California Riding Magazine • January, 2011

Amika Ryan:
Human Performance
Equestrian-focused personal
training reduces pain and increases
effectiveness and enjoyment.

Riding shouldn't be painful, but often is. Physical discomfort is the main reason people seek out the services of Amika Ryan's Human Performance personal training. Pain relief, however, is just one
of several life-changing benefits to working with the San Diego-based, equestrian-focused personal trainer.

Addressing physical imbalances in the body and developing the core muscles critical in the sport have facilitated remarkable progress in her clients' riding. Many work-outs start with clients happily reporting more effective riding that results from being in better, more balanced shape.

It makes total sense. "Everybody that I've seen is imbalanced," Amika observes. "That affects the way you ride. If your hip is tight, for example, you may be shifting that hip forward in the saddle. Horses are amazing in how they compensate for the imbalances of their riders, but imagine how much better they could perform if their riders were in balance."

Balance, strength and flexibility are attainable goals for anybody, Ryan asserts. Her clientele ranges from 13 to 86, with the majority in their 50s. Pain in the sacroiliac (lower back), hip and back are common complaints. "That usually indicates a poor movement pattern, stemming from one or more tight and/or weak muscles."

Working out of San Diego's environmentally friendly fitness center, the Greenasium, Amika first assesses a client's movement patterns and core strength as they perform prescribed exercises. Placing her hand on a client's knee during core work, for example, lets her feel how much core strength they have and whether it's equal on both sides.
The assessment results are combined with each client's goals. In addition to eliminating muscle pain, goals often include having more stamina in the saddle and even simply looking better in breeches. Based on all those factors, Amika creates a workout plan. Whatever the student's goals, their plan will incorporate three types of muscle work: stabilization, strengthening and power building.

The progression begins with isometric exercises that isolate and develop the pelvic and abdominal muscles. In this phase, the muscles contract and release without the body moving. Abdominal crunches are often one of the first steps in the strengthening phase. Next, power is developed through exercises that require counteracting a force, and/or creating momentum or velocity. Work with weighted balls and machines that provide weight resistance are typically part of this phase.

Amika works with most clients at the Greenasium in Encinitas. "It's San Diego's first green fitness studio, and I prefer working out of here because they create such a phenomenal community around health and fitness," she explains. "The environment is not at all intimidating and my clients always feel very comfortable here." She can be contracted to go to people's homes but usually finds the Greenasium's atmosphere and equipment enables clients to best maximize their results.

The personal trainer's preference is to work with clients for a finite period of time. "I believe in educating my clients so they can maintain their program on their own," she says. "But it depends on the individual. Some people come to me with chronic problems, which we can address and solve with exercises. And I have a lot of people who won't work out unless they have that appointment at the gym." It is "personal" training, she notes, and thus each program is suited to each person's preferences and needs.

Working From Experience

Amika's expertise on what muscles riding requires comes from 17 years as an active rider and competitor, spanning several disciplines. Hunter/jumper, dressage, eventing and saddle seat accomplishments are all part of her resume. More recently, she's delved into the working cattle sports of reining, cutting and sorting, and polo is her latest adventure. She was shocked by how the tucked-in pelvic alignment required in cattle work strained the lower abs. Amika describes polo as a "whole different deal" because of the amount of contact with others and the use of a mallet and ball.

She also has empathy for those trying to improve their lifestyle. After earning a Masters Degree in Hospitality Management and Marketing, Amika worked in that desk-bound field for several years. During that time, she found herself where a lot of her clients are now: "I was developing pain and unhealthy habits in my life. I gained weight, wasn't sleeping well and was not being active enough." When the opportunity arose to change professions, she went to Apollo College to earn a certificate as a Fitness Technician and received a coaching credential as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. "It is so fulfilling to help people create every day miracles in their lives," she says. "I have people who have been in pain for five years, and all of the sudden it's manageable."

For more information, visit or call 858-429-4049.