I never go more than a week-and-a-half without working out. It’s huge. I did it originally to develop good habits and maintain health. About six months into it, I realized I was pursuing a goal as a professional athlete so I wanted to apply it to roping. I love sports so I looked at what golfers, football players, baseball players do.
There are a lot of drills that golfers do that can be applied to roping—any Western sport, really, because it all comes down to core balance. We don’t need a lot of power, or ultimate strength, we need balance, stability and coordination. I also work out to keep my energy and my mental endurance and mental focus up. Not getting tired while on the road is important to me.
I think it’s part of the reason I’ve gotten to where I am as fast as I have. It’s a different thing that not everybody in team roping does. Team ropers don’t need power or strength, but we need to be able to react to what the situation is. If you’re in shape, taking care of yourself, on a decent diet and getting plenty of sleep, you’ll notice more power, more speed on your rope and more control.
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1. Anything that has to do with stability is huge for horsemanship. Balance and coordination are huge. Single arm or single leg—where you don’t use them together—are great. That gives you core strength and balance. I use a Swiss ball. You can do everything from basic stretches to standing on the ball and doing squats. I always warm up on the Swiss ball. I do knee tucks—double or single—six or eight times and that really helps build up that core strength between your hips.
2. After I get warmed up, I move into pushups on the ball. It builds the strength in your upper body and allows you to rotate your shoulders to your target when you’re roping. A strong core also allows you to keep your posture upright. Pushups are really just balance, so you have to stabilize your joints all the way up your arm and that creates control. When you’re roping and riding your horse, it gives you control and it helps give you feel in your tip and you can react to whatever comes to you.
3. Cardio is important, too. It’s endurance and mental strength. I hate running, so I have to push myself through it, so it helps my mental game. I like to jump rope. The boxers and MMA guys jump rope because they’re building coordination and rhythm. Again, you’re getting core strength, but you’re also training your body to move your hands and feet at the same time. You can jump back and forth, side-to-side, single leg, double leg, different rhythms and double jumps. It takes time, but that’s good too because it develops discipline. When you get that right, and your heart is in good shape, when you get on your horse and you’re backing in the box, your heart rate is nice and even. It makes the competition part of it easier.
4. Diet is very important, too. I haven’t been as disciplined on the road as I’d like, but it’s pretty simple. Eat high protein, low sugar, lots of greens and drink lots of water. Diet helps overall health and energy, but when I’m eating right, I just feel better, my energy level and focus are so much better. When I back in the box, it’s just like… boom. If I eat ice cream the hour before I compete, I feel heavy, hot, tired and slow. I’m not zoned in.
5. The most important thing for me is rest. I’m a Christian, and God created the Sabbath for a reason. We need rest. Me and Buddy (Hawkins) both, we always take off one day a week—whether we’re on the road or at home. When we are rodeoing, it might be a Tuesday, when we’re home it’s Sunday to be with our friends and family. That’s important, you have to chill out and you have to get sleep. I have to get eight hours, myself. Buddy and I do what we can to rotate out driving and give each other chances to sleep when we’re on the road. If you want to win something at the BFI or the World Series, you have to be on your game. You can’t be tired. You just need to give yourself every advantage in this game. The better rested you are, the better reaction time you’ll have and everything is on a higher level when you’re rested.