FITNESS FOR YOU AND YOUR PUP. We need to be oh so careful about hiking New England trails in early and mid spring. Mud season is more than a messy time, it is a time during which the trails desperately need protection. Damage done to cause further erosion, destroy fragile plant growth or, at best, create ruts, might impact future enjoyment of the trails by walkers, hikers, runners, mountain bikers, etc.
In fact, where I live in Vermont, you will find signage that certain trails are closed until a specific date. Each year it is expected that popular hiking trails are off limits until after Memorial Day.
That being said, there are places to go – some private, some in communities. When the sun shines and the snow melts it is almost impossible to resist heading into the woods. I am fortunate and have some woods trails available to me. This year I have enjoyed them more than ever. Why?
Well, you see, I must confess that I hate the cold. I am basically an indoors athlete during the winter months (except, of course, for legitimate snow sports) and prefer to log my hours and work my training plan in warmth. But this year was different. The timing couldn’t have been better. I deliberately chose a Labrador Retriever puppy (http://heatherhollowlabs.com) anticipating that she would help me break out of my icky weather lethargy. I was right.
My chocolate Lab came home in late October and immediately we, my pup and I, were thrown into a daily schedule of frequent periods of outdoor play, training (https://www.facebook.com/One-Paw-at-a-Time-Dog-Training-423502691077111/ or see Kas Fleury https://centralvermonthumane.org/trainer-bios/) and little walks around the neighborhood. As she grew (rapidly) our walks grew into hikes and long snowshoe outings. My challenge became finding ways to schedule my clients around outdoor exercise with my pup and not the other way around. And, if I didn’t get those hours outside, I’d pay the price with a restless Lab all night long.
Now it is mid April. She has let me know that she will dearly miss the snow as there is nothing she likes more than sliding and rolling in whatever icy patches she can find. Though she is substituting with splashy puddle play from the spring thaw, nothing will make my “hotdog” as happy as the first snowfall next autumn.
But what about me? I can honestly say I have loved being outdoors every single day in spite of temperatures, rain, wind, snow or whatever. My daily time with my pup (including her training times) has been a joy. Any time I can steal an afternoon or claim a weekend day, we head off for an adventure. She waits patiently in my office during client visits, loves to go with me in the car and makes herself quite agreeable to all we meet – sometimes a bit over the top, but always with tail wagging.
Has your fitness commitment stalled? Has your life changed and perhaps you have a vacancy somewhere or a little more time? As a fitness professional, I highly recommend adding a canine to your days (and nights), and your training plan. Your pup will require a great deal of you and no excuse will work. He or she will drag you out of bed, get you out the door and ultimately delight you with laughs and companionship as you find yourself reaping the rewards of consistent training. After all, you will have no choice in the matter – you WILL get out.
Please note – the exercise I’m talking about is not a matter of having your dog tag along with you on long training runs, but, as with children, finding ways to coordinate your work with your pup’s play. If he or she is choosing the pace, chances are you are doing it the right and safe way.
This is not to say you won’t achieve fitness gains. The unquestioned dedication to each outing combined with lengthening days and therefore lengthening times outdoors combine to enhance you and your pup’s endurance. Exploring new terrain – sometimes with unsteady footing – increases balance. Increased pace addresses cardiovascular fitness while trails that go up as well as down add to strength. You and your pup will intuitively charge ahead or relax back as needed. In your pup you will have the perfect training partner. (except, of course, when he or she stops to savor deer poop or bounds off after a skunk or porcupine – training, training, training, leave-it, leave-it, leave-it…)
This year I have welcomed spring anew, noticing sights, sounds and smells as my pup explores. Just today we took an afternoon off, hopped in the car and drove to some appropriate trails and dirt roads to explore. I always stop to record our outings with a few pictures and am always surprised by how big my girls is. And she is happy. Very happy. So am I.
Yes, I am committed to protecting the trails during what I hope will be a short mud season, and I will cooperate with any postings I may encounter. But I will head out the door every day. How about you?