K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 1 – You have to be super fit to canicross

At K9 Trail Time we often hear the words ‘I’m not fit enough to run with my dog’ and we’d like to dispel that myth and turn it into ‘you will get fit ‘if’ you run with your dog’!

We all have to start somewhere and although you might see plenty of athletic looking people taking part in the sport of canicross, particularly racing, please don’t think that everyone starts off like this. Often it takes a lot of patience, willpower and determination to get fit running with your dog but once you get involved you realise how good it can be for both of you.

In fact many people start off exercising with their dog and go on to enjoy other sports as a result!

A few case studies:

Duncan Wells as he started canicross in the UK

Duncan Wells canicrossing in the French Alps – much fitter after a few years of running with his dogs!

Natti Shaw as she just started canicross, Natti now takes part in OCR races and many other fitness activities but she started with canicross

 

Sarah was also inspired to get fit with her dogs and now runs couch to 5km canicross club runs with her local canicross group

So where do I start?

Couch to 5km

A really good place to start is a simple Couch to 5km programme and we have posted a blog with a couple of options for this here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/k9-trail-time-basic-couch-to-5km-plan-for-canicross/

There are also apps which can get you motivated such as the NHS one here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/

You can also download podcasts to listen to but we personally prefer to canicross without ear phones in as you can hear what’s going on around you.

Canicrossing can be enjoyed just you and your dog, not necessarily with groups or music to spur you on, your dog will do that!

Canicross Groups

You can start a Couch to 5km programme on your own, or get a group of you together to start this, by organising a group you’re more likely to succeed as you hold each other accountable for your progress. Groups can encourage and inspire and we highly recommend trying to find people in your local area to meet up with to get started. You might find that you already have a local group with experienced canicrossers  who can also join in to help with advice on running with your dog and getting the right equipment so you are both comfortable. Often there will be someone who will lead these runs for beginners and this is the perfect place to start.

Having a group to run with can be extremely motivating for both you and your dog

Canicross classes

There are a number of individual trainers, clubs or organisations offering canicross classes now and most of these will focus on getting you started safely with your dog. Our advice with these classes is to investigate your instructor to find out how much canicross experience they have themselves. Some classes are run by personal trainers and some are run by dog trainers, some are run by people who have been canicrossing for years with their own dogs and this is most valuable. In our opinion you need to have some experience of both running AND dogs to be able to teach canicross, as it is a lot more than just going for a run with your dog and your trainer should be able to train both you and your dog in your classes.

Make sure your canicross instructor has had years of training for the specific sport, not just running or dog training

Whatever way you get into it, running with your dog can be a great experience and most people certainly start off in the sport of canicross without having had a running background. If you are one of these people, do not be put off!!! Join the thousands of other people who have begun their canicross journey being unfit and unsure but develop with their dog to increase the fitness and health of both of you, who knows where your journey together might take you!

We hope that has helped dispel the myth that you have to be super fit to run with your dog, you can start anywhere but if you stick with it you will both definitely benefit – Happy trails!

 

Canicross Groups – How to get started

Canicross is growing in popularity in the UK so rapidly, it is getting easier to find groups of people local to yourself to join in with the fun. However if you’re in an isolated area, why not start your own group and encourage others to join you? I’ve outlined a few things to think about below which will help you to start up your own social canicross group, as at the end of the day you’ve already got your dogs in common, so it should be easy to find people who will share your love of the sport.

1. Find some suitable canicross routes – your routes need to have adequate parking, where you can load and unload dogs in safety off the road. The trails themselves need to be beginner friendly, so not too technical with boggy mud or ankle breaking ruts. Think about water stops for the dogs on the route and make sure you know the area well enough to be able to direct people back to the car park if need be.

Finding a few good routes with water for the dogs is essential

Finding a few good routes with water for the dogs is essential

2. Set up a Facebook group – this will give you the opportunity to share your runs as events and invite people who may join your group to join your runs. I’d always suggest keeping the group closed for security, although if you’re running in a group this shouldn’t be a problem.

3. Advertise your runs – you can use your Facebook group to do this and also advertise on the national canicross groups to say you’ve set up the group. You may well find there are people in your area who did not realise there were others organising runs and will want to join you. You could also put up posters in the local area and carry contact cards to hand out to people who might be interested in what you are doing if they see you out and about. I know many groups who have gained members through doing this.

Finding members for your group runs gets easier once you have set up a group on Facebook to advertise

Finding members for your group runs gets easier once you have set up a group on Facebook to advertise

4. Consider carefully insuring your runs – insurance is something which always rears it’s ugly head whenever you start to organise things for other people. If you are inviting people along to something you have organised, you risk someone who joins you or even a 3rd party making a claim against you if something unexpected happens. Thankfully I have heard of very few incidents of this nature so far, but it is worth investigating this further if you want to be covered. It is still a grey area in the UK as the sport is relatively new and growing at such a rate, underwriters are unsure what risks there are to insure.

