Hey SuperChicks!

This is my second and last health and fitness update from Australia as my time here is already coming to an end and I now travel on to New Zealand. As Australia is known for it’s great outdoor sports, this entry will be mainly about riding and about my two experiences of completely different types of riding.

The best part about trying out new outdoor sports for exercise is that it’s so darn fun that by the time you check your watch you’ve already been exercising for two hours, and you don’t want to quit! Usually when I go to the gym or for a run I want to be done before I’ve even been going for two minutes as I know exactly what comes after 5min, 10min, 15min etc.!

After seeing some guys riding waves offshore I thought it looked like good fun, and I’ll give surfing a go. I mean, how hard can it possibly be? Paddling a bit through the water, finding your balance, stand up at the right time and this all whilst being surrounded by some tanned Aussie blokes who show off their six packs? Well, this was my initial thought and I was ready to find out. My first surfing lesson was going to be in Byron Bay, the Surfing Mecca of Australia. The course I booked promised me to stand up for 40metres or I would get my money back. With my group I was taken to a river inlet and after some basic instructions I soon found my balance on the board and soon was riding a wave for over 40m. Ha! What a success!!! Though, I had to admit, that paddling back out into the water from the shore was more tiring then I first thought it would be. It was definitely taking it’s toll on my shoulders and the next day I was experiencing some muscle stiffness in my rotator cuffs as well as my ribs which felt a bit sore from constantly hopping onto the board and paddle back out. But all in all I thought I mastered it quite well and was ready for more and bigger waves.

Next surfing stop was further up North on the East coast, a place called Noosa. Unfortunately the “surfing” in Byron Bay didn’t prepare me in the slightest to what was expecting me in Noosa. The “board” they gave me in Byron Bay more resembled a boat compared to the one in Noosa (and it was still bigger than me). The 30cm “waves” in Byron Bay at the river inlet were nice and gentle. The up-to 2m high waves at the beach of Noosa were hard, constant and unforgiving. Several times I was “ready” to take the wave but it turned out the wave rather more took me… Board high up in the air, Gaby upside down and the wave crashing with all its force over me. Several wipe-outs later, after gulping far too much seawater and having had my sinuses unwillingly syringed several times, I had to admit, that: YES, IT IS HARD!!! All those blokes who make it look so easy were probably born on a surf board! Oh how I envied them at the time! But still, it was good fun and after “surfing” for 4 hours I slept like the dead!

Now, what are the health benefits of surfing, once you master it? It improves the general fitness, develops muscles (mainly shoulders, arms and core) and is also a cardiovascular conditioning. Being in the seawater brings along the great side effect of skin care and acne prevention. So if you have the possibility to try out surfing, give it a go, it can only benefit you! Though, I would recommend you to try it out somewhere warm as, if you are like me, you surely will be a lot more in the water than on the board in the beginning.

After the rude awakening of riding a wave, I turned to horseback riding. Before moving to London I was a passionate rider for over 20 years and I can probably speak for many riders that it’s every riders dream to canter along a deserted beach. I always experienced riding not only as a good outdoor sport in the fresh air but also as a good way to relax and escape a busy lifestyle. There is a real sense of exhalation and freedom when you ride, a feeling that is second to none. Furthermore, developing a relationship and sense of trust between yourself and your horse is highly rewarding. It’s a sport that anybody can learn and do, no matter what age you are or abilities you have.

A prejudgement that riders often have to fight is that it’s not a “proper” sport as the horse is doing all the walking. This can easily be proven wrong as the most evident contribution to horse riding in keeping one physically fit comes through muscles and joints. A regular rider develops a more flexible and well-toned musculature in response to the horse’s movements. This effect is more pronounced in leg muscles, up to thighs, though the entire body receives the benefit. For people with underdeveloped muscles and those with tense musculature, horse riding is the most natural and enjoyable therapy. After your first ride you may feel muscles that you never knew you had.

Another attraction of horse riding is the improvement and command in balance and movement that horse riders generally enjoy. Through the horse’s movements and the contact of the rider’s body through the hips, every step of the horse moves the rider automatically to the best achievable natural balance. After good practice of horse riding over time, the rider attains a greater degree and range of balanced movements.

Some recent studies on the health benefits of horse riding have found that horse riding not only improves general physical condition and helps in relaxation, but even contributes to treating psychological problems. That is why horse riding is now used as a physical therapy for different health conditions such as Down Syndrome and Autism.

You can imagine that riding along the beach for two hours helped my bruised ego to recover well. Who knows, maybe trying to surf and then riding a horse might be the answer to learn, how to ride that wave!
So long, hope you all stay well and enjoy the spring time!

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