Monday, March 5, 2012

Exercising With Your Dog

by guest blogger Rob Toledo

We hear it pretty much every day. You want to be fit? You need to exercise. You want to lose weight? You’re going to have to exercise. Want to be in a good mood? The key to that is exercise. And yet it seems like we’re still never getting enough exercise. How much is enough? It’s not as bad as you might think. Studies have found that as little as 20 minutes of physical exercise a week can have a profound impact on keeping us mentally healthy and happy. What’s more, if you can manage to work in those 20 minutes of exercise every day, you’ll see a marked improvement in your physical well-being as well. 

But what about motivation? We all know working out on your own can be tough, especially during the winter months where you just don’t want to get out of bed. However, if you’re a dog owner, or thinking about adopting one, it means you have access to one of the best workout partners in existence.

And if you’re anything like me, the type of person who buys only the best dog food, researches quality dog insurancemakes sure my dog’s leash and collar fit perfectly, and ensure he can only chew on pet-safe toys, then you’re also the type of person who loves how excited your dog gets when you start putting your shoes on and grab the leash from the closet. This excitement can serve as excellent motivation to keep going with your workout.

When you own a dog, you really don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get fit. You just need to get outside with your pooch. Instead of letting him out in the yard to do his business, take him for a good walk around the neighborhood at least once a day. But don’t just stroll around your neighborhood leisurely. Try to make your stride at least two times faster than normal. If you can, vary between a brisk walk for one block and then jogging for the next to really get your heart rate up. Of course, if you have a smaller breed dog he might have some problems staying on pace with you. If your pooch has shorter legs, consider investing in an extendable leash that will let you walk up ahead of him a bit and then double back again.

Next, make use of your down time on the walks by mixing in some isometric exercises. Isometrics are exercises that are done without equipment and simply require contracting targeted muscle groups. The best part about isometrics is that they allow you to be creative and have some fun as you engage your muscles. When I’m out with my dog, I make a game out of working in exercises while he goes about his doggie routine. Here are three of them to get you started:

1) When my dog stops to sniff the grass, or eat it, as he’s sometimes prone to do, I fit in a few calf lifts. Simply tense your legs and slowly rise up on the balls of your feet. Hold this pose for a count of five and then come back down until your heels almost hit the sidewalk. Repeat three times.
2) Whenever my dog takes a break in the vicinity of a tree or a building, I get in a mini upper-body workout. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms so that they are directly in front of you with your palms pressed against the surface of the building/tree/light pole/what have you. Your body should be at a diagonal and you should be up on balls of your feet. Lean forward until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and hold for five seconds. Slowly press back into a standing position. Repeat 5-10 times.
3) If you find yourself along the occasional wall, give your legs one of the most strenuous workouts by placing your back against the wall, getting your upper legs parallel to the ground and spreading your feet to shoulder width. With your legs now at a 90 degree angle, hold your arms straight out for 10-30 seconds, and repeat 2-5 times.

I think that the best thing about working out with my dog as my partner is that it’s helped to keep me motivated. I’d never been the best at sticking to a fitness routine before, but seeing how happy my dog gets when he knows we’re about to go for a walk has proved to be just the right incentive to keep me going every day. Before exercising with your dog it is important to consider both your and your dog’s health, making sure you are both healthy enough for physical activity.

Rob Toledo is a lover of all things dogs, supports adopting from local shelters, recommends utilizing pet insurance, and maintaining personal health through eating quality and natural foods.

Photo credit: PeterLigerry (Wikimedia)

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