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