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Working Out With Your Pet

by David Samra

Anyone who knows me (and hopefully you’ll get to know me via this site) knows that I am a HUGE dog lover. I’m one of those people who will stop and meet any and every dog I come across.  The great thing about having a dog is they really do fit in with an active lifestyle; there is nothing better than going to the park with your dog to run around, play catch or even just going for a long stroll. The benefits of having a dog not only include helping you stay active but studies show having a dog can help relieve stress. Our dog Lucy (there she is to the left) goes on two long walks every day which gives her the exercise she needs, as well as the providing an excuse for the world to meet her since Lucy is a Diva who thinks EVERYONE in the neighborhood wants to make friends with her.  In addition to providing these two great benefits to Lucy, the walk is also great additional cardio for my wife and myself who are always trying to add in some kind of extra exercise to compliment our regular workouts.

However, having a Bulldog makes the type of exercise we can do with her limited as they are not the most active dogs.  But she does like to run around the yard and the park playing catch and horsing around with other dogs, and going on quick sprints with me when she’s well rested. We just have to play in shorter periods of time than say if we had a Border Collie or Lab. So, depending on the type of dog you have, you should try including your dog into some of the exercises you do to provide a nice change of pace to your normal exercise routine; and if you are not doing anything else to stay active (shame on you!), playing with or simply walking your dog is a great way to get some kind of physical activity in your daily routine.

This great article from Stephanie S. Saunders over at the Beachbody Newsletter has some tips on working out with your pet. Check it out!

Buddy Workouts: Conditioning Your Canine while Kicking Your Own Booty!

By Stephanie S. Saunders

For those of us who have the pleasure of owning a pet, the benefits are fairly obvious. Pets offer unconditional love, listen to us without offering needless advice, and make fantastic snuggling companions. There is nothing like coming home to someone who is genuinely excited to see you and who wants nothing more than a chew toy for Christmas. But for all of the love we give them, we also seem to give them a lot to eat. Approximately 50 percent of the pets in this country are overweight—and with roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population also being overweight, we could all use a little more exercise! One possibility overlooked by pet owners is to recruit your pet as a workout buddy, which is odd, since pets will always show up and won’t complain about how hungover they are. Let’s look at some ways you can involve your furry friend in sweat-inducing activities that will leave you both reaching for the water bowl.

Get outside.
Most of us are aware of the vast benefits of spending time outside on a daily basis. If you have a dog yet lack a large yard, being outside becomes a requirement. So if you have to walk your dog several times a day, why not use the time to your benefit as well? Try to speed up your pace along your normal route. Try alternating your quick pace with some speed walking or a light jog. Find a route that includes some hills or other challenging terrain. Add some high knee lifts, butt kicks, or lateral skipping if you are not embarrassed by public displays of exercise. Or simply try adding 5 minutes onto your quick-paced walk every week, until you are up to an hour. The added calorie burn will be worth it.If you are a bit more daring, try hiking or running with your dog. There is the obvious increase in caloric expenditure for both of you, but also an increase in cardiovascular and muscular output that will definitely pay off. Look for soft surfaces—like a trail or dirt track—to help protect your joints, and remember that hot pavement is really painful for dogs’ paws. Also, there are special harness-type leashes out there that keep your hands free and make running with more than one dog much more bearable.

Woman Playing with a DogIt’s all fun and games.
Playing with your pet can be great exercise and fun for both of you. If you have a yard, or live near a local dog park, all of this is much easier. Of course, it can be done in your living room, but it might be a bit dangerous for the furniture. Try playing fetch, but race your dog for the ball. Just throw and start running. Or play tag by chasing your dog around the designated area. If your dog is on the strong side, grab a rope and try some tug-of-war. If you’re considerably stronger than your pooch, try tugging while standing on one leg, and using only one arm. Create an obstacle course, and run it with your dog. Find a ball and a wall, and play a version of handball mixed with “keep away”—from your dog. Practice your tennis swing and let your pup retrieve the ball.Just doing something playful can make a normal workout feel like you are back on the playground with your four-legged best friend. How can it get better than that?

