I heard a great phrase over the weekend “your body is a car for your mind to drive around in” It was actually said in kids cartoon Kipo & the wonder beasts but let’s not dwell on why I was watching that as clearly they are very wise beasts.
It got me thinking about how much our brain affects our body.
I think we all already know how being tense or nervous affects our riding.
How does being mentally tired affect it?
Feeling like you aren’t good enough?
I’m sure if you think about this you’ll notice your body reacts differently depending on your mental state.
So, our mind has a huge impact on our performance.
However it also goes deeper than that.
The brain links to the entire nervous system, so (and this a very brief & unscientific description) is a key part of how your body responds to and manages pain. We all know fellow riders who in any other area of life would be absolute write offs, probably bed bound with all their injuries yet they crack on mucking out, riding etc. Their mind is so strongly focused on the horse stuff that they just don’t focus on the pain they may be in. NB. These are my favourite kind of people to work with.
Then when you feel mentally exhausted or stressed your body does too. It can be a struggle to even lift your limbs sometimes when you’re mentally drained.
It can also affect your gut. There is increasing research into the gut-brain axis and how mental health can affect your gut. “Gut feeling really is a thing”.
So, there are various different ways our mind can affect our body.
Yet I know so many of us use riding as a form of stress relief, a way to switch off etc. Which is great as of course we know it really is great therapy.
But, how do we keep improving or riding at our best when our mind is not necessarily in the game.
We need a system or routine that hel us switch into riding focus. It doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated, in fact it needs to be a basic and easy as possible so that it’s totally doable on even the most stressful days.
Mine is something like this.
I do a warm up off horse , nothing fancy or complicated just a few torso rotations and hip mobilisations or whatever my body feels like it needs that day. Then I like to do a little body check in when I first get on. Just as I’m walking around I just let Jamie bimble around whilst I take some deep breaths, check into how I’m sat, realign if I need to, maybe think about activating some bits that feel asleep and generally just see how my body feels and then focus on what we’re going to work on today. This helps me to get my mind focusing on the ride without really forcing the issue.
Do you have a pre ride routine to help you get in the right frame of mind?
Do you struggle to stop your mind affecting your riding?