Winter is here, so get out of your house and get into shape with your canine companion. Nothing is better than a workout with your best friend – not only fun, doggone it, it’s healthy!
We all know how much pets enrich our lives. However, we sometimes forget that while we’re sitting in front of the television gaining weight and letting our muscles atrophy, the chances are good that our pets are doing the same.
Your pet is always ready for an outdoor adventure and is usually willing to walk with you for as long as and as far as you want. Plus, when you feel lazy, he’ll be sure to remind you when it’s time for your regular walk. Exercising with your pet also allows you to bond emotionally and can potentially increase the amount of years you spend together. Besides, have you ever seen a dog that wasn’t excited upon hearing the word “walk” or a cat that didn’t enjoy chasing after a ball of string? Of course not!
Not a pet owner, nut need to get into shape? You’ll never find a more loyal workout partner than a pet. So head to your local animal shelter and find a new member to add to your household. If you can’t have a resident pet, then ask if someone you know could use some help with exercising their pet. Walking an elderly neighbor’s pet can establish physical and emotional well-being and sense of community.
Both dogs and leash-friendly cats can benefit from fitness walking. Begin with a brief warm-up by spending 5-6 minutes at an easy pace to get blood flowing to the muscles and loosen any tension In the arms, legs, back and shoulders.
The key to fitness walking is to go for speed, not a simple stroll in the park. Your goal can be 3-4 mile/hour pace for 35-45 minutes per day, done 4 or more days a week. If you’re out of shape and just starting out, walk for 10 minutes every other day. After a couple of weeks, you can progress to 15, then 20-minute sessions. Eventually, you can increase the length and pace of your walks and, before you know it, you’ll be up to 5 or 6 days a week.
On busy days, focus on walking as fast as you can even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Go for distance and walk at a moderately fast pace that you can maintain for at least 30-45 minutes on days when you have more time.
You can also combine both types of training into one workout. For example, walk one mile at a vigorous pace and then walk 2 miles at a slower – but still challenging pace. Remember to keep your arms at a 90-degree angle to your body and pump them in time with your stride. Leave enough slack in the leash to keep your pet safely under control but so the leash is not constricting him as your arms move, or uses a hands-free leash. In addition, throwing a ball or favorite toy for a pet to retrieve it is one of the best ways to get your pet more physically active and loosen up your upper body. For yoga devotees don’t forget that no one loves to stretch more than cats. When doing your yoga practice, get kitty involved by playing with a toy than will require her to stretch and reach for it repeatedly.
Most importantly, don’t forget that safety counts for both of you… Avoid any potentially dangerous situations such as traffic and potential predators. Make sure you are both dressed properly for the weather and that you have enough water to keep the two of hydrated throughout of your workout. Keep in mind that both of you and your pet might have different physical limitations. If you’re but your pet isn’t, then take it at his pace until you’re both on the same track, and vice versa. If you have a small pet, running a marathon together may not be the wisest idea. Plan your workout in accordance with you and your pet’s needs and capabilities.
Fitness, like all things in life, is about balance and consistency. If you keep your schedule varied and your expectations realistic, then you and your pet will be on the road to all around fitness for years to come.
By Karen Voight.