Posts by ww

Relearn to play from your dog

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Motivation | 0 comments

Relearn to play from your dog

Some of you may wonder how is it posibble to get regular and sustained movement.  The answer is play! But who’s your coach gonna be?  The answer is your dog! Dogs understand that play is fun. They also understand that real play begins in the body and involves movement. We will never get to a healthy weight without understanding that, in many important ways, humans are animals. Our minds might enjoy “playing” computer games. But millions of years of human evolution have created a body that loves to express itself through exuberant movement. Kids know this. Many adults forget. Some adults make the mistake of trying to over-organize play. That’s why fitness programs become dull, repetitive, over-measured, soulless, or bound up by teams and rules. Your dog isn’t buying it. If it’s fun, you’ll do it more. Walking with your dog is fun for both of you, especially if you mix it up and respond to your dog’s naturally playful spirit. The play master: Frank Forencich’s dog Mojo One of Weight Waggers’ favorite writers is Frank Forencich. He has a degree in human biology from Stanford and has taught martial arts and functional movement for 25 years. But he’s not too proud to learn from his dog. Here are a few excerpts from his fascinating and original book Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement. Weight Waggers recommends the entire book. Play includes varied movement Forencich urges people to avoid the overly determined approach:  “My dog’s name is Mojo…. His fitness program is truly amateurish…. He violates all the rules. When he exercises, he doesn’t warm up or cool down. He doesn’t check his heart rate and he  never measures his body fat percentage….. He doesn’t keep a spreadsheet and he never bothers   to log his progress. He has no performance objectives…. There’s no sense of discipline to his method. When he goes out on the trail, he sets whatever  pace he wants…. On some days he walks, some days he does wind sprints, some days he goes swimming…. Not only that, Mojo is completely apathetic about competition…. If he gets tired, he rests. If he gets hot, he seeks out shade. If his paw hurts, he slows down. According to everything I read in the fitness and sports medicine press, Mojo out to get in terrrible condition…. But no, it’s not like that at all…. He’s got great muscle tone and a slender waist. He does adhere to one basic rule. That is, he tries to get moderate to vigorous activity on most days of the week. That’s it. Aside from his obvious preoccupation with play and pleasure, this is his only rule for fitness. “(p. 232-233)   Real play begins in the body and involves movement In 2004, Forencich interviewed his dog, Mojo, one of the “preeminent voices in the field of play philosophy” who has won “numerous awards for his work in the field of cross-species play.”  Forencich: So what about humans then? Do they play too? Mojo: Well I assume they do, but it’s really hard to tell sometimes. They aren’t like other animals, that’s for certain. Sometimes aney run and jump like normal critters, but a lot of them just sit there, for hours on end, hardly doing anything at all. I worry about them…. You humans are so dense sometimes. The point is that play begins in the body and that it involves movement…. All other forms come from that. You might say that you’re playing in some other way, but if you’re not moving your body, you’re missing...

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Volksmarching

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Walking | 0 comments

Volksmarching

About volksmarching Volksmarch translates from German as “people’s walk.” It is a noncompetitive walk, usually 10k. For those who are unfamiliar, here’s a fuller definition from the website of the American Volkssport Association (AVA): “A volksmarch is a noncompetitive 3.1 mile (5 km) or 6.2 mile (10 km) walk. It’s not a pledge walk, it’s not a race, it is a fun activity you do with a club, with your family, with your pet, or all by yourself. Volksmarching got its name from its origins in Europe. Today there are thousands of volkssport clubs around the world, allied in the International Volkssport Federation, the IVV.”   Volksmarch with your dog There are a lot of people who love bringing their dogs with them for a volksmarch. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a brilliant idea for both of you to have fun, move together and change the scenery. But, before you plan to do so, please check the specific event rules for each volksmarch. Some may say: “Pets are allowed, but must be leashed at all times during the walk.” Also, make sure your dog has the appropriate temperament and training.   Getting the best out of a volk smarch with your dog In order for both you and your dog to take the best out of this amazing walking experience, you need to assure safety and comfortableness.   Make sure your dog can handle long walks. You can prepare for this by taking him on small walks first, and then increase  the time and pace gradually. If your dog has accompanied you on long walks before but there might have been quite a long time since then, you need to make sure he’s not out of shape in order to prevent serious health problems from arising during, or even after finishing a volksmarch. Think about the temperature. Really hot weather can make your dog just as uncomfortable as you get in such conditions, sometimes even worse.  Before committing to a long walk, make sure you check the forecast  for the whole day. If you think it might get too hot, you can even decide to leave your dog home for the day. Don’t worry, there will always be other opportunities! Make sure you are carrying lots of water for your dog too. Depending on how big or small your dog is, you need to be aware of the right amount of water that he normally needs and that he would need in long walks. This can be based on your own previous experience, but if you are unsure of this, the best way is to ask your vet about the best quantity. Don’t forget to take food for your dog with you. You might be tempted to carry treats and other unhealthy snacks because they seem like an easier option but you don’t have to give up on your dog’s healthy eating routine; you can simply bring his favorite food into zipped packs and decide upon specific times when to feed him. Always use a leash for safety. Even though you know that your dog is friendly and could never do any harm to other runners or dogs, you can’t count on how other dogs are. So, the best thing to do for the safety of your dog is to keep him on a leach at all times. Tensed situations between dogs can rapidly excalate, so there might not be enough time to put the leash on your dog in case he gets a face-to-face confrontation with another dog. It’s always good to prevent such things. Don’t worry, your...

