Stephanie Fernandes, Personal trainer and Director of Original Bootcamp - Chatswood, in Australia, has offered to give the OneMind Dogs community some awesome fitness tips specifically for agility handlers!
Stephanie has some great advice: “I often hear people say, "I'm not a very good runner" or "I hate running because I'm not very fit". The good news is, you don't need to be fit to become a runner, you get fit by doing it! It sounds so simple, right? Unfortunately there are a lot of mental barriers that prevent people from exercising regularly.
A few of the most common mental barriers which you might be able to relate to include:
1. "I'm not motivated enough"
Despite popular belief, motivation is not the key to sticking to exercise, habit is the key. Motivation is always there. If you wish you could run faster, then you are motivated to exercise. If you are not doing it, it's because something is holding you back. Maybe you think that you need to devote 1 hour every day, and don't know how to do that. Or maybe you think you need to suffer to get results. Whatever the real reason is, find it. Then you will be able to remove the obstacle that is in your way.
2. "I don't have time"
I love this one. Even though we know people who are busier than us, who actually exercise, we say we are "too busy". Of course you have time. If you have time to train your dog and drive hours away for a dog trial, you have time to exercise. Time is not the issue. It's probably something else. Maybe you don't like it. Maybe you don't know where to start. Maybe you're afraid you'll have to give up something else in favour of exercise. Whatever the real reason is, you need to find it if you want to give your body a chance to thrive! Not only will you find more enjoyment in running efficiently with your dog on course, exercise will also improve your mood, increase longevity, increase your energy levels, improve sleep and overall wellbeing. Start off slow, and don't bite off more than you can chew. You want to create an exercise habit that you can maintain. Even if you begin with 5-10 minutes each day (or every second day if you are new to exercise) and increase each session by 1 minute each week, you will be moving your body more than you were a week ago. This brings me to the last barrier...
3. "I don't know where to start"
If you are wanting to improve your fitness and run more efficiently on courses with your dog, then I recommend you start with some basic running drills, balance exercises, strength exercises, and flexibility exercises (on separate days, or as a cool-down). You don't have to work on all of these skills in one session - the key is to just do something regularly. In an agility lesson you wouldn't work on every skill you are ever going to need; you'd break things down and focus on one skill at a time. Eventually it all comes together (and when it does, you can set the bar higher).
Keep an eye out for tips on running drills, balance exercises and strength exercises for agility handlers in future articles by Stephanie!