That’s where our heroine, Khalee, comes to the rescue.
Because she needs a walk, it’s an automatic part of my day.
So, despite the fog, despite the chill, despite my lack of motivation, late this afternoon, I bundled up and took Khalee for a stroll.
As we walked along, looking around and taking deep breaths, I started to feel a lot better.
I started smiling at Khalee, sniffing her way along, wearing the dog shirt that I refer to as her ‘pyjamas.’
And I was filled with gratitude for this good pup whose simple need for exercise helped drag me out of today’s doldrums.
I was still tired but I didn’t feel meh at all anymore.
Thanks for taking your Christine out for a walk, KP, she really needed it.
*Last night, in separate dreams, I was searching for a piece of paper that doesn’t exist in real life, I was trying to remind my husband of things that aren’t happening in real life, and I was trying to teach a sewing class over Zoom (also not happening in real life- which is best for all concerned.)
Last winter, I made an unfortunate error in judgement.
I left our snowshoes in the shed, planning to take them out once it snowed enough to use them regularly.
I didn’t realize that when it finally snowed enough, it would actually snow TOO MUCH and my shed door would be blocked by ice and snow for months.
In fact, I never did get around to snowshoeing last winter. Not even once. And that was annoying.
Annoying enough that I actually made a solid plan this past fall so it wouldn’t happen again. This year, when I put the patio furniture in the shed for the winter, I took my snowshoes out and stored them in my basement.*
Last week, as I was walking Khalee down the snow-covered sidewalk and distracting her from attempting to detour onto the walking trails near our house, I realized that I was missing an opportunity.
If I took out my snowshoes, I could let Khalee bound around in the snow on the path while I sauntered over the top of it without sinking up to my shins.
Now our afternoon walks are mini-adventures for the two of us. (Something Sam and Cheddar and friends clearly know all about!) Snowshoeing on a snowy path with trees on one side and a river on the other is much more relaxing than walking on a snow-smudged sidewalk with a dirty bank of snow on one side and the road on the other.
And yes, there are a few challenges involved in the process. For example, Khalee is not a fan of the fact that I have to go out first and put on my snowshoes before letting her outside and she gets a bit worked up about that. And it is tricky to manage a bounding dog on a leash while trying to walk on snowshoes. And then there is the maneuvering involved in trying to ‘stoop and scoop’ while wearing snowshoes and being connected to a dog whose business at this location is complete and who is ready to move quickly away to the next adventure.
But, even with those challenges, it’s still a lot of fun and it feels a bit more cardio-y than our usual walks.
I’m really glad that I had the foresight to do that little bit of planning back in the fall.
*This kind of planning may not seem like a big deal to the neurotypical but the capacity to think ahead like this has never come naturally to me, especially about stuff that is just for fun. Just another way that my medication has made a positive difference for me.
I’m in the very privileged position of being able to work from home. I do knowledge work in the financial sector and we were deemed essential during the confinement in response to COVID 19. My beloved is also able to work from home.
Our other family members studied from home in the spring but now have jobs outside the house. But. Like. Folks. 5 people at home working, studying and eating 24/7 has really ramped up the housework.
We’ve felt it in the frequency of dishes needing to be done, bathrooms that need a scrub down (those at work toilet breaks really decrease the usage of the home crapper) and general need to tidy & clean taking more and more time. Plus there’s something about just sitting around that lowers my tolerance for home chaos. So the need for housework to increase is, in part, due to a higher standard and also to everyone being home. It’s exhausting.
As a feminist household we strive for an equal distribution of chores. It falls short a lot with the emerging adults, so my partner and I are really feeling the stress. It’s a very busy time of year for his sales job and my leadership role. There just seems to be no time for much else.
Enter Lucy, our seven month old puppy. She’s a Texas Heeler. For those unfamiliar with this compact, energetic mix she’s a cross between 2 herding dogs: Australian Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog. She’s 100% ball of energy.
Before confinement we had our kids helping a lot with her care but now they are working outside the home and we are home all the dang time.
Lucy wakes up most days at 5:30 am. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a morning person. Lucy doesn’t seem to care. She gets a 30 minute walk before we sit down to work, a quick coffee break walk around 10 am. A lunchtime 20-30 minute walk. A pre-dinner and post dinner walk. Yup. That’s. Uh. 5. Five dog walks, mostly done with my partner. The kids help with some mornings. We appreciate it but can’t count on it.
Between longer working hours, more housework and dog walking there’s not a lot else happening for workouts. Sometimes I get a 20-40 minute yoga routine in. But that’s it.
