As Thyme covered a bit ago, motivation may lack in the winter months for some, and this certainly has applied to me lately! Honestly, on the days where I have a chunk of free time, I’d rather be sitting on the couch watching Bridesmaids and munching on a snack than running on the trails. Being that it now gets dark at 5 p.m., it’s either get a run in early morning or I’m outta luck.
But you know as well as I do that as soon as we get up and out the door, it feels better, the endorphins flow, our moods lift, and the world is ours. So Last Thursday when I didn’t particularly feel like running, I put on my favorite trainers, wrapped my new buddy system leash around my waist and darted out the door with my sweet Weimareiner, Otto (you know, the one who broke my arm that one time).
As I ran I paid extra attention to my pup and picked up on his utter excitement for running. As we plugged along for about 5 miles I learned a few tricks from him to stay positive and remind both you and I of the pure bliss of running. His enthusiasm snapped me right out of my winter blues! Here are some “Running Free” lessons I learned from Otto:
1.) Take deep breaths. Enjoy the (good!) smells of nature! Otto has this tendency to stop and smell the roses. Or the coffee shops. Or the other runners passing by. Though, perhaps we shouldn’t indulge that last one, I think it’s cool how he is so attuned to his sense of smell and all the wonders that come along with it. So when you’re passing by a coffee shop on your running route, take a second to slow down the pace and getting a blissful whiff of that peppermint mocha brewing in the air.
2.) Chase the leaves. This is a game Otto loves to play: when leaves come flying off the trees, he loses his composure (as if he had any in the first place) and scampers around chasing them all over the place. Though it brings a jolt to his running partner, I can’t say I mind. He just can’t contain his excitement at the wonders of the world around him!
3.) Chase the cars. Especially those cars with the loud humming motors. Play a game! When a car goes zooming by, be like Otto and sprint along with it for as long as your little lungs will let you. It’s like speed work, but way more fun!
4.) Take time to say hello to the neighbors. I’m guilty of getting in, getting out and getting it done when it comes to running. But when Otto’s with me he insists on saying hi to any of the lurking neighbors. They comment on how beautiful he is, how green his eyes are and how svelte his physique has become. If only we humans would give one another as many compliments as we give our dogs. Food for thought, anyone?
5.) When you feel good (or vice versa), go with it. It never fails. Certain points on our typical running routes, Otto always gets a burst of energy. Certain corners, at the bridge, and near the end of our run…he just…goes! When he feels good, he doesn’t think about the 3 other miles still ahead or what pace he had planned, he just goes with it. I think this is a lesson we human runners could take to heart: staying in the moment. Run by feel, and go easy on yourself if that means you need to slow down a little.
6.) Mix it up a little. I tend to stick to the same routes day after day. Not Otto! He’s always veering off to make a different turn or to follow the guys riding their bikes up ahead. As long as you are familiar with the area or have a GPS to keep you from getting lost, it’s good to change your routes up a little. I tend to do the same routes monotonously- I think I sometimes miss out on exploring new areas, and getting a fresh perspective.
7.) Always finish strong. The last .5 miles of our typical route Otto knows it’s almost time to be done! He gets excited and sprints his little heart out (sometimes flinging and lurching me, of course). To know that you’ve conquered yet another run, made your heart stronger and your legs faster…it’s something to celebrate, so finish strong with a smile on your face! Tongue hanging out is optional, of course.
8.) Upon returning, reward yourself with an ice cold drink and hug your significant other.
As soon as we enter the townhouse, Otto goes to his water dish, gulps fanatically and begs for his ice cube. Replace your fluids, too! He also immediately speeds toward my partner to give him kisses, almost as if saying “Look, I did it! And…I love you!” Celebrate the little victories of everyday runs and remember to thank your significant other for giving you the freedom and time to go on your daily excursions.
Some things that Otto does on our runs that I wouldn’t recommend include:
- pouncing at squirrels
- pooping on the curb
- eating grass
- licking other runners as they stop and say hello.
Everything else is fair game!
Do you run with a dog? What have you learned by running with your four-legged friend? What other animals inspire you to run free?