Here at K9 Trail time we are soon to take part in the second long distance canicross challenge we have participated in. So this is a quick blog on building up your canicross distances, as the realisation of our challenge for May has finally hit home and I am beginning to think about how to increase our distances safely.
The main thing I always have to do is put the dogs’ safety first, their comfort and health is the number one priority in any training we do. There are several things I do differently to ordinary training runs when increasing mileage and I will briefly outline them below. The list is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of what to be looking for when you’re upping the miles and activity with your dog.
1 – Always carry more water than I think I will need – this is something I do religiously. I will very often come home with all the water I left with because I tend to plan routes with natural water points for the dogs. However I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have enough, so I carry more than enough water for the number of dogs I’m running.
2 – Take a basic first aid kit with me in a back pack – again this is a must for me for any canicross runs over 10km. I don’t carry a huge range of things but a few Pawz boots (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html) in case of paw damage, a roll or two of bandage, a sterile dressing, some sterile solution and some piraton are the very basics of what I carry. Now you might think I’m being paranoid but the piraton I carry in case we should ever have a dog bitten by an adder. It’s rare in the UK but not unheard of and because I know piraton is safe for dogs, if any of mine were to display any signs of bites I would use the piraton as a precautionary measure. It would also work if your dog (or you) were stung by a bee or wasp and had a reaction.
3 – Feed for the increase in mileage – now this is not to say I feed my dogs a load more food because I know we are doing more work. I am very careful about how I feed the dogs leaving plenty of time before and after big runs for their digestion to work without being under stress. I will however, feed extra protein to give the dogs the energy they require and in some cases will take a brand of ‘fat’ bar (designed to provide the dogs almost instant energy in a way that can be safely digested) with me on the run.
4 – Check paws more often for signs of wear or damage – this is really important if you’re increasing your miles. Your dogs’ paws may be tough over your regular distances but if you’re increasing this, you need to be making sure your dogs’ pads can cope.
5 – Set aside designated rest days – I am quite strict about this and even though the dogs might not always think they need ‘down time’, I know from my own experience of training and recovery that they do. It is very important they have a chance to recover between big runs, so their muscles do not pick up repetitive strains leading to injury. It is also worth getting them regularly checked out by a qualified canine massage therapist, a list of UK registered practitioners can be found here: http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/therapist-register/
6 – Cross train with a variety of activities and vary the terrain we are running on – in the summer months I will use wild swimming as a form of cross training for the dogs and ideally through the winter they will go to hydrotherapy once a month as it is such a great form of no-impact exercise for them. Aside from this, we have walking, house games and various other low impact activities that help keep the dogs fit and focused without continually running in harness. I will also make sure we incorporate roads, tracks, fields and thick mud into our runs to ensure that we are all ready for any terrain we might encounter on longer runs. I also even try and get a few runs in on sand even though we’re not close to the coast.
7 – Increase the distance slowly – you wouldn’t expect your body to feel good if you just doubled your miles overnight and the same applies to your dog. Build in a mile or so extra at a time and if you have any doubts about your dogs’ capacity for longer distance running, make sure you consult your vet before you do anything above the average milage you’ve been doing.
8 – Finally, I make sure I’m in tip top condition. It’s no good expecting my dogs to pull me over an increase in miles if I’m not fit for it and in the best shape I can be in. I am using a range of products now to help with my weight management, support my immune system, recovery and also endurance. Nothing beats having a healthy and balanced diet but I have always struggled to be as dedicated to my own health as that of my dogs. However, I’ve found that by making sure I am being the best runner I can be (I still love cake and wine by the way!) I am helping my dogs by being less of a burden to them and ensure we are working as a team.
I hope that gives you an insight into how we prepare for longer canicross runs and we’re keeping our fingers and paws crossed for some cool spring days to complete our challenge in May. Happy trails!