Get Fit with Fido

by Julie Yeagley

I’ll just go ahead and say it now: I’m obsessed with my dog. I’m so obsessed, in fact, that sometimes I forget that he is not my two-year-old son and that he can’t actually come with me wherever I go. Because of this obsession, I often struggle with the fact that I have to leave him at home during the day when I go to work. At the end of the day when I’m rushing home to see him, going to the gym just isn’t going to happen. Even the fact that I shell out $80 a month for a gym membership (I KNOW) can’t compete with the guilt I feel when I’m running on a treadmill watching Bravo and my dog is at home waiting for a simple walk around the block. The solution? I decided to enlist my dog as my personal trainer. I have also decided that I’ve reached my limit of Real Housewife drama.

Make the Change

As it would turn out, I’m not the first person to get fit with fido. Apparently, canine owners are more likely to exercise regularly than those who don’t have dogs. A study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University concluded that people with dogs are 34 percent more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than those with other pets or no pets at all. While nearly half of the participants who walked their dogs exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week, only about a third of those without dogs exercised that regularly. It makes sense, because at the end of the day you are responsible for the well-being of your dog. Who knew that it could go both ways!

Catch the excitement

Have you ever really looked at your dog’s face when he’s playing fetch, catching a frisbee, or going on a walk? It’s hard not to notice how ridiculously excited they get. (Insert that Beggin’ Strips BACON!!! commercial here.) If you’re a dog owner, let that enthusiasm be contagious. Channel your dog’s energy and use it to get the most out of your workout. An Australian study found that dog owners felt more resilient to exercise barriers–which meant they were able to push themselves even further.

Be held accountable

I’m not sure about your dog, but if I tell mine that I’m going to take him for a “walkie,” he’s not going to let me forget it. The best part about having a dog is that he eventually does need to go out to do his business, and you are eventually going to have to change out of your jammies to take him, so you may as well lace up your sneakers and get a mile or two in while you’re at it. A dog is also always ready and willing, and will never leave you hanging like your friend who was supposed to meet you at 6am on the street corner but “forgot to set her alarm.”

Follow his lead

If I’m training for a race and need to hit a certain mile time, I take my dog along. First of all, dogs are creatures of habit so they’ll naturally stick to a certain pace. In my experience, this pace usually happens to be about 30 seconds faster than I would normally run, which is great for increasing my speed. Researchers at the University of Missouri reported that people who walked with their dogs increased their speed by 28 percent over 12 weeks, while those who strolled with a human friend got only 4 percent faster. See? It’s science! Secondly, dogs have a one track mind (unless they see a squirrel, then this entire paragraph is irrelevant) so they will keep you moving whether you like it or not. I like to finish my runs faster than I started, which is perfect when I run with my dog because he is consistently faster on our way back when he knows the way home.

Make it an adventure

Trust me, I love a good gym/Bravo session as much as the next person, but just think of everything out there that you are missing! Take that FOMO (fear of missing out) and experience the great outdoors with man’s best friend. If you’re not a runner, that’s okay! As the research above suggests, even a brisk walk with your dog is better than nothing. There are also some pretty fun classes out there that you can do with your dog like this Butts and Guts with Your Mutts class offered by Leash Your Fitness in California and Thank Dog Boot Camp that’s offered throughout the U.S. and Canada. If you do like to run but prefer organized races instead of going at it alone, check out this list of 8 Dog-Friendly Races that includes a Doggie Bones 5k and an Awesome 80s Run. I personally love exploring running routes around where I live, like the photo above of my dog and I along the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey and the photo below of us in Central Park.

Safety First

With all of the working out that you’ll be doing with your canine companion, it’s important to make sure that you’re both staying safe. Before heading out on a run (especially during warmer weather) be sure to find a route that is fit for dogs–you can use a site like Map My Run to find information and tips about new routes from other runners. If you’re not sure if there will be water available along your run, look into purchasing a dog-friendly water bottle like this eco-friendly option from Baxter Boo. If you’re going to be running at night, make sure both you and your dog are wearing something reflective, like this Buddy System Hands Free Leash that comes in two reflective colors.

Finally, don’t forget to stop and take in the view! Happy trails (and tails) to you!

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