It’s December, and the weather outside is not pleasant during most days. We’d rather stay warm and cozy at home with our dogs in front of the fireplace. Alas, our furry friends are not entirely with us on this one. They want to go out and exercise every day, in rain, sleet, snow or shine, and what’s more their bodies need activity to stay healthy and happy.
So how do you beat the winter blues and rise above cold weather conditions to make sure your pet is getting his/her daily dose of exercise?
Try interval walking. By breaking up a slow morning or evening stroll into bursts of slow-and-fast movements, you can burn more calories, get your metabolism going and enjoy all the benefits of an intensive workout session in just a few minutes.
Emotionally, you and your pet will feel better too! Interval walking releases `feel good’ hormones like endorphins in the brain, and both of you will feel exhilarated and well-exercised when you come back home after a short spell of interval walking.
But some reminders first:
• Begin slow and then raise the intensity gradually if your pet is overweight or not used to regular, high-intensity exercise. Just 5 minutes is good enough at first, with the goal to go up to 20 minutes. Most dogs enjoy the interval pattern because it seems like `fun’ and soon you’ll be having fun too.
• If you live near a beach, take advantage of the sand by walking on it. An uneven sandy surface offers more resistance.
• Choose to walk up a gentle hill or pathways with more incline. Again, the resistance provided by the terrain adds more benefits to the exercise.
• Always remember to cool down, and let your dog’s heart rate settle to a normal rested rhythm.
Start at a regular and relaxed walking speed. Maintain this pace for about 1 minute. Slow jog for 20 seconds. Walk normally again for 1 minute. Slow jog backwards for 20 seconds. Do this routine for 5-10 minutes. This is beginner level practice and meant for older or overweight dogs. Always be mindful of your pet’s comfort and be satisfied with staying at the beginner level until the animal is ready for a more intensive workout.
At this level, you are aiming for 10-15 minutes and you feel your pet is ready for it. Slow walk for 3 minutes. Then slow jog for 1-2 minutes. Slow walk again for 2-3 minutes. Slow jog for 1-2 minutes. Stretch for 3-5 minutes.
Now you’re aiming for 20 minutes in total. Walk normally for 3 minutes. Then jog at a brisk pace for 1-2 minutes. Again walk at a regular pace for 2-3 minutes. Brisk jog for 1-2 minutes. Walk or 2-3 minutes. Brisk jog for 1-2 minutes. Take a cooling period of 3-5 minutes.
The timings are not cast in stone. Go as per your dog’s comfort and even take breaks to jog backwards or shuffle or play chase-chase or do anything that gets your dog excited. The idea is to move in bursts of different paces.