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image Lisa Christensen runs with her seven-month-old puppy Hans — or, as she calls him, her fitness plan. Between his frequent walks and the muscle it takes to keep him on track, taking care of Hans is a full-body workout.

January 23, 2014
My 2014 fitness plan is on the end of a leash

This time of year, you hear everyone talk about their trips to the gym or their diet plans, even though some of the resolute fervor of New Years has died down.

Me? I don’t like gyms. I do have a pretty intense fitness plan, though. I call it “owning a dog.”

You laugh, but my fur baby is what they call “high energy,” which is a nice way of saying he has enough juice to power a small country and gets bored faster than an attention-deficit kindergartner.

If I don’t get some of the starch out of my puppy before I go anywhere, it’s a guarantee that I’ll come home to shredded couch cushions and toilet paper strewn everywhere.

So, I — we — log in a lot of miles every day. It’s great cardio, walking or running for an hour and a half a day. And here’s the other nice thing about it: My fitness plan doesn’t care what the weather is or if I feel like working out or not. Rain or shine, warm or cold, raging fever or no, my fitness plan will wake me up with a bop of a nose, a flood of licks and incessant tugs at my sleeves and pantlegs until we hit the road.

There’s all sorts of strength training, too. When my fitness plan misbehaves during the cardio portions, I sometimes have to pick him up to take him back home. Luckily, this started when he was an 8-pound puppy, because otherwise it might have been tough to go straight to the 43-pound weights. But I’ve steadily gained muscle strength as he’s grown — and I always lift with my legs.

Also on our cardio outings, I get the chance to use my upper arms when he tries to chase a passing car, which I haven’t quite trained him to ignore yet. I also get plenty of reps when my fitness plan’s nose finds a nearby cat or something another dog left behind.

The tricky thing is remembering to switch arms. If you really have trouble with this, borrow a friend’s dog and take a leash in each hand. That will really shake up your workout.

My fitness plan likes to play tug-of-war, too, and fetch. Both of these activities take a large amount of upper body strength, if done correctly. It is important to remember while tugging on a rope, for example, to keep the back straight to engage the oblique muscles in addition to the arms. Proper form while throwing a tennis ball repeatedly, too, helps guard against injury while making sure as many muscles as possible are being utilized.

I get in sprints, as well. A few months ago, they came when my fitness plan saw someone else’s dog. These days we’ve mostly gotten past his fear of dogs, but I still get in my anaerobic training when I put dinner on the table or counter and step into another room for just a second only to realize that suddenly everything’s quiet — too quiet. To time myself on these mad dashes, I’ve started carrying around a stopwatch everywhere I go to. I’ve broken my own record 17 times now.

My fitness plan also lends itself to rudimentarily self-defense training. When my fitness plan gets a little rowdy, I have to grab him in a manner that could be replicated in a sort of defense hold on a person, and I’ve gotten pretty fast with it. Sweeping is its own adventure, and to keep my fitness plan from grabbing the broom, I have to quickly move it out of his way, which ends up looking like half of a Bruce Lee fight scene.

My reflexes have gotten faster, too. It’s amazing how quickly you can react when you see him, say, grab a package of chocolate chips off of the countertop or run down the hall with your cell phone charger. My balance has also improved as I’ve attempted to clean up after my fitness plan without leaving the sidewalk when he makes a pitstop on someone else’s lawn.

Even my diet’s been affected. My fitness plan loves to scour the garbage can for the crumbs at the bottom of potato chip bags, for example. Consequently, I no longer buy chips. I do work hard on training him to not beg or get into the garbage, but it’s just easier to alter my shopping list. He never begs for salad.

I see many people in the valley who have similar fitness programs as mine. Unfortunately, many of these are left to run in a fenced-off yard, much the same way as the treadmill that is purchased in good faith but quickly relegated to the basement to serve as an expensive coatrack.

Dust off the metaphorical treadmill and buy a new leash. Come on, dog owners of Tooele County, the weather’s only getting nicer.

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