I’m tired friends so I’ve decided to be gentle with myself. There’s a lot going on so when there are moments that I can get a nap or a visit in with a friend I’m taking it.
Lucy is very good at pacing herself. She rests, plays and stretches all the time. She doesn’t worry about having goals or living up to expectations. She’s enthusiastic about eating and being comfortable.
Has your work/life balance shifted recently? How has that impacted your workouts?
“She looks like a rat. Or a gremlin. A gremlin rat dog.” My husband had just met Paloma, a Chihuahua that had happened to come to live with us after a series of unfortunate and unbelievable events. I never would’ve chosen a Chihuahua. I was an athletic person. What could you do with a Chihuahua? “Maybe she can hike with us, if I get a backpack to put her in,” I said, as cheerfully as I could muster. I searched the Interweb. “Look, here’s one that’s not pink!”
We soon learned that most of our assumptions about having a small dog were wrong. To my delight, Paloma loved running. A tiny gremlin dog who weighs just 7 lbs. (3kg) became my running partner.
In my previous post, I talked about how running with your dog can go wrong. Here, I’m going to talk about how to get it right.
Walk Before You Run
Before you run with your dog, your dog should understand how to walk next to you on a loose leash. The basic principle of loose-leash walking is this: Your dog should learn that walking next to you is more awesome than forging ahead or lagging behind. Reward your dog for getting it right! Your dog will associate good things happening to him when he walks next to you and repeat that behavior.
Though she was three years old when she came to live with us, Paloma didn’t know how to walk on a leash. She caught on to loose-leash walking quickly, as she learned that walking next to me meant that yummy cheese would jump out of my pocket and into her mouth. You can learn more about loose-leash walking/running here.
Use the Right Equipment
Never run (or walk) with your dog on a choke or prong collar. These devices stop the unwanted behavior of the dog pulling on the leash by causing pain to your dog’s neck. These aversive devices have also been associated with behavioral problems such as fearfulness and aggression. You wouldn’t want to be choked or pinched for running too fast or too slow, would you?
Suzette Nicolini (CPDT-KA)* walked her Mastiffs, dogs that can grow to be 200lbs (90kg), on a flat buckle collar. She emphasizes the importance of teaching loose-leash walking, “The size and power of a dog shouldn’t be a factor in choosing a collar—the collar is just a tool for leash attachment. Pulling is a training issue. So, we should learn how to teach our dogs to want to walk with us.”
Avoid retractable leashes. The risk for injury, to both humans and dogs, is high and they make it more difficult to control your dog and keep her safe.
Paloma runs on a flat buckle collar. If we are running on hilly trails, she wears a harness where the leash attaches at the back, right over her shoulder blades. Front-attaching harnesses should not be used for running, as the straps can compress the shoulders in a way that can cause tendonitis. Head collars should be used with caution, as stopping suddenly can wrench a dog’s neck and cause injury.
During Your Run
Pay attention to the weather and terrain. Your dog will overheat before you will, and your dog’s paws are sensitive to hot sidewalks, snow, ice, and salt. Plan water stops if it’s warm.
Remember to ask these two questions:
Is my dog feeling safe?
Is my dog having fun?
Cindy Rich (KPA-CTP)**, an expert in training small dogs, also offers this advice, “Be aware of what the world looks like from your dog’s point of view. Know what may startle your dog.” This is especially important if you’re running with a small dog. Your feet may look like an AT-AT Walker to a small dog.
Reinforce your dog’s good behavior and reward your dog for getting it right. These days, I run with a treat bag that holds a small bag of cut-up cheese and poop bags. If you want to skip the treat bag, cheese sticks tuck nicely in the waistband of running shorts or under a sports bra strap. Though it’s a mild inconvenience, it’s worth it to continue to make running fun for my dog.
After Your Run
Dogs are prone to the same kinds of ailments as human athletes: muscle soreness, fatigue, and dehydration. Check paws for sores or foreign objects.
You may have heard this adage in some form, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” While it is true that dogs need exercise, an over-tired dog is likely to be cranky and have less tolerance for life’s little frustrations. Be careful not to over-exercise your dog.
Paloma the Un-Princess
Paloma loves running so much that once we start, she doesn’t want to stop. At crosswalks, she obnoxiously barks her head off. “LET’S GOOO! Stopping is BORING and TERRIBLE!” She loves to move and be outdoors. She’s hiked through the Gila National Forest. She’s run the rocky beaches in Oregon and the streets of Los Angeles. She’s hiked some short trails at The Grand Canyon. I never did buy that doggie backpack to carry her around. She’s not the dog I expected her to be. She’s so much more.
