicating with food!

One thing that has helped me has been the wise words of a good friend of mine that’s a Personal Trainer and veteran from Colorado, Scot Heminger – “Think of yourself as an athlete. Athletes don’t diet and exercise. They fuel their bodies and train to get better.” That mindset has made a huge difference because I don’t look at eating and exercise as deprivation and punishment, I look at them as a way to get BETTER.

Another difference I’ve seen has been my mental health. I no longer have the mood swings or the depression that I had before. Granted, I did make a big life change in getting divorced and surrounding myself with positive people, but I do think the change in diet has had an impact on my mental health.

Not only have I gained control over my appetite, and have a healthier outlook, I’ve also experienced a big increase in energy. My joints and my body also don’t ache like they did before. Because of all that, I feel like doing a lot more  – and it’s wonderful!

While all these side effects are great, the one side effect that is probably the best is my improved confidence. I walk taller and feel better about myself, and I feel strong! That confidence has found it’s way into my riding as well. I’m running barrels more aggressively than I ever have my entire life and I’m clocking a little faster every time I run.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

I’m still a work in progress, but if I didn’t lose another pound I would be completely satisfied with where I’m at. I’m happy, and what I’m doing is realistically maintainable. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that where I am now started by simply loving myself a little more and making a few simple changes. It’s true what they say – change the mind and the body will follow. I think I’m living proof of that — and you can be too!

 

 

 

 

 

Junk In, Junk Out

We’ve all heard the sayings, “You are what you eat”, and “Junk in, junk out.”

 For most of my life, I’ve taken that saying with a grain of salt, pun intended. However, over the last few years I’m beginning to think there’s a lot more truth to those sayings than we realize.

 After a bout of unanswered questions about my health – that’s another blog post in itself – I started paying very close attention to how my body reacted to certain foods. Now, I’m not talking just gaining or losing weight. I’m talking about how food effects my breathing, my sinus levels, and even my mental status for the day.

After doing some experimentation, I learned that dairy and breads cause me to wheeze – that’s in addition to sinus and stomach issues. I also learned that cokes and sweets cause me to become depressed, and soy will send me into an emotional roller coaster during certain times of the month. In contrast, turkey and other meat cause me to focus and think more clearly.

The same thing could be said about our thought life. When we think negative things, the impact is negative.Those negative thoughts impact our happiness, our confidence, and ultimately our performance and whether or not we pursue dreams.

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Recently, I read a great article on thinking like an athlete. The article stated that the main reason athletes are successful is that they see themselves as just that – an athlete.

The article went on to say that when you see yourself as an athlete and get into that mindset, regardless of what your body is like, you start thinking differently in other areas of your life. You start taking training more seriously. What you eat and the amount of sleep you get become more important. Instead of those seeing those things as a means to lose weight, they suddenly become a way for you to train better and be a better athlete.

How many times have you been asked what you do with your horses or what discipline you ride? Probably too many times to count. Your answer has probably been, “I just run barrels” or “I just do a little western pleasure.” That’s the wrong answer!

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Today, you might not be running down the alley way at the NFR or doing a sliding stop at the finals at Congress. I get that you don’t want to blow yourself out of proportion, come across arrogant, or give the appearance that you’re competing at a level that you’re not – yet! However, if you keep thinking like you always have, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

Think about it for a moment…

Do you spend any less money on your horse than a serious competitor? You feed the best feed, supplements and hay. You keep a routine shoeing schedule so your horse can perform well. You take your horse to the vet every time they need it. You make sure your horse is in a safe, happy environment and kept on a schedule.

Do you spend any less time on your horse than a serious competitor? I know a lot of girls that compete locally and not nationally that ride their horses every single day. I also know girls that ride every free minute they can in the midst of working full time to pay the feed bill and mortgage, working second and third jobs, and taking care of families. Is the fact that they don’t get to ride as much any less worthy?

There’s things that you’re probably already doing that aren’t that much different than someone rides and competes on a higher level. Don’t cut yourself short in your thinking!

If you think you’re “junk”, then junk is exactly what you’re going to reap.

What do you think Charmayne James or Congress champion Karen Evans Mundy thought of themselves when they were working up through the ranks? Did they think they were just a barrel racer or just a hunter rider? No! They thought of themselves as champions that just hadn’t gotten there yet. All they had to do was work a little harder and ride a little better – that’s all.

So my question to you is this… If you knew for a fact that you would be running down the alleyway at the NFR, or riding the rail at Congress in two years how would that change your thinking TODAY? Would it make you see yourself differently? Would you have a new purpose every time you rode or worked out?

If you’re like me, you’ve beat yourself up for far too long thinking you’re not good enough and you’re just a barrel racer, etc. That thinking hasn’t gotten either of us very far, has it?

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to think different and see what results we get!

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. It only matters what you think about yourself.

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What Is It That Makes You Feel Better?

This week I’d like to know…what is it that truly makes you feel better about yourself?

When you dread looking in the mirror, or testing your ability, what is it that makes you feel better about yourself? Is it losing a ton of weight? Is it winning that barrel race or pleasure class? Is it wearing your favorite outfit?

So often, we get into the rut of thinking, I’ll feel better about myself when I _____ – fill in the blank. For a lot of us, the blank might be losing thirty pounds or winning a class – or both.

The cold hard truth of the matter is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Heck, we’re not even guaranteed the very next breath. So why do we waste our lives not accepting who we are as we are at this very moment when we may not even get the very next moment? Why do we do that?

