What Your Puppy Can Teach You About Fitness
From the streets of South Central to our home in Hollywood, you could call this a rags to riches story. Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world as the greatest storm in the memory of Los Angeles howled outside.
Ok…That’s a lie. The Game of Thrones reference was too good to pass up.
Her name is actually just Storm.
Partly, for her black fur coat with a white paws like socks and matching belly. Unfortunately, she is missing the white mohawk.
More so for her calm demeanor that can quickly turn into an attack of puppy play, a barrel of energy, and quite the attitude. My hands look like I just went the full 15 rounds with Iron Mike.
If she had a mutant power, it would be the ability to melt your heart with those sad puppy eyes, especially when she doesn’t get her way.
My fiance, Melissa, and I rescued an 8 week old puppy and welcomed her into our little family. A few weeks in and she has changed our way of life.
This little bundle of joy, bites, and fur has already opened up my eyes to a handful of things. As much as I like to think I’m teaching her some things, Storm has taught me more about myself, life, and fitness than ever imaginable.
I like to think of them as life lessons.
Lessons from a Puppy to get you shredded, stronger than ever before, and show self love.
These are my insights from raising a puppy of our very own. (Kudos to Mom and Dad for raising our family dog’s growing up.)
LEARN THE COMMANDS.
Sit. Now stay.
Good boy/girl. 🙂
Let’s be honest. You do not NEED to know the science behind every single exercise, tempo, rest period, order, macro break down, and nutrient timing to apply and get results.
By all means, I am not discouraging you from seeking knowledge to understand the inner workings of your complex body and it’s intricate systems.
On contrary, I actually encourage it. Knowledge is power. When you actively seek answers to your questions, you will become more aware and ultimately dedicate yourself to your fitness and health journey.
[That DOES NOT mean you shouldn’t remember the foam rolling sequence we have been doing every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the last 2 years.]
However, that should not hold you back from starting.
Before every meal or treat, the puppy has to obey the sit command before receiving her food.
Did she do it at first? No.
But that didn’t stop me from having her learn the foreign language.
Basically, what I am saying is that you do not need to understand all the minutiae to get started. This is just another example of fear in the form of procrastination.
Aren’t you sick of having your mind hold you back from changing your body and life?
Instead, put your effort in learning the basic “commands” or terminology. This way you can actually have a basic conversation with your coach/trainer and comprehend that workout/nutrition plan you picked out of this month’s fitness magazine.
In order to walk the walk, you should be able to talk the talk.
These are some basic commands like “sit, stay, and fetch”. (Storm is crushing the fetch game, by the way.)
- Hip Hinge: push hips back as far as possible while maintaining a neutral spine; you should feel the biggest hamstring stretch possible
- Knees Out: push pants pockets out and knees apart to prevent values collapse and ensure glutes are efficiently being used
- Chest Up: keep front of shirt up as much as possible to prevent loss of posture (into flexion)
- Kneeling: both knees are on the ground; your spine is tall as possible.
- Half Kneeling: one knee is on the ground; the other is up and directly in front of you.
- DB: use dumbbells for this exercise
- BB: use a barbell (loaded) for this exercise
- KB: use kettlebells for this exercise
- MB: medicine ball
- SB: stability (exercise) ball
- VS: Val Slide
- Macronutrients = protein/fat/carbohydrates
- LBM = lean body mass [= weight – (weight * body fat percentage)]
Now learning the commands and actually applying them is a whole other story. Just like a puppy, you need constant repetitions in order for that new habit or movement pattern to become ingrained within your system.
Learn the commands then REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT. The goal will for them to become basic knowledge and the norm of your daily routine.
Great. Now go fetch!
GET THROUGH THE ROUGH PATCHES.
Teething. Biting. House Training.
Weight Fluctuations. Waking up early/staying up later to train. Tracking your food. Meal prep.
Each of these tasks are part of the journey to the destination of a happy puppy and a happy you.
No matter the task at hand, there will be periods of discomfort to get to the end goal. Just like you are bound to get your feet nipped at or have your puppy have an accident, you are bound to become frustrated when the scale teeters, you miss a lift or entire workout, or you binge away all your progress.
What can you do?
Prepare the best you can – mentally and physically.
First, you must expect these to happen. It comes with the territory. I would be naive to say that I didn’t think Storm would relieve herself on the carpet or never bite my hand during her teething.
Then you should have plans and strategies in place when these things come up.
Like if you are going to have a cheat day, planned or a moment of weakness, please DO NOT check the scale the next day. Just save yourself the despair.
Be willing to educate yourself more, learn from other, and experiment along the way.