*CPDT-KA: Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed.
**KPA CTP: Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.
Both of these designations are conferred by organizations that promote humane, ethical, science-based training.
Joan Forry earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Temple University in 2008. She is an independent applied ethicist who writes about feminism, sports ethics, and animal ethics. Her current work in animal ethics is concerned with how humans develop meaningful and mindful relationships with dogs. She is an amateur dog trainer who aspires to go pro someday. She documents the travels of her dog, Miles, at www.facebook.com/milesonhydrants.
I have been a runner for sixteen years. When I adopted my first puppy from the humane association, I had grand, romantic visions of running side-by-side with my new best friend, a big wonderful dog. I mostly had visions of people leaving us alone to run in peace. In every place I’ve lived, I’ve been harassed while running. I’ve been cat-called, mocked, propositioned for sex, chased, groped, and had bottles thrown at me. Surely a big wonderful dog would be a buffer against such horrid behavior. I was sure the Pointer/Labrador Retriever mix I’d brought home would be that big wonderful dog and we’d run many miles in peaceful bliss. I named him Mulligan.
When he was old enough, we tried running. I naively thought that running would be easy. Dogs love to run, right? I was wrong. He’d run with me for fifty meters or so and then try to play tug with his leash or stop to sniff. Once, we made it almost a full three minutes of continuous running when Mulligan leapt in front of me to sniff something. I accidentally kneed him in the ribs as I toppled over him, skinning my hands, arms, and legs on the sidewalk. Mulligan was confused, scared, and bruised. I had gravel stuck in my palms for a week.
I’ve learned a lot since then. And, we added two more dogs to our active household. Sharing athletic endeavors with a dog can be wonderfully rewarding. But, they should be undertaken with care. Running successfully with a dog is a learned skill, for both you and your dog. I’ve witnessed people getting it wrong, sometimes even endangering themselves, their dogs, and others in the process. I’ve even been guilty of getting it wrong myself.
Is Running a Good Fit for You and Your Dog?
Make sure your dog is old enough and fit enough for rigorous physical activity. Your veterinarian can give your dog an orthopedic exam to identify any physical problems.
Know your dog’s activity preferences. Just as one form of exercise might suit you, but not your friend, one activity might suit one dog, but not another. Your dog’s preferences depend upon breed and physical characteristics, prior experiences, and your ability to manage their present experiences.
It turned out that Mulligan, a blend of two hunting breeds, much preferred scenting around the neighborhood, nose to the ground, with the occasional sprint or game of tug, than running at a steady pace. He found running to be boring. He missed out on all the things he was galloping past: the smells, the sights, and the textures.
But, it was more than that he was bored. He was also worried.
This is where I most profoundly failed my dog, Mulligan. In any activity you undertake with your dog, you must pay attention to your dog’s well-being by regularly asking these two questions:
Is my dog feeling safe?
Is my dog having fun?
Your dog may be technically safe in a situation, but what’s more important is whether your dog FEELS safe.
Mulligan was worried about all kinds of things in the environments where we ran: the trashcans that magically appeared on the curbs on Thursdays, loud traffic, parking meters, flags, and awnings. Awnings loomed over Mulligan, their fringes gently waving without reason. Once, he bolted into traffic to escape an awning, dragging me fifteen feet on the asphalt and dislocating my shoulder. Thankfully, he was not hurt.
Mulligan did not feel safe, and he certainly was NOT having fun. Here was a dog who paid meticulous attention to his environment. Everything in his world has to be methodically considered and assessed. Instead of supporting him, I’d rushed him, forcing him to go where I wanted to go, at the speed I dictated. He trusted me to keep him safe from all the bad things and I’d failed him.
Mulligan and I don’t run anymore. But our relationship has healed. We embraced a science-based, force-free training program that incorporated desensitization and counter-conditioning to help him be less worried. You can learn more about this kind of training at fearfuldogs.com. We hike, we walk, we play games, and we explore. Though we might sprint out of sheer joy every now and then, we don’t really run.
I finally found my canine running companion in the most unlikely dog: a rescued Chihuahua name Paloma. Seriously, a Chihuahua. More on that adventure in my next post.
Joan G. Forry earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Temple University in 2008. She is an independent applied ethicist who writes about feminism, sports ethics, and animal ethics. Her current work in animal ethics is concerned with how humans develop meaningful and mindful relationships with dogs. She is an amateur dog trainer who aspires to go pro someday. She documents the travels of her dog, Miles, at www.facebook.com/milesonhydrants.
