Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs: Power of the Pack
We have one more post in our “Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs” series, where we discuss some of the personal training tips we have learned from observing our dogs. The topic today, which we call the “power of the pack”, has been germinating in my mind for some time. Serendipitously, I stumbled on an article that spoke about the benefits of working out in a group and that was enough inspiration to write this post.
Based on their lineage to wolves, dogs are mostly considered to be pack animals. Although there is some debate as to whether this holds true for today’s domesticated dogs, we are going to go with the assumption that at their core, dogs are, indeed happier in a pack environment (even if that means the pack is a mix of humans and other pets). Based on my own personal experiences, my dogs have always preferred to be members of a pack and have been able to establish and follow a hierarchical pecking order amongst the members.
When it comes to exercise, it seems that dogs are on to something.
The Power of Pack (Group) Exercise
I had long been happy to exercise on my own, without any training partners and I usually shunned group classes. This all changed about 13 years ago when I was talked into trying a group boot camp class that involved lots of running, sprinting, hills, plyometrics, and other intense exercises. After one session, I was hooked. And I do mean hooked. The sense of euphoria that I felt (and still feel) after the workout was unlike anything else I had experienced with any type of exercise. I chalked it up to the intensity and that my Endocannabinoid system was fully stimulated. It turns out that the high intensity training is only partially responsible for my “runner’s high”.
In a 2009 study published in Biology Letters, researchers found that working out in a group can lead to an increase in the pain threshold, and thus an increase in the body’s release of endorphin type chemicals when compared with working out solo. This is exactly what I have experienced at my boot camp, and many of my boot camp friends have confirmed that they feel a similar effect.
Getting an extra dose of runner’s high is reason enough to give a group workout a try. Yet, there are several other benefits to working out with other people.
- More accountability- having one or more people expect you to show up will definitely increase the chances that you will show up and not skip the workout.
- Improved fitness from competition- when working out with others, there is often a competitive vibe that can help the participants push harder than if they were alone. Whether your group is ultra competitive or not, the fact is that there will likely be some added boost in performance based on the competitive juices and this will result in improved fitness for the entire group.
- More fun- it can be a lot more fun to exercise with people and pets that you enjoy being around. The more fun the workouts are, the more likely that you will look forward to them which is a sure way to stay consistent with your fitness program.
Back to Dogs
The best place to see the power of the pack and its effect on a dog’s activity? Look no further than the dog park. There is always a lot going on and dogs of all ages and sizes are often running around with much energy and enthusiasm. We used to see this behavior with Sally and Tino, who would go crazy when we brought them to the park or when some of their doggy friends would stop by our home for a play date. If your dog is seemingly bored with your regular walks or runs, perhaps it is time to leverage the power of the pack and go to a dog park, sign up for a doggy fitness class, or simply schedule some play dates with fellow dog owners. It just might be the smartest way to kick start their weight loss or fitness program. Better yet, make sure to join them as they frolic in the park and you will burn some extra calories yourself.