Fitness, or being fit are phrases we hear on almost a daily basis in the media but do we really understand what to be ‘fit’ means and how this can improve not only our ability to perform in the saddle but our general health and wellbeing.
Fitness is defined as ‘the ability to meet the demands of the environment’. The key part of this definition is ‘demands of the environment’. When Sport Scientists start to work with an athlete they first complete a needs analysis. This is something widely used in business but in this context means establishing what the sport involves.
For example, if you were working with a show jumper you would ask yourself a number of questions and research the answers through academic research papers (if possible) to get the most accurate answers. These would include:
How long is a show jumping round?
How often does an equestrian athlete compete in a show jumping competition?
What is the average and peak heart rate of the equestrian athlete during a competition round?
Do athletes have to complete a number of show jumping rounds per competition?
By gathering this basic information, you equip yourself with a greater understanding of the ‘demands of the environment’ and create a description of what the sporting demands are as shown in the picture below.
In understanding the demands the athlete faces when they complete a show jumping round you can start to decide what the most important components of fitness are and therefore select the appropriate types of training to target these areas. All of this training should culminate in the athlete being ‘fit’ to compete in their chosen discipline.
In What is ‘Fitness’ – Part 2 we will investigate what the components of fitness are and how these relate to equestrian sporting performance.