A jockey’s physique is a complex balancing act of being fit enough to ride racehorses, and being lightweight enough to primarily ride racehorses. This means that their fitness routines outside of riding are very unique compared to other professional athletes, and an aspect of their jobs is often invisible to racing enthusiasts.
Currently based in Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, a native of Canada, Chantal Sutherland is a popular multi-stakeholder jockey who began Sutherland’s career in jockeys in 2000 at Woodbine Racetrack. She went on to become the first jockey to win a first-class Hollywood Gold Cup in 2012 and now has a lifetime earnings of $5,538,263 and won 1,160 races.
The two-time Sovereign Award winner went into detail about what general fitness as a jockey means to her and how she personally maintains balance.
Question: What does your weekly exercise routine look like?
Chantal Sutherland: “Outside of riding I do two kinds of yoga. I do regular zen yoga as well as intense yoga. It’s like hot yoga, but it’s an intense workout where you get pushed and you don’t hold your poses for long, but you do intense poses. I do boxing too, but because I don’t do Boxing two days a week I can’t do as much as I used to. It’s not only good for your core and athleticism, but also for your brain and confidence. I eat very healthy food, often a vegan diet, and lots of vitamins and supplements. I think It’s important to everyone, not just athletes.”
s: Do you find that exercise plays a role in your mental health and fitness as well as your physical health and fitness?
A: “Yeah, I think your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It’s that calm mindset and our sport can be really tough, so you can take a beating and you just have to stay through the tough times and be mentally sort of in tune to be able to prepare yourself for the race. I do my homework at night, sometimes even a couple of days before the race.I skip the race myself and watch the replays and talk to my coach to kind of feel what they want in the race.Sometimes they see the speed differently than me and we talk about it and get to a good place.The communication I found is very important and present for what they have to say.Also I work a lot of horses. I work every day except Monday and I think it’s a huge plus for me. I like to know my horse. I like to know what’s going on and to be able to tell the trainers how they feel and they can tell me how they feel. Information is just strength. big “.
s: As the talk of mental health is becoming more common and there is no stigma behind it, have you found that it correlates with better performance when it comes to horse racing?
A: “Yeah sure. I feel people are more sensitive to the fact that mental health is so important and that you need to take a time or a day when you don’t do anything. We go way a lot and it’s hard to take time for yourself, but it’s really important. I live alone and I love being alone. In the room I am so fortunate and blessed to have a girls room where I can be on my own I just love studying there I meditate there and pray there My relationship has taken a new level with God and with myself The more grateful you are, the better you feel about yourself and the world The happier you will come back to feeling And treat others with respect. I try to treat everyone behind with respect and love and feel it comes back to me in abundance.”
s: Are there any types of exercises that you should usually avoid to make sure you don’t put on too much weight and have a hard time maintaining weight while riding?
A: “You want to balance everything out with cardio and weight training. You don’t want to do a lot of weight training just because you’re going to get too big then, but you don’t want to do a lot of core exercises because you’re going to get skinny and you’re going to be too weak. So it’s a combination of racing horses.
s: What do you think is the biggest fitness challenge as a jockey and how do you deal with that?
A: “I think it’s that deep air in racing when you’re down and riding and you’re pulling and squeezing a 1,200-pound animal and they get tired and you have to lift them up and help them out. I think for me boxing gets that deep heart and that feeling on a ladder when you get to that really fast anaerobic part. …to be a jockey you have to have really good air to the point where you almost feel like you’re vomiting. That’s how you feel when you’re in a race.”
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