Photo: AKC Champion Kelly’s Steel’s THE WINNING TICKET – Therapy Dog ‘Bella’
ShareaPet Therapy Obedience Professional
American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen
If you’ve been reading our blog articles, you know that not everyone comes to The Fitness Clinic with Superhero goals. Some of our clients are just focused on achieving core stability and dependable balance; two important elements in helping you keep your dog fit too. Dogs can help us maintain good physical health keeping each other active and consistent, as well as providing therapeutic calming benefits as they sense, react and attempt to influence our stress levels and moods. So, let’s talk about walking your dog and core stability, and your ultimate fitness plan, including some core and balance-specific exercises.
There is no more reliable and dependable fitness training accountability partner than your faithful dog [or your FitClinic personal trainer]. When you walk through the door they are ready to go – walk, run, steps, ball, Frisbee, Chuckit®, you name it … and they will never cancel on you! Your dog depends on you for their health and fitness, so help each other stay active and maintain a good routine – dogs love a consistent routine even more than we do…
One of the best benefits of walking your dog is that it’s an effective workout for nearly every muscle in your body, especially your deep internal stabilizers. Walking your dog is more brisk than walking, but safer and less impactful on your joints than, say, jogging. Obviously, it’s also a lot more fun than both!
The human anatomy is engaged in a ton of different ways when you’re walking your dog, especially on uneven terrain. The quadriceps muscles in the front of your thighs, for example, get worked whenever your furry friend drags you uphill – and downhill walking works the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh. When working those muscle groups with FitClinic clients we like to integrate some body weight squats, lunges, leg presses and hamstring curls to strengthen the muscles of the legs used in everyday activities including walking and playing with your pets.
The real beneficiaries, though, are your deep internal stabilizers. These muscles are small, and lie underneath all the big muscles. While those big muscles, like the quadriceps and pectoralis major, do the big pushing and pulling, your deep stabilizers assist them by controlling your balance and fine motor skills, and protecting critical body parts such as your spine from harm. That means those are going to be the most worked by all those uneven bumps in the grass, and it’s important to keep them strong so they can prevent any of the nasty injuries you could get from falling! The most practical exercise we like to give clients for these internal stabilizers would be a simple plank exercise. You’ll be able to easily target all of these spine stabilizing muscles, challenged on an everyday basis, by simply performing a couple of sets of a simple but escalating plank exercise.
… we’ve all stepped off the path or sidewalk into soft grass on a walk and you know how that can feel on your ankle – we want to make sure you have the strength and balance to recover from a misstep without serious harm to any joints, or worse, losing your balance and falling. Balance and stability exercises have been a staple of our programs for over thirty years just for this reason. We live and walk around on some unpredictable terrains every day, and it’s important to be prepared for some of those missteps. Standing on one leg for a period of time or using a stability ball can help strengthen those muscles in preparation for those unstable surfaces you encounter as you go through your day. So much of working out is focused on preventing unnecessary injury from the routine activities of daily living! An injury to your deep internal stabilizers results in the nagging little pains we feel when twisting and reaching, and can occur when you are reacting to your dog sighting that squirrel!
Let’s have a quick introduction to two of your biggest stabilizers, which reside in your core. The core spans from the bottom of the neck to the top of the leg, and from shoulder socket to shoulder socket. Basically, if it’s not your head or a limb, it’s in your core.
One of your biggest stabilizers is the transversus abdominus, which is the deepest abdominal muscle. Its main purpose is to contract whenever the body enters any awkward position (such as standing on sloped ground) to protect your spine. It’s known as a “corset muscle” because it generates what is called intra-abdominal pressure, which is the ability to tighten your core to maintain a neutral spine position. Without the transversus abdominus, even just walking down a slope could critically injure your back, so keeping it strong is supremely important!
Behind the transversus abdominus is the mulitfidus. The multifidus is actually a group of several small, identical muscles that attach to the vertebrae of your lumbar spine. A multifidus muscle inserts (or begins) at one vertebra and connects it to the one directly above it. It has a very small range of motion, but together with the other multifidus muscles, it helps fine-tune your posture to help keep you upright no matter what. Stand on a sideways slope and notice how your body is still able to keep your spine perpendicular to level ground. The reason you’re not the Leaning Tower of Pisa is because your multifidus muscles know exactly how much to contract to pull your spine into normal alignment! Weak multifidus muscles can result in poor posture as well as poor balance and stability.
These are just two examples, though. There are hundreds of stabilizer muscles in your body, all of them extremely important, but don’t worry! With the help of your FitClinic personal trainer, you won’t neglect any of them, in the gym with the weights or in the park with your dog; you’ll be healthy and strong. If you’d like to take advantage of the best personal trainer programs in South Florida at The Fitness Clinic gym Fort Lauderdale, call Fred at 954-491-4969. Whether you want to be strong and secure walking your dog without discomfort, or you’d like sport-specific customized training for your student athlete, let us show you how you can incorporate all your goals in your personal ultimate fitness plan – and much more economically than you might think.
I’m a Director of www.shareapet.org, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, providing canine therapy visits to a range of facilities and their Pawsitive Reading Program available to Broward, Dade and Palm Beach schools. If you are looking for some quality time with your dog while engaged in truly beneficial therapy visits, check out the new website at www.shareapet.org, and we can make sure you’ve got the stamina and balance to participate to the fullest!