Personal Training Tips from My Most Unique Client
Buddy is an 8 year old quarter horse who has been in and out of training for most of his life. He and I have been working together for a few months now and he is quite good at reminding me of some important tips to keep in mind when working with my clients back in clinic.
Like many of my human clients, Buddy seems to rotate from being in training for a few months to spending his days in a field being almost completely inactive. Because of the amount of time he spends leading a mostly sedentary life, Buddy is deconditioned and gains weight easily. What other horses can do easily, Buddy still huffs and puffs and breathes heavily through. So just like with my human patients, we started slow together, initially getting an idea of how much exercise he could actually tolerate. Over time, through gradual and appropriate increases in the amount of work performed during our weekly sessions, Buddy’s fitness improved and he remains injury free.
However, Buddy doesn’t seem to understand quite how deconditioned he really is. I’m regularly finding myself holding him back and slowing him down from trying to take off at a gallop and doing more than he is ready to. We’ve all worked with clients who think that they can do a whole lot more than they actually are able. While I have to use my muscular strength to slow him down, convincing our human clients of the the risks of going too hard too fast, and the benefits of a gradual exercise progression is often not as physically taxing but is incredibly vital to ensuring that they continue to receive health benefits without incurring additional risks.
He also reminds me that I need to pick my battles; there is no way that I’m going to be able to completely overpower a 1,500 lb. animal. I have to convince Buddy that he wants to do what I’m asking him to do. There is a time to hold back and then there is a time to compromise and let him, figuratively, take the reins. Despite his low fitness, Buddy is motivated to exercise. In addition to the conditioning work we do, letting him canter jumps, something that he enjoys, emphasizes that exercise isn’t all about building and strengthening muscle groups. Buddy reminds me that no matter how beneficial a particular exercise is, it is just as vital to educate our clients that exercise can and should be enjoyable. We achieve the best outcomes when we work together with our clients as a team and emphasize not only that being active improves their health, but can be quite fun as well!
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
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