fitness · health · season transitions · self care

Sweaticating. Yes, I made that word up.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the heat. We don’t get enough good weather here as it is. I don’t want to complain and risk a weather deity’s vengeance.

So, this is not a complaint.

It’s an observation.

I’m just observing that it has been especially warm and humid (for this part of Newfoundland) this past week or so and I am not acclimatized to it at all.

In fact, it often leaves me feeling a migraine is hunting me and it could catch me at any minute.

And that’s just about as fun as it sounds.

So instead of trying out new exercises or adding a bit more time to my usual routine, I’ve just been sweaticating.

According to the lexicon of my 9 year old self (and that self’s friend Rochelle) sweaticating is when you are so warm that everything you wear sticks to you and you mostly feel like lying around eating popsicles.

A woman reclines in bed saying ‘I’m sweating’ while fanning herself with her hand.
She’s just sweating, not sweaticating but she does look like she could use a popsicle. Image description: GIF of Alexis from the TV show Schitt’s Creek is reclining in bed fanning her armpits with her hands and saying ‘I feel like I’m sweating.’

Popsicle lounging what I *feel* like doing but since I’m an adult (or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile, at least) I know that lying around eating popsicles will eventually leave me feeling much worse.

So, while I have eaten my fair share of popsicles and I have done a nice bit of lying around recently, I have also been following my bare minimum self-care plan.

What does that look like?

Taking Khalee for walks after supper instead of in the late afternoon.

A light haired dog on a leash stands on grass near a wooden fence
I picked this photo because Khalee’s expression cracks me up but that particular evening it had rained a bit so it wasn’t quite so warm. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a harness and leash, stands next to a fence. Her body is pointing away from the viewer but head is turned back toward the camera and she looks like she is asking ‘Are you going to catch up or what?’

Doing some writing on my patio under the shade of a tree.

I set up one of my outdoor tables so I can stand and write/draw. Foolishly, my first attempt had me facing my neighbour’s fence. This view is way better. Image description: My notebook is open on a white table that is attached to my patio rail. My pencil case and pen are covering most of the lined page of my notebook and I have a travel container of iced tea on the wooden railing above it. There’s an orange lawn chair and an empty fire pit amid the grass beyond the patio rail. (The firepit is on concrete slabs but the grass is too long to see them in this shot) Tree trunks, lower tree branches and a wooden fence are in the background.

Yoga, stretches, slow-motion TKD patterns, and other low-key exercises outside once it gets dark.

A nighttime photo of a patio lit with string lights.
Night yoga for the win. Image description: An inviting nighttime photo of my patio. My railing is lit with string lights and a small patio burner, my yoga mat stretches out from the right hand side of the photo and in the far corner is a chair with a red cushion and a table with a flowering plant on it.

I’m not following my ideal plan but I am doing what I can and taking good care of myself while (mostly) avoiding that predatory migraine.

How about you?

How are you taking good care of yourself these days?

PS – If things haven’t been going so well on that front, why not give it a whirl today.?

Start small, rest a little…maybe have a popsicle.

A GIF of a dog eating a popsicle
A GIF of a small brown dog in a striped sweater eats a yellow popsicle that is clutched between its front paws. The words YUM YUM are at the bottom of the image.

dogs · fitness · walking

April is Active Dog Month: Who knew?

Yes, it’s true.

April IS Active Dog Month.

And, yes, there is truly a month or a week or at least a day for everything. Maybe that fact makes you a bit meh about all of these sorts of declarations (and that’s fair!) but I kind of like the idea of finding something to celebrate on any given day.

Maybe I am not going all in for National Garlic Day today, I haven’t planned any celebrations for Coin Week this week, and I don’t even think I have the required millinery to celebrate Straw Hat Month but I *am* strongly pro-fun so I vote yes on anything that brings a little levity to your day-to-day.

ANYWAY, back to the celebration at hand.

Apparently Active Dog Month was started by Natasha at Om Shanti Pups but I didn’t delve too far into the history of this auspicious month, so I can’t be sure of its origins. However, I do know that she has some good posts on keeping your dog active so check those out for some ideas.

As you know, our dog Khalee is my constant companion and she and I walk every day. I’m not really sure if I am keeping her active or if she is keeping me active but it seems to work out, either way. And if I ever forget that I need a daily walk just as much as Khalee does, she reminds me.

a light-haired dog stands on a sidewalk next to snow covered grass and trees, she is looking back towards the camera and one of her front paws is lifted off the ground.
I love how Khalee looks like she has quite enough of my lollygagging here. Image description: My light-haired, medium sized dog, Khalee, is standing on a sidewalk next to some snow -covered grass and bushes. She is wearing a harness that is attached to a neon yellow leash. Khalee’s left side is toward the camera and she has turned her head to look at me while raising her left front paw off the sidewalk.