I read an article earlier today about the designer Betsey Johnson. She’s 72 years old, wears what most people consider completely inappropriate hair and clothing for her age, and she does cartwheels on the catwalk. Yet, she’s a confident, happy, and very successful woman.

 

Earlier this month, I learned about Leah Gilbert who is a plus size athlete and fitness trainer from Australia. Yes, you read that correctly – she’s a plus size athlete and fitness trainer. While she doesn’t fit the typical aesthetics mold of what most people consider an “athlete”, Leah is one incredibly confident and strong woman who is on a mission to change how we think about ourselves. By the way, I strongly advise following her blog Body Positive Athletes. You’ll be better for it, I promise!

So here we have two women that don’t conform or fit the “perfect” mold at all and yet both of them are happy confident women. How do they do that?

Although I don’t have all the answers, I would say one commonality they have is that they buck the trends, do what they want, and they do what works for them – not what everyone else says works for them. They live in the moment, where they’re at. Long ago, they stopped fighting who they were and stopped listening to what society told them they should be. Oh, and they don’t compare themselves to everyone else.

What are the things that you do well right now? Focus on those for a moment and feel good about yourself for a moment. Feel better?

 

Just out enjoying a winter ride on my pony Fireman.

Just out enjoying a winter ride on my pony Fireman.

 

 

What Makes You Confident?

First of all, I want to say “Thank You” to everyone that helped spread the word about Cowgirls With Curves! The response since launching has been overwhelming, which confirmed what I already knew first hand! Let me just say, it’s fulfilling to talk to other women with the same issues and feel like you’re making a difference. So, I can’t say THANK YOU enough!

One of the hot topics among us real size cowgirls is confidence – How do we get it? That’s something we struggle with in and out of the saddle.

I’ll confess, I’m probably more confident in the saddle than I am out of it, mainly just because I like working horses so much! That doesn’t mean however, that I’ve not had times that I’ve had to work for it, and I still do when it comes to barrel racing especially. The one thing that has always made a difference in my riding confidence has been working out and getting strong – notice I didn’t say losing weight. It’s strength that makes the difference.

I’ve always said there’s nothing like having a colt to break, or a young horse to start back in the spring to make a person get strong. Ride a few fresh young horses and you’ll see what I mean!

Where that came from, for me, was that each winter I took a break from everything. No riding, no working out. Then when spring rolled around, I’d get back to riding.

Each year, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed it’s taken me longer to get back to feeling normal and in sync with my horse. With each passing year I’ve had to work harder at it – and if I’ve had a young horse I’ve had to put even more effort.

Most of the time, I’ve done the usual core work like planks and crunches to get my balance back. While that helped tremendously, I’ve found something that works even better!

This year instead of taking the whole winter off, I started working out in early November doing Kettlebell exercises. The difference that it has made in my riding has been amazing, especially considering I was only doing three exercises at 20 reps each. In fact, it made such a difference I made the fastest run I’ve made so far on my horse, and I felt good about it and in control the whole entire time. I’ve been trying to make that silly run for three years!

I took pretty much the whole month of December off, and then didn’t throw a leg over one until the end of January. Even having that much time off and my horse absolutely full of it, I felt like I hadn’t taken any time off at all. To me, that said a lot about the exercises that I’d been doing.

Kettlebellsworkouts.com is the website that I used to find Kettlebell exercises. They have a list of 52 exercises with videos and they periodically will do a Kettlebell Challenge to keep you motivated. I’ve shared the three exercises that I’ve started out with. Since I’m not a personal trainer, I’ve listed the links for each exercise with the proper instructions.

I already had 10 pound dumbbells and two 20 pound weights on hand so that’s what I use instead of a Kettlebell. Since I use different weights for different exercises, this works out well. At some point I might cave in and buy a couple of actual Kettlebells but for the moment, I’ll use the money for my feed bill and entry fees!

The Kettlebell Plank Row is one exercise that I can honestly say is the absolute hardest I’ve ever done! It’s also an exercise that I feel makes a huge difference in how you ride since you’re engaging your core at a high level the entire time.

The Kettlebell Walking Lunge is one that I do with a little variation. Instead of keeping the Kettlebell overhead, I’ll hold the weights out in front of me and raise them overhead which engages the core even more.

The Kettlebell Swing is a great exercise to get your heart rate up very quickly so it’s a great option to use for not only strength but cardio as well. I do this exercise with more weight than I do the other two exercises simply because I’m stronger in that position.

A word of caution on the Kettlebell exercises – the Kettlebell Turkish Getup is a whole lot harder than it looks! I let a teenage student and her two little brothers try it with a 5 pound weight. It was all they could do to get up. So if you want a hard challenge, try it.

Because these exercises elevate your heart rate while working several body parts and engaging the core the whole entire time, you really do get more bang for your buck. Because of that, you can save on time since you don’t have to do as many exercises to work the same amount of muscles.

There’s something about being strong and being in control of your body when riding that has an effect on your mindset and confidence. When you’re strong, you don’t feel out of control or over-powered.

You may be at a point where you’re thinking, “I can’t do these type of exercises!” It doesn’t matter what you can do – what matters is that you start somewhere. If you can do one rep, do one. Then the next day try two reps. Just start at the level you’re at – YOU CAN DO IT.

How confident are you when it comes to riding? Why do you think your confidence level is at the level that it’s at? What is one thing you can do today to improve your confidence?

Let me know how you guys are doing out there! Drop me a line, visit the Cowgirls With Curves facebook page!

FT SMITH TRIAL RUN