There are few more finely tuned athletes in the world than jockeys. There isn’t much glamour to life as a flat or jumps jockey, as the athletes will need to continue to monitor their weight and exercise throughout the year.
Given the fact that time off is a rarity for those at the top of the sport, keeping up to date with their fitness regimes is often typically important. With the Breeders’ Cup odds up and running until the event in November, this is the perfect time to assess this topic.
But, how do the best jockeys in the world maintain their fitness levels throughout the calendar year to ensure that they can continue to ride at the highest level?
The most important factor for a jockey to ensure that they remain at the top of their game is diet. This will ensure that the athlete remains at the optimal weight throughout the season, as they are often punished for being overweight, especially when it comes to riding in the significant handicaps staged throughout the year.
An example of this is the fact that jockeys have typically overlooked certain meals on race days to ensure that they meet the required weight limits, with some instead having coffee instead of a big breakfast. However, the majority of athletes will have a very light breakfast on the morning of a meet, with toast a popular option.
Dinner is also a tricky subject for jockeys as they will need to eat no later than 7pm to ensure that they aren’t struggling to make the weight for the next day. A preferred dinner option for many jockeys is fish with some kind of vegetables.
Like most top athletes, jockeys will also need to train in the gym regularly to ensure that they have the strength to hold on to some of the most powerful athletes in the world, the horses. A typical jockeys day will begin at 5am every morning, and their first training will see them run a couple of miles to burn off any calories that they may have put on from the dinner on the night prior.
However, a growing number of jockeys are also incorporating gym work into their pre-raceday preparation, with a number of exercises proving more valuable when it comes to training the core muscles that are required to ride winners at the top level.
While the majority of jockeys will work hard to maintain their light weight, it is important that they still have an extremely strong core. This will often prove the difference in the crucial final stages of races, as they can push a horse clear as the line approaches. Some of the most popular exercises in the gym for jockeys include squats, typically with low or little weights to avoid putting on extra muscle mass.
As well as this, jump lunges are very popular in the gym for jockeys, and flutter kicks are an excellent way to build up core strength. Single-leg deadlifts are another exercise that the majority of jockeys in the weighing room also train, but once again, this involves limited weight to avoid putting on muscle.
Time Away From Track
While the majority of work to get winners is done before the race, there is also important wellbeing matters that jockeys must address to remain at the top of the sport. This includes taking a break away from the sport once their work on track for the day is done.
Like any sport, being away from it for a few hours to focus on family life and other hobbies is essential to maintain a sound mental wellbeing, and this will have a direct impact on the performance levels of the jockey.