Getting Back in the Saddle?
It’s time for a pre-season reminder about fitness for those of you that have had a break from polo over the winter. Starting with some exercise, rather than jumping straight back on a pony, will mean a lot less pain.
Polo fitness is important for everyone, no matter what handicap or experience level you are. Any player from a 10 goaler to a brand new player can benefit from simple fitness routines and stretching regimes. The following advice applies to those coming back from a long break or season off, as well as those just starting out in polo.
It is very common for people to underestimate the physicality of polo, often believing that the horses are doing all the work while we just sit on top swinging sticks around. However, this myth is quickly dispelled after just one lesson. People unaccustomed to riding and polo will more than likely feel stiff and sore the next day (not to mention the day after that!) This is because polo requires us to use very specific muscle groups that are rarely engaged in any other activity. Aching muscles in the inner thighs and lower back will have you walking like a cowboy for several days after, and pain in the hands and wrists is also common.
In some cases this can be enough to put people off the sport and stop progression in its tracks. This is the worst thing that can happen, especially as acute and serious pain can be easily avoided.
Top tips for preparing for your first lesson, stick and ball session or chukkas, whether it is your first ever or your first in a long time:
- Don’t underestimate how tiring it can be. Make sure that you are going into any polo stimulus with sport in mind. There’s no use turning up exhausted, hungover or ill.
- Pace yourself and don’t start off all guns blazing only to tire halfway through complaining of aching arms and sore legs.
- Your grip and carriage of the stick is vital. Many people new to polo are prone to gripping the mallet too hard, holding it aloft when riding around and wasting energy through bad technique. This will tire you more quickly. Listen to your instructor as they can help you to not only improve your polo but will also help you to improve your energy output efficiency and save you any pain in your hands, wrists and elbows.
- Stretch afterwards. This is the number one piece of advice to all players. Stretch out your calves, hamstrings, groin muscles, lower back, shoulders and arms after playing and your future self will thank you!
- Don’t be in a rush to head off straight away. Getting straight into the car can be one of the worst things you can do for your body after polo as it will allow time for joints to stiffen. Take just 5-10 minutes to grab some water and cool down, go for a walk or a jog and allow your body to recover before parcelling it into a car.
So these are just some really simple top tips to get your summer season started.