Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs: Variety in the Workout

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Last week, we began a new fitness series entitled “Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs”. In the first part, we explained how our dogs have taught us to have fun when we workout. The second fitness tip that I learned from my dogs is the principal of variety in the workout.


Exercise Variety to Keep Fit

Many years ago, the famous fitness entrepreneur Joe Weider put forth the idea that in order to continually gain muscle (and fitness), one had to constantly change up and ‘confuse’ the muscles, else they would get used to a routine and gains would stagnate. He called this concept muscle confusion. It turns out that my dogs must subscribe to this theory. Perhaps yours do also?
slimdoggy jack hiking

Have you ever noticed the difference when you take your dog on a new walking or running route, or to a new beach or lake to swim? Whenever I have taken my dogs to someplace new and different, either for a walk or a run, there is an added level of enthusiasm and spring to their step. They are so excited and interested in their new surroundings that they seem to breeze through our workouts.


The dogs are on to something. You see, it is not so much about muscle confusion with my dogs as much as it is reducing boredom and increasing mental stimulation. It seems that my dogs get tired of the same old routines, day in and day out. And it is visible in their body language and level of effort. This is not to say that they don’t enjoy all of their outings, but rather to say that they seem to be more ‘into it’ when we switch things up.


I find the same holds true for my own workouts. Simple changes and tweaks can turn what has become mundane into something new and interesting. These changes can keep my muscles confused, but more importantly, they keep my mind stimulated which inevitably leads to better and more consistent performance. Below are some tips on how to add variety to your and your dog’s fitness routines. As always, check with your vet before making marked changes in your dog’s fitness routine.


Four Ways to Add Variety to your Workouts

Change the route. As mentioned above, simply changing the route can lead to a better workout. One simple way to do this is to reverse directions of your loop walks or runs. Instead of looping around clockwise, try it counter clockwise. Another great way to mix it up is to drive to a new park and explore some new trails.

Change the reps and sets. This is easy to implement both in the gym and with your dog. In the gym, change up your rep schemes every few months. If you are used to doing 8-10 reps, try adding some weight and doing 4-6 reps. With your dog, change the reps or sets in their core workout to work more endurance or strength accordingly.


Change the intensity. This is one of our favorites. Many people get comfortable working out in the moderate intensity zone and thus, are at risk of stagnation. A dog is no different. Steady state walks or jogs can become to ‘easy’ for a dog and their fitness can plateau over time. Try mixing in different intensities each workout. Some days, go hard. Instead of jogging, go the park and sprint with your dog. Or mix in some hill days where you do some hill repeats. If you are a walker, pick up the pace and speed walk a couple of days a week. Increasing the intensity will challenge both of you mentally and physically and oh, by the way, will burn a lot of calories!


Change the activity. Again, people (myself included) find our comfort zones and tend to stick to what we are comfortable with. For me, it has always been long runs. I could go for a long run every day and be perfectly happy. But I have learned (partly from my dogs) to mix it up for better overall fitness and well being. Now I mix in yoga, pilates, bootcamps and other activities to keep my body mind fresh. Do the same with your dogs. Take them to agility class or set up an agility course in your yard or park. Or try hikes in the parks, swims on the lake, games of frisbee, or any type of activity that is new and different.
Slimdoggy maggie swimming

As William Cowper said so well in The Task, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.” And no, SlimDoggy Jack, we don’t mean bacon flavor!

K9Kamp is going on for another two weeks, be sure and stop by our co-hosts and other Blog Hoppers to read about all of our fun Backyarf Fitness Games activities/ Be sure to share your own. Post your photos of YOUR backyard games on our Facebook page or on Instagram with hashtag K9Kamp!

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  1. My dogs would probably like to sniff out the news in a new and different neighborhood. We like the concept of confusing our muscles.
    jan recently posted…Think Like Your Dog – A book reviewMy Profile

  2. We’ve actually been doing just that this week since the weather has been incredibly nice and we’ve had time to go to a few new places to enjoy walks and outside time. It has definitely been good for all of us!
    houndstooth recently posted…Fit For A PrincessMy Profile

  3. I literally hate doing the same walk twice yet I mix it up so much (route and intensity- we love intervals!) because it makes the dogs so happy… or so I say!
    Bethany recently posted…A Wandering Walk In The Woods With Flying Saucers: Disc Golf & Fit DogsMy Profile

