We humans are creatures of habit. We perform our routines the same, day in and day out. If you’ve fallen into that trap with your daily run, you’re not alone. It’s easy to rely on the same running routine, especially when our schedules get full or the weather doesn’t cooperate. But if you’re starting to feel bored with your routine, your dog probably is, too! Spice up the same old, same old run to make it more fun and engaging for you and your pup. Bonus: by mixing things up, you’ll work different muscle groups and build greater endurance than if you were to keep repeating the same workout!
Explore New Terrain
When I get busy, I end up running the same route each time I lace up my sneakers. It’s predictable. I know the distance. My dog, Cooper, anticipates where we’ll cross or turn. It’s safe and reliable. And boring. However, when I have a small amount of time or a lot going on, making fewer decisions—like, where to run today—saves my sanity. To combat decision fatigue when do you find time to run, keep a list of favorite trails, parks, or neighborhoods and rotate through them instead of running the same path each time. It’s great for your dog to mix up the path, too, so that she always has something new to see and smell. Switch from Pavement to Trails…or from trails to pavement! Whatever is your go-to run, set it aside every so often for something wildly different. If you and your dog run neighborhood sidewalks, google for nearby trails to get in a dirt run. Your legs will be sore the next day! Likewise, if you’re always exploring trails and rugged terrain, try a sidewalk or pavement run and see if the flat, consistent path can’t help you add some speed to your run.
For added conditioning and for lots of fun, incorporate elements of agility—no special equipment needed! Use the structures around you to add in jumps and weaves. For instance, a park bench makes a great table to practice a pause. Retaining walls or decorative elements like stone benches or fountain ledges provide opportunities for jumps. If there are trees or planters, weave around them. While you’re out for your run, you’ll start to see lots of ways to mix in agility. Recently, on a trail run, Cooper and I discovered an enormous, hollowed-out tree trunk that has become our favorite “tunnel,” along with a series of railroad ties that we cross like balance beams. The world around you is full of lots of creative ways to spice up your run!
Don’t Forget: Safety First
If your dog isn’t used to trails or jumps, if you and your dog haven’t practiced solid leash skills to accommodate shifting directions, or if you’re tired or sore (or your dog is), take it one step at a time. Try switching up your terrain first. Then add in agility elements. The goal is to have fun running together…safely. Change up one element at a time and build your strength and endurance together.