CHAT WITH CHUKKA WELLNESS
To highlight the importance of being fit and healthy for polo, Chukka Wellness asked the next generation of top polo players how they use fitness and nutrition to improve their athletic performance. Not only this but they were asked how they prepare for big games, how they recover post game and their thoughts on health in general in the world of polo.
This month we spoke to Emma Boers, a British player with a handicap of 5 in ladies. Last year Emma suffered from a major back injury but has been slowly working her way back up to peak fitness ready for the 2020 season.
Handicap: 5 (Ladies) 1. How do you prepare physically and mentally for the polo season and big tournaments?
During the Off Season if I am not playing, I focus on doing more gym work and building up my strength, fitness and muscle so I go into the season as strong and fit as possible. Getting ready for big tournaments, I play practices, a lot of Stick + Balling concentrating on my weaker shots, and making sure my horses are feeling good and ready to perform at their best. The horses are key in my eyes. I also love to watch polo games on TV, study and try learn from them too. 2. Do you have a specific gym routine you follow?
In the season 2019, I had surgery on my spine. Since then I have been working with an amazing trainer/coach called Kriss Hendy from ‘Strength for Endurance’. I follow a program, focusing on strength and conditioning, mainly building up my glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and my core. I train 2-3x week and do a couple of swimming sessions. I can really notice the difference now when I play, I’ve never felt so strong physically and mentally In the saddle. Touch wood 2020 will be an injury/operation free year. 3. Is nutrition an important element to your preparations for big tournaments? Nutrition plays an integral part of my preparation, understanding what my body needs based on my playing and general activity for that day is crucial to ensure that I can play consistently throughout. During tournaments, I focus on hydration and providing my body with a mix of complex carbs and fuel every few hours to prevent blood sugar fluctuations that not only impact my energy levels but also my concentration. I usually go for porridge with peanut butter and fruit, or a chicken sandwich or cereal bars etc. I always recover as soon as possible to help the recovery and repair process- this is usually a protein shake made with milk, followed by a balanced meal of protein/carbs and veg when I get home along with a couple creme eggs. 4. What does your post game routine involve?
Post Game routine involves stretching! I used to underestimate stretching, but since my back operation, if I don’t stretch post game, the next day I definitely pay for it. If I don’t have a game in the next 24 hours after playing, I always go swimming, it’s so great for my back, mind and body. Nutrition Wise, I also make sure I recover with a combination of carbohydrate + protein to help my muscles recover and repair, either a milkshake, a protein bar or a protein shake. I reflect on each game by writing down the good points and bad points, it’s healthy to balance them out. I always learn from each game, it puts me into focus for my next game and what I’m going to aim/focus towards doing. I’m pretty determined and hungry to always learn from my mistakes and try to play better every game. I’ll never improve otherwise.
5. Do you think fitness is an essential part to becoming a better polo player? If so, how would you suggest they kickstart their polo fitness regime?
Fitness is definitely an essential part to becoming a better and stronger player. They come side by side fitness and polo. When you’re out on the field playing, and you feel strong, fit, sharp and confident, your game improves naturally. I would suggest to focus on your general riding fitness, try and aim to include some strength + conditioning exercises in the gym, Pilates, and don’t be afraid to lift some weights, they’re not just for the guys. 6. There is a big focus on health & fitness at high goal level, do you think it should be introduced into medium and low goal too and why? What do you think is the best way to do this?
Health + Fitness should absolutely be introduced more into the lower and medium goal. It should be taken seriously and as professional as the higher goal where possible. A few teams have trainers and perform warm ups pre-game which adds an element of professionalism that I truly believe motivates you’re team before the game has even started. Whether your 0 goals or 10, we are all trying and pushing ourselves to the absolute maximum out on the field, using energy, mentally and physically. Polo players are athletes, I really believe we have to look after ourselves and train the best we can to help perform to our max strengths. We may not all have trainers before our games, but performing your own warm up pre game and getting your team mates involved also is a great start! 7. What's the best bit of advice you could give beginner players?
My best bit of advice for beginner players is to take as many lessons as you possibly can, practice where possible, whether that’s with a hand-stick, stick and balling, even watching games and studying them, never ever stop asking questions, listen, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Most of all, make sure your having lots of fun!