  4. My dogs love new places as I do too. I get board doing the same o same o.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes~Jo HandlingMy Profile

  5. Hi Y’all!

    The weather is a good dictator of type of exercise this summer, at least in the southeast.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Oh What a Beautiful Day!My Profile

  6. We love variety, and so does Mom. Our long walks are never done on the same route more than once a week. Bailie adds running to her routine, we have our nose work, in the summer we get to swim once and a while and in the winter there is snow, plus we try to go to new spots or favorite spots that are a bit farther away a couple times a month. Variety is the spice of life! Love that Maggie and Jack are having so much fun in the lake on your vacation!
    Emma recently posted…K9 Kamp In Our BackyardMy Profile

  7. We try to mix things up in our neighborhood by taking different routes, varying our pace, and practicing different obedience skills on the walk, but Barley is definitely happiest when we go adventuring. Even if it’s a place we’ve been a thousand times, she is just so excited to be out of our neighborhood that she starts whimpering as soon as we get to the exit for the park 🙂 Great tips!
    Beth recently posted…Staying Close to HomeMy Profile

  8. Whether it’s morning walks or afternoon runs, I always try to switch up where we walk for just the same reason. Always good to add a bit of variety and make sure everyone is paying attention.

  9. I definitely notice a difference when I add some variety to my dogs’ routine. There is a whole new level of enthusiasm when mixing it up!
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Which Method is Better?My Profile

  10. Always great tips! You know what they say, variety IS the spice of life! 🙂 Happy Fit Dog Friday 🙂

  11. Oh yes. There is always a huge difference in them when we change things up.
    I don’t use the same route very often anyways, because I like the change as well. But you can definitely see the enthusiasm come out more when things are new to them.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Huskies on Easy Canvas prints?My Profile

  12. These are more great tips! Our favorite is finding new trails. Changing directions is also fun.
    Mark at DBDT recently posted…Ava Finds a Flying DiscMy Profile

  13. I learned this the hard way after busting my butt working out but not varying the routine. A trainer friend set me straight. Dogs definitely love variety, too. I love seeing them all excited!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…FitDog Friday–Hiking The Florida CoastlineMy Profile

  14. I also find sometimes just walking the dogs at a different time of day changes it up as well. There are different smells at different times!
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday – July 11, 2014My Profile

  15. This is somewhat true for Blueberry – although I have taken her places I thought would be new and interesting and get her excited, only to have her not enjoy them that much. She is a dog that really loves a routine and occasionally, something new thrown into the mix – but she has to be in the mood for it I guess!
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…Final NoticeMy Profile

  16. I take Mr. N to run errands with me and we usually go for a walk before/after the errand so he’s been all over town.

  17. Great ideas!When you are changing intensity, you\’re adding some strength training to your routine – always good!And mixing up your routine with new activities can make your dog more well-rounded. This protects you from overtraining and can prevent injury. And keeps it fun!

  18. This will make you laugh. Harley is only interested in a new adventure in the afternoon. For his morning walk, he is not entertaining a new route. He leads and we go to all of our “regular” spots. But in the late afternoon, he stands on the sidewalk, looks back at me as if to say “which way do you want to go today Mom?” Funny Doodle!
    Cathy Bennett recently posted…WHEN YOU’VE BEEN BLESSEDMy Profile

    • Funny – guess it’s true – he has to read his morning paper…and take the same route to be sure he doesn’t miss a story. PS. Glad you’re back – missed you.
      mkob recently posted…SlimDoggy | Black & White SundayMy Profile

  19. Thanks for sharing tips which you learned from your dog. Really , Pets always teach us many things like loyalty, understanding and so on and we can learn and it is can be useful for us.

  20. Wonderful pictures and great tips. I do the reverse direction tip for my morning walks with Freighter. Our route is a bit dull, unfortunately.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Making The SwitchMy Profile

  21. We love to wrestle with stuffed animals and right now our favorite form of exercise is doing sprints in the house… It’s so much fun and we are able to do it several times a day!
    Christine & Riley recently posted…Black & White Sunday: Shih Tzu in TruckeeMy Profile

  22. My dog is the best fitness trainer and stress buster for me. We both go for a long walk and play in the park, which keeps me more active and fit.
    Calvin recently posted…6 Most Common Cat Health ProblemsMy Profile

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