Most of the time when I go to the agility barn to practice, I do short sequences–no more than five or six obstacles–so that I can focus on particular skills I want to practice. Lately, though, I’ve added a new aspect to my training, which I call “aerobic agility.”
I do a lot of “exercising”: I run with the dogs (individually), which is an aerobic workout for me, and a slow trot for Rush and a medium trot for Dancer. I swim, by myself. I bike, on a bike by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. Some of these things are “exercise”–by which I mean I find them a bit of a chore sometimes, although mostly I enjoy movement and the feeling of stretching my capabilities a bit.
My favorite form of recreation, though, is an agility weekend, which involves a lot of slow walking and some serious sprinting. Recently, in response to one of “those” articles about motivating yourself to move more, I thought about how to create more regular opportunities for the kind of agility I do on weekends.
After some thought, I set up a spiraling agility course, pretty simple, all the contacts, no complex weave entries, just one discrimination, no backside jumps–but a LOT of running. (See map below.)
Yes, it’s 29 obstacles. But notice that it can also be 58 obstacles, or 87 (or more), because you can go from obstacle 29 to obstacle 1.
Now Rush loves to run fast through an agility course and this is a course that is designed to give him room to run in full extension, hit the weaves in full extension, try to hold his contacts even though he’s going fast–in short, it’s a fast, flowing course where the challenges for the dog come from the speed and the flow.
The challenges for the handler also come from the speed and the flow. This is a “yeehaa!” course (which I would also call a “sprinter’s course”), for sure.
After I set it up, I started running it with Rush. He loved it. I loved it. We completed 29 obstacles and he was still flying and I could still breathe, so I kept on going, watching out of the corner of my eye for something spectacular that I could reward, so that I could stop for a moment and catch my breath. When he accelerated toward the weaves on the second go-round (somewhere around fifty obstacles under his paws), I shouted “yes!” and threw his ball as he finished the weaves, then doubled over, gasping. Rush chased the ball down and brought it back to me at a dead run, tongue hanging from the side of his mouth, huge grin on his face matching the grin on my face.
We practiced some smaller sequences (going to the backsides of jumps, for example), then I gave him a break while I let Dancer run the course (using the #4 tunnel instead of the a-frame on the repeat passes). I got in a serious workout that left me sore-of-muscle; the dogs had fun and got a speed workout as well.
Aerobic agility. What more could you ask for?