As we enter into the winter months, interest in outdoor sports is dwindling as fans and spectators cosy up inside to catch a glimpse of their favourite athletes on television instead.
For one particular brand of sportsman however, now is the time to be getting fit and prepared for the upcoming months. With the likes of the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National just a few months away, jockeys all around the nation are doing their best to make sure they are in peak physical fitness for the events.
Contrary to popular belief, being a jockey actually requires a huge amount of mental and physical training. After all, the practice does indeed involve having to control around half a tonne of brute strength while travelling at 40mph. Jockey training hasn’t always been the way it is today; in fact, flat racing jockey Martin Lane says: “Fitness has changed massively from the days when jockeys were just turning up at the races and drinking.”
So how has the process changed? For one, the tests required in order for one to become a jockey are far more stringent.
Over here in Newmarket, home to the famed Newmarket Racecourse, the British Racing School puts budding jockeys through a gruelling fitness process which puts them on course to getting their licence.
Richard Perham, who runs the school, puts jockeys through a ‘boot camp’ which involves focusing on the legs, lower body and core, though it is also noted that upper body strength is hugely important.
There’s no room for any wobbly bits either – with most jockeys weighing an average of 53kg, (8 stone 4 lb) jockeys are some of the most incredibly toned athletes you’ll find out there. “If you looked at a jockey without clothes on, there aren’t many who have an ounce of fat underneath the skin,” says Perham.
This doesn’t come easily however – the boot camp sessions start at 5:30 in the mornings, six days a week. Add that to two and a half hours’ riding, plus an additional 150 miles of riding per week.
Eating is not easy task either. In peak season, many jockeys stick to just one meal a day, which can be as little as 500 calories, to ensure that their weight is low enough to be entered into a race. However, diets are balanced, and a typical meal can range from Mexican rice and beans to Chinese noodles.
Indeed, being a jockey is more of a lifestyle than simply an exercise regime and diet plan, but for those who want to improve their fitness, the lifestyle is certainly a good place to start.
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