With Summer now well and truly behind us, for many, so too is the motivation to get out and be active. Winter is indeed coming, so what can we do to stay motivated when the toasty warm confines of our beds are seemingly beckoning our swift return (despite our very best intentions, of course)?
Our advice? Get your dog involved.
If you own a dog, you have probably already been able to successfully incorporate exercise for your pet into your existing schedule.
Maintaining fitness can be a real challenge for some, while others can easily merge an exercise plan into their regular routine. Whatever your lifestyle, Barx Active can cater to your needs. And the best part? The programs are designed for your pooch to join in, too. Their tagline, “Fetch a healthier life for you and your dog” aims to do just that by offering innovative exercise classes from group sessions (barxercise), hikes, personal training and even overnight camping adventures!
Founder, Karen Uden says “I’m sure most of us don’t jump out of bed rearing to go out and wanting to exercise in the morning, but dogs do. They get up they have a waggly tail and they’re always happy to spend time with you. They don’t judge you, they don’t roll their eyes at your old stretchy exercise gear, they don’t mind if bits jiggle when you run, they don’t care at all. They just care about getting out and having fun. So they are actually the perfect fitness buddy!”
Barx Active came to fruition in 2013 when Karen walked rescue pup, Tux; a border collie mix, up to a boot camp for humans. She had to tie Tux up who watched on sadly while Karen had all the fun exercising. Following this, Karen and her husband, Dan agreed that it wasn’t fair, that they should be able to bring Tux along to their outdoor fitness classes, too. And so, the Barx Active journey began. They found a gap in the market and made it happen.
“When you just walk your dog, you’re both missing out on cross training and variety in your exercise. Barx Active is a great excuse to hit two birds with one stone,” Karen says, “Ironically when we first got Tux, I found myself spending less time at the gym and doing other fitness activity, I limited myself to just walking the dog. Now, we both get to engage in challenging tasks and learn new things together, while reaching a new level of fitness.”
The research is there to back it up, too. Michigan State University reports that people with canine companions are 34 per cent more likely to achieve their fitness goals when they incorporate their pups into their exercise.
This also makes Barx Active great outlet for people who tend to shy away from exercising in public, because “dogs are such a great way of breaking the ice, we’re focussing on them, we’re giggling at what they’re doing; so there’s less focus on you as the person exercising, which is a much more comfortable and fun environment to workout in,” Karen says.
To get started exercising with your pet, Karen suggests using equipment to give you a focus. This could be as simple as some planks of wood to jump over or witches hats for you and your dog to do figure of eights around. “It makes things fun and gives you both a target,” she says. “Also make sure each activity you do has a challenge for both you and your dog. If you’re doing squats to work your legs out, get your dog to do some figure of eights around your legs and tempt him or her with some treats.”
Barx Active also has an app with a series of videos, full of different ideas for dog inclusive fitness tasks. Perfect to take along to the park in your pocket and get some instructions for more fun and fitness with your four legged friend.
Exercising with your dog entails more benefits than just reaching fitness goals, “It’s well proven that just having a dog in your life does have a lot of extra health benefits,” says Karen, “It lowers stress, people with dogs are less likely to have cardiac issues, depression-type issues, weight issues and so on. Once you cross pollinate that with the health benefits of exercise you can see that we’re really bringing dog ownership and exercise benefits to your health together. I would say the main benefit for dogs is that they get mental stimulation, too. Doing different exercises with your dogs is a great structured way to get that challenge in for your dog.”
Barx Active also emphasises that in addition to achieving a healthy lifestyle, they also aim to help you build the relationship between you and your dog. “To go out and do something fun and learn something new is so rewarding for both of us,” says Karen about the relationship between her and Tux. “He loves his tasks, he loves to work, he loves being motivated for treats and it’s just so marvellous to see him happy doing it.” This is exactly what you can expect from a barxercise class.
Dogs don’t just need physical activity but they also require mental stimulation as well, and often taking them out for a walk ticks the box for giving them exercise, but they might not be learning anything new or their brains aren’t being challenged – and dogs do love a challenge! Mentally stimulating your dog through new and engaging activities certainly brings you that little bit closer than just simply heading out for a walk or jog.
Karen recommends having a routine that is structured, and having set times to head out for some exercise. “You really need to schedule in when you’re doing your walks or your training – you can do simple things such as when you get home don’t sit down, get your running shoes on and grab your dog and head straight out or set the alarm a little bit earlier and make no excuses. You could reward yourself with a coffee so you have that motivation to get up so you can walk to get your morning latte with your pooch.”
It’s important to remember that in a busy life it’s easy to get into the routine of giving our dogs what they need, in terms of taking them for walkies and giving them a cuddle on the couch but something that we often forget is to really just be present with our dogs, to have fun with them and do activities that are exciting together. “Get that wet nose and waggly tail in your face in the morning to drag you out of bed and get you walking before work. It’s about planning enjoyable activities and doggie dates – things like hikes and fitness sessions make actual excuses to get yourself out and active with your dog!”
Barxercise is offered in Victoria, with trainers based in Frankston, Rosebud, Narre Warren South, Yarraville and has recently expanded to cover the Illawarra region in New South Wales and Ipswich in Queensland. The Barx Active website is always updated with new locations as they become available.
All photography courtesy of Akemi Photography.