Running off the Christmas Excesses

So an alcohol-fuelled resolution on New Year’s Eve to get fit following the Christmas excesses has come back to haunt you. What now? As a dog owner, why not save on the costly gym membership and even-costlier personal trainer and start running with your four-legged friend?

Canicross - cross-country running with a dog - is free and fun and gets you fit. And you can start today, even if the most exercise you usually get is the long trip to the fridge for another beer during the adverts. It may take time to become an expert but the journey will be enjoyable.

If running with your dog seems a step too far at the moment, start by walking and then follow the 10% rule. You may be tempted by the fancy harnesses and the adrenaline rush of a five-mile race but let’s be realistic. It’s important that you and your dog build up your fitness gradually and together. If walking for half an hour is already no problem, begin by jogging for two minutes and walking for five minutes. Fitness experts generally recommend increasing the distance or time by no more than 10% every week.

Before you know it, your bodies will have adapted and you’ll both be ready to race. Competitive people may relish the chance to win an event but many just run for the fun of it. Canicross welcomes people and dogs of all abilities. It’s a great chance to bond with your pet and make new friends.

People who are already fit need to make sure their dogs are up to the task. Humans can pace themselves but dogs can’t. Desperation to keep up with you and not miss out on the fun may result in your animal doing himself some damage. Your dog’s fitness regime should be planned and monitored. If you push him too hard, he could suffer from a joint or muscle injury that may not show up for days.

If your dog is the canine equivalent of a couch potato, start with walking or swimming to build muscles before beginning a running programme. Don’t have tunnel vision when it comes to fitness, health is more important. Running after a recent operation, for example, may not be ideal. Check with your vet, as you would check with your doctor, whether there are any health issues before increasing physical activity.

Canicross equipment, including harnesses and belts, are available from