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Exercise – Jockeys can Win on the Run

Jockeys are probably the last athletes to be embraced by sports science. Like in boxing, jockeys are in a weight making sport. But unlike boxing, where weigh-in might be 24 hours before the occasional event, jockeys have to weight in and out often several times a day right throughout the year. That’s pressure.

Add to that, over the past 30 years, the average weight increase in the weight of trainees entering the Racing Academy and Centre for Education (RACE) has risen 47% whilst the minimum weights for flats jockeys in Ireland has only increased by 10% over the same time period. When you see this mismatch it is easy to see where today’s jockeys face pressure,” says Dr Giles Warrington.

Having to severely restrict diet to make weight puts jockeys at risk of suffering dehydration, becoming underweight, developing osteoporosis and facing a temporary decline in cognitive function.  Sports science has done a lot to address these needs. In previous articles I have covered the need for a balanced diet to be a successful, healthy jockey. Nutrition is only one side of the coin of being a successful jockey – exercise is the inevitable second. These two are delicately interlinked.

You can’t exercise well if you haven’t eaten properly in days. You can’t build the muscle your body needs to prevent serious injuries and falls if you haven’t eaten your protein, nor increase your bone density if you are neither eating calcium rich foods nor exercising your muscles to show your bones where to put the stuff.

Dr Giles Warrington and Dr Graeme Close both emphasise the need for jockeys to consider themselves as athletes, not just their horses. Both report issues with perception of exercise: jockeys tend to fear that exercise will make them put on too much muscle which will lead to an increase in weight.

If this is your thinking I would like you to google an image of Mo Farrah now, please. Done? This guy is the current 10,000 metres Olympic and World champion and 5000 metres Olympic, World and European champion. He runs 120 miles per week (and I am sure he eats his dinner, too). Tell me, how much excess muscle do you see on him?

Both, Giles Warrington and Graeme Close, recommend running as a perfect exercise for jockeys. It burns up calories, promotes lean muscle mass and also improves bone density. Why does running promote bone density? Your bones will not take calcium up unless their muscles are exercised by weight bearing, i.e. running. Now, unless you are changing careers and have decided to hang up the whip I do not recommend you run 120 miles per week. But three 30-45 minute easy runs per week is more like it.

As you are burning energy during and up to 24 hours after exercise following at least 30 minutes at elevated heart rate, running will also give you a greater nutritional window for packing in more nutrient dense food. As a jockey, it is vital that you consider not only your next win but crucially also your bone density, fitness level and metabolic health. That’s where winning form comes from.

  • Tags:
  • Horses
  • Healthy Jockey
  • Jockey Training
  • Performance Nutrition