If you want to work on your fitness but are concerned about picking a human training buddy because sharing germs at the gym is so 2019, consider your pup. They might be the ideal workout partner.
You can turn their walks into a workout for you both. In fact, you might find that your dog is a better partner than a human when it comes to helping you achieve fitness goals. A study conducted by the University of Missouri showed that walking with a puppy leads to a 28 percent increase in walking speed, compared to only a 4 percent increase when walking with a human buddy.
Before you dive in, remember to get the go-ahead from your physician and your pup’s vet to make sure what you’re planning is safe and appropriate.
Five easy ways to turn your dog’s walk into a workout
1. Pick up the pace
Turn your leisurely stroll into a brisk power walk or run. You can add distance and duration as you and your pup improve your physical fitness. Just remember to hydrate as needed and stretch after - but we will cover that later!
Depending on how many walks you and your pup take each day, you may want to designate one longer walk or two shorter ones for your workout. Remember to also give your dog time to do other things they enjoy on a walk like take a sniff break. You also want to pay attention if your pup pulls over to take a potty break - even when you’re moving fast your pup might find the perfect place to go!
Depending on your walk route, there are a few ways you can add intervals to your workout. One is more cardiovascular and the other will help you build some muscle. The first way to add some intervals is to alternate walking and jogging or running. How you do this will depend on your fitness level as well as your pup’s. For smaller dogs like Pugs and Pomeranians going past a brisk walk may not be appropriate - so check with your vet before adding speed.
The other way to add intervals to your walk is to add some strength training to your route. You can use these breaks to work on your pup’s obedience too. For example, if you are somewhere you can be off-leash or you have a hands-free lead, put your pup in a sit or down-stay for 20-60 seconds while you do some lunges, squats, or push ups. You can bring resistance bands with you on your walk to add into these intervals to make them more of a challenge for you if you need it. They weigh very little and don’t take up much space, making them easy to tote along.
Remember not to keep your pup still for too long as this can lead to muscle soreness if you do too much stopping and starting. Another good exercise on the road is having your pup pace you as you do some walking lunges.
3. Switch up the terrain
To make your walk more of a challenge, try walking uphill, on the beach, or on a wooded trail. Be careful on any uneven terrain as you don’t want to trip and twist your ankle or have your pup sustain an injury to their paws. You also want to watch for sharp rocks, broken glass, or other hazards you might encounter.
If you and your pup are experienced hikers and frequent more challenging trails, it’s wise to invest in the proper gear for both of you including sturdy shoes or booties for your pup. Don’t forget sun protection and lots of water!
4. Add weights
If you need a bigger challenge try adding wrist or ankle weights to your walk. For a bigger challenge consider a weighted vest. Remember to start slowly, you can always add weight as your fitness improves. If you’re further from home and start to get fatigued it may be harder to lighten your load so be cautious when going this route.
5. Stretch out
After your walking workout remember to stretch out. Your dog can join you for this part as it might be a great bonding experience. You can hop on your yoga mat for some deeper stretches if your muscles are warm enough.
If you want to include your dog, try a yoga workout like this one designed to be done with them. It might be great fun for both of you or it might give you some good laughs. Many pet owners report that their dogs like to climb on them or lick their faces while they stretch - that’s okay too.
To ensure you and your pup are making the most of your fitness routine, make sure you are taking the time to nourish your bodies too. We recommend you enjoy whole foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruit and vegetables along with plenty of water. The same is true for your pup. We created Ollie to help you give your dog the best nutrition to fuel many workouts to come.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.