At one time I thought it would be good to have a small dog that I could take places with me, but I soon learned that a big dog could take me all sorts of places I really wanted to go! I had the chance to adopt a very nice husky-shepherd mix that a friend had rescued, and I knew she’d keep me active. I knew she could run with me, if I wanted, and that otherwise keeping her happy would require me to walk a lot. I named her Abbie – Abigail means “heavenly gift,” and she has not only required me to be active but helped me to enjoy exercise and build a better body image.
I’ve never particularly enjoyed exercise, except for step classes in certain places, dancing, and walking. Finding exercise that I can enjoy has been a long-term quest. I would run a little from time to time just because it was minimal hassle and investment. But running has become a special pleasure with Abbie: finding the freedom in letting out my stride and running alongside her, sharing the joy she finds in running. Nobody enjoys running like a dog, and perhaps no dogs more than huskies. Her pleasure at using her strength inspires me to simply enjoy what I’m doing, and to accept the exercise as an end in itself. We enjoy our movement, being together, and being simply being out!
I find it easiest to lose weight (and keep it off) when I run or get intense cardio of any kind, and I used to consider losing weight really important. It was my central reason for exercising: I’ve suffered from the usual body image nonsense that many women endure. I wanted a better motivation to exercise, but I couldn’t internalize the other goals it serves: stress reduction, energy, sleeping well, and so on. That’s a lot easier to do now that Abbie’s helped me to appreciate the pleasures of exercise itself, and being outside just to be in the light and the air. That motivates me to continue to exercise, so I can continue to do more, especially as my aging body needs encouragement.
I’ve explained my long up and down relationship history with running here. There I said, “Actually, if running and I had a relationship status on Facebook it would say “it’s complicated.” And that’s still true. But I’m feeling fit these days and very strong.
And as winter approaches I think I’m ready to try again. The thing is I love being outside. And when I’m running, that’s one time I can stand the cold. It’s funny. I hear people talk about moving their running inside to the track or (shudder) the treadmill at the very time that I’m starting to get keen.
I love how quiet it is issue in the winter. I love the sound of crunching snow. Winter is my favorite running season.
I’m up early three mornings a week for CrossFit and I think I’d like to try running on the other two weekdays. There’s a nice 4 km loop around my house. When I did it before I did the loop once alone and then again with my running friends, the dogs, at a more uneven pace with lots of stops for sniffing, with squirrel sprints thrown in for good measure. I’ve written about my dogs before. See Dogs are natural intuitive exercisers and Injuries, exercise, and thank God for dogs. Dogs are great company to run with because they are so happy to be out there and they love running. For 25 dogs with runners’ high, see here.
I don’t expect that I’ll be able to extend my range much beyond 10 km given my history of running injuries but 10 km would be enough to do most of the duathlons I’m interested in, I think. I’ve also enjoyed some of the adventure races but they have obstacle breaks built in and so again I think 10 km is probably fine. I’ll be curious to see whether I can make any speed gains this time round. I’m certainly a lot stronger now. In the past my 5 km times got pretty good, down to 25 minutes after regular speed training on the track, but my 10 km seemed stuck. It didn’t matter that I got faster at 5 km my fastest 10 km is slow, 1:08. Distance isn’t my friend!
I’ll report back and let you know how I’m doing…and any advice? Throw it my way.
I was amused last week when Precision Nutrition posted the following message to Facebook:
*** ARE YOU GETTING YOUR VITAMIN P? ***
Did you know that research has shown real health benefits to pet companionship, including lower cholesterol, improved blood pressure, decreased depression, and improved blood vessel function?
Post a picture of your Vitamin P today and share the furry love.
I’m doing the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program and every few weeks they add a new habit to our checklists: eat protein with every meal, eat veggies with every meal, eat to 80% full, etc. And now a new one, I thought, Vitamin P. What the heck is that?
Luckily I also looked at the picture and saw a coach running along the beach with her dog. Phew. “P” is for pet. I’ve got that one covered. I’ve written here about how dogs keep you active no matter what. Bad weather? They don’t care. They just love to fun and frolic outside and it’s contagious. See Injuries, exercise, and thank God for dogs.
