Fallon Taylor, a Dallas-based barrel racer, caught the rodeo bug at the age of 7. Since then, she’s been riding horses at fast speeds in competitions all over the country, steering stallions in tight turns around barrels and doing other such incredible feats. All of this is normal to her, even though it’s novel to us. That said, her rodeo training regimen is actually something that’s extremely relatable.
“Rodeo is a wild sport—it is really extreme,” says Taylor, who is a competitor and network commentator for RFD-TV’s The American. “It involves me being deeply connected with my animals and being able to compete at a really elite level under pressure.” She points to the behind-the-scenes challenges of being a rodeo champion, like driving for up to 20 hours at a time across the country with her horses in tow, then immediately going from the car to a high-level performance. “You have to have a really consistent routine in order to do this,” she says. “With rodeos, you may compete 80 to 100 times a year, so it’s a lot.”
Not only is Taylor’s rodeo life grueling, but she’s also dealt with the added hardship of breaking her neck in a horse-related incident in 2009. The accident gave her only a two-percent chance of living, let alone proceeding to win championships, as she did. “Just being able to walk and talk after that was a really big deal,” she says. “To compete and get back to that world championship level, I had to make sure that I could have a body that could handle that level of physical activity,” she says.
And that’s just what she did. Once Taylor got stable again on her own two feet, she got into more weight training (“I came in hot,” she admits). Now, though? “As I’ve matured as a person and as a competitor, being centered and doing more bodyweight training is what I focus on,” she says. “I’m now more focused on function and doing what feels really good to my body, rather than stress it out.” Keep scrolling for the five elements to Taylor’s workout regimen that keep her sane and healthy.
1. Incorporate meditation and mindfulness
“Being present and centered can bring me even more strength than anything physical can do,” says Taylor, who adds that when she prioritizes meditation, everything in her life feels easier. “Sometimes I’ll do a guided meditation for an hour with my yoga instructor friend, or if I have 10 minutes, I’ll use the Headspace app. It’s funny to me how the easiest and most accessible, free thing that we can do is something most people put on the back burner.”
2. Practice yoga regularly
You might not think that yoga comes into play for a rodeo star’s training regimen, but Taylor stresses that a regular vinyasa practice has changed the game for her. “Every day, I practice yoga. I just go on YouTube and I find a flow that feels great,” she says. “If I’ve had a tough day riding, I’ll do something that opens my hips. I’m a beginner, so I’m not doing any crazy poses—I just look to open and stretch my body out.” She does admit that yoga isn’t popular in the rodeo community, but notes that it forces her to use different muscles, which winds up helping her on the horse.
3. Keep training low-impact
Taylor is a resistance band fan, and says that she uses them for practically all of her workouts. “Riding my horse bareback is an intense workout for my legs, so I go a lot lighter on my legs, but will do some squats, lunges, and side steps with a band,” she says. “I love doing planks and push-ups, and sometimes I use the stairs in my house for calf raises.” Other core work she incorporates include reverse pikes, ab extensions, and crunches, but keeps everything low-impact and gentle on the body.
4. Set challenges and goals
“If I don’t have a map, my GPS will always be broken,” says Taylor in reference to how important fitness goals are for her routine. “On Sunday night, I write down my fitness goal for the week, and map out four things that I want to accomplish,” she says. This way, she points out that she’ll end the week feeling proud of herself, even if she doesn’t check off every single thing. “It’s nice to set myself up to clap myself on the back at the end of the week rather than being a harsh critic, and this really allows that to happen.”
5. Allow for proper recovery
As you could imagine, riding a horse in training for rodeo competitions is grueling and rough on the body. This is why Taylor sets aside enough time for her body to recover. “When part of my body doesn’t feel right one day, I don’t work that body part,” she says. “I’m mindful of what my body needs that day. If I just shredded my core on my horses, I’ll give it a chance to recover rather than do core work that day, because it’s in that recovery process that we actually make progress.”