I’m not what you would consider an athletic person. For years I struggled with laziness and weight gain and not even my own deteriorating reflection looking back at me couldn’t get me up and moving to do anything about it. But about a year ago, spurred by an office “biggest loser” competition and the possibility of a substantial cash prize, I finally made the leap and started a walking regime, and walking the dog was the natural way to get going. But you know, it wasn’t long til the money didn’t matter…I started feeling great, eating right, and best of all, I came to realize that daily walks were as rewarding and beneficial for my dog’s physical and emotional well-being as my own. Daily walks and explorations became a necessity, a welcome obligation, and my dogs have become two of my biggest motivators to get moving and get fit.
Now don’t get me wrong, my dogs are active and get plenty of exercise, but that’s all thanks to having access to a fenced back yard, a lovely local dog park, and family lands where they are free to roam, play and run as much as their hearts desire. It’s always been easy just to open the door or take a short drive to let them run, while I enjoyed a maple-shaded park bench or a nap in the grass. Involving my pets in my newly adapted physical regime has become not only one of the most motivating aspects, but also priceless bonding time and a unique chance to really see my four-legged friends in the elements they love. I don’t think I could imagine two better walking partners to keep me on the path to success. Let me tell you why…
It’s easy to want to walk on bright sunny days when the birds are chirping and the trees are full of leaves. But, grey icky days, cold, blustery winter weather, and diminished daylight of the season can kill motivation fast. Cue the dogs. My pups really could care less what Mother Nature is dishing out. When our routine walk time rolls around they begin their notifications. Sometimes it’s a soft “woof” or a pitiful whimper, other days I get the all out, make-me-jump-out-of-my-seat bark, often accompanied by impatient dances and maybe an occasional paw smack or nip to the ankles. Despite what may be going on weather-wise, the intensity of the looks on those faces can make me face the worst, and often suffer the cold and wet consequences for the remainder of my day. On miserable days, they give me the incentive I need to keep the routine intact, and upon seeing their joy when I pick up the leashes, they muster me against the dread of rain, sleet, snow and wind. After all, wet cold feet and damp clothes are much easier to bear than disappointed doggies!
The vigor of my dogs on our walk is exhilarating. When I have the opportunity, I like to walk where they can run free, yet sticking to an established path they learn from repeated use. Despite the same daily path, it always seems like a new place to them, with new smells and new holes to check out. Watching them run, as fast as their legs will convey them to seek new adventures, noses to the ground, is not only entertaining, but joy inspiring, like those 20 minutes are the highlight of their lives. It’s kind of contagious…I see how happy they are doing the simplest activity, and it turns the short, easy walk into something much more special.
For years, like so many others, I didn’t consider the benefits of being active and being fit. If you don’t regard your lifestyle and health as closely as you should, you may also not realize that your pets are packing on unhealthy pounds, too, as they lounge with you in the living room. It didn’t occur to me that my dogs could stand to lose a few pounds until they started to trim down with me. Before we knew it we were all looking better, moving better, behaving better, and taking several long walks a day. An estimated 50 percent of American pets are overweight…simple daily walks can make the pounds melt away while also helping them build strong muscles. Physical benefits aside, there is no better mental and emotional therapy than communing with nature, taking in the sights and sounds outdoors. You’ll probably find yourself more relaxed, and your pet will be too.
If your dog is well-behaved, a daily walk can also be a valuable social interaction. You may encounter other dogs or people depending on your venue, and the regular activity aids in socializing your pet and exposing them to sights and sounds they may not normally encounter. If daily walks are new to you and your pet, take it slow and short to start, adding time and distance each day until you reach your goals. Maybe you progress from walking to running, your favorite jogging partner by your side!