Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Training Partners - Human and Canine

Humans are social creatures and it is natural to introduce a social element to our training and pursuits.  Training and spending time with like minded goal orientated individuals forms a virtuous spiral by increasing our motivation and training frequency leading to improved performance ad infinitum.  Additional benefits include providing a safety factor and expanding our knowledge base by learning form one another.  In sports such as cycling, efficiencies can be improved by use of techniques like drafting.  Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai cannot be done without training partners.  For these reasons I train and associate with other athletes as often as opportunities present themselves. 

Not all training companions are human.  My most faithful training partner is my dog.  He has not a care in the world for anything beyond activities, eating, and sleeping.  Very one dimensional I know, but he never says no to a workout, has no consideration for the weather, and always reminds me when he has been too long without exercise.  While I don’t always agree with his methods for requesting activity, most every behavioral problem he has goes away with exercise.   

Lefty after a long run that left him particularly thirsty

Our core activity is running.  Occasionally I bike with him, but these days aren’t about me as much as they are about tiring him out.  I even tried open water swim with him.  Despite his great natural swimming ability, group swim went poorly, perhaps because it was not natural or goal orientated to him like fetch.

Lefty’s short coat, medium build, broad tail, and long nose make him a very capable runner and swimmer.  I have seen him reach 25mph when he has been running alongside my bike.  On our long runs he has always been able to match me on all but the hottest days; he wears a fur coat after all.  His ability to fetch in the lake is greater than my patience to see when he has had enough.  He is quite the athlete and regular walking is insufficient to expend his energy.

Having a dog as a training partner isn’t without challenges.  Almost every run includes at least one early stop for a bathroom break.  He is also horrible at pacing, pulling for the first one or two miles before winding down and often requiring loving encouragement to finish.  I time our runs during non-peak hours such as the early morning to avoid other trail users, but the occasional presence of other large dogs and wildlife like deer requires some application of muscle.  Holding his leash and managing him breaks down my form somewhat and introduces a small pace penalty. 

Weather considerations are even more important with Lefty than for me; his ability to cope with heat does not match humans.  He refuses to quit so I have to quit for him when he is struggling.  Depending on the duration and heat we pack water, I have a pack and so does he.

I occasionally see other people training with their dogs but it is very rare.  Lefty makes a great training partner in spite of the occasional problems and embarrassments that come about.  I am always interested in other peoples training but have a special place in my heart for people who train with their dogs.

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