From Endurance to Dressage
My weight that is. Not too long ago I shared my weight loss journey. It was hard. It sucked. I am still on it. It's been more than a month since I wrote that post, so I thought I'd give you an update, especially for those who might have been inspired to lose a few pounds themselves. You can do it!
When last I left you, I was trying to get down to 123 pounds. I never made it, but that's okay. My doctor actually insisted I stop losing weight as my BMI was starting to get too low. I am holding steady at 125. I tick up to 126 now and then, but I easily bring it back, and when I've been particularly diligent, I even drop down into the 124 range. Don't tell Dr. Sharma.
It's been both easy and difficult to ease off the militaristic approach I took to losing weight. While eating yummy things now and then is wonderful, I am wracked with guilt as I do it which sort of diminishes the treat factor. The other problem is the slippery slope effect; if I've already had 1 scoop of chip and guacamole, I might as well have 12.
I am finding that within one or two days of a "splurge" - does 12 chips even count as splurging?, I can lose the gained pound without much additional effort. I feel good, my clothes are comfortable, and Speedy probably appreciates packing around less of me. Izzy's a chunk, so he doesn't even know I am up there.
Just about the time I started to think I had reached a kick-ass state of health - why wouldn't I think so after losing 40 flipping pounds?, I scheduled my annual physical, smug in the knowledge that I am HEALTHY.
The first thing my primary care physician noted was that my platelets were low. After pulling blood three times over 6 weeks, it was finally decided that my platelets are just low when compared to other people's platelets. My normal is just low. Be prepared; this will be revealed as a theme.
Even though I already take vitamin D and omega-3 fish oil, she noted that I am now rather deficient in B12 as well. Amazon should be delivering some of that in the next day or so. Again, low.
With the blood pressure cuff squeezing my now much skinnier arm, the nurse pointed out to the doctor that my pulse was quite low, somewhere around 52. An EKG machine was quickly rolled into the room and wires were strapped to my chest. Yep. Low.
Along with a questionable pulse, my blood pressure now regularly dips down into the 85 over 65 range. We're pretty sure that's where the dizziness is coming from. At the doctor's urging I now own a blood pressure monitor and cuff which I use twice a day every day to monitor and log my pulse and blood pressure.
I suddenly found myself being asked if I have a cardiologist. A what-ologist? I am 48 years old. Old people have cardiologists; not skinny pear-shaped women who carry their weight on their hips. I now have a cardiologist who I have seen three times, with yet another appointment scheduled for next week. That's how I found myself wearing one of these.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that keeps track of your heart rhythm. Your doctor may want you to wear a Holter monitor for one to two days. During that time, the device records all of your heartbeats. That I even have to visit the Mayo Clinic web site smacks of "old ladyage." Yes, that's a word. I just made it up.
That's how I ended up wearing the heart monitor on Wednesday. The day before, I had an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of my heart. After that I had a Carotid ultrasound, an ultrasound of the arteries in my neck. It was after that that they strapped on the Holter monitor and told me to come back the next day to return it.
So what does all this mean? Nothing. The cardiologist already explained that losing so much weight, nearly 25% of my body, has made the workload much easier for my heart. Losing weight is also an easy way to lower your blood pressure.
But remember, low. My normal BP has always been right around 120 over 70 which is considered a low, healthy number. So now, it's really low, low enough to make me feel dizzy when I stand up. In all likelihood, my body just needs time to adapt to all this lowness.
So. Get healthy. Get fit. Your doctor needs to earn a living. Right now, I am supporting an entire medical team, mine and Speedy's.
Go, Team Speedy!
You know how you get all of those If you could choose one thing, what would it be lists on Facebook? The list usually includes things like choose $100,000 cash, have a dream house, or be taller. If I could really have any of those pie-in-the-sky dreams, I'd wish to be able to eat anything I wanted without ever gaining weight. Losing weight sucks. It's hard, and it's forever.
Last June, my husband and I were having a heart to heart. We were both discussing the other's health risks. There were things I wanted him to work on to ensure that he's with me for decades to come. He pointed out that he had a similar concern; my weight.
