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Rider Health and Fitness Tips for the New Year

Written by Robin Martinez

At this time of year, many people start thinking to themselves, “I need to lose some weight and I need to get in better shape.” So I wanted to share some very practical suggestions on how to achieve both of those goals.

Start with 20 minutes of exercise as your minimum and do it every day. Choose anything that you like that can be defined as: a physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier. (credit: Merriam-Webster)

I love CrossFit, but you can do any activity you like.  Especially in the beginning, it’s really important that it’s something you enjoy or find interesting.  This will really help to get you past the initial learning curve of something new or the pain of sore muscles.  Here are ten ideas to consider:

  1. yoga
  2. pilates
  3. running
  4. weight training
  5. ballet/bar
  6. dance class
  7. hiking
  8. biking (outdoor)
  9. spin
  10. swimming

Once you’ve chosen what you’re going to do—do it!  If you chose to run, get your shoes on and go outside for a run.  Run ten minutes away from home, then ten minutes back.  If you need to walk some of the way, then walk. It’s no big deal.  Soon enough you’ll be able to run the whole thing and you’ll find that you got further in the first ten minutes than when you started.  That’s a great sign of progress!

Even if you chose running as your primary activity, that doesn’t mean you have to run every day. You can also change up what you do each day.  You could run 3 times, do yoga twice from a video in your living room, and go to spin class twice.

Here’s a typical week for me:

  • CrossFit workout 3x
  • run 2x
  • weight train 2x

This is a weekly routine that I enjoy, that makes me feel good, and gets good results.  Experiment and find what works for you.

Now that you are honing in on an exercise plan, let’s talk about eating.  I named my original business Blackjack Fitness because I found that there were many misconceptions about the effect people’s eating habits had on their weight.  The tendency was for people to think that their weight issue was caused by specific instances; the pizza they ate last weekend or the brownie they couldn’t say no to.  Again and again, I would share with people that it’s not any one thing that made them gain weight.  It’s a culmination of all the choices they make throughout the week that really sets the stage for weight loss or weight gain.  For years I have been recommending 3 meals a day (plus two snacks).  If you eat 3 meals a day for 7 days that equals 21 meals.  That means you have 21 opportunities per week to make good choices; choices that support your health and your physical goals.  Eventually, my business became Blackjack Fitness because 21 opportunities to eat well equals Blackjack!

If at this point you’re convinced, then your next question is: “Okay, but what should I eat?”

I’d really prefer to answer with what not to eat.  If there is one single thing that I’ve found to make the biggest difference, it’s limiting added sugar.  Following a sugar budget will get you more results than any other recommendation I can make.

Here’s what a sugar budget looks like:

  • women 25g or (6 teaspoons per day)
  • men 36g (9 teaspoons per day)
  • children 12g (3 teaspoons per day)

For perspective, if a woman eats one LUNA Bar (15g sugar) and one Chobani Fruit on the Bottom 0% fat Greek yogurt (17g of sugar) she’s already over her budget by 7 grams! These are both common food items that we see as “healthy.” Beware of what you’re really eating, it could be what’s keeping you from your goals.

As for the question of what to eat, I won’t leave you hanging.  I follow the basic principles of clean eating and that’s what I recommend.  That mostly means foods that are not processed and directly support and fuel your body.  There are some great books that explain this concept.  My favorite is The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno.

Here’s a sample day of clean eating:

  • oatmeal or muesli with either 3 egg whites or 1 scoop protein powder added
  • plain greek yogurt with fresh mixed berries
  • small chicken breast with cucumber slices
  • apple with almonds
  • salmon with bok choy and brown rice
  • water, water, and more water
clean eating for riders
  • Principals of Clean Eating
    Eat breakfast (within an hour of waking up)
    Eat often (5-6 small meals daily)
    Eat lean protein & complex carbohydrates at every meal
    Follow a “Sugar Budget”
    Drink plenty of water (2-3 liters per day)
    Prep and/or prepare your food in advance
    Manage your portions

Why I workout

ex·er·cise noun \ˈek-sər-ˌsīz\ : physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier (Merriam-Webster definition)

The thing about exercise is that if you’re looking for it to be the answer to weight loss, you’ll find it comes up short. As you can see from the definition that I pulled from Merriam-Webster, they don’t even mention anything about weight. Granted, they mention “healthier,” and weight is a factor of health, but so are many other things. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously love exercise! Exercise is a huge part of creating the type of body I want and it can help with weight loss; I’m just hoping to lower everyone’s expectations of exercise being the main factor in weight loss because its not. The main factor in weight loss is what you eat, which gets us to why we’re doing this Clean Eating Challenge.

Clean Eating Challenge Pledge:
I choose to have my health and fitness as the first priority in my life. I will tell the people around me about my choice so that I can have the best chance of receiving support from them. I acknowledge that some parts of this endeavor will be relatively easy, some parts will be inconvenient, and that some parts will be flat-out hard. I know that just because I don’t want to do something (like give up sweets) doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. It simply means that I will be a little uncomfortable at first when I do. I’m willing to live with being temporarily uncomfortable. I know that eating well and exercising is a privilege not a punishment and I can’t wait to get started!

So now you have two concepts to support your initial desire to loose weight and get in better shape.  20 minutes of daily exercise and 21 opportunities a week for good food choices (choices that are supported or sabotaged by an additional 14 snacks a week).  It really changes things if you think of it this way.  One more really important point: I never define success in terms of weight loss.  Doing that only sets people up for disappointment or unproductive celebration.  Instead, define your weekly success as sticking to your 20 minutes per day, keeping a sugar budget, and eating clean at most every opportunity.  If you do those things you can’t help but lose weight and get in better shape!

Happy New Year!


“A true horseman will only ask athletic feats of his horse if he has his own body under control.”

– from The Principals of Riding/German National Equestrian Federation

More Learning

See another clean eating recipe for Stuffed Peppers by Robin Martinez here.

Want more blogs on equestrian fitness? Check out “Functional Fitness” For Riders To Combat Imbalances In Their Leg And Seat or How To Stay Motivated To Work Out At Horse Shows. View all of Robin’s posts here.

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Robin Martinez

Robin and her husband Dionicio Martinez own Blackjack Farms, a beautiful and secluded 5+ acre ranch in North San Diego, with a very unique indoor/outdoor fitness facility. They have a well-equipped indoor gym, multiple permanent outdoor workout stations and a groomed running track. The fact that it's also the home of their show horses makes it truly one of a kind. There is also a limited amount of room for people to board their horses, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of a horse facility and fitness facility all in one. Robin has fitness clients that ride and riding clients who workout. Its a wonderful harmony, everybody is fit around there - horses and riders alike. Robin's focus is on establishing core strength and building a foundation of fitness for her clients. As a competing rider herself, she uses that experience to create fitness programs geared specifically for equestrians to help them gain the strength and mobility they need to be at the top of their game. Her style is positive, fun, encouraging and pleasantly tough. For more information on Blackjack Fitness please visit her website at

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