When paws hit the pavement

Anyone who likes to exercise has a weather preference for their outdoor activities. Since I am a fairly new runner, my preference is to run in the cold. I love the brisk feeling of the cold air in my lungs. I love the moment my body turns from cold to warm and loosens up. I love feeling the steam from my collar once I have completed my run. Running in the cold just feels refreshing!

Last year I had quite a few running buddies. Life has taken us all in different directions, and with that being said, my “wolf pack,” as we called ourselves, is back to one. I like the companionship of a fellow runner. Having a running partner keeps me motivated and accountable to a training schedule. So, to ensure that I’m not running alone, I recruited a new member to the wolf pack — my dog, Gracie.

A runner’s best friend

Gracie the Dog

Gracie is a four-year-old pit bull rescue. She is short and clearly does not have a body built for speed — just like me. But she is starting to get the hang of running.

Just like people, animals have to start their training slowly. We worked out our kinks along the way. At first, Gracie was more interested in walking with her head to the ground, sniffing out the trail of something very interesting while stopping every ten yards. Or she would see another dog, get excited and try to run full force to entice the other dog to play with her.

Simple changes like breaking from her normal daily routes trained her to know that we are going for a run. Consistency and praise along the way has helped to make a great training partner for me. She stays at my side and prances along proudly.

We have gone on long walks along the river. I included some jogging on and off, and now she has her very own little pace. She gets excited when she sees me layering on my running gear, hoping that she’ll get to accompany me.

Gracie meets Rocky

This week I showed Gracie the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Yes, Gracie and I re-enacted Rocky several times as part of our normal running routine. At first she looked at me with her quizzical brow as though she didn’t know what was in store. Then I showed her that she could run up the stairs as fast as her little legs could take her.

She loved it as we raced against each other up the stairs and down. Tourists in line for the art exhibit stationed at the top of the stairs were pointing at her and smiling. I even had her pose at the top of the stairs just like everyone else. I could hear the chatter as we ran pass the actual Rocky statue about Gracie’s form up and down the steps. It was nice to see her get such a warm response from the people around us.

Working out doesn’t always have to be structured, and workout partners can be both two-legged and four-legged. I am so grateful to have a little partner who reaps the benefits of my healthy choices as much as I reap the benefits of her unconditional love. It definitely makes for a nice change of pace and has me ready to embark on my running goals for 2012.

I have found a fun way to keep motivated and spend time with my dog while we both reap the health benefits. Have you thought that maybe you might have a four-legged Rocky in the making laying around your house just waiting to join along in your fitness routine?