Every woman on the planet knows when she is four pounds heavier than she ought to be. She doesn't need it pointed out. So when she's 40 pounds past what she ought to weigh, it's on her mind every time she zips up her pants or reaches down to tie her shoes.
So when my husband ever so gently pointed out that my weight was likely to cause future health problems, I felt my temper rise. But then I paused, realizing that he was absolutely right. I was overweight, and I wasn't doing anything but gaining. In fact, I had tossed out all of my smaller clothes and was rapidly filling my closet with items that gave me room to grow.
Before the words were completely out of his mouth, I decided to do something about it. I got on the scale for the first time in a long while. In case you haven't noticed, I'm what you might call vertically challenged. I am only 5'3," so 5 or 10 pounds on my lighter frame look like 25 on a taller person. The scale read somewhere over 160 pounds. I was horrified.
One thing that was frustrating for me was that there wasn't anything that I could just give up and immediately start losing. I don't drink coffee or sodas, I haven't eaten fast food in nearly 20 years, and I cook from scratch. We don't microwave meals or eat food from the freezer section of the grocery store. I am also really active. I don't go to the gym, but I teach PE every day, and I ride nearly seven days a week.
And? I was still a chunky monkey. Eating healthy food and being active wasn't enough. I knew how much I wanted to weigh, but I knew there was no chance I'd ever get there. Instead I set a realistic goal. My very first goal was to get back to 159 pounds. It took about three weeks.
I got completely honest with myself. Yes, I was eating healthy, but I was eating a LOT of healthy. Instead of three eggs for breakfast, I reduced it to 1. Instead of a loaded sandwich with potato salad on the side, I bought low calorie bread and ate an apple on the side. I got used to being hungry.
On average, I lost 1 to 2 pounds per week. I increased the number and variety of vegetables I cooked. I started having vegetables for breakfast. When we ate out, I chose a lot of vegetarian options and fruit or vegies on the side instead of fries or other starches. And once I hit 149 pounds, it was on!
I ate nothing sweet, no deserts or breads (other than my 45 calorie diet bread), and my portions got a lot smaller. I didn't stop eating though. I ate (and still eat) a hard boiled egg and a yogurt for weekday breakfasts. I eat a measured out baggie of nuts during the morning recess. Lunch is typically a sandwich with an apple. In the afternoons, I scrounge for grape tomatoes, baby carrots, a hunk of last night's protein, or fruit. I eat a regular dinner, but it's a lot smaller than it used to be, and half of my plate is filled with vegetables.
Throughout the fall, 139 pounds became my goal. I never thought I'd be able to lose 20 pounds, yet I did. Losing 30 pounds suddenly seemed possible. The holidays were tough, but I slogged through and even continued to lose weight. I constantly reminded myself of how great being thin would feel. Eventually, my goal was to weigh 129 pounds by my birthday which was on January 3rd.
I met that goal, but it took making some lifestyle changes. The biggest one was that I quit drinking alcohol in late June. It's not that I ever drank to excess, but I had a few glasses of wine every single day, or margaritas, or some hard ciders, or a lemon drop. Initially, I stopped drinking to see if it would hep eliminate the migraines. It didn't, but I realized how many calories I could save each day by drinking water or herbal tea instead.
It put a bit of a damper on our social life as well. People go out for drinks and food. That's just what adults do. Suddenly, I was the one ordering water and a plate of Brussels sprouts. Actually, the Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts at Eureka Burger are only 190 calories, and they are to die for! We no longer went wine tasting or to the wine events at local restaurants.
The one thing I gave myself permission to eat almost as much of as I wanted were the juicy fruits. At first it was watermelon and grapes. Later it was peaches and nectarines. Through the winter it's been apples, pears, and oranges. When I am hungry, I allow myself to indulge in fruits, even if it's two apples at a time.
I have one final goal, and I am only 3 pounds away. I want to hit 123 so that I can fluctuate up to 125. I know when we go out on the weekend or go to a party, I am going to gain a pound or two. My husband constantly reminds me that it's okay to indulge every once in a while. Having a range has helped me in the past, and I know it will help me feel better about that occasional sweet or greasy snack.
I am sure that both of my horses appreciate carrying almost 40 pounds less than they were packing last summer. I know it has helped my riding as well. My stamina has returned, and my balance is better. I have way more energy, I sleep better, and I am much fitter.
