Winston Squires is fitness instructor and trainer to the England polo squad. For ten years he has managed the exercise programmes of the players, working to reduce injuries by keeping the player’s bodies at a good level of physical fitness.
Here he outlines what polo players should be looking to do in the off-season.
Exercises in the off-season
Polo players basically do cross-training work over the winter. It could be as simple as a brisk walk, but also cycling, swimming, yoga and pilates. I strongly encourage those last two activities.
Although the horse does a lot of the work, polo is still a strenuous sport for the player – it’s more challenging than people realize. When you think about the speed of the horse and the ride offs that all need to be controlled, you start to appreciate the strength needed. You’ve got to have a strong body to cope with those collisions. Think of people like Max Charlton, James Beim or the Tomlinson brothers, Luke and Mark. They are probably doing 100 games a season. You need to have a pretty strong body to be able to do that. The stronger the core, the more strength and conditioning, the less injuries in general.
How polo players compare with other sports
Polo players are probably in the top 10 sports for endurance. If you take a polo player off a horse, the top level players would make good golfers because of the hand-eye coordination, and also good squash players. Endurance wise, they’d be good at running 10km.
Weekend players should keep active
Over the winter months, the 0 goal players and weekend players can prevent injury by keeping active. That’s the key. Too many players start the season having done nothing, and that’s when you get injured. At this level, it’s a slow process to get this kind of change in the mentality in polo. Polo has always been a very social sport. But I advise all players to stay fit in the off-season.
There are so many injuries to players who start the season without having stayed in good shape, or stayed flexible. So, for the average player, make sure you do cardio work, small mini-circuits, squats, sit-ups, the plank, 30 minutes three times a week. Just a simple work out at home will keep you trim. But challenge yourself when you are doing it. Many polo people don’t like the gym. If you don’t, swim twice a week or play racketball, squash, or indoor tennis.
Core at the heart
Polo players need posture, core, and flexibility; they need to maintain that as a fundamental. Strength-work and weights are the foundation, but what I’m looking at is strengthening the cores of these polo players and educating them on the fundamentals of core training. Most high goal players have trainers now and, like all sportsmen, have to work on the strength of all parts of their body.
Winston’s winter work-out
Keep it very simple. The plank, press-ups, sit-ups and mini circuits are key; 30-minutes-a-day workout, three times a week. That will keep you fit over the winter months. Most polo players don’t like the gym but, if that’s the case, go and play some racketball or swim. That will increase your cardio. Do it! You won’t regret it.