There’s a fair amount of dog talk here on the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog (a while ago, Sam compiled some of them into a post here) so I thought it would be fun to get a few of our bloggers to chime in about dogs and exercise.

Diane:

I no longer own a dog. I like being able to travel and not worry about boarding. When I had a dog, I always resented having to take him out for long walks when I was trying to get ready for work, or it was time for bed. But I love dogs, and enjoy a moment of interaction as many as possible while out walking, even if it is just a quick whispered “who’s a good pup?” as we walk in opposite directions.

A white poster from a prank website called Obvious Plant, poster is trimmed in green and lists joke dog commands.
This poster from Obvious Plant (a satirical/joke social media account from a person who also places posters and products in public places as a prank) always cracks me up. I have yet to teach Khalee how to hover ominously but we’re working on it. Image description: a white poster trimmed in green with a list of joke dog commands. The poster heading reads ‘Most Common Dog Commands’ and the list reads ‘ Sit, Stay, GLOW, Hover Ominously, Resurrect a fallen ally, Split yourself into two so I have more dogs to pet, Seal the portal, Shoot lasers, Channel the fire breath of a mighty dragon, Spread love, destroy evil. ‘

Elan:

I do not have a dog, but I walk/hike semi-regularly with two friends’ dogs, Ellie and Ricky. I notice a heightened, vicarious enthusiasm for walking while with a dog. With a dog, the walk seems more interesting, perhaps because humans and dogs find different things interesting while walking. There is a sense of companionship and satisfaction when walking with a dog that even some non-dog owners notice. Is there a difference between dog walking and walking while with a dog? Dog owners probably know.

Sam:

Cheddar is around the blog a lot. The blog turns 10 this summer and Cheddar is 7 so there’s a lot of overlap! These days Cheddar is the reason I’m out walking at all. While waiting for total knee replacement, both knees, I’m not a fan of walking even though it’s good for me. It hurts. But Cheddar gets me out there three or four times a week. He’s lucky that I’m not the only person who walks him. I’m lucky he’s excellent at adjusting his pace to the person walking him. He’s also a most excellent yoga dog, though unlike Adriene’s Benji he’s not good at staying off the mat so he gets his own.

a dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, a grey yoga mat is next him.
Cheddar has obviously grasped the essentials of a good yoga practice: get on the mat, find ease. Image description: Cheddar, a light-coloured, long-haired dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, his rope toy is next to him. A grey yoga mat is next to Cheddar’s mat, and the wheels of an office chair can be seen in the background.

Nat:

Walking Lucy has become my partner and my touch point time before work, on our lunch break ,and after dinner during the week. Our youngest kid is 20 and regularly takes Lucy out solo but also subs in for one of us if cooking, work or other exercise needs my time.

Since the walks have to happen I’m out way more consistently and for longer than I’ve ever been before.

a dog sits in a porch waiting to be taken for a walk
Lucy seems to think that it is time for the humans to hurry up a bit. Image description: Lucy, a light-haired dog whose ears stand up straight, is sitting down in a porch looking expectantly up at the camera. Two rugs can be seen on the floor behind her and someone’s foot and leg can be seen on the left side of the photo.

Back to Christine:

Whether we are walking our dogs or they are walking us, at least everyone has the chance to get some movement into their days.

I am intrigued by Elan’s comment about companionship and about the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog. When my kids were small, I used to love going for a walk and pushing the stroller – more often than not I would be yammering away to them and they would be asleep! And as much as I enjoy walking on my own, I had missed the feeling of pushing the stroller.

I thought that I was missing the extra effort that the stroller required, that my brain needed the extra work to calmly stay on task instead of filling up with other ideas about what I should be doing. (ADHD brains have a knack for that kind of thing.)

I don’t think that I really considered it before now but I think that walking Khalee gives me a lot of the same feeling that walking with the stroller did. There’s a larger purpose to my walk and I have company (which, as many people with ADHD will attest, makes almost any task more doable.)

So, now that I think about it, I definitely know the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog, and I am doing the latter.

I’m not walking Khalee, we are walking together. I do most of the talking and she does most of the sniffing – everyone working to their strengths, you know?

And maybe her blog posts are all about hoping that I am getting enough exercise this month.

ADHD · fitness

Audience Participation Time: How do you reset?

