Fitness,  Riders

Fitness Fundamentals

Boundaries, Budgets, and Baselines

In riding there is a state of being called “self-carriage”. It means the horse is within the rider’s aids and “holding” itself in the shape, at the speed, and at the level of power we have “set” for them.  When in self-carriage it appears as if it’s no work at all, that the horse is magically dancing under the rider and the rider is just sitting there enjoying it.  The key is that the horse is free within the boundaries but shaped by them at the same time. This is the state I want to be in.  I want to set boundaries for myself that shape me and give me freedom all at the same time.  


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a boundary as something that indicates or fixes a limit.  On the other hand, a diet is defined as a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight. In my mind, boundaries are a limit I set to protect something that’s important or valuable to me. That’s lightyears different than a diet.  

As I said earlier, I want to set boundaries for myself that shape me and give me freedom all at the same time.  You probably already have some idea of what your boundaries are or should be.  Below are 15 examples in no particular order.  See what resonates for you, remembering the point is to protect what’s valuable to you.  Hint: you and your health.

  1. Always eating breakfast
  2. Not eating past 7pm
  3. Eating plant-based meals 3 days a week
  4. Eating gluten free
  5. Eating meat free
  6. Eating dairy free
  7. Eating Paleo
  8. Elating Keto
  9. Eating on a schedule: 3 meals/2 snacks
  10. No soda
  11. No alcohol
  12. Practicing Intermittent Fasting: 16/8 or 5/2
  13. Having a protein shake for breakfast
  14. Juicing daily
  15. Eating protein with every meal

This is by no means an all-inclusive list but it’s a good start.  Again, you need to know what your boundaries are around your eating so you can protect what’s important to you.  If you’re not sure what will work well for you longterm then decide to try the three that feel most appealing to you and will fit best with the other aspects of your life. Try each one of your three choices for three weeks.  That’s a sufficient amount of time to really get a feel for what “living” with the boundary will be like.  Rather than create rules that lead to restrictions, Boundaries are intended to give you clarity that leads to freedom.

If you’re not loving the boundaries you’ve chosen after three weeks, choose something different and give it another three week run.  Eventually you’ll find what works for you and settle into a lifestyle of “self-carriage” (freedom within a defined space).


Now that we have a good grip on what our boundaries might look like, let’s talk budgets. A budget determines the quantity available for, or assignable to a particular situation.

Budgets are the essence of good decision making.  A budget allows you to know what parameters you’re working within and what constraints you have.  The budget question is pretty simple to answer too.  Ask yourself; what are my numbers?  

How many calories can I eat in a day?  Hint: The answer is not likely to be 2000 calories.  To give you some perspective, I’ve chosen the top-end of both the female and male suggested body weight. These numbers are specific to their relative height and age.  For an eye-opener, check out the corresponding daily calorie counts listed below.  

Women: the average woman in the US is 5’4” tall and for that height the recommended higher-end healthy weight is 130 pounds.  

  • At 25 years old that woman would need 1585 calories to sustain 130 pounds.
  • At 35 years old she would need 1526 calories.
  • At 45 years old she would need 1467 calories.
  • At 55 years old she would need 1408 calories.
  • At 65 years old she would need 1349 calories.


Men: the average man in the US is 5’9” tall and for that height the recommended higher-end healthy weight is 175 pounds. 

  •  At 25 years old that man would need 2124 calories to sustain 175 pounds.
  • At 35 years old he would need 2065 calories.
  • At 45 years old he would need 2006 calories.
  • At 55 years old he would need 1947 calories.
  • At 65 years old he would need 1888 calories.

To find your current numbers you can go to and check out their Daily Caloric Needs calculator.  Make sure and choose the lowest option of activity level to get the most accurate number.  Then…

Here’s the part that’s WAY different than any approach you may have tried to weight loss.  We are not going to try to loose weight, instead we are going to eat for the weight we want to achieve.  Get your current weight number from Ace then compare that to your desired weight number so you can be clear with yourself about how much of a change needs to happen.  Being honest with yourself is paramount to actually making a lasting change.  This affirmative approach to getting where you want to be rather than the restrictive approach that will only work while you are “restricting” will result in an entirely new outlook on the way you are doing things and why.  More importantly it will result in lasting change.  

  1. The next Budget question you need to ask is “How much added sugar can I eat in a day?”  Hint: One fancy drink from Starbucks can blow your budget for two days!

I have not seen anything have a bigger and more immediate impact on weight loss, inflammation, and energy level than keeping to a SUGAR BUDGET.  It’s remarkably simple but may not be as easy as you think.  Sugar is everywhere!

Based on the guidelines set by the American Heart Association, your goal for the day is no more than 9 teaspoons of “added sugar” for Men and 6 teaspoons for women.  We’re talking about “added sugar” not naturally occurring sugars in whole foods so don’t panic. 

Women 25 grams/6 Teaspoons (4.2 grams = 1 teaspoon)

Men 36 grams/9 Teaspoons (4.2 grams = 1 teaspoon)

The next Budget question is, “How much time do I have (have I made) to prep my meals?”  Hint: Most likely not enough.  It’s going to take some rearranging to make the time available. 

If you eat the typical schedule of 3 meals a day, that’s 21 meals that you need in a week’s time.  That’s a lot!  So if time is not on your side you’ll need to figure out a reasonable way to stay consistent and not feel overwhelmed with meal prep.  Figure out in advance what you will make and what you will purchase.  There are many healthy pre-made or meal delivery options available to help with some of the burden.  

The last Budget question is, “How much time do I have (have I made) to participate in the fitness activity of my choice?” 

I strongly suggest going with 20 minutes as your time budget.  Of all the workouts I’ve done over the years, the 20 minute interval training method reaps the most rewards within the most efficient amount of time.  Of course, if you already are budgeting more time than that on a daily basis great, keep going!  I’m guessing though that for most people you just need a simple regimen that you can easily wrap your mind around and stick to so that puts us back at the 20 minute workout.

With the time blocked out you can now fill it with whatever option you like, just fill it.  

Here is a list of ideas:

HIIT (one of my well loved 20 minute workouts, do this at least 3x a week)




Weight Training




Ahh, we made it to the last B.  A Baseline is so valuable because it tells you where your starting point is. How can you know if you’ve improved if you don’t know where you started?

Baseline Questions:

What is my current weight?

What is my current fitness level?

What is my current eating plan?

There is no need to judge your answers just be honest with yourself and get them on paper.  This is your Baseline.  This is the foundation you’ll build the new you upon.   

Ok, so a quick recap.  Boundaries are intended to give you clarity that leads to freedom: you choose your Boundaries.  A Budget allows you to know what parameters you’re working within and what constraints you have, they are the essence of good decision making: Get clear on your Budgets.  A Baseline clarifies your starting point and allows you to recognize your success: Know your Baseline!  

To get started, use the 3 week timeframe I suggested earlier as an opportunity to try new things, assess progress, and make tweaks.  Set a reminder on your phone for every three weeks.  Use this as an opportunity to do a quick inventory of your Three B’s.  Ask yourself how it’s all going.  What’s working, what needs to change?  It’s your life, your health, your happiness, and your choices that will make the difference! 

Providing Helpful Horsemanship skills to horse-people of all disciplines. Curated by Robin Martinez, a lifelong horsewoman with a passion for learning and teaching. Together with her husband Dionicio, they own Blackjack Farm in San Diego, CA where they train and compete their own jumping and dressage horses.