Clubhouse: Lainey Ashker on getting strong, fit

In the Tough Mudder competition

Top US eventing rider Lainey Ashker is a tough cookie.  After surviving a devastating fall at Rolex in 2008, she came back stronger than ever!

In this week’s OffTrackThoroughbreds Reader’s Clubhouse, Ashker talks about her diet, her fitness goals and the workout routine that keeps her body athletically fit and strong.

Q: Lainey, you are so clearly in great shape. Please describe your personal workout routine.

A: It’s been nonexistent now, because I ride 10 horses a day!

But, when I’m at the height of my workout routine, I really focus on cardio. The key thing when riding horses is to be as light as possible, but maintain maximum strength. So cardio helps me build stamina and strength.

At the gym, I do a very fast 30-minute run on the treadmill, followed by 20 minutes on the Stairmaster, and 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. Then I go and lift long weight sets.

When I’m exercising, I wear a heart monitor: my goal is to keep my heart rate in the high 130s up to a low 150s, so that I burn fat without burning muscle.

Then, when I lift, I use heavier weights to help break down the muscle and make it leaner, not bulkier. I do five sets of 15 or 20 repetitions.

Q: When working out, what are your goals? And how do you continue to challenge yourself?

Fitness challenges can be fun!

A: My goals are to be to be strong and light, and make lean muscle.

One way I challenge  myself is by mixing it up. I took kickboxing classes, which were a blast, and Zumba, which is a dance routine. I also took urban striptease and pole dancing classes. You don’t have to just run to get the cardio.You can have fun!

Q: Do you diet or watch your carbs? Is there a secret you’ve learned that tricks your body into building muscle?

A: Horseback riders are known for being the worst athletes ever. Not that we’re fat. We’re thin all the wrong ways. My hardest thing is working on my diet. I have a huge breakfast and then don’t eat all day, because I’m riding. Then I gorge myself on dinner. And I don’t drink water.

A big breakfast gives me energy for the day. I like to have oatmeal, with a banana, juice, or maybe a power bar for lunch. The key for me is a good dinner, and I eat early, around 5, so I’m not going to bed on a full stomach.

Q: You faced your biggest health challenges after your accident at the 2008 Rolex. How did you regain your strength?

A: As soon as I could walk again, and after I got up to three miles, I got a personal trainer. I worked with Philip Search in Virginia, and he was fantastic. He would meet me at the gym, and helped me get started getting my muscle back in tone.

The reward! With Anthony Patch

He also went grocery shopping with me at Whole Foods and helped me select healthy snacks and lean foods. He also gave me different tips, like, not to drink orange juice after 4 p.m. and staying away from soda and other sugar. I tend to drink unsweetened ice tea and water.

It only took a few months to regain my fitness, probably because I was fit when I got hurt. After the accident, I feel I’m so much healthier and more fit than I ever was.

Q: Do you have any trouble areas?

A: My left shoulder, where I broke my scapula, still gives me problems. I had three ribs that didn’t heal properly, as well. So, I do pull rows at the gym to build strength in my back and to help me with my dressage, to make sure I’m sitting straight in the saddle!

If you have a topic you would like to chat about in OffTrackThoroughbreds Reader’s Clubhouse, please drop me a line at

5 responses to “Clubhouse: Lainey Ashker on getting strong, fit”

  1. Corrie

    Thanks for a great article. I am a huge support of Lainey and am so happy to see her back, healthy and riding as great as ever! She is a great inspiration!

  2. Lezlie

    Great piece!

  3. KC

    I LOVE this and I LOVE Lainey! She has such great spirit and a “get stuff done” attitude while keeping a smile on her face.

    I’m totally bookmarking this piece so I can refer back to it post-baby. A heart monitor is a great idea and something I’m going to look into.

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