You can’t calculate a puppy’s macros. Instead, you have to figure out the right amount of food that is right for your puppy to keep growing without overfeeding her to an upset stomach. Yeah, Melissa will tell you I’m still trying to figure this all out.
By the way, Storm is totally on a bodybuilder’s diet of boiled chicken and rice. She’s making gains quite nicely. Up about 2 pounds of lean muscle mass and her hamstrings are coming in quite nicely.
In order to get to the greener grass that your puppy is pulling you towards, you have to get through the rough patches first.
All of Storm’s mischief and misbehavior is forgiven and forgotten when she gives you those puppy eyes or a kiss to start your morning.
When you drop down a size or two in that dress, finally fit into your favorite jeans, or put on enough muscle to officially rock a large vintage tee, it will be worth every second of struggle. Won’t it?
This one were borrowing from the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan.
In order to help your dog achieve balanced life, he preaches 3 actions that must be performed every day. Actually it’s very similar to James Altucher’s four things should incorporated into your daily routine.
Altucher’s are something in the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual in nature.
For the puppy, we (try) to follow Cesar’s way and in a specific sequence:
Humans and puppies alike, we all need to move. Exercise should be part of our daily repertoire. Even though it’s part of the puppy’s every day necessities, you don’t necessarily need to “train” every day.
But you can do something physical. Try 5 minutes of mobility work. 10 minutes of self-myofascial release. 20 minutes of a recovery walk like a hike or a stroll around the neighborhood with your dog.
Kind of off track here, but isn’t it crazy that puppies are mobile once coming into this Earth but the more complex human takes 9 to 12 months to take it’s first step?
So with a puppy, we have some limitations in their exercise.
Number 1. They don’t have all their shots and vaccinations to bolster their immune system so they are more susceptible to picking up something on a walk.
That does not mean she cannot go for a walk. We just pick and choose our spots to take a walk or do some sprints. Particularly in areas that are not overly populated from other dogs. Instead of a park, we will choose the neighborhood or some HIIT work in the hallways of our apartment complex.
Similar to if you were to get injured. Now you might not be able to do everything, but with a smart plan you can most certainly work around your predicament.
If you injured your wrist or hand that doesn’t give you the “excuse” to not train. Try unilateral loading with a kettlebell and doing some squats or 1-Arm Swing.
Number 2. Their cardiovascular and muscular systems are limited to their development. So a puppy may not be able to go for a long walk, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do anything.
Just like when you started training, your body will put up a big fight. Shit, I will not lie to you. It is not easy.
Your body rather sit on your couch and binge watch Netflix’s House of Cards.
So when you get going, start easy. Just do enough to build up your tolerance over time. Think minimal effective dose. You should never feel like you’re going to puke.
But just because you aren’t where you want to be isn’t another excuse to not start getting there.
A large part of owning and training a puppy is implementing discipline and establishing rules, boundaries, and limitations. Like dogs, deep in our roots we crave rules and order. Even if we don’t believe so.
Now in order to achieve balance, we must provide Storm with exercise and discipline before giving her affection. She must earn that display of love. Even though we tend to show love 24/7 with her no matter what.
This discipline could be considered mental exercise.
Now for your own training and diet, do you have rules that you follow?
I would advise that you or a coach set your own rules.
Honestly, I don’t care what diet system you follow. Everything can work. Of course, I have my own beliefs through research and real world experience. But that goes beyond the scope of this article.
Just find something that you can eat, train, and live by. It will take a lot of thinking and indecision out of the equation so that you can execute.
Affection is a reward. From puppy to human being, we all LOVE the attention and love others give us.
I am all about showing yourself self love throughout the entire process. But I also do know, it is much easier to show yourself self love when you do what is expected of you.
When you exercise and have discipline, the affection towards yourself will be much more authentic and you will accept it with open arms.
You should want to treat yourself after you do the right things. You deserve it.
TREAT YO’ SELF.
Now that treat could be something physical like the dog treat Storm gets after peeing in her sectioned area.
Treats allow the discipline and exercise to stick. We feel good after receiving them so we want to keep doing the things that got us there.
A treat does not have to be a “cheat food”, which could actually make us feel like shit.
Instead, it can be a simple smile back in the mirror after you come home from the gym dripping in sweat. It could be a material object when you nail your macros every day this week. It could be a vacation when you hit your specific goal.
But you must only show that self affection when you do #1 and #2 FIRST. Now that does not mean that you should beat yourself up and HATE yourself because you missed your workout today. You don’t need to punish yourself and go in your crate because you broke a diet rule.
Time to get back to some fetch with Storm as she bites the socks off my feet. Those are my Lessons From a Puppy.