Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs: Just Go For It
Today we wrap up our “Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs” series. We have already written about having fun with fitness, the importance of variety when exercising, the value of proper rest, and eliminating excuses. Today’s tip is about learning to just go for it.
I was in a Bikram Yoga class last week and the instructor was making a point to the students about giving a strong effort in the class. Her suggestion was to notice how strong our bodies can be and that it is often our minds and not our physical capability that constrain our ability to get into or hold a posture. Which is exactly the lesson that I have learned from watching my dogs over the years when it comes to exercise.
All of my dogs have taken a ‘can do’ approach to our exercise. They would always just go for it. Whether it was Sally who would attempt a jump over virtually any chasm, or Tino who would climb a hill so steep his body was virtually horizontal, our dogs did not impose mental limits on what they could do physically. And sure, sometimes they would ‘fail’. Sally might not make the jump or Tino would literally fall down the hill. But at least they tried to test their physical limits.
I often I see folks in the gym or at the track who slog through their workouts and place limits on their abilities even before they get started. They have preconceived notions of that they can or cannot do and often point to previous failures as proof that they are unable to complete the task. Comments like “it’s too far” or “I’ll never be able to run all the way to the top of the hill” are far more common than “let’s do this”. I see it in yoga class all the time, where folks come out of their postures early because they ‘think’ that they can’t hold them any longer.
What the Mind can Conceive, the Body can Achieve
Thanks in part to my dogs, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. I have developed the ability to ignore my brain when it tells me that I am tired or that I should quit. Why? Because I want to test how far or how fast or how much my body can take, just like my dogs always have. SlimDoggy Jack provided a great example of this back when we first adopted him, albeit in a slightly different context.
When we first adopted Jack, we used a trainer who recommended using a treadmill as part of his training. The trainer let us use one of his old, dilapidated human treadmills (which we have since learned is not a good idea). Jack very quickly adopted to the treadmill and he would work out on it daily. One day, while Jack was treading, something happened and the belt started to speed up to full speed, 10 miles-per-hour! None of the dashboard buttons would slow it down (I said it was old and dilapidated). Poor Jack tried to keep up but ended up on his ass.
I finally unplugged the treadmill and after whacking it a few times (my way of fixing mechanical problems), I was able to get the belt speed to respond to the dashboard control. I figured that Jack would not want to get back on this terrible machine again, but decided I would try to coax him back up. Wouldn’t you know it, Jack jumped right back on and finished his workout as if nothing happened. Like my dogs before him, Jack was not going to let a little failure prevent him from getting his workout in.
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There is no doubt that my approach to fitness has been influenced by watching my dogs just go for it, being active without any preconceived notions of what their physical limits might be. Why not give this philosophy a try and see how far, how fast, or much fitter you can be?