5. Provide an incentive – Cake is a good one and used by many. If you’re starting up a canicross group, advertise there will be cake at the end and you might be surprised how many people turn up! It also helps if you have some spare kit for anyone who has never taken part before. This could be as simple as a spare bungee line, or you may have some spare harnesses and even a belt if you have been participating long enough to have collected some kit.

When you provide an incentive and spare kit for newbies to try, you might be surprised how many people will turn up for the group runs - Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

When you provide an incentive and spare kit for newbies to try, you might be surprised how many people will turn up for the group runs – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

The main thing to remember is that canicross should be fun and I’ve found that by running in a group, you can socialise your dog and learn in a more relaxed atmosphere than most of the races we attend. Setting up a group is a great way to find like minded people in your area and you can even attract new people to the sport if they see you out and about having fun – so go for it!

Talk to us about group specific discount codes to be used on the K9 Trail Time Website as we are always happy to support canicross groups – emilyt@k9trailtime.com

Club Focus – Canicross Midlands

With the recent development of regional canicross clubs, I decided to ask a few of them to get in touch with some details about their club to help promote the club and advertise the benefits of joining, to anyone thinking of starting out in canicross.

Canicross Midlands is the first of these regional clubs to feature in our ‘Club Focus’ blogs and the information for this blog was put together by David Handley, who is Merchandise & Publicity Officer on the committee. Here is what he had to say:

Canicross Midlands is a non-profit making club, who were officially formed in September 2013. Driven by her passion for the sport, Claire Martin (Club Chair) assembled a committee of experienced and enthusiastic members, aimed at promoting the sport of canicross and bringing it to a whole new audience. As the name suggests, the club covers the whole of the East and West Midlands area, from Birmingham and Worcester to Lincoln, Leicester to Nottingham, and Derby to Northampton. One of the key aspects of the club is that it is fully inclusive, offering a friendly welcome to runners and dogs of all ages, abilities and personalities (these apply to both owners and hounds!).

Canicross Midlands is a rapidly growing canicross group in the centre of the country.

Canicross Midlands is a rapidly growing canicross group in the centre of the country.

 

Since it was first established, Canicross Midlands has introduced the sport to a large number of new people, many of whom are now regular runners and have brought along more friends of their own. The club runs have also assisted with the rehabilitation and development of dogs with various issues too, providing a great outlet for all that excess energy. Canicross Midlands held their first full event in February 2014 – The Bissell Wood Tail Blazer – which attracted over 200 runners and riders over the course of the weekend and, despite the challenging conditions, proved to be a great success. The event included a number of novice classes, which proved very popular, and highlighted the club’s commitment to making the sport accessible for everyone.

Canicross Midlands have a wide variety of routes to run for novice and more experienced canicrossers

Canicross Midlands have a wide variety of routes to run for novice and more experienced canicrossers

 

As well as actively helping to re-home a number of dogs into excellent canicross homes, the club is also fast becoming renowned for something else – cake! As an added bonus at many of the runs, the provision of a supposedly guilt-free reward has become quite commonplace and in fact, to date, the club has already raised over £300 for various charities by holding cake sales at Bissell Wood and other local events.

Canicross Midlands members have had a number of successes in races and in raising money for charity

Canicross Midlands members have had a number of successes in races and in raising money for charity

 

Whilst the club boasts a number of world class performers amongst it’s members (like European gold medallists Kim & Mark Mazzucca and Jim Urwin, silver medallist Elaine Sherwin and bronze medallists Wendy Holmes and junior Jonathan Ingram), they are equally as proud of the achievements of many of their less experienced members (like Maxine Hydon taking part in her first ever organised event, Natalie Shaw, who recently completed her first full 5k race, and Karen Drake, who was inspired to take up running by the London Olympics in 2012 and now regularly competes around the country). In March 2014, the club also came 3rd in the Canicross Relay Demonstration at Crufts.

Canicross Midlands group members have celebrated many personal achievements

Canicross Midlands group members have celebrated many personal achievements

 

Membership costs just £10 per year for adults and £5 per year for juniors. A family membership is also available for £25. Benefits include third party insurance whilst on club training runs and discounts with a number of canine sports suppliers and manufacturers.

The club’s Facebook group now has in excess of 500 members and is a great platform for useful information, news, tips and details about events. Their training runs take place in over 20 different venues around the region and provide the perfect opportunity for newcomers to try out canicross for the first time, offering a good range of kit to borrow, try out and compare. No matter which venue you are nearest to or which training run you are able to join, you are guaranteed a warm welcome, with patient, friendly and helpful advice to begin your great canicross adventure, whilst making some new friends for you and your dogs along the way.

For more information, go to www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk, or find them on Facebook or Twitter @CaniMidlands.