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National Women's Health and Fitness Day

Who knew that there was an actual day for celebrating Women’s Health and Fitness?! Many of us start the new year with a resolve to make this next year better than the last, to get fitter and healthier and perhaps lose a few excess pounds of weight, but now women all over the country get a special day to celebrate how far they’ve come (or not…as the case may be!). Before there’s an uproar, we’d like to point out that men get a ‘Health & Fitness Day’ in June so no one is left out!

The good news is that you already have all you need to achieve this. It needn’t mean forking out on expensive gym memberships, Personal Training sessions, fancy equipment or extortionate work-out gear. Just you and the dog and a bit of extra determination will set you on the path to a healthier, trimmer you.

Here are our top tips for working out with your dog, suitable for any level of fitness (and any dog).

Lengthen your walk:
Adding an extra loop on the twice daily walk can add up to a significant increase in calorie expenditure. An extra 800m walked daily (400m in the morning, 400m in the evening) stacks up to an enormous 292km over the year. That is nearly 7 marathons. Go you!

Doggy Jog:
If you are already a seasoned exerciser, running with the dog can be a great way to stay in shape. Find a dog-friendly trail, and trot along content that you are both stretching your legs and filling your lungs with healthy fresh air.

A mixture of jogging and walking is a brilliant way to build up fitness too – just pick a spot in the distance (or set a timer on your watch for an appropriate amount of time – start with 30 seconds) and alternate between jogging and walking. The dog will love the changes in pace, and you will find that you quickly start to build up endurance and find yourself jogging more and walking less. Make sure you have a good set of shoes before you set off, and carry some water for yourself and the hound.
Get friends involved too, and you may find that you want to make it a regular in the calendar.

Vive La Resistance:
Resistance training doesn’t always mean heavy weights. You can increase the resistance in your walk by choosing more challenging terrain. Try walking your dog on the sand, in shallow water along a beach, or through a trail that is notoriously muddy or full of heavy leaves. Walking against resistance helps build muscle strength, and if you make sure you are engaging your core by cinching in your waist and drawing your belly button in towards your spine while you stride out, you are also getting a tummy work out to boot, improving your posture, and burning more calories. How great is that?

Life’s full of obstacles:
Find a walk with some natural – or man-made – inbuilt challenges. Think Rocky and the long flight of steps, perhaps a steep hill nearby which you generally avoid, or even a walk which includes lots of fences to climb over. Or even try creating obstacles on walks you already know and love: jumping over puddles, leaping over logs…use your imagination! Anything which helps get your heart-rate up will increase the amount of calories burnt and help build endurance.

Doga – downward dog WITH your dog:
Doga (a portmanteau of “Dog Yoga”, rhymes with “yoga”) is the practice of yoga as exercise with your pet. It began in America (was that ever in any doubt?) in 2003, came to Britain a year later, and has spread rapidly as a practice around the globe since then.

Doga teachers have reportedly noted the benefits of exercise, bonding and enjoyment that doga can bring to both canines and their yogi owners. The Doga teacher Mahny Djahanguiri has stated that “Doga brings laughter and joy, freeing people from feeling they must be perfect to practice.” While some devoted yogis see Doga as a fad, and criticise it for trivialising yoga, NHHQ thinks that if it brings joy and connection and an element of variety to your workouts, then go for it!

What is important with fitness is to keep trying, even when you do falter, as that builds resilience which is really the goal of the whole shebang anyway. What’s more, your dog will continue to love you regardless – even if you do end up finishing off the Quality Street! That’s why we love our dogs – no judgement, no keeping score. Take a leaf out of your dog’s book and extend to yourself a touch of self-forgiveness, it’s better than a six-pack and doesn’t mean quite so many crunches. Happy Health & Fitness Day Ladies!

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