The other day Boss came up to me and said “Liz, I need some help with my running.”
Boss, get in line.
I know what you’re thinking. He’s a dog. He can’t talk. But we spend enough time together that I feel like I can read his mind. (oh my god she’s the crazy woman that works at home and walks around all day in pajama bottoms while speaking twinspeak with her..dog).
Anyways, I said Boss, what makes you want to work on your run form?
Well, just the other day, the thermometer cracked 40 degrees so we headed to the field for a series of unleashed crazy laps – a result of 4 months of pent up energy, fur and balls out excitement because SPRING IS NEAR!
(or, in Boss’ case, ballsfreeballsout excitement).
Poor lil’ guy.
Boss said, so in less than a month I will be at the dog park daily and I need to get back in the game. I’ve got to keep up with the big dogs. There’s my bully doppelganger, Biff the Chihuahua who last year shamed me by keeping up with Louise the over 30 pound dog in the under 30 pound dog park while I got run over. There’s Johnny and Ponchy who are clearly in it together so if I chase one, I’ve got to be able to get chased by two. There’s Andre the Mini Pinscher, Sophie the Bichon and I’ll be damned if I get gangbanged by the posse of Beagles again.
I need some run coaching.
I coach all different types of athletes but clearly the biggest hurdle in the next 30 days will be coaching my dog back to peak dog park shape. Turns out that lying on top of a heating vent under the ottoman all winter is not such a good training plan. A few weeks ago in a bizarre turn of over 40 degree weather, we went to the dog park and Boss was merely a shell of the aerobically fit and conditioned Chihuahua he used to be. He spent the first 30 minutes walking around the park to make sure all of his favorite weeds and shrubs were still there. Then he went and remarked everything he marked last year just to make sure all the dogs know that the fence around the oak seedling?
The next time we went in a strange string of weather where winter broke and the sun stayed out for 3 whole days, Boss tried to get back to his old level of game. He played catch with Louise and then the man with 3 dogs showed up. The man with 3 dogs is a very loud man with 3 dogs all different sizes. The dogs always poop before they get into the dog park which then shouts for all the dog park world to hear: OTTO, YOU COULDN’T WAIT UNTIL WE GOT INSIDE THE GATE, COULD YOU?
Apparently not, every single time, no matter how loudly you yell at him.
The man was in the little dog park with us even though he has big dogs and assures me that his big dogs won’t kill my little dog. Have you met my little dog? I’d be more scared that he’ll kill you. The other day, upon opening the garage dog, my little dog bolted like fire out the door and straight to the leg of the Fed Ex man. The poor man was carrying boxes of giant boxes Power Bars with a 9 pound Chihuahua jumping at him because he has a thing for men in uniforms. UPS man, mailman – Boss can’t help himself. It’s the uniform or the smell of packing tape.
I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
But while Boss seems to have maintained some of his short burst top end speed (which I credit to an absurdly high V02max and a steady diet of top of the line kibble – really, it’s 6 star kibble. I mean, how much better does it get than SIX stars?) his endurance is lagging.
Right now Boss is not an Ironman.
Writing training plans is what I do so I had to think very little about this one. First of all, Boss, we need you to commit to the plan. Secondly, beyond commitment you need consistency. Third, we need to get you running laps and drills so you have the endurance, speed and agility come spring. And lastly, Boss, I need you to be patient because none of this progress will happen over night. Progress takes…time.
It’s something I say a lot lately…
So, let’s start by talking about the basics of good run form. First of all, you need to have more of a forepaw push off to propel yourself forward with each step. Boss, I watch you run and I see a lot of vertical movement which indicates wasted energy. Let’s put everything into moving you forward with each step. And, agility. You need to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee so let’s stay sharp, ok? None of this laying on your back because you all of a sudden decide you want your belly scratched. And, the little overexcitement pee squirt you do when meet someone new? Come on, Boss. That’s totally kindergarten. Let’s get control of yourself if you want to be taken seriously.
Boss will not look at me (you know when your dog pretends not to see you and instead sits with its ears back and head turned the other way?).
Back to Boss’ training plan. We start with some basic preparation before moving into base training. Then we have the dog park specific build. In this build we will practice running crazy laps around the living room as I throw squeaky carrot at him like a dog coming at him from another direction. Frequently I will have him run in booties to get a feel for the uneven terrain at the park. And, as for his kibble? I will reduce his kibble by ¼ of ¼ of a cup. I don’t know what that is (even with the 3 calculators on my table, thank you Cat) but I suspect this leaning out is exactly what he needs for peak shape come the first balmy day of spring.
Let’s get started with the drills….Boss? Boss?
In his usual winter mood, he is under the ottoman again. Any time the heat kicks on he makes a beeline straight for it, commando crawls under it and there he stays. I am convinced he is either the smartest thing to survive winter or one day going to cook himself. In both cases, I need to get him out of there so we can start with spring training. Because when spring arrives, he will be ready to take on Louise, Johnny, Andre, Biff and any other dog that wants to give him a run of things. What he lacks in size he will make up for in speed, endurance and an exquisite taste for men in uniforms. And Mr. Dog Park Popo – that includes you too.
As for the beagles, if they get anywhere near Boss, we are both running the other way, 4 x 20 second strides focusing on getting us the hell out of the dog park as fluid and fast as possible.
HERE’S TO SPRING!