Inside Georgia Equestrian: Fitness Drives Team
Feb. 14, 2013
By: Selby Merritt
Being a Georgia Equestrian means not only achieving excellence in the classroom and the arena, but also in the gym. Each team member spends one hour four days a week with Mike Morrison, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, building muscle and staying fit.
Being strong and in shape is crucial to any athlete, which is why many of the girls spend double the time they are required to in the gym or out running on the trails. Seniors Brittlan Wall, Maria Salazar and Junior Nicki Alexander have all taken their dedication and love for fitness and created active lifestyles that they will hold on to for the rest of their lives.
Anybody who has met Wall knows how much CrossFit has changed her life. Just ask her about it and her face lights up. When asked about her first time trying it during her sophomore year, she always replies, “It was love at first box jump,” and she has been hooked ever since.
Not only does Wall feel that she owes her love for fitness to CrossFit, but she also is grateful for the increased confidence and self-esteem it has given her. She says, “After starting CrossFit, my whole mentality changed; wanting to be wafer thin was a thought of the past. My whole mentality shifted to the notion that having muscle and strength was a beautiful thing.”
Wall dedicates five days each week to her CrossFit training, leaving the remaining two days for stretching recovery or maybe a light jog. She not only sees the physical results that CrossFit has had on her, but says that it has made her mentally stronger as well. Physically, she not only feels she is a stronger rider, but a tougher one and she feels that difference every time she sits on a horse’s back. Wall feels as if she owes a lot to CrossFit for the changes it has made in various aspects of her life and says, “I credit CrossFit for saving me really; looking back pre-CrossFit, my mentality on what was healthy and fit were pretty twisted.”
Salazar has an appreciation for fitness that she was born with. The daughter of professional runner and marathon world-record-breaker Alberto Salazar, Salazar has always valued the importance of being active and staying in shape, even if she was not aware of it. “Luckily my parents taught me to be active without having to go the gym all the time,” Salazar says. “My brothers and I all played lots of sport which kept us busy and taught us about fitness and exercise without us even realizing it.”
In high school, Salazar followed in her father’s footsteps and became a star on the cross-country team. Back then, she would train every day, only taking Sundays off when she was allowed. She says, “In high school, my fitness goals revolved around cross country. I will never again need to run mile repeats and live a distance runner lifestyle. The team has helped me learn workout and dieting methods that are more doable and functional in my current lifestyle.”
When asked what motivates her dedication to fitness, she says, “My dad played a huge part in everything I know about fitness and pretty much anything for that matter. He is one of the smartest people I know.” On her own time, Maria still enjoys running the most, but is often faced with the challenge of making the time for it. It’s something she will value for the rest of her life and admits, “When I'm not motivated to work out, I try to remind myself that it is for my health, especially down the road when I'm old and wrinkly.”
Alexander has also grown up with a lifestyle appreciation for fitness and continues to be inspired by her parents. In addition to the team’s practices and workouts, Nicki is training for a half marathon at the end of March. She spends anywhere from three to five days each week running on her own. “My mom especially inspired me to train for the half,” Alexander says, ”She has been participating in triathlons for several years now while still working 10-12 hour days. I figure that if she can do it, so can I.”
Alexander believes that since being on the team, she has even more drive and determination to stay fit and strong. She says, “Now if I go more than a day without working out, I feel incredibly restless…which is good!” She feels the team has educated her on the proper ways to work certain muscle groups, which has enabled her to help her non-athlete friends construct new workouts. Alexander thinks that the more fit she is, the more confident she feels on a horse and says, “Even a couple of extra pounds or any weakness makes me feel off-balance, so staying in shape is very important for my riding.”
For anyone who has met Alexander, it comes as no surprise that she would pick an activity that keeps her outdoors. An Environmental Economics and Management major, she has a unique dedication to sustainability as well as an incredible appreciation for nature. In addition to benefiting a conservation project, the half marathon she is entered in is also a “trail-run.” She says, “I find it really relaxing to get some fresh air and to escape cars and other people for a short time. Running on trails is an activity that I generally do alone to clear my head.
Many of the girls on the team come in as a Freshman never having set foot in the gym, but there is no doubt that each of them graduate with a life-long value for fitness. Once they get into it, there is no turning back. Once they learn to appreciate the benefits of their hard work in the gym, it becomes something that most of them feel they cannot live without and see it as one of the most valuable things they walk away with at graduation.