An unexpected path from Couch to 5k
Sophie shares how she got into running with Couch to 5k.
Date: 25 November 2020 Author: Energise Me
Getting active solo isn’t for everyone, but sometimes the perfect workout buddy is closer than we think. Steph never liked running on her own, limiting her runs to when she could go with friends. After adopting a spaniel, she realised that mankind’s best friend could also be the best fitness partner.
Simply put, Canicross is people running whilst attached to their dogs. But it’s actually so much more! It is a sport in its own right, that has many benefits for both dog and owner.
I got into Canicross after I got my spaniel. I already ran with my friends as I didn’t like running alone. My other dogs weren’t really suitable to run with but when I got my spaniel, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
I started by buying a cheap harness and belt online, but they weren’t very good. It wasn’t until I saw a Dogfit stand at a county show that I found out that Canicross was an actual organised sport with proper equipment.
I found a local group that ran with dogs and realised that there were instructions and skills to teach your dog to make running easier. From here I found out that you can be trained to be an instructor and never looked back.
As a woman, having my dog with me makes me feel safer being out on my own
I enjoy running so much more with my dog. As a woman, having my dog with me makes me feel safer being out on my own. My dog and I are bonded a lot deeper compared to anyone else in the family. Spending so much time exercising together has really strengthened our bond.
Being active with my dog has also opened me up to a whole new community of people. I have made a lot of new friends.
Apart from feeling closer to you, your dog is also getting to run and act naturally. Having them attached to you means you know you’re not over-exercising them. I can run up to a marathon distance with my dog. I know he’s been trained safely as he only runs what I run. It’s disciplined, rather than them running circles around you.
Canicross is brilliant for dogs that might not normally be allowed off the lead. For instance, dogs that have a high prey drive or might have behavioural issues. These dogs can’t normally be fully exercised but by running with them they can be allowed to exercise in a controlled way.
It’s also a great way of socialising dogs. Dogs that are nervous or hostile towards others can run as part of a pack. They seem to be calmed and it makes them feel safer. In one of my groups, there is a dog that would normally bark at other dogs. When we run, we put them in the middle of the group. Because there is no eye contact and they are all running in the same direction the dog gets on really well.
My daughter was 4 when she first ran with our dog.
My daughter was 4 when she first ran with our dog. For children, they love it. Often, we don’t let our children hold the dog’s lead when we go on walks as we are worried it may pull them over. The kit is designed to absorb the dog’s strength so it’s safer for children.
If you don’t like running, there is also trekking. This involves power walking with your dog so you can still get out and be social but there is no pressure to run.
To start Canicross you just need a good pair of trainers and a dog that is at least 12 months old. You can run with any dog – any shape or size. We just ask that they are fully grown as it is dangerous to over-exercise a dog when they are still growing.
Look out for an introductory session which gives you a chance fit your dog in the right harness and go for a one on one run. This way you can get a feel for the equipment without buying it. After this, you’ll need to find a group that suits your running level. I run a couch to 5k plan. The plan is only 6 weeks long. If you have a dog you are probably already out walking them and already a little active. I always try to keep these groups to 2/3 people. That way your dog has other dogs to learn from but you can still get individual instruction.
Canicross is a social sport and we always run at the pace of the slowest person. We take regular breaks for water and the couch to 5k plan is done in intervals.
If you’re already running but want to share the experience with your dog, you’ll find groups that run longer distances too. Lots of these groups are currently limited to 5 people plus an instructor but are normally bigger. Even in these groups, we run at the slowest person’s pace.
For those with a competitive side, you can also get involved in lots of competitions. Lots of running events have Canicross events within them. The current world champion is British and there are lots of professionals that are open to training people wanting to compete.