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Your dog can rescue you only if you show up

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Motivation | 0 comments

Your dog can rescue you only if you show up

Don’t rely on other people to build a weight wagging habit. Your dog can only rescue you if you show up and build a habit. You are the pack leader Feeling better and looking good should help motivate you to keep up your commitment, as should the bond you build with your dog. Remember that you are fitness partners but it is you who is (quite literally!) the leader. Your dog will be a faithful and enthusiastic training partner, but he can’t do it without you. Make a simple commitment for both your sakes and start enjoying a healthier lifestyle one step at a me. People start to walk for all sorts of reasons. They know that it’s healthy and they need to stay active. Unfortunately, how hard we work, our effort and energy is measured by our motivation. When we’re doing things for ourselves, to be healthy and fit, we can easily slide. Dogs motivate us to walk But when we’re asked to perform for someone else, when the motivation is external, we rise to the occasion. We even go above and beyond. Studies show that people are much more likely to stick to a walking program with a dog than with a friend or any other human. Volunteers who walked shelter dogs and had to ride a bus to get to the shelter were the most compliant with the walking program. That’s because dogs don’t read text messages or understand excuses. They just miss you when you don’t show up. When you’re deciding to walk your dog, don’t think about it as something you’re only doing for yourself or only for your four-legged friend. The relationship helps the both of you. Benefits for both of you Here’s a startling statistic: More than 50% of dogs are overweight. Like people, they’re overfed and under-exercised. When you take a dog out on a walk, you’re participating in their natural instincts to explore. It stimulates their brains and keeps them happy. Walks keep the dog calm and help them bond with you. Rather than simply letting your furry friend out into the yard, take a stroll together through the neighborhood. You’ll get benefit from the physical activity, true, but you’ll also have the knowledge that you’re doing a good thing for your pet. The happiness of your pet is a great reason to get moving. But remember, when you walk your dog, as much you’re helping them stay active and fit, you’re doing to the same for yourself. The same benefits your dog gets from walk, you get. Regular walks will reduce stress, inflammation, burn calories and lower cholesterol levels. Walking helps maintain weight loss over the long term and reduces the risk of diabetes by a third. All that from walking and spending time outside with a perfect support system. The dog is always going to help you stay fit as long as they get to have some of the...

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What can be learned from the Winter Warlock

