Rosemary Homeister Jr. may have hung up her racing saddle, but she hasn't slowed down. If anything, she's living in double time.
When she's not taking care of her daughter Victoria or putting together a marketing plan, you might find Homeister taking or teaching a boxing class or sharing her thoughts on meal planning.
“Racing's very fast-paced, and your mind is non-stop,” she said. “Probably 80 percent of the riders out there, we all had insomnia. Your mind just couldn't shut down. You're winning, you're not winning. It was a constant roller-coaster of emotions. When I retired, I was still on ‘go.'”
Homeister, 46, ended her racing career in 2015, a few years after taking some time off to have her daughter. She had always planned to retire when Victoria turned five and began kindergarten, avoiding seasonal moves and giving her a stable home base. After 23 years, she left the sport with an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice and multiple graded stakes victories and meet titles. Like many jockeys, she knew she had to have an exit strategy, and a challenging pregnancy gave her an idea of what she wanted to do.
Homeister gained 50 pounds while carrying Victoria – a completely foreign experience for a jockey.
“I had never been that heavy before,” she said. “I followed a plan and changed my diet. I lost 45 pounds in 10 weeks, but I did it naturally, through food. I didn't take diet pills or anything. I worked out six days a week, and I mean some days I worked out twice. I would wear a sauna suit. I remember doing a Zumba class at the YMCA and sweat was flinging out from my arms, and people were looking at me like I was crazy. I was determined to come back and ride.”
“I had to come back because I wanted to retire on my terms.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Homeister learned more in those few weeks about diet and exercise than she'd ever known as a professional jockey. She echoes the concerns of other experts in the racing industry about the lack of education provided to riders about fitness and nutrition. Homeister said she saw riders go all day with no food other than a handful of sugar-heavy snacks to keep their energy up, and starve themselves until dinner.
“For me, the more I ate when I rode, the lighter I was, because your body needs the fuel,” she said. “I used to tell people when I was doing personal training, I'd tell them, ‘You need to eat.' And they would, they'd gorge and then they'd puke.' I'd say, ‘No, that's not what I meant!'”
Her crash course in diet and fitness convinced Homeister that was what she needed to do after she left the track. She became a certified personal trainer, taught boxing and outdoor fitness classes, and began representing a hemp oil product which she says has helped her focus her high energy levels.
While Homeister was taking a series of classes at the gym near her apartment, her trainer suggested she enter a fitness competition.
“I never in a million years thought I would do something like that. I'd heard of it before and I'd seen it, but I used to picture these big, bulky women and I didn't want to do that. I never knew there were so many categories,” she said. “I said, ‘Ok, I'm up for a challenge. I'll do it.'”
Preparing for a fitness competition required Homeister not just to up her workout routine but to become uber strict about her diet. She had to cut out certain foods, and stick to a strict pre-portioned meal five times a day, in addition to drinking two gallons of water daily. To her surprise, she placed well at national-level competitions in Fort Worth and Las Vegas.
“It was such a great experience and it was a ton of fun, but would I do it again? I don't think so. It's really tough on your body,” she said. “I was leaner and more ripped when I was a jockey than when I competed. Riding a racehorse in a six-furlong race, that one minute and change is like a 20-minute aerobics exercise. It was like I was working out six to eight times a day riding races.”
Since completing her fitness competition, Homeister has gotten offers to do marketing for an orthopedic surgeon and a new chiropractic clinic in Texas, using the skills she picked up from promoting her fitness classes and hemp oil products. Although she has just begun that enterprise, she said she's excited to see where it takes her.
“If I'm healthy, everything else is a bonus,” said Homeister. “When I wake up in the morning, I want to thank God for everything I have.”
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