Get In Shape For Dog Agility Without Running

dog agility fitnessFor those of us that are first generation dog agility enthusiasts with a few generations under our belts, running may be out of the question with bad knees, backs, ankles or other physical limitations.  But we all need to keep our bodies in shape and keep our cardiovascular fitness as well.  So I have some great news, walking is a terrific way to get your body moving, the blood pumping, calories burning and lungs growing.  Plus, your dog will enjoy the time with you outside while they do the running.  It also will help you walk your course faster and be more efficient with good form while competing as well.

The best way to start your speed walking is to get your technique down first then add speed.  Your technique will include good body alignment and and body awareness.  You will learn to allow energy to radiate up from the ground while using your arms and legs together to generate speed and power into each of your steps.  This is the reason you will want to go slow in the beginning.  You will be dealing with retraining your body and muscle memory.  And don’t worry about soreness, it is good in this case unless it is radiating or sharp pain.  Soreness will work itself out with practice, but pain can mean you need to see a doctor.

You will want to start your walk with a brief warm up and end with a cool down with some light stretching to help prevent injury.  You can use the following techniques walking on the sidewalk, grass, or treadmill as long as you grip the handrails as little as possible.

Head and Body posture while walking:  Helps you breath better and avoid back pain.

  • Think of being tall and straight like a tree growing to the sun
  • Eyes looking forward about 20 feet keeping your chin parallel to the ground
  • Lean slightly or 5 degrees forward when speed walking
  • Shoulders relaxed and down do a few shoulder rolls to loosen the muscles
  • Keep your head level allowing all motion to come from the shoulders down
  • Pull in on your belly button/abdominal muscles
  • Rock your rear end forward slightly to keep your lower back from arching
  • Legs should swing from the hips excessive side to side movement is wasteful

Arm motion:

  • Arms should be bent at 90 degrees
  • Keep your hands loosely closed – clenched fists cause tightness
  • Keep your elbows close to body
  • Swing arms by bringing hands toward your ears like answering a phone
  • Then straight back taking your hand toward the hip
  • Avoid swinging arms across the center of the body
  • Keep hands lower than chest

Foot motion:

  • Heel strikes the ground first with ankle flexed
  • Think about showing the underside of your shoe to oncoming walkers
  • Roll through the step: heel to toe
  • Push off the toe
  • A good push off from the rear leg should add power and speed to your step while stretching your hips

Leg motion:

  • Keep a natural stride length rather than over-striding
  • Rear-push-off leg stride will be longer than leg in front of body
  • Think of keeping the rear leg on the ground as long as possible then push through the toes
  • Think of driving forward with leg, rather than knees upward, while presenting heel to the ground
  • Increase strides: quicker smaller strides enable more steps per second and better use of the back leg.
  • Feet should not slap the ground noisily. This will improve as strength improves
  • Hips naturally rotate front to back with each stride but not side to side

Now you know how to walk, how long should you walk.  Start out with short 5-15 minute walks 5-6 days per week.  Each week add 5 minutes a day while monitoring form and gradually adding speed.  After about a month you should be able to accomplish a brisk walk for 30 minutes.  If your body will allow, at this point you can add intervals of jogging.  To improve your endurance for agility runs, the intervals should consist of walking 3-5 minutes, then jogging 30 seconds to 1 minute, and repeating until completing about 8 cycles (roughly 45 minutes total).  For more advanced walkers, sprint intervals can be joined with light jogging intervals in the same way: light jog 3-5 minutes, sprint 30 seconds-1 minute. But don’t do this every day in the beginning.  You need to incorporate the interval training every other road work session to allow for recovery time.

In no time you will be able to keep up with your dog on the agility course with ease and be able to focus on your handling rather than your muscles and lungs.  Plus, you will find you have more energy throughout your regular day as well.  Based off Kimber Chase, CFT, AFT of training methods.