Here’s the health benefits of Vitamin P:
Increase longevity after heart attacks
Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
Improve blood pressure
Reduce irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
Improve blood vessel (endothelial) function
Increase physical activity and functioning
Reduce medical appointments and minor health problems
Alert to hypoglycemia
Boost levels of exercise and physical activity
Improve alertness and attention among elderly people who have pets
“The nation’s largest cardiovascular health organization has a new message for Americans: Owning a dog may protect you from heart disease.
The unusual message was contained in a scientific statement published on Thursday by the American Heart Association, which convened a panel of experts to review years of data on the cardiovascular benefits of owning a pet. The group concluded that owning a dog, in particular, was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.
People who own dogs certainly have more reason to get outside and take walks, and studies show that most owners form such close bonds with their pets that being in their presence blunts the owners’ reactions to stress and lowers their heart rate, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, the head of the committee that wrote the statement.”
Exercising, working out, or training? I almost never use the first of these terms and I have a strong preference for the 3rd. Here’s some thoughts about why.
Recently the media reported on a study from the University of Alberta that showed shows like The Biggest Loser put people off exercise with its extreme depiction of what exercise involves.
From the U of A website: Researchers in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation found that watching a short video clip of The Biggest Loser fueled negative attitudes toward exercise, raising further questions about how physical activity is shown in the popular media.
“The depictions of exercise on shows like The Biggest Loser are really negative,” said lead author Tanya Berry, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity Promotion. “People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you’re not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is—that it’s this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the extremes and the limits, which is completely wrong.”
For me, the word ‘exercise’ has negative connotations, even without The Biggest Loser. At best it sounds dull and joyless. I use the word to describe physio rehab that I do. Those are exercises but that’s about it.
I’ve been active a lot this weekend but, physio aside, none of it has been something I’d call exercise. Saturday mornings I go to Aikido where I practice and I train. The emphasis is on skill development and training seems to me to be the right word. True, I got really hot and sweaty during hajime training but getting hot and sweaty wasn’t the point. Moving fast, without thinking, putting the techniques in ‘body memory’ was.
Saturday afternoon I had a soccer game. We lost against the Chocolate Martinis. (An aside: I think nothing screams ‘middle aged women playing soccer’ quite like the team names. Last week we won against Cougartown.) Was that exercise? I ran fast and played hard but I wouldn’t describe what I was doing as exercise. I was playing. We were competing. Yes, it’s a recreational league but we do play to win. In the end we lost but we had a lot of fun.
And Sunday morning I’ll be at the rowing club for an early morning erg session. Again, there’s a lot of technique involved and I think of it as training, not exercise per se. For example, we did a really challenging drill Thursday night trying to match a pace slightly above our 2 km test pace but with a much slower stroke rate. Tough work and really hard to concentrate on technique. Usually my bike ride home from rowing is much slower than my pace on the way there.
Most weekends I also take my dog out for a 5 km + hike in the woods. Usually we run together. I love being outside and I like the feeling of running on trails in the woods.
So Aikido, soccer, rowing, bike riding, and dog-jogging. But no exercise?
I’d say in one sense that’s right. I do these things because they’re fun, a big part of what I think of as the good life. I spend a lot of time as an academic in my head, with words, books, and ideas but being physical really matters. It’s a key part of who I am.
No wonder inactive people are put off by The Biggest Loser’s participants. Those people are not having any fun. It’s joyless. They are exercising for one reason and one reason only, to lose weight. If that were my reason, I’d have quit a long time ago.
My advice to people who want to be more active is to find something you love, something you enjoy, something you’d do anyway even if you didn’t lose weight. We need to experience more joy in our lives, joy in moving our bodies in ways that feel good.
For you, that might be dance, yoga, walking, or gardening.
For me, I’m a competitive person and I like races and games with winners and losers. I also like skill development and getting better at something, like testing for new belts in Aikido, crit interval drills on the bike, or learning the technique involved in rowing.
It’s clear with cycling, the sport I love best, that it’s not medicinal exercise, taken in daily doses for health related reasons. Instead, at various times I’ve trained and raced. These days more often I ride for fun with friends. I also often commute on my bike and use it for practical transportation.
Even Crossfit–the one thing I do to which the term ‘workout’ really applies–has both a skill building (weight training, Olympic lifting) and a competitive element. It’s ‘as many reps as possible’ or ‘so many reps for time.’ I usually focus on competing with myself but other people there seriously train for the Crossfit games.
If exercise, as a term, works for you, great. But for many of us it misses the mark. For us, let’s ditch talk of exercise and talk instead about all the fun physical activities that are part of the good life. I think sharing the joy in physical activity is a better route to getting more people moving than in prescribing exercise in medicinal doses.