(Wo)Man’s Best Friend: How My Dog Contributed To My Fitness Journey

When I got my puppy at 12 weeks old, I had just finished my spring semester going into my last year of my Physical Education degree. The football coach at my college would let me lift in the team’s weight room every morning. The morning after I picked her up, I put my pup in her carrier and brought her with me to the weight room to hang out in the hall while I got my lift in. I did this every morning for her first few weeks home while she was too little to be left alone.

We started our life together in the gym.

Mischa is my Shih Tzu and is less than 15 pounds. She’s a lap dog who loves to be carried but also loves to run around in circles to burn off energy before a long nap. She’s very food motivated and very clever. Her small size and intelligence make her excellent for apartment living. She’s also a great running companion and fitness motivator.

At 6am when I know I can still see my breath outside, my warm bed seems like a big hug from a friend. As soon as I’d open my eyes, it was go time because Mischa had been sitting next to my head, waiting… “Maybe I can just hit the snooze button and get a few more winks,” I’d think. Reaching for my alarm, I’d get a handful of fur and a lick. She’d be bouncing from one side of the bed to the other! I could try to roll over but she’d already be there on the other side of the bed waiting to lick my face. Ok, time to get up.

Misha’s morning wake-up kisses were awesome while I was training for my first few 5k’s. My best friend and I would get up and start our day outside, rain or shine. No matter what else was going on in life, I had at least 30 minutes a day for just me and my dog and the road.

I stopped running races around the time she went from a puppy to a dog; we both slowed down a little. Sometimes when I get up for a work out, she stays in bed while I get ready and only when its time to head out does she spring to life. Once the leash is on, she’s ready for her little legs to take her as far as I will go. Sometimes its just out back to run some laps. She gets as much joy out of chasing squirrels in the backyard and fetching her ball when I throw it as she does taking a run through the back roads or sniffing at neighbor’s lawns.

I don’t always feel like a road run. I don’t always feel like making it to the Yoga studio or NXT cage or STRIKE studio. Sometimes I like to grab a toy and head out to the yard with my little bear. We chase each other, I throw the ball for her and then usually have to chase her to get it back. I teach her tricks or just enjoy a bodyweight workout while she sniffs trees and chases squirrels.

Whenever I get bored with a workout routine or need a change of scenery I think about the fact that my dog doesn’t care where I bring her as long as she can run, jump, catch and fetch. Whenever I have felt unmotivated, tired, heavy, or just plain not in the mood I always have that fuzzy little reason to get up and get my butt out there. Regardless of my circumstances, I have 5 or 6 reasons a day to get out, stretch my legs and take in some fresh air. Little bladders mean frequent walks!

Written by: Melanie Stevenson, Team Leader, VENT Fitness – Latham