Staying Polo Ready with Chukka Wellness
The complete fitness and wellness program for polo players can be easily incorporated into daily life
Chukka Wellness helps polo players become fitter and stronger. From Polo Fitness Clinics to Team Personal Training, online programmes to polo-fitness retreats, the wellness group covers it all. La Polo had a candid conversation with Chukka Wellness expert India Parker on their innovative exercises.
They believe that a serious player is one who focuses on fitness throughout the year. A fitter player will recover quicker in between chukkas, have a clearer and more focused head; and be good at fast decision-making. Their shots will be more powerful and they will have more confidence in the saddle with strong muscles and joints.
“You will usually notice the players who take care of their bodies as they will be warming up on the side of the field before games. This will have a considerable effect on lowering their risk of injury, prolonging play time and improving competitiveness and reaction time,” the experts say.
Players strive for better horses, mallets and skills. Thankfully now more and more players are taking their health and wellness seriously and realising the impact it has on their game. For example, Cambiaso combines daily training with regular physio and a healthy diet; Polito Pieres works out religiously with his trainer, and so on.
When asked about the need for specific exercises, expert India Parker says: “Polo is a high impact sport, therefore, it is imperative to bulletproof the body for the game. This involves strengthening and stabilising your joints and muscles through specific movement patterns. As a player, you need to have the confidence and reassurance that your body will stretch that little bit further during a ‘hook’, that you will stay balanced when taking a nearside shot and that you know you can push yourself that bit harder because your recovery rate is high!”
Chukka Wellness acts as a one-stop-shop in the fitness sector, inspiring players to take their fitness regime seriously. We asked Parker as to what inspires her in doing the same. She says: “I first started to ride when I was seven years’ old and then dived into the world of polo two years ago during a working holiday to Argentina. After playing for two weeks, my body was in pieces (I thought I was a fit individual). The movement patterns of polo are very unique and different than most other sports; you’re rotating in the saddle, holding a heavy mallet in one hand, whilst controlling a pony with the other, smashing into other riders and hooking their mallets whilst leaning off a galloping animal…Not many sports involve such components.
So, to avoid muscles soreness after every ride, I devised stretches and exercises to help strengthen and stabilise my body. Even to this day, I notice a huge difference in muscle soreness and joint tightness if I haven’t completed a pre-season training programme. It has now become a passion with me to help prepare polo players for their seasons and now all our clients religiously warm up and cool down for every game.”
“Polo Fitness Holidays” is a term that has been doing the rounds for a while. When asked, she says: “It is always good for the body and mind to take rest, especially after a busy polo season. During a vacation, we recommend taking 1-2 days off all exercises to allow the body to recover. Once well-rested, try combining some light cardio (20 min run, swim or cycle) with a body weight circuit (5 exercises, 45 seconds per exercise, 3 rounds). To reduce risk of injury, aches and pains, yoga and stretching are recommended. Our 2021 goal is to host Polo-Fitness clinics and holidays around the world to help prepare players of all abilities with their pre-season training or body maintenance with our fun and unique training techniques. A typical day on our bespoke holidays involves a pre-chukka warm-up and post-chukka stretch, pool recovery and a light team fitness session.”
She adds: “Regardless of whether you play polo or not, you should include some form of functional exercise into your fitness regime. This helps to reduce your risk of injury and keep joints strong and muscles supple. We focus on balance, rotational and compound movements in our sessions and these movements can be incorporated into everyday life (we twist and turn, bend down throughout the day) as these exercises help stabilise the body. Mobilising and stretching should become an essential element to anyone’s training plan, hence we have a big section on it in our Virtual Chukka Hub (an online membership site full of resources aimed to help bulletproof the rider’s body - workouts, nutritional guidance, and lots more). Within a typical session, we ensure our clients such as Nina Clarkin, Ned Hine, Santi Araya, Rebecca Walters and Benja Urquiza are fully mobilised and their muscles are engaged. Once completed, we include exercises focused on balance, stability, core-strength, reaction skills and cardio.”
In January, Chukka Wellness is hosting a complimentary 21-day Polo-Fitness Challenge through Instagram lives. The challenge involves a daily 30-minute workout that anyone whose goal is to stay fit can enjoy.
There are Virtual Chukka Hubs designed to help riders become twice as supple and stable in the saddle. Alongside rider-specific workouts and nutritional advice, they will launch a virtual eight-week pre-season training programme which includes a daily meal plan and follow-along workout.
As a tip, she says: “Stay consistent with your training and adapt you
as strong, supple and stable in the saddle through functional exercises.”