Posted on 30 January 2012.
Own a dog? Need to get fit? Then sign up for a Canicross event and your canine companion will be whipping you into shape in no time. Guest blogger Lucy Dixon finds out more.
“Apparently I’ve been practising Canicross for a few years now, although I wasn’t aware of it. In fact, all dog owners have probably tried Canicross before, without even knowing (unless they own one of these well-trained dogs I’ve heard about). Technically, Canicross is running with your dog, not running after it – which is what I’ve been doing for so long – and it’s a great way of getting fit (both man and dog) and exploring your local countryside.
My interest in the sport of Canicross started when I signed up to do a 10K run and realised I really ought to do some training. As I also have to walk the dog (a Cocker Spaniel called Henry) twice a day too, it made sense to combine my jogging with his walks. I was also interested as exercising with your dog, whether that’s running, roller blading or cycling, is something many dog trainers advocate as a way of improving behaviour. I’m lucky enough to live in rural Bedfordshire, very close to both Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, so really spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful countryside to jog through, including Dunstable Downs, Ashridge Estate and the Chiltern Hills.
My first attempt at proper Canicross (and not just running after Henry when he’s doing something he shouldn’t) wasn’t much of a success, although the setting of Dunstable Downs was perfect. Breaking into a run (OK, a slow jog) with Henry on the lead seemed to inspire him to break into a sprint, which nearly pulled my arm out of the socket. He was much better if I shouted ‘heel’ every five seconds, which became quite tricky when I got out of breath (so after about three minutes of jogging).
I then tried again with Henry off the lead, which also didn’t really work as he attempted to run alongside me, as close as he could possibly get, giving me the impression it was only a matter of time until he tripped me up. This may well have been his intention.
My Canicross technique got dramatically better once I invested in a hands-free lead designed to go around the waist, so you can move your arms while jogging. There’s also a harness that goes around the dog, which stops him pulling so much. I still had to bellow ‘heel’ for the first few minutes but Henry did seem to get the message. And if he did make the odd burst of speed it wasn’t enough to unbalance me as it is with his normal lead. Now we’ve been going running together regularly, Henry knows what is expected of him and trots along beside me remarkably well. He almost looks like one of those well behaved dogs I’ve heard so much about.”
Top five tips for Canicross beginners
1. Buy a hands-free lead – it really does make a difference. I got mine from Larz Equipment
2. Don’t push yourself, or your dog, too hard. Start slowly with a mixture of walking and jogging and gradually build up your time and speed.
3. Take water and a portable water bowl with you, so that both of you can stop for a drink. Try www.canineconcepts.co.uk.
4. Sign up for one of the events advertised on www.cani-cross.co.uk . The season starts again in September and having a goal to aim for will help you stick to a training schedule.
5. Do take breaks to catch your breath, allow your dog to have a sniff around and generally just enjoy the British countryside.