Dog days: As your motivation for workouts ebbs and flows, let pal Fluffy join the action

After twenty-plus years in the fitness field I have learned one thing for sure: No one is always motivated. Think of motivation as akin to an emotion. It ebbs and flows.

The trick is to establish systems that save you from your future, less-motivated self!

One system is piggybacking your workout onto your dog walk. If you have already set aside time for your walk, you might as well turn your meandering stroll into a sweat session. Your future self will thank you.

The combination of moving your body, getting outside, and having fun with your pooch is guaranteed to improve both your physical and mental health!

Option 1: Throw in some intervals

With interval training you alternate between low- and high-intensity training. The point of interval training is to introduce the body to more intense work — the goal being that eventually the more intense effort will become your body’s new “norm.” Think of intervals vs. steady state cardio as analogous to highway vs. city driving. After driving on the highway, city driving feels slow. Your perception of a normal speed has changed. The intent of interval training is for your “highway intensity” to become your new “city intensity.”

There are two types of Interval Training – Structured and unstructured.

  • Structured interval training, the more traditional type, is based on prescribed, time-based bouts of work. Think of alternating 30-second runs with 30-second sprints 10 times.

My puppy Olive tends to rebel against these time-based intervals. She doesn’t like being interrupted mid-sniff. Olive prefers Fartlek intervals.

  • Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “speed play” and is an unstructured form of interval training. The unstructured nature means you can get in an interval workout and keep your dog happy, too. When you pick random landmarks to sprint toward, both you and Fluffy can get what you need from the outing: Speed to get your heart rate up and then chill so your pooch can sniff!

As a dog owner, I know how much all puppies love to sniff. Instead of getting annoyed at the sniff (as I too often tend to do), build the sniff into the workout!

To try Fartlek intervals, start by warming up for 5-10 minutes. Pick a random landmark to sprint toward. Any landmark will do; try a stop sign or crosswalk. Once you hit your landmark, slow down and recover. Repeat for 10-30 minutes.

Don’t forget to cool down!

Option 2: Use a park bench as your “gym”

Walk or do Fartlek intervals on your way to a park. Once at the park, use a park bench to do step-ups, “V holds,” and/or pushups.

  • Step-ups: Place your right foot on the bench. Make sure your entire foot is on the bench. Chest out. Core engaged. Use the bum muscles of your front leg to step your left foot up to meet the right. Watch your hips. Don’t let the right hip jut out to the side. Step your right leg down. Repeat, then switch sides.
  • V holds: Sit on your bum on the bench, feet on the ground. Chest out. Hinge your back slightly. Keep your core engaged; hinge from your hips, not through your lower back. Don’t let your shoulders round forward. Breathe. For added fun, add a twist side-to-side.
  • Pushups (10 to 20 reps): With your hands on the bench and toes on the ground, bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the bench. Exhale as you push yourself back up. For an extra challenge, after each pushup, try jumping your feet out like a horizontal jumping jack.

Option 3: Dog park fun

After you walk or do Fartlek intervals to a dog park, throw a ball for your pooch. As your pal retrieves the ball, do body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, or jumping jacks.

  • Squats: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend at your hips, knees, and ankles, and sit backward like you’re sitting in a chair. Back straight. No rounding forward. Use your bum and core to stand up.
  • Body-weight lunges: Step backward with one leg. Bend both knees so you move toward the ground. Use the bum muscle of the front leg to stand up.

The main takeaway from all this? The prevailing myth is that motivation is something that you “have” or you lack − that you are either a “motivated person” or you are not.

FALSE! Motivation ebbs and flows for all of us. Sure, it ebbs and flows to varying degrees, depending on your stage in life, personality, health history, etc. And, sure, for some it will be easier to come by, but it ebbs and flows, nonetheless.

The solution is to create systems that save you from a less-motivated self!

“Piggybacking” is an excellent system. If you don’t have a dog, no problem. Walk during your conference calls, do weights while you watch TV. Find solutions, not excuses. Your future self will thank you!

The only workout you ever regret is the one you do not do!

Originally published in the amazing THE DAILY FRAY