Fitness tips from a rodeo champ

Making it to the top at the Calgary Stampede isn’t just about knowing how to ride a horse. Get yourself in Stampede-worthy shape with these fitness tips from rodeo champ, Tammy Fischer

Fitness tips from a rodeo champ

Source: Web exclusive, July 2010; WPRA photo by Mike Copeman

When it comes to barrel racing, timing is everything’just ask Tammy Fischer. The record-breaking rodeo champion beat out her closest competitor by a mere fraction of a second at the 2009 Calgary Stampede. When Fischer competes again at this year’s event (July 9 to 18), she plans to win’and being in the best physical shape of her life will certainly help get her there. Here are a few of the fitness tips that have helped to get Fischer where she is today.

Tip: Evaluate your lifestyle

While Fischer, 41, is one the highest-rated in barrel racing’a rodeo event that requires horse and rider to circle three barrels in a clover-leaf pattern’she hadn’t actually seen the inside of a gym until 2007. ‘I didn’t think I needed to work out,’ she says from her home in Ledbetter, Texas. ‘When I first graduated from college, all I ever did for exercise was ride horses. But once you do something for so long, the muscles that you use get used to it and the rest of your body suffers as a result.‘ This revelation, combined with an unwanted 15 pounds that she had gained with age, pushed Fischer to start taking her health more seriously.

Tip: Consider a personal trainer

Twice a week, Fischer works out with personal trainer Alex Selvera, who focuses on core strength and balance’two essentials for horseback riding. ‘We throw medicine balls back and forth, often with me standing on a BOSU ball’ she says. ‘We’ll do crunches, sit-ups, pull-ups, weights. As soon as I get used to an exercise, he’ll change it up.’ Another two days a week, Fischer hits the gym on her own for cardio work, which ranges from walking on the treadmill to rowing. ‘When it’s timed to the one hundredth of a second in a barrel race, weight is a factor. Your horse is carrying your weight,’ she explains. ‘Lots of people think it’s just based on the horse with rodeo, but it’s not. You have to balance your weight and move with your horse so that you can stay out of his way, so that he can do his job better.’ Fischer has dropped 10 pounds since she started training with Selvera and, she says, has seen a huge improvement in her endurance‘both on and off the horse. A 45-minute treadmill session, for example, now consists of alternating two minutes of walking with two minutes of running whereas it used to be five minutes of walking for every one minute of running. (Fischer is quick to point out the amount of intense cardio involved in barrel racing, although the race will often last for just 17 or 18 seconds.)

Tip: Sneak more exercise into your daily activities

‘I’m competing against much younger girls right now,’ admits Fischer, who’s a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. ‘A lot of them are right out of college or high school and they have the benefit of youth. So it means I have to work a little harder.’ Most of these competitors stay in shape simply by caring for their horses‘kind of like those moms who have awesome arm definition because they carry around their kids all day long. But no matter their age, these women spend a minimum of nine hours a day looking after their horses, which can be physically gruelling work.

‘I have 19 horses at my house,’ says Fischer, who’s been riding since age two and also trains other peoples’ horses on the side. She rides eight to ten of her own horses each day, which means that she’s riding for a minimum of six hours on a daily basis (a routine that burns around 1500 calories‘the equivalent of about three hours of intense mountain biking, which also requires extreme core work and balance). Then there’s the hour, three times a day, where the horses need to be fed, walked and groomed (many of the animals also have regular massage and acupuncture). ‘My life revolves around the horses’ schedule,’ Fischer says.

Tip: Eat healthy to feel healthy

Fischer spends up to eight months of the year on the road (these days, she brings her baby with her and her mother along to help), which means a lot of time sitting in a car. In a previous life, this involved frequent trips to McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Today, Fischer is complementing her new workout regime with a healthier diet‘replacing a Big Mac and fries, for instance, with a salad loaded with vegetables and protein that she can prepare in her RV. ‘I can definitely see a change in my body,’ says Fischer. ‘I have more energy and I just feel better.’

Tip: Adopt a winning attitude

Determination helps, too. ‘I want to win," says Fischer. "I don’t care if I’m playing Monopoly or running barrels’whatever it takes for me to win, that’s what I’ll do.’

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