Make Your Dog Your New Workout Buddy
Your dog is your closest companion and confidant, so why not recruit him as your workout buddy, too? "You'll burn calories and increase muscle tone while bonding with your best friend," said Tricia Montgomery, founder and president of Chicago-based K9 Fit Club. Work out at your own pace and be patient. "If this is your first time, your dog doesn't know what to expect," Montgomery said. "Remember to praise him for his good actions." Keep your dog close, on a short lead, and get ready to sweat and smile.
Spot to Spot
The Spot to Spot exercise is a good way to raise core temperature and warm muscles, said Krista Wickens, CEO and founder of PetZen Products and maker of DogTread Canine Fitness Equipment, based in Ogden, Utah. Choose or create two targets about 10 to 25 feet apart. With your dog, walk to Spot 1, then to Spot 2. Announce each spot by saying "Spot" and asking for a sit from your dog, praising him when he complies. Repeat seven to 12 times as you gradually increase your speed.
Spot Side Shuffles
For this exercise, perform a side shuffle from Spot 1 to Spot 2. Keep your dog in front of you, requesting he move forward as you move sideways, Montgomery said. When you reach Spot 2, have your dog turn to continue back the same way you came. Keep your body facing the same direction and return, this time leading with the opposite leg, to Spot 1. Start slowly, moving one step at a time and bringing your back foot up to meet your front, Montgomery advised.
Spot Sprints increase speed and endurance, Wickens said. Perform this exercise in the same way as the Spot to Spot, but increase the intensity and repeat 10 to 12 times. For a greater challenge, Wickens suggested extending the distance between spots or adding obstacles for you and your dog to jump over, run around or crawl under. "Make it a race," she said. "Short bouts of intense exercise, around 20 to 30 minutes, are great at burning calories and for those who are time-crunched."
High-Tail Interval Walks
"Walking is great for both you and your dog," said Lisa Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness LLC in Arlington, Virginia. "And an interval workout is an excellent way to increase stamina and improve your metabolism." For the High-Tail Interval Walks exercise, Reed recommends following the 3-2-1 plan. "Walk for three minutes, jog for two minutes and sprint for one minute," she explained. Repeat these intervals for 30 minutes.
Puppy Pit Stops
"Rest" stops for puppy means squats for you, said Reed. "Each time your dog sniffs or needs a break, perform 10 squats." Helen Troncoso, a doctor of physical therapy in New York, does a version of this when out with her Maltese Nena on the streets of New York. "I walk briskly with Nena, and at each corner, while waiting for the light to turn, I do something different like calf raises, high knees, squats and butt kicks." She said she does 25 reps on 25- to 30-minute walks.
Sprints are great for skyrocketing your metabolism," said John Ohman, head certified personal trainer at WeightTraining.com in Tampa, Florida. Find a relatively flat, natural area. "Concrete can wreak havoc on your knees," Ohman warned. Use any toy your dog enjoys fetching. "Throw the toy, then race your dog to see who gets to it first," Wickens said, adding that if your dog wins, go ahead and follow through with your movements, reaching down and pretending to pick up the toy, to increase calorie burn and target core muscles.
High Five! (Or Touch!)
If your dog knows how to either give a high five or touch his nose to your hand on command, try this exercise. (If your dog doesn't know how, teach him.) Ask your pup to sit in front of you as you squat down, Wickens said. Once you're squatting, prompt puppy to give a high five or to touch his nose to your hand. Stand and repeat the exercise with the other hand.
Calorie-Burning Canine Inclines
Your goal is to walk briskly, jog lightly or run up a hill or stairs with your pet by your side, Wickens said -- "ideally for at least 30 to 60 seconds." When you reach the top, turn and walk to the bottom of the incline to lower your heart rate, typically one or two minutes. Spend 30 seconds walking away from the base, then 30 seconds walking back to the start position for another climb. Repeat as time and endurance allows.
Wagging Wall Sits
Stand with your back to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips, lower back and shoulders into the wall, Montgomery said, and slowly walk your feet out as your upper body lowers toward the ground. Bend your knees until your legs form a 90-degree angle. Hold, with hips and lower back flat against the wall, for up to one minute. For increased resistance, have your dog place his paws on your knees. Or if your dog is small, hold him during the wall sit for added weight.
Fetching Ab Twists
Grab your pet's favorite fetching toy and sit on the ground -- legs lifted about a foot high, ankles crossed and knees soft, torso tilted slightly backward, abdominal muscles contracted. Throw the toy from this position, Reed said, and as your pet runs after it, twist and reach for the ground on your left, then twist and reach for the ground on your right. Quickly alternate between the two sides while waiting for your pet to return for another fetch (or simply perform crunches). Repeat at least 10 times.
Move into a pushup position, but with your forearms flat on the ground. Ask your dog to sit or lie near your head, Montgomery said. Make sure your full body is aligned and the leash is tightly held in both hands. Engage your abdominals to hold this position for up to one minute. For a modification, place your knees down and raise your feet. Hold for up to one minute. "This is a bonding exercise with your dog," Montgomery said, "and a great core exercise for you."
Based in Southern California, Lynette Arceneaux has worked as a writer and editor since 1995. Her works have appeared in anthologies, such as "From the Trenches" and "Black Box," in the magazine "Neo-opsis," and on numerous websites. Arceneaux, who holds a Master of Arts degree, currently focuses on the topics of health and wellness, lifestyle, family and pets.