Rider Fitness // With Lucy Olphert

Rider Fitness // With Lucy Olphert

Lucy Olphert is unashamedly passionate when it comes to a holistic approach to her life. The rider who recently took out the $100,000 VISA MX Classic in Mexico works closely with sports science, health and technology practitioners from the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance to ensure her body is strong both physically and mentally, and in tip top shape to pursue her goals…

“Performance is made up of many components and time in the saddle is just one of them,” says the Tauranga based rider. “I learned that the hard way 10 years ago when my own body broke down. I was 21 and the physio told me I had the back of an 81-year-old. While I was riding fit, certain muscles were compensating for others, causing multiple imbalances.”

Her approach to her riding gives a slight insight into what drives Lucy. Equestrian is her world, but her focus is not just herself and her horses. She is the co-founder of the Global Amateur Tour which gives amateur showjumpers worldwide the opportunity to experience all the excitement, adrenaline and professionalism of competing internationally. She is a passionate coach and also a guide for Achilles International, a foundation that empowers people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events in order to promote the aspects of health, fitness and personal achievement.

“These are all close to my heart as I believe in the most intricate nature that equestrian is a team sport and it is only fair to your equine teammate that you, the rider, are also in peak condition,” she says.

Her own journey has been a rocky one but solid throughout have always been her mum Lin, a keen lifelong equestrienne who introduced Lucy to riding as a three-year-old, and her late father Jeremy who was hugely supportive of his children but also the sport of showjumping in many ways.

Lucy dabbled in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines before zoning in on showjumping after tasting her first international event – the FEI Children’s World Final in Brazil in 2002. “I was lucky enough to have a great team of ponies which took me all around the New Zealand circuit,” she says. It was a long-held dream to turn pro, so at 18 Lucy headed to Europe where she spent the next three years training and competing alongside some of the world’s best showjumping riders and trainers. “It was an incredible learning and taught me so much,” she said.

While in the throes of establishing her business, she received a scholarship opportunity from the University of Waikato. “I have always been passionate in the areas of sports and communications, so decided to do both.” Lucy graduated in 2014 with a degree in sport and exercise science, majoring in sport and public relations. Between her time in Europe and university, she accumulated valuable skills that enabled her to pursue her lifelong dream of creating Lucy Olphert Showjumping.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she says. “As with the set-up of any new business, it takes time and the ability to believe in the long-term vision. There have been several major setbacks along the way including the unexpected passing of my dad in 2015 and a career-ending injury to one of my most exciting up-and-coming showjumpers the following year.”

True to form, Lucy turned each challenge into an opportunity. “It is often during the difficult days that you become aware of your greatest strengths,” she says. “I am incredibly stubborn and somewhat resilient I guess because I refuse to give up on my goals!”

Lucy’s 5 top exercise tips . . .

  1. Cross training is the key to creating a strong and balanced body. This can be achieved through a programme consisting of cardio, resistance, core and balance/proprioceptive exercises. If you are sceptical, just look to athletes from other sports – rowers don’t just row and rugby players don’t just play rugby.
  2. Work out with a friend. If you find it hard to get or stay motivated, try doing it with someone who will keep you accountable.
  3. Include variety. I am a total nature geek so prefer to do my cardio outside somewhere beautiful.
  4. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and to not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. These practices light up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we are mindlessly running on autopilot and can help us increase our ability to regulate emotions, and decrease stress, anxiety and depression.
  5. Stretch, stretch, stretch. Do dynamic (moving) based stretches such as walking lunges, arm circles, leg swings and torso twists at the start of a session to increase mobility. Do static (still) based stretches upon completion of exercise.