Training Hard Six Days a Week: Why It’s Not Healthy or Balanced

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by Laura Killian

When I was 5 years old, my mother took me to the doctor’s office because I was covered in bruises. As we waited, I proceeded to climb on and leap off the examination table over and over again. Fortunately the doctor said, “She is a very active child. Sign her up for some sports to burn off that extra energy.” So that is exactly what my parents did for me. I wanted to try everything! They signed me up for dance, baton twirling, gymnastics, tennis, cheerleading, acting classes, pageants, singing and piano lessons and of course horseback riding. They thought I would pick my favorite, but I wanted to do it all!

Cheering - Laura

I narrowed the list down slightly to baton, dance, lifting, a little gymnastics, and a lot of riding by the time I entered high school. I was constantly on the go and I couldn’t image life any other way. My after school activities went from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. every day of the week and I often had weekend competitions. I fueled my body with whatever snacks I could eat fastest in the car as we rushed from one event to the next. When I was home I opened all the cabinets and grabbed a bite of everything that looked appealing, often satisfying my sweet-tooth. As a super active kid, my unregulated diet had little effect on my overall health. [2010]

In college, I kept the same pace, if not a faster one. I found ways to ride horses daily, lifted weights, was on the judo team, skied when possible and danced occasionally. I went to Penn State University, which is known for its famous creamery ice cream (available to students at every meal in the dining commons). The only way I could keep my eyes open while studying was by shoveling junk food into my mouth as I turned my textbook pages. Once again, timing was of the essence so my first choice for food was whatever I could shove into my mouth before running out the door. Despite my poor nutrition, my body was still kind to me and my heavy training schedule. [2013]

Laura - kicking butt

After college, I went to Wellington, Florida, to see what the ‘winter season’ was all about. Living on my own, I began to do a better job at filling my fridge with healthy options. My training stayed intense, typically riding multiple horses a day and lifting 5 days a week. At the end of season, I was offered a working student position that would open up countless opportunities to pursue my equestrian dreams. I couldn’t turn down such a fantastic offer to fast track my riding career, but that also led to a lot of stress and changes in my personal life. I worked for my dressage trainer from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., 6 days a week. On my “day off” I would train my own horses and clients. Every evening I would go straight to the gym to lift, then run a few miles (I had decided to start training for a half marathon), do 2 hours of jiu-jitsu practice, and finish my night riding my personal horses under the moonlight. I’d get home, shower, crash into my bed, the repeat the process a few hours later.

I had myself convinced that everything in my life was fine. I was a super athlete. I could handle everything. I had it all under control. But I wasn’t okay. I was over training in hopes that I would be too tired to think about the things in my personal life that were really bothering me. When I was sweating, I wasn’t thinking. When I stopped, I was a mental wreck. And to top it all off, I most certainly was not providing my body with enough fuel for all that I was demanding of it. I lost 10 pounds and really looked great on the outside, but I was just trying to mask the real issues going on inside. [2014]

Laura -

Now, my life has reached what feels like a perfect balance. I honestly can’t imagine being much happier. And to match those positive vibes, I have fine-tuned my nutrition and training for an even healthier lifestyle. I train six (or more) horses a day, lift approximately 3 times a week currently, including one intense leg day with a personal trainer, and mix in some running, biking and dancing with friends for cardio. My personal goal is to be more diligent with my lifting, add another leg day to the mix, complete a few half marathons this fall and be more consistent fueling my body with the nutrients it needs to train at the intense level I thrive on, because to this day, I still don’t sit still well. [2016]


Laura Killian

Grand Prix dressage rider who has earned her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. She operates her business, Laura Ashey Dressage, in Wellington Florida year-round. In addition to riding, Laura enjoys staying active lifting weights, running, training judo and jiu-jitsu, dancing, twirling baton and trying new and adventurous outdoor activities.

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