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

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 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

body image · fitness · Guest Post · health · weight loss

Canine fitness coach (Guest post)

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.

Abbie checks out my new shoes, reserves judgement
Abbie checks out my new shoes, reserves judgement


Running: My winter plan

little dog running snow 25 dogs on a runners highI’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.


fitness · motivation

Well being, health, and vitamin P

I was amused last week when Precision Nutrition posted the following message to Facebook:


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

  • Predict seizures

  • Alert to hypoglycemia

  • Decrease depression

  • Raise self-esteem

  • Boost levels of exercise and physical activity

  • Improve alertness and attention among elderly people who have pets

From Vitamin P: The Secret to Health and Longevity.

And then this morning I saw this in the New York Times, Owning a Dog Is Linked to Reduced Heart Risk.

“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.”

If you’re bored of the usual, walk, run, throw with dogs here’s a workout for you and your canine companion: A New Year, A New Way to Exercise With Your Dog.

Here’s my source of Vitamin P: Please, please take me for a walk? Who could say no?



Aikido · Crossfit · Rowing · running · training · weight loss

Is it time to ditch exercise?

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.”

Read more about this here.

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.