I had a very careful plan for my Monday, some writing, a few administrative tasks, outlining, and organizing details for an event next week. But instead of doing all that perfectly reasonable and very doable stuff, I fell into a trap composed of inertia and ADHD hyperfocus and spent most of the day organizing notes and info from a few of my files.

 a tidy stack of groups of white papers held together with paper clips are sitting next to pair of glasses, the corner of a silver and white keyboard can be seen on the right. ​
Obviously, my stack of papers would never be this tidy, this is a stock photo. Image description; a tidy stack of groups of white papers held together with paper clips are sitting next to pair of glasses, the corner of a silver and white keyboard can be seen on the right.

Those are useful things to have done and they will be helpful for me in the long run but I wish that I had broken that task down in a half hour sessions throughout the week.

Instead, I spent most of my day sitting down, poring over papers, making all kinds of small decisions about what to keep, what to scan, and what to recycle.

It was only when I started to get annoyed with myself for not wanting to deal with the last two papers in a folder that I realized that I was tired and that I had spent too much time doing this one thing. (For the record, I did stop for lunch and for several cups of tea, I wasn’t that far gone.)

At this point you may be thinking, “Yeah Christine, that sounds frustrating but what does it have to do with fitness?”

That’s where the audience participation part is going to come in, hang on a sec.

You see, when I pulled myself away from the papers, after finishing those last two, I realized that I needed to do something. I needed to move in some way but damned if I could figure out what it was.

Did I want to stretch?

Do some yoga?

Go for a walk?

Practice my patterns?

Do something a bit more intense?

I wanted to do all and none of that.

I actually wanted a magic wand to give me my day back and take this meh feeling away but I guess my fairy godmother is on holiday today because she didn’t answer. Everyone needs their rest, right?

Anyway, I decided to start with a few stretches and then I headed out for a walk. Seeing as my fairy godmother was incommunicado, I figured that hanging out with Khalee was the most practical magic I could access.

A light haired dog in a red sweater covered in white hearts stands on a sidewalk looking toward the camera.
Khalee, a light-haired dog wearing a red sweater covered in white hearts, stands on a sidewalk with snow next to her. She is looking toward the camera and I swear she looks impatient. She is wearing a blue and black harness and since I am holding her neon yellow leash, you can see it extending from her harness toward the camera.

But, I’m curious, what do YOU do when you find yourself feeling all meh and grumpy?

Do you need gentle movement to ease your brain and body back into gear?

Or do you go for something more vigorous so you can get a jump start?

Do tell!

PS – For the record: I was a bit cranky about losing my day to sorting papers but, ultimately, my effort will be useful. I wasn’t hard on myself about it. ADHD is tricky and being mean to myself about my symptoms and tendencies won’t make it any easier. You may not have ADHD but I hope you can be kind to yourself about the detours your brain takes too. We’re all just doing our best out here, right?

dogs · fitness · walking

Khalee Solves Christine’s Problem (a poem?)

I had a long list, couldn’t choose what to do

I sat on the step to let my thoughts stew

I was tired, annoyed, upset, and scattered

Inside my skull, my poor old brain clattered.

But as I sat there, no solution in sight

Along came a good pup to set everything right.

She started out subtly 😉 glancing back from the door

Khalee, a light-haired dog, stands in a porch crowded with shoes. Her body is pointed toward the door but her head is turned back looking at someone. ​
Here’s our heroine, Khalee, at the beginning of her brain-rescue efforts. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, stands in a porch crowded with shoes. Her body is pointed toward the door but her head is turned back looking at someone.

But when I stood up, she began to implore…

 Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, is standing on her back paws with her front paws on me as I take the photo. Her nose is close on the camera and we can see along the left side of her head
She’s kind of blurred and frantic looking because she was moving when I snapped this. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, is standing on her back paws with her front paws on me as I take the photo. Her nose is close on the camera and we can see along the left side of her head.

“Come on, Christine, it’s time for a walk.”

Well, I imagined her saying it, if she could talk.

A back on view of a dog in a green hoodie, she is attached to a neon yellow leash that extends toward the camera. She is walking on some light snow that covers a driveway and a piece of curb.
Our valiant pup leads the befuddled Christine down the side of her street. Image description: A back-on view of Khalee in a green hoodie. She is attached to a neon yellow leash that extends toward the camera. She is walking on some light snow that covers a driveway and a piece of curb.

In a few minutes of walking, with deep breaths of fresh air.

