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How Jockeys maintain their Weight and Fitness

Enda McElhinney explains how jockeys train to stay in shape.

Life as a horse racing jockey is not always glamorous. They are some of the toughest sportsmen and women in the world. Not only do they need to stay as light as possible to make their required weight for their ride, but they also need to maintain as much strength in their arms as possible to drive their horse out to the line in a tight finish.

January and February are a vital part of the year for jockeys. They are only a month away from the most crucial meeting of the season in national hunt racing with the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. There are 28 races at the meeting for the riders to participate in, with the feature race being the Cheltenham Gold Cup. You can find all the Cheltenham odds on Paddy Power if you are looking to place a bet on any of your favourite jockeys or horses.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson is set to board the favourite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year with Native River. Connections of the horse will be hoping to join some of the famous names to win the 3 miles 2 furlongs contest such as Arkle, Best Mate, Desert Orchid, and Kauto Star, all of which make the top five moments of the Cheltenham Gold Cup after they all became very popular with the horse racing fans.

Here is how the national hunt jockeys will look to stay in great shape ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and throughout the year.

Jog Around the Course

The riders will often jog around the track when they arrive at a racecourse. They will zip up in a one-piece tracksuit and try to sweat as much as possible during their run. The difference between making the weight for a ride as a jockey can be as little as a couple of pounds to lose this excess weight.

The distance of a racecourse varies up and down the country, but the majority are around 1 mile and 6 furlongs, equivalent to 2,800 metres. After this jog, they will weigh themselves and hope they are below the maximum allowance. If they are not quite there, they will likely have to do another lap of the track.


The jockey diet is critical for them to remain light and healthy in the sport. In the morning, they will have a bowl of porridge made from oats and water. This will be eaten at least one hour before they ride out a group of horses from their yard. At lunchtime, they will consume something light like a salad. The evening meal will always be eaten before 7 pm, and most jockeys will eat some oily fish with a small portion of vegetables.If they eat a meal which is too heavy, it could affect their weight for the day.


Not only is cardiovascular training necessary for jockeys, but they also have to lift some weights at least twice a week to ensure they have strong arms. They will work on their biceps and triceps individually as these are the muscles that will be called upon when they are driving their horses to the line in a close finish.


If you are thinking about training to become a jockey, look out for one of the horse racing schools provided by the British Horse Racing Authority. Injuries are common amongst jockeys, so do bear the risks before setting out to what can be a rewarding career in the sport.

Page Reference

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  • McELHINNEY, E. (2017) How Jockeys maintain their weight and fitness [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Enda McElhinney is a sports enthusiast with a passion for Horse Racing. Away from the racetrack, Enda enjoys researching the sports science behind racing and the training regimes within a sport.