Category Archives: running

Aerobic Agility Fun (for you and the dog)

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.)

aerobic agility

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?

Process versus Product

I woke up this morning thinking about process versus product. Sometimes I’m a “process person”–doing something because I enjoy the process of doing it–and sometimes I’m a “product person”–doing something because I want the product.

Let me expand on this: I knit hats because I enjoy the process of knitting. I used to think I knit hats because I wanted knitted hats, but really, you can buy a perfectly good hat for $4.99 at Target, and instead I use a $50 skein of cashmere-silk blend and I knit it with a small needle, and I enjoy the texture of the yarn between my fingers as I knit, and sometimes I give the hat away when I’m done–so it really is about the process, because it can take me hours and hours of knitting, which basically means if I wanted a hat, I could have ten or twenty of them for less money and less time than that one hat cost me. So knitting is all about the process of knitting, and not really about the product. (I mean, these days the yarn to knit someone a sweater pretty much always costs more than a ready-made sweater costs. Handknitting is a costly process.)

You want another example? Dog training. I love dog training, and one reason I enjoy agility is because there’s always something you can train. There are so many aspects of agility. It’s a challenge every time to my brain, to the dog’s brain. There are new places, new ways to train. I’m so old I remember when 2x2s were the hottest training method out there and I had to work out my own method from a four-page description in a book because there were no videos yet. It’s a never-ending process. There’s no point at which you can look at your agility dog and say “there, I’m done.” That’s a process activity, definitely.

Now, what’s a product activity? Cake baking comes to mind. The goal in cake baking is to have a cake and then eat the cake. You can enjoy the process of making the cake–there are all sorts of little pleasures in baking, including licking the bowl and that moment when you slice a tiny corner off the bottokm to taste the cake before you frost it–but really, it’s all about the product–the cake–and not about the process of mixing the eggs and the butter and the flour. (Although I’ll digress a moment to say that the chemistry of baking is pretty amazing, and is definitely worthy of respect.)

Sometimes one person’s product is another person’s process. My sister makes beautiful pottery bowls and she gives them to me and I love them. To me, it’s a product–but I’m pretty sure my sister loves the process, too, because I’ve watched her make a bowl and she’s clearly enjoying herself. (I know she likes the knitted hats I occasionally send her, too.)

There are things that are both process and product and switch back and forth. Running and racing comes readily to mind. Races are the product punctuation in the process of training. You have to enjoy the process of running if you want to have the product of good races, of personal records. (I do think running races well is part of the “what gets rewarded gets repeated” cycle in running, at least for me. I like seeing concrete results. I like it a lot.)

This morning I was, as usual, obsessing about my efforts to lose weight. I have twelve pounds to go and I’m currently losing at a bit less than a pound a month and so I was doing the math (obsessively) and coming up with “oh my god, this process is going to take me at least another year before I have finally lost all the weight” and then it dawned on me that this is not a product, it is a process. I am never going to hit a point where I have a product I can hold up and say “look what I made.” I will hit a point where I can say “okay, I can eat a little bit more” but I won’t be able to eat everything I want, not no how, no way, not ever. In fact, that’s never been true (if it were, I would not have gotten to where I needed to lose 64 pounds). Health is a process by which your tiny decisions lead to a momentary product: today I’m healthy.

This morning I switched from thinking about weight loss as a product–a goal I can reach and then I can stop–to thinking about weight loss as part of a process. I need to eat carefully because health is a process. Running is a process. Training Rush is a process. Gardening is a process (although I enjoy the tomatoes and roses that are a product). I can enjoy the process of taking care of my health. I can stop worrying about how long it takes, because it’s like knitting a hat. There’s no deadline, so I might as well relax and enjoy the process.

Pretend you’re 25 and weigh 110 pounds….

I found a really bizarre running calculator website this morning. It allows you to calculate, based on current running times, how fast you’d be if you were 25 and weighed only 110 pounds.

You can find it here.

I put in my most recent 5K race and the calculator told me that my slow time was really pretty good–I was almost as fast as I was when I was actually 25 (and weighed a bit more than 110 pounds, but not that much more). That made me feel fairly smug.