Dieting and weight loss have to be a personal goal. Don't lose weight for someone else. You'll only grow resentful, and you won't be able to keep it off. While my husband might have planted the seed, I really wanted to lose the weight for myself.
I've just finished my second herbal tea of the day. As I head back to the kitchen to make another cup, wish me luck as I pass those deliciously tempting lemon/raspberry cheesecake bars my husband made. He's not on a diet. That's okay. He's still getting sautéd zoodles for dinner.
Each time I have a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, I ask what's the one thing that I really need to focus on. Knowing that my sitting trot still needs work, she (jokingly) suggested I ride without stirrups. Since I never do anything half-assed, I took her suggestion to heart and pulled my stirrups off my saddle.
Simply crossing them over Speedy's withers made it too easy to drop them back down. Yanking them off meant I had to tough it out, and I have. For several weeks I've been running through all of the movements at Second Level including the medium trot and counter canter without stirrups.
The two things I am focusing on are 1) letting my legs hang without gripping, and 2) resting on my seat bones. I can't say yet whether it's helping, but I figure it can't hurt.
As a fifth grade teacher, I am required by law to teach 100 minutes of P.E. each week. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we play a game. This week it's been Quarter Football - it's football without a ball! On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we run and exercise.
During yesterday's exercises, I was explaining, like I always do, why we need to be fit. And then because I couldn't help it, I showed the kids how each exercise helps me be a better rider.
Almost every exercise we do focuses on core strength and balance. Front and back flamingos are a perfect example. In the flamingo, you hold one leg up while trying to stand perfectly still as you count to ten.
One of their favorite exercises is standing on a tight rope. In this balance exercise, you place one foot directly in front of the other, bend your knees slightly, stretch your arms out for balance, and close your eyes. Then we count to ten. It is is MUCH harder than you'd think!
The butterfly stretch is a favorite of mine, especially if I've just had a hard rider or maybe done some bareback work.
The list of exercises varies from day to day; I let the kids pick. We also do curl-ups, planks, cherry pickers, trunk lifts (think of a seal raising it's neck), and a variety of arm stretches. I lead the exercises from the front, and do each one with the kids.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite P.E. days, but the kids prefer game day. If they all had ponies at home, think how much more fun P.E. would be. There would be no end to the riding exercises we could do!
If this isn't an over-done topic, I don't know what is. Every equestrian magazine in the world does a rider fitness article at least once a year, probably even more. It's an issue we all face and (I think) hate equally. Even so, here I go ...
My weight goes up and down every few years. It's not like I get really heavy, but I am definitely two sizes more than I'd like, and on a 5'3" frame, that means tubby. Carrying that extra weight is frustrating because both my husband and I already maintain a very healthy lifestyle. There's not a lot I can just cut out to easily drop five to ten pounds. We live an active lifestyle and eat really well: no fast food, no sodas, no coffee, I eat a healthy protein breakfast every day, I pack a lunch, and I cook dinner nightly.
The only way for me to drop some weight is to move more. Like everyone else, I already use all of the minutes in my twenty-four day. I leave for work around 6:00 a.m. and get home from the barn around 6:00 p.m. I cook dinner, spend an hour or two with my husband and the dogs, and then it's off to bed. That means that if I want to increase my exercise, I have to do it at 4:30 a.m. So that's what I am doing.
I got back on the treadmill in mid-January and have been slowly increasing my speed and distance. my goal is always to keep my average pace at 6 miles per hour, a 10-minute mile. In the beginning, I ran for 15 minutes, slowly bumping up my speed until I was running at least one 10-minute mile during the time frame.
I am now up to 2 miles in a shade under 20 minutes. I just reached that goal today (yesterday I did it in 20:15). Next week, I'll be running ten miles a week (I run five days a week). I know I am getting fitter, and I am definitely feeling stronger through my core, but the pounds aren't coming off. No matter what the scale says, I am certain my horses appreciate a fitter rider.
Do you have a fitness routine that is outside of the barn? Gym? Home? Walk the dog? Just don't tell me it's running 20 miles a week - thinking about the 10 is already depressing!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read