Article authored by Matt Barrack, Fitness Coach at Hilton Head Health
Do you know owning a pet can add to your life? It can happen in more ways than one. If you had a dog or currently have one, then you already know. For those of you who don’t, I am going to make the case for having a canine companion. How your pet can be the best workout partner you ever had and how they can help you burn a few more calories and cement habits.
First, let us talk about you. Are you struggling to lose weight? Are you finding it difficult to stick to a plan? Lack of motivation? Probably so, that’s why you are reading these words. We can talk about the benefits of a regular exercise program. Stronger muscles decrease the risk for Cardiovascular disease, improve mental outlook, and well being, help control and maintain blood sugar, improve the ability to relax, and mitigate stress. This is all stuff you know. We live in the information age. There are studies after studies that show irrefutable evidence that regular exercise is beneficial.
So even when science declares with absolute certainty that moving more can add to your life, why do we still skip workouts? Why is the obesity rate climbing more every year?
I believe it’s because of people’s experience of fitness or exercise. The way it feels before, during, and after. How do you talk about exercise? What words do you use or words do you see describing exercise? “This workout is going to be killer!” “I’m dead after that workout!” “ I did legs yesterday and I can’t move!” There is a ton of macabre and violent imagery used to describe boot camps and fitness classes. Instructors can be infamous for how well they can “destroy” a client. I have been called the Marquis de Sade before.
Does reading the last paragraph entice you to jump in and do some squats? Of course not. If someone offered you a salad and told you your stomach will feel awful for a week, you wouldn’t eat it. On the contrary, If your friend told you that this salad was the tastiest, most delicious, delectable, so good my tastebuds did a dance, food item they ever had on their tongue you would be much more likely to gobble it down, right? Because they described a positive experience. Your friend, who you trust, wanted to share something with you. Not punish you or remind you of your inadequacies. They simply wanted to gift you with a small amount of happiness.
Look at this face and try to be upset. Try to say no. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is doggone hard to turn away from this smile. This is the best workout partner you will ever have. He/she will always support you. They will always supply you with infectious energy. They will think every level of workout is the right one for today. They are just happy to be doing something with you. Here is a study showing how dog ownership can improve recovery after a cardiovascular event.
I want to tell you about myself and my first dog, Buddy. He was a German Shepard/Lab mix and he was my best friend. I was incredibly shy as a youth. I didn’t talk or feel very confident about myself one bit. I would hide amongst people and adapt to whatever they wanted so they would like me. I was afraid of being alone and rejected. Being myself was equal to not being worthy of love. Buddy gave me unconditional love and acceptance. No matter how I felt on any given day, he gave me permission to be myself. I spoke to him all my deepest, darkest secrets and in return for all my shortcomings and bad days, I received countless licks and cuddles. My time with him is some of my most cherished memories. If there is something just and good in me, part of it is owed to the example of support he gave to me.
Why did I share that with you? Because my friend, I believe the biggest setback in establishing a new habit happens after we let ourselves down. After we skip one workout, and another, and another. After we once again “failed” an eating plan. Yet again, another year, another resolution has gone down the drain. Congratulations, you are part of the human race.
This is part of the learning process. We learn best by contrast. We have to see what one side is so we can know where the other is. Changing your lifestyle is addition and subtraction.
Imagine a friend a partner who says yes when you are excited about a new workout regimen? A partner who lovingly encourages you when you aren’t feeling it? Gives you a reason, a purpose that’s bigger than just you? That is your future! You won’t be the only one to benefit from this new relationship. They will be there on the good days and the not so good days.
Your pooch will enjoy much of the same gifts from exercise as you. Helping hip joints, reducing digestive problems, while maintaining a healthy weight. Improved mood and behavioral conditions. Human beings have been bonding with dogs for at least 10,000 years. It is in their genetic makeup to improve their relationship with you. To be loyal and an upstanding member of your pack.
What does all this have to do with your experience of working out? If a large part of your fitness plan involves positivity, love, playfulness, excitement, laughs, and fun? Don’t you think you are more likely to maintain it? It’s almost a guarantee. There is a ton of great outcomes that can be enjoyed and gained from exercise but it usually comes after a lengthy investment of time and energy. A walk with your dog will create happiness in the first minute, the first day.
If you can’t or don’t want a dog, that doesn’t mean the steps I talk about won’t benefit you. If you apply what I talk about in my video you can be successful as well. You can follow the link to my video on the practical steps to how your dog can help support your weight loss goals. Life doesn’t have to be so ruff. Talk to you soon!
Fitness Coach at Hilton Head Health