Train the dog, or train the owner?
This is not a section on teaching a dog to sit or training your spouse to get you a drink from the fridge. This is about using functional resistance training to manipulate your mutt’s musculature, along with your own. Try the following exercises with some help from Fido.

Balance Challenge

Stand on both feet, hips-width apart, with your dog’s favorite toy in hand, but hidden from view. Shift your weight onto one foot, keeping the other foot’s toes just off the ground. Now show your pet a favorite toy. Try bending your standing leg and lowering the toy to touch the ground in front of you. Once you lose your balance, or your pup gets the toy, switch to the opposite leg.

Squat and Toy Press

For this exercise, use your dog’s favorite toy or a small weighted medicine ball. Start with your feet hips-width apart, and in a parallel position. Bring the toy or ball to your chest. Squat down deeply with your butt going parallel to the floor, and your knees staying behind your toes. As you extend your knees to stand back up, throw the toy or ball into the air, and try to catch it before your mutt jumps up and grabs it! Repeat until one of you gives out.

Man Playing with a Dog PoolsideSumo Squats for the Critter

This workout is similar to the Squat and Toy Press. Only this time, you start with your toes pointed slightly outward, making sure that your knees line up with your toes. Hold the toy or ball in both hands, with arms extended straight down toward the floor. As you bend both knees, bringing your seat parallel to the floor and keeping your arms straight, lift the toy directly over your head. As you straighten your knees, jump off the ground a few inches and return the toy to the down position. Hopefully, your mongrel will continue to jump for the toy until your quads have hit exhaustion.

Fetching Push-Ups

The idea is to set yourself up in a push-up position, with whatever modifications you require to do many repetitions (on your knees, against a wall, etc.). Lift one hand and throw a ball. Do as many push-up repetitions as possible until your pet returns. Repeat the toss with the opposite arm.

Laser Creature Crunch

Domesticated animals seem to be fascinated by laser pointers. Get into a comfortable crunch position on the ground, and hold the laser pointer in both hands. Begin doing 10 crunches with the laser on your chest, and of course, pointed away from you. Watch your pet go nuts trying to chase it in the process. Every 10 reps, alternate arm positions behind your head, above your head, and even to your knees. Your dog will go insane, and you will have abs of steel!

Dog Curl/Dip/Press

These options depend completely on the level of stillness your pet can provide. For my two dogs, playing dumbbell just ain’t gonna happen. But I have many friends with extremely trusting animals that love to be bench-pressed. Should you try to press, curl, dip, or lunge your best friends, do it relatively close to the ground, just in case they change their minds.

Man Walking Dogs on a BeachThere’s a study that shows people with terminal illnesses are three times less likely to suffer depression if they own a pet. Pets are amazing stress reducers and loneliness decreasers, and have actually been proven to lower blood pressure. They also make us more social creatures, as we meet new people on walks, at parks, etc. If you add a pet to your household, your life will be dramatically enriched. If you are unable to make a lifelong commitment, borrow a friend’s dog for a day, or look into a short-term fostering program. And there are hundreds of organizations out there that could use volunteers to walk the dogs they are sheltering. That way, you get some exercise, and make a difference at the same time. Whatever you do, integrate some canine or feline time into your exercise regimen, and watch the change occur. Now that is doggone good!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kathleen Willemse April 19, 2010 at 7:50 am

Sounds like great fun, our VERY active bulldog Fego is going to love this!!

avatar Kelly April 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Hey Dave–Great article— Lucy is adorable… I am also a dog lover!! My dog, Buca, and I spend time walking by the beach at least once a day!!! We also go to Yappy Hour so, Buca can meet-up and run around with his friends.

avatar David Samra April 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Kathleen – Lucy is probably like Fego! She is 4 years old but thinks she’s a puppy! Our previous Bully Winston was the complete opposite! Give Fego a hug from Lucy 🙂

avatar David Samra April 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Nothing better than walking the beach with your pooch Kel. Yappy Hour sounds very cool and fun for Buca. We’re taking Lucy to Bullyfest this weekend and she’ll get to walk in the rescue parade..haha…

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