I’ve mostly written posts on this blog about martial arts, one of the great influences in my life. So now I’m going to write about one of the other great influences in my life, namely my dogs. I currently live with a border collie, an Australian shepherd, and a boxer/doberman mix. And to indulge my additional love of lists, let me give you three reasons why these dogs are my fitness heroes.
3) They are motivated every day.
When you live with three healthy and active adult dogs, some form of outdoor physical activity is a non-negotiable part of the day. Taking a walk is just part of what you do. It’s admittedly not so fun when you’re sick or when the weather’s bad, and was pretty tricky when I was on crutches for a couple of months. But I really don’t often regret getting some fresh air and neither do they.
2) They exercise because they love it.
Sam has already blogged about dogs being intuitive exercisers. The reason why I love the way my dogs exercise is because they really don’t care about how many calories they’re burning, or which muscle groups they’re working. They exercise because they love to run around in the woods and play and chase things. And that matches my personal feelings about exercise, which is that it should ideally just be a consequence of doing things that you enjoy. I love kicking things, climbing rocks, and riding my bike to work, and I’m lucky that those things also help me stay in decent shape.
Another consequence of dogs’ exercising for the joy of it, is that they don’t feel as though they always need to work themselves to exhaustion to be satisfied. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever really tired out my border collie. (Though I’m also not sure whether it’s actually possible to tire out a border collie.) Regardless, he can still be happy and satisfied with a good hike even though he would surely be willing and able to do the entire thing all over again. Because they exercise for the joy of it, they don’t feel guilty (or even think) about whether they’ve worked hard enough.
1) They are unambiguously body-positive.
I came up with the idea for this post this morning when I was getting dressed and (as usual) poking at various parts of my body and inspecting them in the mirror to evaluate just how dissatisfied I ought to be with them. This part of my morning routine was (as usual) interrupted by my border collie nosing me in the leg, partly because he wanted me to hurry up and partly because he thought I should pet him instead. Both of these being eminently reasonable requests, I petted him, then hurried up. But it also occurred to me just how puzzled he must be by the fact that I delay our walk more or less every day by doing the same pointless thing.
I don’t know if you’ve had a dog. But if so, you know they love you no matter what you weigh or where you carry (or don’t carry) your body fat. Or how your hair, nose, or any other features look. In fact, I’m pretty sure they don’t even have a concept of human beauty ideals, much less the capacity to care about them. So really, dogs are more body-positive than pretty much any of us. But what we can at least take away from them is a concept of body-positivity that goes beyond “every body is beautiful.” This is a nice message, but sometimes I just want us to let go of this valuing of beauty altogether. That means instead of saying that we’re all beautiful, saying beauty doesn’t really matter. And some days I’d really like that. Instead of trying to come to terms with myself and convince myself I actually am beautiful, some days I’d rather just forget that the whole thing is even an issue. And that’s what I get when I hang out with my dogs.
So I’ll end this post with the message that I think my border collie was trying to send me this morning.
Wouldn’t you be happier if you took all that time you spend dwelling on your imperfections and just petted a dog instead?
Yeah. I thought so.