Getting my heart rate up everyday is important for my health. It is also paramount to the good condition of fit dogs. However, I am not a runner. I never have been. When Jason and I first started dating I tried to go for a run with him once. Once. Fortunately, the dogs and I can get an excellent cardio workout on a walk. All it takes is to make sure I am exerting myself enough to get my heart rate up. If I am working hard, chances are good that the dogs are too. Here are several ways to be sure to get an elevated heart rate while dog walking:
Use a machine: A good heart rate monitor might be an excellent investment for both fit human and dog. Heart rate monitors are an easy way to tell if you reach and stay at your target heart rate. Chances are good that if you are getting your heart rate up so is your dog but there are canine monitors available too. I have only ever used a heart rate monitor in the gym and I have never tried one of the heart rate monitors available specifically for dogs. I must admit that the idea of having one more thing to remember to take on a walk seems cumbersome to me.
Self checks: Perceived exertion is my personal favorite method of measuring exercise exertion. I prefer straightforward workouts and the perceived exertion scale is lightweight and free. Quite simply, if I feel like I am working hard, maybe sweating and breathing hard, then I probably am. Having your dog as an exercise partner comes in handy with checking perceived exertion. While on a walk, I talk to the dogs. If I can easily speak a full sentence, then the dogs and I probably aren't getting enough of a cardio workout. If i can only spit out two or three words before a heavy breath, the dogs and I are likely doing our hearts good. Perceived exertion is also the cardio check the dogs uses for themselves and I can check on them this way too. Are they panting? Are their tongues way, way out? I don't let the dogs be tired for too long with out a drink but usually these are signs our walk is good canine cardio. The very best measure of how good our dog walk workout is what the dogs do after the walk. If Wilhelm, Brychwyn and Huxley all pass out asleep almost right away, I know we had a successful fit dog walk.
Go the distance: My preference these days is for long, steady walks. My heart rate isn't super high for these but if it is up a little for four to five hours, eight to nine miles, I get a good workout and so do the dogs. Someday I might get back to marathon training and make these long walks go faster. I know the dogs would be up for it.
Going up: Nothing gets my heart beating faster than a brisk walk up a long, steep hill. The dogs workout tongues get way, way out going up a sharp grade too. Stairs provide a great upward cardio workout if there are no hills on your dog walking route. We are so lucky in our neighborhood because we have both! I do recommend only going up stairs and not down, especially for long backed dogs.
A little of everything: On interval walks, the dogs and I will pick up the pace to our fastest possible speed, one block of very three or four when it's flat and less often on inclines. When we are in the park or anywhere without blocks to measure our intervals, I sometimes use a stopwatch timer to determine when my faster paced interval will be. Usually, I use perceived exertion to know when to speed up again. The dogs and I pant and pant after an interval and once I catch my breath it's time to speed back up. Intervals don't have to be running. I just pick up the pace to whatever is the very fastest I can go. Big walking strides feel great! Wilhelm, Brychwyn and Huxley absolutely love interval walks and your fit dog might too.
Always consult with a doctor before beginning a new exercise or prior to changing your exercise routine.