I began to feel better, my brain started to clear,

Now, Khalee’s to-do list was short, and she sure took her time,

A light haired dog sniffs the ground on a snow covered path.
Khalee investigates every path very closely. A cat might have passed here once and you can’t risk sniffing out that kind of info. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a green hoodie, attached to a neon yellow leash, is sniffing a snow-covered path.

Sniffing and scouting to see what she could find.

Khalee, a light- haired dog in a green hoodie stands on the snow-dusted sidewalk and looks off to the right.​
Khalee also does above-ground surveillance. Image description: Khalee, a light- haired dog in a green hoodie stands on the snow-dusted sidewalk and looks off to the right.

As she ambled along following all her dog plans,

I came to realize I was in good doggy hands.*

By getting me outside, making me breathe the fresh air,

Khalee had banished brain clutter and helped make my thoughts clear.

As we headed to the bridge on the way back to our home,

Image description: Khalee, a light haired dog in a green hoodie, is facing away from the camera, walking across a snow-covered ​path toward a small bridge.
Khalee leads the way towards home. Home is where we keep our snacks and a snack is the next thing on Khalee’s to-do list. Image description: Khalee is facing away from the camera, walking across a snow-covered path toward a small bridge.

I shaped my blog thoughts into this Pete-ish poem**

And then I filled it with photos of good Khalee pup,

to divert your attention from where I messed up.

So, my dear friends, if you are scattered, if your brain’s filled with bees,

Please take Khalee’s advice and walk to find ease.

You don’t need to move quickly, an amble will do,

It really helped me, may the same go for you.

A light-haired dog lies in a red leather chair facing the camera, she is resting her head in someone’s hand.
Life Coach Khalee accepts payment in ear scratches and snacks. It works out well for both of us. image description: Khalee is lying on her side in a red leather chair, her head is resting in my hand as I scratch behind her ear. My white-sleeved arm is visible at the bottom right.

*Er, paws are kind of hands, right?

**Pete is my Dad. Back in the day, he wrote this kind of light-hearted foolishness for birthday cards and office Christmas parties. I learned poetry-writing from an engineer, that should explain a few things.

dogs · fitness · motivation · walking

On this glum day, Christine is grateful Khalee needs a walk.

You’re reading this on Tuesday but I’m writing it on Monday.

I’ve been stuck between metaphorical gears all day.

There’s nothing wrong and I’m not feeling down or anything, I’m just not…something.

It might be because I had a lot of administrative dreams last night. (You know, the kind where you spend the whole night putting things in order?*) So I woke up tired.

Or maybe it’s because the weather looks like this here today.

A paved path with trees on the side on an overcast,  foggy day.
It’s just so inspiring and uplifting, isn’t it? (Does sarcasm work when you can’t hear me say it?) Image Description: a paved path with sparse trees on either side. It’s overcast and foggy.

Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the day feeling glum and kind of vaguely dissatisfied with the work I was doing.

I know how to shake this feeling, of course.

*All* I have to do is to get moving.

But when you are feeling meh, it’s hard to motivate yourself.

And when you are feeling meh and you have ADHD, motivation is even harder to come by.

That’s where our heroine, Khalee, comes to the rescue.

Because she needs a walk, it’s an automatic part of my day.

A light haired  dog in    a red and white shirt sniffs the air on a paved path.
I love how Khalee sniffs the air like this when we are on a walk. I think it helps her decide which path to take each time. (We follow her nose.) Image description: a light-haired dog in a red shirt covered in white hearts is standing on a paved path. She is facing away from the camera and her nose is lifted as she sniffs the air.

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.

A light haired   dog looking directly into the camera.
Here’s Khalee Pup (a.k.a. KP) after I called out ‘Hey, Good Girl!‘ so she would turn around. She knows how good she is. Image description: a light haired dog, wearing a red shirt with white hearts on it, looks directly at the camera.

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.)

dogs · gear · nature · walking · winter

For Christine H, A Little Planning = Big Fun

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.

A n outdoor photo of anwan and a dog. The woman is looking toward the camera. The dog is looking at the woman and partially blocking our view.
I tried to get us both in the photo. I guess I was sort of successful. PS: I am wearing my hatphones! Image description: An outdoor photo of Christine and her dog, Khalee. Christine, a woman in her late forties, wearing a black toque, scarf and jacket, has a reddened nose and cheeks because of the cold, she is looking toward the camera. Only the right side Khalee’s face is visible, she is looking toward Christine and partially blocking our view.

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.

A snowy footpath extends through some sparse woods.
Even though there is a school just on the other side of the trees and there are houses on the other side of the river, this walk feels a lot more nature-y. Image description: a snow-covered path, covered in footprints, extends forward. There are lots of trees on the left and a few on the right. There is a lower spot to the right where a river lies beneath the snow.

