Splitting her time between studying at Auburn University and making a name for herself in the amateur rankings, Taylor St. Jacques has a lot on her plate. Although she's busy in and out of the saddle, this recent National Collegiate Equestrian Association Champion (NCEA) prioritizes her self-care, especially when it comes to putting in work at the gym.
Taylor’s fitness trainer, Mike Barthélemy, makes the argument, “We spend a lot of time on our horses, so why not spend time on yourself, too?” Fair point!
Between riding and studying, Taylor heads to Mike’s gym, Limitless Performance, LLC in Wellington, Florida. Not looking to bulk up on her small frame, Taylor and Mike work on staying lean and flexible to improve her riding and keep her feeling strong in the saddle — a key component of the beautiful and functional equitation she's become known for.
For Taylor’s workout regimen, Mike does “a lot of single leg exercises and balancing exercises. I noticed her hips were off balance, but now her core is a lot stronger. You can tell when she’s standing straighter — she’s riding better.”
So what does a typical workout with Mike look like for this up-and-coming star and 2019 NCEA Champion? We got the inside scoop.
1. 10-minute warmup
Arguably the most important part of the workout, warming up helps prepare the muscles to get to work. Taylor warms up on the Assault bike to loosen up and get her blood pumping.
2. Physical therapy exercises
On the mend from a strained gluteal muscle, Taylor focuses on the smaller muscles in her leg to stretch it out and prevent further injury. Laying on her side with a foam square between her knees, Taylor lifts and lowers her lower leg with a five second hold at the top.
3. Alternating knee-to-elbow with a medicine ball (2x20 each side, 20 second rest between sets)
Core is key in building a strong seat in the saddle. Try this: On your back with a medicine ball firmly squeezed between the right knee and right elbow, extend your left leg and left arm in opposite directions; alternate between left and right. Remember to keep the medicine ball as stable as possible and your back pressed firmly against the floor. Mike points out that “whichever side the ball is on, you can tell where weaknesses are because of shaking.” Ouch.
4. Inertia wave standing (4x1 minute each leg, 30 second rest between sets)
An alternative to those intimidating battle ropes, the Inertia Wave is Mike’s go-to in the gym for balance, core work, and conditioning. It’s easy on the joints but don’t be fooled. This is one tough workout! Standing on one foot with hands gripping the ropes in an overhand position and swing to create an up-and-down, wave-like motion with the ropes. Once you've mastered up-and-down, try it side-to-side. Keep the rhythm and momentum, maintain a straight and consistent line of the rope, and don’t fall over.
5. Inertia wave in plank position (4x30 seconds each side each side, 30 second rest between sets)
This is a challenge, beware! Starting in the plank position, keep both ropes in one hand and create an even, consistent wave side-to-side. Make sure to keep your core engaged and momentum through the ropes. This may be tough, but pain means change!
6. Single leg hops (3 times per leg, 30 second rest between sets)
This requires a little set up. Place two fences (about 1 foot high) perpendicular to a jump box. Starting on the outside of the fence, hop from one leg over the fence into the middle of the set up. Once you have your balance, on the same leg, jump onto the box. By singling out each leg, you’re working on balance while simultaneously using your core, glutes, and honing in on your concentration.
7. Single leg hamstring curls (4x15 each leg, 30 second rest between sets)
This exercise will get the booty burning! On your back, place one foot firmly on a Swiss ball and the other raised in the air. Engaging your hamstrings and core, extend and contract(?) your leg from a 90-degree position to all the way straight. In other words, push the ball in and out using you leg. You may want to give up, but mind over matter!
8. 20-minute cooldown
Before running out of the gym to go take a mandatory nap assigned by Mike, Taylor makes sure she’s cooled down and her heart rate is back to normal. Spending 20 minutes pedaling on the Assault bike, Taylor uses this time to catch her breath and squeeze in some extra cardiovascular fitness.
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All photos by Leslie Threlkeld for NoelleFloyd.com.