June 2, 2009

When I mentioned to my trainer, Lauren Kern from Equinox, that I was going to try horseback riding, she added a few new moves to my toning routine. Strengthening the body parts I'll be using, she explained, will boost my performance and help me avoid injury. Here are three ways I'm gearing up to become a better cowgirl. As a bonus, they tone your abs and legs, so they're worth trying even if you aren't planning on getting into a saddle anytime soon. (Do 2 sets of 10 reps each.)

1. Rollback crunches Sit on one end of a bench and hook your heels around the legs for stability. Going vertebrae by vertebrae, slowly lower your upper body down toward the bench, going as low as you can without straining, and then raise back up. This move strengthens the core and improves your posture, making it easier to stay upright in the saddle.

2. Calf raises Stand with the ball of your feet on the edge of a step and lower your heels toward the ground, then rise up onto your toes. This move improves your flexibility so you can keep your heels down while riding-and your feet from slipping out of the stirrups.

3. Hip adduction Sit on the edge of a chair and squeeze a medicine ball between your knees as hard as you can for a count of 10. Strong inner thigh muscles are very useful for staying on the horse!