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.

A medium-sized blond dog in a red sweater with white hearts on it stands on a snowy path.
Does Khalee need this sweater? I don’t know, I can’t tell if it’s too cold to be out in ‘just’ her fur but I use the same principle I used to use with the kids – if I am going to have to worry about you being chilly, we have to bring a sweater for you. Khalee has to put hers on in advance because I would never be able to wrestle her into it while we were on the path. I’ll bet it would be funny to watch me try though. Image Description: A medium-sized BLOND (This was autocorrected to blind initially but that is incorrect, she isn’t blind.) dog in a red sweater with white hearts on it, stands on a snowy path. She is on a leash attached to a harness and she is looking away from the camera. The path is covered in footprints.

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.

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat’s wrangling working, dog walking and not very many workouts.

Recommended Soundtrack: Handshakes by Metric

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.

All thirty pounds of Lucy posed in her best “we are going walking” face as she sits on the sidewalk.

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.

Lucy lies on her back flirting with a tiny treat before she devours it. Her pink belly with dark freckles is begging to be scratched.

Has your work/life balance shifted recently? How has that impacted your workouts?

fitness

Best Laid Plans and All That

Spoiler: Although I have spent a fair bit of March feeling under the weather, there was no point at which I had more than a passing concern that it was anything more than a cold. Please don’t worry!

I had envisioned March as a pleasantly busy month.

I was going to undertake my dance/cardio challenge. I was going to get out for lots of walks.

I was going to check in regularly with goofy posts about energetic flailing to music.

There was going to be photos.

March was going to come in like a frolicking lamb and I was going to frolic right along with it.

Yeah…soooooo, that didn’t work out.

The first few days of March were marvellous – I went for walks and danced it up a little.

Then, around the 3rd, I was suddenly as sick as the proverbial dog. Some sort of strange cold that left me feeling like my head weighed 3000lbs. (Approximately 3000, I didn’t weigh it.)

A light haired dog  sits upright on a dark brown laminate floor.
Khalee is neither proverbial nor sick, luckily. She’s just hoping there will be snacks.

I didn’t even try to exercise, I know when I should exercise through illness and this was not one of those times.

My head gradually returned to its normal weight after 4-5 days, just in time for me to start sneezing.

(It’s a blessing really. If I had been sneezing while my head was so heavy, it might have just gone flying right off and I really don’t have the right energy to live as a disembodied head.)

Those sneezes and a sore throat were the first symptoms of a whole different cold.

The worst of that cold only lasted a few days but it left me with one of those post-cold coughs that acts up at night and keeps you from sleeping well.

And that brings me up to the point in the month when social distancing, Covid-19 reports, and the like became the focus of all of our lives.

Did I do what I intended to do this month?

Most certainly not.

Am I being hard on myself about it?

Most certainly not.

This has been an unprecedentedly bizarre month. My plans were knocked sideways through no fault of my own and then they were kept firmly in that sideways position.

This isn’t about me not following through. It isn’t about me not setting the right structure or not making the right space in my life for a new habit.

This March has been about me playing the hand I was dealt.

So, I have taken the dog for walks when the weather and my health cooperated.

A light haired dog walks down a sidewalkawayffom fbe viewer.  A green leash extends back toward the camera.
I only had a few extra minutes on Monday past but I made sure to take Khalee out in the sunshine. This was just before she started racing into the bitter cold wind.

I have done at least a little yoga every day and a little bit of TKD every week.

And I have taken extra steps in my day and worked a little harder when I had the capacity to do so.

It hasn’t been perfect but it has been good enough.

I’m not making myself any grand exercise promises for April. I’m just going to keep doing bits and pieces here and there and let it add up.

I know that exercise is an important factor for my mental health while I am spending so much time at home. But I don’t think a specific plan is the right thing for me right now.

I’m just going to do what I can and aim for things that help me feel good.

I hope you are doing the same.

Let’s just be kind to ourselves and to each other.

Guest Post · running

Part Two: Running With Dogs and Succeeding (Guest Post)

Paloma wears a jacket when the weather's cool
Paloma wears a jacket when the weather’s cool

 

“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.

Paloma at the Grand Canyon
Paloma at the Grand Canyon

 

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.

Guest Post · running

Part One: Running with Dogs and Failing (Guest Post)

Mulligan, happy and covered with duckweed after hunting for frogs, an activity he prefers to running.
Mulligan, happy and covered with duckweed after hunting for frogs, an activity he prefers to running.

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.