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Name an activity more perfect than running alongside your best friend on a gorgeous sunny day whilst listening to some upbeat, feel good music. Go ahead… we’ll wait! The only thing that would make it even better is if the end of that run ended with some cold ice cream, but we digress.
In today’s blog post, we’ll be covering the physical, mental and plethora of other benefits there is to reap from running with your furry friend. Grab your dog, or cat if that’s more your style, and lace up your sneakers, you’ll likely want to hit the road after reading this one!
Benefit #1: Accountability
Have you ever tried to bail on your gym partner? It's tough right? You feel bad for standing them up and then usually feel guilty for skipping your workout because you were tired. Having an accountability partner keeps you on track. They are the reason you get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning every weekday because you agreed to meet them at the gym to train together. They are the ones who encourage you to try for one more rep, to last a little longer and to try a new exercise they saw someone do on TikTok the night before. Accountability partners are crucial to creating a consistent workout routine that eventually becomes a habit that you can maintain on your own. Rain or shine, your dog will be the best accountability partner you could ever ask for. Getting out of the house is the equivalent of going on an adventure for them - and they are always up for one! Just like humans, dogs also fall into a rhythm of their own. The more frequently you start to run together, the faster the habit will be built for the both of you. Soon your pup will be waltzing over to you, leash in mouth because they are ready to go. Like it or not, you’ll be following them outside rain or shine!
Benefit #2: Pick up the Pace
If you’re not a runner, but you’ve tried going running with one of your “running fanatic friends,” you have likely been pushed to run at a pace that made you regret ever saying yes to joining them. You pushed the pace, a pace that you didn’t think you could maintain, only to discover that you could hold onto it for longer than you expected. Your dog will likely be your pace pusher. Like we mentioned, they are so excited to get out of the house and go on an adventure that they will likely set the pace a little faster than what you are used to running at. This is a good thing! Eventually they will settle into a consistent and manageable pace, but in the meantime, they will continue to improve your running times and help you strengthen your legs while running at a faster cadence.
Benefit #3: Motivation
It goes without saying that there will be days you are excited to get up and run, maybe you even slept in your workout gear so you could hit the road as soon as your eyes opened! And then there are days that you dread stepping foot in the outdoors because it is too cold, rainy or dark. Seeing your dog's face and the excitement in their eyes to spend time with you will motivate you to at least try giving running a go that day. That’s the first step. If you can start it, you can finish it. Most of the time, all it takes is for us to get into the rhythm of the run. To take a few strides, find our pace and then before we know it, our favourite song comes on and we are cruising down the street. Sometimes it's that dash of motivation that changes our entire workout. We can be exhausted and sore from yesterday’s workout, but the moment your furry friend runs up to you with their leash in hand and that look in their eyes, you know you’ve committed to running before you’ve even started. You can thank them with a few treats later!
Benefit #4: Distance
The first kilometer is always the hardest. You’re trying not to start out too fast, struggling to find your rhythm and are attempting to control your breathing so you don’t look like this is your first time running in a little while. You’ve got a lot going on! Running solo is purely a mental game. The first few kilometers pass by slowly, until you hit that magic 5 kilometer mark. After that, you are sailing and it feels like you could easily run a few extra kilometers. Having your pooch running alongside you not only encourages you to run faster, but it also motivates you to run farther! Most dogs, with the exception of the smaller ones, love distances. The longer the walk or run, the better! Until they get hungry and then they will direct you back home. Until then, your dog will continue to help you build strength and endurance by consistently encouraging you, and likely gently pulling you, in the direction of the longer route. At first you’ll resist, but slowly you’ll remember that you’ll be so proud of yourself and your efforts after it's all over!
Benefit #5: Stress Reduction
When running gets brought up in conversation, most people rave about its cardiovascular benefits. Very rarely do the cognitive and stress reduction benefits that running has to offer get brought up. Running is a powerful stress management tool that allows a healthy outlet to release emotion and excess energy. Exposing your body to the sun also helps to boost Vitamin D levels, also known as our sunshine vitamin, and leads to higher levels of productivity and creativity. This might come as a surprise to hear, but dogs too struggle with stress and anxiety. Most dogs become anxious at the sound of the door opening as you head off to work for the day. Think of running as a new opportunity to spend more time together, an outlet to relieve stress for the both of you and a way to keep both of your hearts happy and healthy!
Whether it's a short or long run, take your dog with you! Running offers endless health benefits including weight loss, improved memory and concentration, reduced stress and anxiety levels and is a powerful tool in strengthening your cardiovascular system. The next time you are heading out the door, suit up your best friend with their leash and watch them push both your pace and distance - you can thank them later. Or after your next run, because they’ll be holding you accountable to run together more often once they get a taste of the outdoors!
-By Lindsay Mustard
Lindsay Mustard is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.