Before you head out on your canicross run, do you do stretches? What about your dogs? A warm-up is an important part of your canicross workout.
To get the most out of your workout, you should have a warm-up. The same goes for our dogs. Before you hit the canicross trail, you need to prepare your dog’s body for exercise. This ensures your dog gets the most out of the workout and it goes a long way in avoiding injury.
Warming up for a workout starts slow. A gradual increase in heart rate aids circulation, loosens joints, and carries blood to the muscles. The muscles warm up properly, can contract more forcefully and relax faster, increasing speed and strength. This greatly reduces the chance of pulling a muscle.
Warm-up activities will vary depending on the age, condition, and activity level of your dog. My oldest dog is 12 and still loves a good canicross session, but her warm-ups are a little longer these days. A few years ago, she had leg surgery after being struck by a car. The warm-up is a great opportunity to watch for any signs that her leg is acting up. My youngest dog is a complete powerhouse and in his prime. Warm-ups for him are vital to ensure that his muscles are prepared before we hit the trail, and he doesn’t overdo it.
During your warm-up, look for signs of signs of limping, avoidance, loss of interest, cringing when touched in certain areas, and unusual panting. These subtle signs are your dog telling you something is wrong, and they aren’t ready for a workout. If you suspect something is wrong, get your dog to a vet or a canine physiotherapist.
To Stretch or Not to Stretch
Trainers are divided on the benefits of a pre-workout stretch. Some trainers use “active stretches,” in which they lure or encourage the dog to stretch the muscles on their own. These stretches rely on the dog to stretch, without the human stretching the muscles on the dog.
A “static stretch” is when a person stretches the dog’s muscles by pulling gently on a leg. Personally, I only use static stretches for cool down exercises. With each of my dogs I have been given a set of exercises by our canine physiotherapist to use. Stretching a cold muscle or stretching improperly can injure the dog. Always consult with a professional before partaking in a warm-up routine.
The temperature outside also determines our warm-up routine. If it’s 40 below, a warm-up is done in a coat, or may even start indoors before we head outside. Warm-ups are most effective no more than 30 minutes before an activity.
Warm-up stretches needn’t be complex. Some of my favorite for canicross involve walking the dogs at different paces, in a heel position with yummy treats we walk slow figure eights, ensuring the dog gets a chance to practice turns. Next, we speed up with a fast pace walk and finishing up with recall exercises. Some dogs love to rug on a toy, and this can be a great way to get those muscles warmed up. If tugging over excites your dog, it may be best to skip this activity before going for a canicross. Once the dog is warmed up, we are ready to hit the trail and have a great time!
Sure, it takes time to warm up your dog, and we understand you want to hit the trails ASAP. But an injury could lead to weeks or months of crate rest – not fun. So think of a warm-up as insurance, and incorporate it into your practice.
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: “Get outside and play with your dogs!”