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Brain Changing | 0 comments

What can be learned from the Winter Warlock

One of my most cherished childhood memories was the annual airing of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. This lively retelling of the history of Santa included a message that has stayed with me all my life. When the young Kris Kringle transforms the Winter Warlock into a thoughtful wizard with a gift of kindness, Winter expresses a desire to change his behavior permanently, but, like many of us, he fears this is too difficult. Until very recently, neuroscientists believed that the adult brain was fixed and unchangeable. But today’s scientific buzzword is neuroplasticity. ‘Neuro’ means brain, and ‘plastic’ means changeable—neuroplasticity is just a fancy word for brainchanging. Neuroscientists might have thought Brain-Changing was difficult or impossible, but many ordinary people disagreed; they were just waiting for the science to catch up. Kris Kringle’s advice to the winter warlock about the possibility and path of behavior change has stuck with me all of my life: big changes start with little changes. I could write a lot about the process of habit change, but I doubt I would do a better job than the song I remember so well… Changing habits is more than changing your mind. The brain and nervous system is similar to a network of electrical circuits and cables. Neuroplasticity, or Brain=Changing literally “rewires” your brain. When we start a new behavior, the wire is thin and patchy. The connection is as slow as an old AOL dial up. But the more we practice a certain behavior the stronger and faster the connection becomes. When we are born, the brain is a bit like a new computer. The hard drive is almost empty, except for a few essential software programs. After a while, the hard drive gets full and cluttered. In order to “enter new data,” something has to go. The adult brain is similar—new behaviors only get incorporated if they are important enough to earn some valuable brain real estate. The Brain-Changing Formula of mindfulness, movement and mood are what alert your brain to the desirability of the new behavior. When we are mindful and pay attention, so does our brain. A treadmill is not mindful. The brain values movement more than anything. It isn’t enough to think about something, or gather information from Google. We have to actually, physically move our body… even if it is something as simple as writing, or talking, or walking. Finally, mood is crucial. Our brain puts priority on extremes. We learn much more effectively and efficiently when we are happy and calm. The brain interprets our constant mental state of stress and scrambling as a bar to new learning; it needs to take care of immediate and potentially threatening problems before devoting the valuable resources of building blocks and fuel towards learning something new or developing a new habit. Healthy habits don’t happen overnight. But you can do a lot to facilitate the process. Start by STARTING. Mark Twain once said “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” What better way to lighten the mood than to walk with your dog? You will BOTH benefit. And remember the song: “Just put one foot in front of the other…”  It’s a step in the right...

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It doesn’t take magic to train your dog

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Training | 0 comments

It doesn’t take magic to train your dog

Several years ago, on a very cold winter night in Chicago, as I was driving down the alley behind my house, a little dog limped out in front of my car and stared at me as if to say “please stop, I need some help”. I did. I got out of my car and as soon as I called him, he came limping into my arms. He had no tags, his paws were red and raw and his hair was matted. He clearly had been outside in the freezing weather for a long time. I brought him inside our lobby to warm up and called my partner to come downstairs. My partner (NOT a dog person at the time) came downstairs. He was in the middle of making dinner and was clearly irritated that I brought in a stray off the street. He didn’t want me to bring the dog upstairs since he had just cleaned the house, and said he would come down instead. As soon as he came off the elevator and they made eye contact, everything changed. It was literally love at first sight. We called the police to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. The dispatcher said that they would send Animal Control to come and pick him up. In the ten minutes it took for Animal Control to arrive, we both bonded with this little guy. When the officer arrived, he explained that he would have to take the dog to the local shelter where they would keep him in a crate for up to a week, and if no one claimed him, he would most likely be euthanized. After all he’d been through, we couldn’t let this little guy go to a shelter, so we asked the officer if we could take him in until they or we found his owner. He seemed very relieved that we offered and said “yes.” The next day, we put up notices and contacted the surrounding Animal Hospitals, etc. Well, to make a long story short, no one ever claimed him and so we decided to adopt him. We named him Harvey, after the street that I found him on. Okay, so now we had this dog. He was a really sweet guy but a bit of a mess. Once we got all of his mats out (a feat that took several weeks,) cleared up his frost bite and ear infection, we could see what he really looked like. We determined (with the help of our vet) that he was some kind of a terrier/poodle mix. Also, now that he was feeling better, we found that he was completely untrained and on the wild side with no social skills what-so-ever! Our next goal was to train him, or at the very least, teach him how to walk on a leash without pulling us every which way and chasing and barking at every dog, cat, squirrel or bunny that neared our path. The Catch-22 was that the only thing we knew to do to burn off his endless energy was to walk him for hours at a time. It became frustrating and exhausting. We sought out professional advice and joined a volunteer group that donated their time training shelter dogs so that they could be adopted easier. Even some of the volunteers would roll their eyes when we brought Harvey to class, as he had a very short attention span and seemed much more interested in sniffing and playing with the other dogs than in training. After a lot of hard work, patience, and of course,...

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