CHAT WITH CHUKKA WELLNESS
To highlight the necessity to stay fit for polo, Chukka Wellness interviewed a mixture of successful international polo players. Their top nutrition and fitness secrets were revealed along with how they prepared mentally and physically for a big tournament and how they recovered and reflected after games.
This month we spoke to Rebecca Walters a British player based in Midhurst, West Sussex with a ladies handicap of 6 Goals. Rebecca has been playing polo for 10 years and has just spent the season in Thailand working at King Power. She also is a huge supporter of women’s polo and is a leading ambassador for The Ladies Polo Foundation.
We caught up with Rebecca and asked her to reveal her secrets on staying fit and healthy.
1. How do you prepare physically and mentally for the polo season and big tournaments?
- For me, the polo season seems to be all year round now which is great! However, I definitely physically push my training before big tournaments. I like to hit the gym and do a lot of anaerobic training. I will also incorporate resistance training, using bands, small weights with high reps, endurance training my muscles. Mentally, I have found that having a close positive group of friends is important as well as making time for myself to unwind so I can also fully focus at the right times. Also taking my diet seriously too as foods and beauty products can affect your physical and mental health more than you think.
2. Do you have a specific gym routine you follow?
- I always warm up 15 minutes on the bike or x trainer if I can. Activating my muscles and also focusing my brain for my work out. I like to do circuits in the gym, I will focus on what I need to improve or strengthen at that time. If that’s core I will put out a lot of stations which work on rotation and endurance for my abs and obliques. Then I will also work on my leg strength, doing light weighted squats and maybe some machines to improve riding grip. I also suffer from a weak lower back and hip flexor tightness so need to strengthen that using dorsal raises and clam leg raises. I have strong arms but tend to get a tight shoulder and pecs, so actually focusing on loosening those up to ensure I have flexibility through my swing is important. I always finish with a yoga session, stretching myself and resting my mind.
3. Is nutrition an important element to your preparations for big tournaments?
- Food is so important to me, I love my food however when I play I make sure I’m not over eating. I can sometimes make myself lethargic and not function properly before a game if I eat too much. I will always have a morning coffee and Berroca, a good brunch on game days and then nothing until I finish a game. I do really believe in listening to your body and what it’s asking from you. What makes you feel comfortable as a person...you have to work it out for yourself, everyone is different. Plenty of water!!!
4. What does your post game routine involve?
- recovery after a game for me is pretty simple, I always stretch whilst thinking about what I could have done better. I don’t dwell on a game too long, I will celebrate the good and reflect and build on the bad and then move on. I am very tall and need to keep myself supple and loosen muscles after exercise. A polo game can make you very tense and if you’ve got to drive after a game you can seize up very easily...that’s when injuries happen. Post game I am always starving, I make sure I get the right nutrients in to help my muscles recover and plenty of water and electrolytes. If I’ve had a bump or two, I try to ice it, or if I can, take and ice bath even better. Lots of sleep is important too!
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?
- polo is still in its infancy with regards to becoming a REAL professional sport. As a professional you should have a good basic level of fitness, understanding of nutrition and personal management style that is setting a good example for other players and patrons. Kick starting your regime, I advise getting someone who knows polo and your requirements. Don’t go to your local gym, see a coach like India who can give you specific training techniques which you can take with you anywhere.
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?
- I don’t see why not! I also think that people of all levels need good fitness. Horses are trained and kept fit to play, the same should go for all players. All too often we see horses being pulled around in the hands of a tired player who has no muscle endurance.
7. What's the best bit of advice you could give beginner players?
- Beginners, go and have riding lessons on polo ponies! Leave the mallet, the better rider you are the quicker you’ll climb the handicap ladder. Challenge yourself and try to understand horses. Learn their body language, then the “conversation” on the field will be much easier!