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?

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