Barrel Racing

Becoming a Healthier Barrel Racer

With barrel racers, every second counts. This is a competitive sport where an edge can mean the difference between winning and not placing. Despite what some people may think, barrel racers are athletes. Professional athletes cross train and eat for performance. In an attempt to get healthier and become a better rider, I interviewed Colby Jenkins. She is a certifed Precision Nutrition Coach, Certified personal trainer, and is taking classes to become certified in integrative nutrition. This should help every barrel racer stay fit and eat to fuel your athlete’s body while being on the go. Hopefully this gives all my readers and edge in the arena and helps you live healthy while going down the road.

1. We barrel racers are known for worrying about our horses’ fitness/nutrition but not so much our own. How important is a fitness routine/healthy eating to our performance in the arena?

Colby’s response:  Barrel racers are so notorious for taking pristine care of their animals while neglecting themselves, and while it may seem beneficial to be pouring all of your time and energy into your horse, it is crucial that as a team, you are taking care of yourself as well! If you are not feeling your best due to poor nutrition and not being in shape, you will not perform your best, and your run will suffer. Proper nutrition, a well rounded fitness routine, stress management, an optimal sleep schedule, and flexibility are crucial in order to ensure you and your team mate can both perform to the best of your ability

2. Balance is important part of being a good rider. What are some exercises that could help improve our balance in the saddle?

Colby’s response: 2. Balance is very much dependant on core stability. If your centre core is weak, your balance will suffer. there are many exercises that improve core stability, but some examples are any that involve free weights vs a machine. Performing an exercise on a machine will strengthen a muscle but requires no balance. Working with free weights such as barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls and kettle bells, and even resistance bands require you to engage your core and work on your balance. Depending on your skill level, you can increase the difficulty of any free weight exercise to challenge your core even more. For example, a barbell squat will challenge your stability, but to increase difficulty, try performing squats on a bosu ball (without weight).

A bosu ball can be used to increase your balance. Photo by
3. What exercises/routine would you recommend for staying fit on the road?

Colby’s response:  I would recommend something that you can realistically fit in and stick to. Being on the road makes it difficult to stick to a fitness routine as most people rely on the gym. Contrary to the common believe that it is impossible to keep fit on the road, it is possible! If you are just starting out, I would recommend starting with 3-4 days a week of 30-45 minutes of physical activity a day. Incorporate some form of cardio (so an example would be a 10-15 minute jog outside) followed by 15-30 minutes of full body toning exercises.  If you find yourself unable to get to a gym, a great investment would be restistance bands. They are small and travel friendly, and can prove very effective at strengthening muscles! To name just a few of the many exercises you can perform with resistance bands would be things like standing bicep curls, standing shoulder press, seated or standing resistance band row, restistance band donkey kick backs, and restistance band squats. Doing all of these exercises as a circuit for 10-20 reps, 3-4 times through (followed by 5-10 minutes of some simple abdominal exercises) would qualify as a very well rounded full body workout

This is just an example of how portable resistance bands can be! photo by
4. Similarly, do you have any tips for eating healthy on the go (and avoiding making bad choices at the concession stand!)?

Colby’s response: Eating healthy on the road is not as difficult as everyone likes to think, and it can still be tasty!! My first tip for eating healthy on the road would be to pre pack what you can. Non perishable food items you enjoy such as apples, bananas, almonds, healthy protein bars, rice cakes, healthy protein powder for shakes, and oatmeal packets are great examples of easy to pack foods for when you are on the go. If you have a fridge, things get even easier! You can pack tons of vegetables for salads, hard boiled eggs,  or pre cooked chicken for easy sources of protein! If you find yourself on the road with nothing packed and a growing stomach, dont fear! Almost all gas stations have healthy options such as fruit, hardboiled eggs, string cheese, veggies, protein bars, beef jerky etc. Try to avoid the allure of the fatty and sugar filled donuts and pastries, along with all the chips, chocolate, and gas station pizza or chicken, as these foods will only leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. Another easy tip is stopping at a grocery store instead of a fast food joint and picking up pre made salads! But what if you are travelling to a rodeo with a few friends, the driver pulls in at Mcdonalds and you have no option? Well Mcdonands offers salads as well! Just ask for the grilled chicken vs the crispy chicken, and the dressing on the side to avoid any unwanted sugary calories. Concession stands can be the most diffilcut, as I have found from experience, they have the least amount of option. If all they offer are calories laden burgers, fries and taco in a bag (these are calories bombs!) opt for one of your packed snacks until you can get a healthier choice! You can even make a taco in a bag healthier by asking for half the amount of cheese they normally add, and have it served on a plate rather than in a bag of chips (you are cutting the chips out).One more tip that may be the most important is to DRINK WATER. Avoid consuming your calories through sugary beverages. Many people will lose unwanted pounds simply by cutting out their soda habit, so give it a shot!

Items from the concession stand can be made a little healthier. Photo by Betty Crocker
5. How important is stretching to an exercise routine?

Colby’s response: Stretching is CRUCIAL to any athlete, so barrel racers definitely fall under this category! The less flexible you are, the more prone you are to injury. Adding 5-10 minutes of thorough stretching into your daily routine will help decrease risk of any injury while you are competing, as well as improve your performance!

stretching is simple, easy to add to any routine and crucial to staying injury-free! photo by
6. What are some ways to make meal planning more efficient for us crazy-busy barrel racers?

Colby’s response: Meal planning efficiently is the KEY to the success of any eating plan. Advice I would give to the typical barrel racer travelling down the road for days at a time would be to PLAN AHEAD. Know how many days you are going to be on the road, and pack enough food for each day. I typically recommend that it is optimal for people to eat 5-6 small/ medium sized meals a day, with protein being the focus of each meal. If you are consistently prepared with healthy snacks/ meals, you are less likely to feel the urge to grab any of the unhealthy options that are offered at the rodeos or the jackpots. Find a few meals that you know you love, and pre cook a few servings to take with you! An example of what a healthy eating day on the road might look like would be :

Breakfast– 1 packet of no sugar added oatmeal, mixed with 1 scoop of healthy protein powder and hot water added at the gas station (or microwave used at gas station) and a banana

snack– apple with handful of almonds

lunch– the truck stopped at subway! So you get a grilled chicken salad with lots of veggies, light dressing, avocado and a little cheese, with a water

snack– a healthy protein bar (examples would be Vega1 Sport, Quest Bar, Pure Protein Bar, Lara bar, Kind bar,) that you packed

 Dinner– everyone is going to boston pizza- you have one or two of the appetizer nachos but opt for the healthy salmon rice and veggies as your main course

Snack– late night driving home and you get hungry, stop at a gas station and grab a bag of beef jerky and some of the veggies and dip that they are selling


I would like to thank Colby for taking time to answer my questions! It means a lot to me and I am excited to try some of her helpful tips this summer! Lets make 2016 an epic year, full of great runs and a commitment to healthly living even when going down the rodeo trail!

Dream big and decide to try,


Ps: any links posted are for identification purposes and I do not expect my readers to go buy stuff from Amazon 🙂



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