How to stay injury free whilst canicrossing – by Louise Humphrey

Are you a runner who got a dog or a dog owner who started Canicross?

Whichever you are, Canicross is a very different sport and however you have come into the sport, you need to not only think about your dogs’ fitness but yours too.

Runners who become dog owners – Top Tips

1. You need to slowly introduce your dog to Canicross, as you would if you were just starting out yourself

2. Be aware of your dogs needs when running, like water, terrain

3. Canicross is a different running technique from solo running

4. Canicross can increase your risk of injury, cross- training is VERY important

Dog owners who start Canicross – Top Tips

1. Start slow and build up for both of you, this way will help reduce your risk of injury

2. Make sure YOU have the right kit, most important being trail shoes

3. As a runner you need to ensure you cross train to reduce your risk of getting injuries

4. Start off with the C25K course

Whatever your reason for taking up Canicross, it’s really important that you look after yourself as well as you dog. If Canicross is the main way you exercise your dog, then the last thing you need is to get injured and not being able to get out and go for a run. Believe me I have been there with injuries and I should know better the importance of cross training.

Canicross running

Canicross running is a little different from regular running

As a Canicrosser your running technique is different from running solo. Due to the nature of Canicross and the fact that as well as you pushing yourself forward with your own running technique, your dog will also be pulling you. This means you are more than likely to overstride. Overstriding is when your foot lands in front of your hip (a normal runner’s foot tends to land underneath your hip), the foot is in contact with the ground longer, the muscles are having to work harder and this is when the injuries are likely to occur.

So, it is really important that we keep ourselves injury free to keep running with our dogs.

Crossing training is SO important and ensuring it is functional training as well, so it mimics what we do when we run but focuses on our strength, flexibility and balance.

Don’t be put off if you weren’t a runner beforehand. Hopefully you are starting to realise how addictive and great Canicross is.

Pilates for Runners

Pilates for Runners is a great way to focus on your balance, strength and flexibility and learning about your technique more will help you reduce your risks of injury when Canicrossing.

If you have done Pilates before, you know that it focuses on your core strength and this is a great start for runners as this will help you improve your balance. Pilates for runners will also help to increase the strength in your legs and your flexibility, ensuring that you run with the best possible technique you can when canicrossing.

Throughout the course we do both standing and mat Pilates practice. The standing practice focuses on dynamic running movements whilst also focusing on strengthening and improving balance.

Mat Pilates practice goes back to basics to ensure the core is strong but also working on the areas we use in running – glutes, hamstrings and core muscles, making sure we are engaging and using these muscles.

Pilates done regularly will change your running and with some great mantras to keep you going when you are out canicrossing, you know you are doing the best to keep yourself injury free.

All the exercises we do on the course can be used before or after runs to get you warmed up and cooled down, then longer sessions can be used on rest days. It doesn’t need to take up hours, just small sessions on a regular bases will build your strength & flexibility.

So, if Canicrossing is the way you let your dog unleash its energy in a safe way, then working on your cross training will help you get out there more often and enjoy the trials around you. If you want to find out more about Pilates for Runners Course then you can here.

About Louise

Louise Humphrey is the founder of Paws4running and Studio 44 Pilates. She started Paws4running after her Black Labrador Pickle failed Gundog school with a high prey drive. Wanting to make sure Pickle could unleash her energy they started to Canicross together, leading her to qualify as a Canicross instructor.

Louise is a certified DogFit Canicross instructor offering Canicross taster sessions, C25K and social runs in her local area of Market Harborough, Leicestershire https://www.instagram.com/paws_4running/

Canicross has been proven to help, reactive, rescue and anxious dogs’ bond with their owners and running in groups helps them socialise too.

Louise has been teaching Pilates for over 20 years and has an online 10-minute Pilates membership to help you bring Pilates into your life daily www.studio44pilates.com

With Louise’s Pilates experience she is able to also combine Pilates for Runners together with the Canicross ensuring that her human clients are as fit and healthy as their dogs and stay as injury free as possible.

Canicross – An Introduction

The sport of canicross is rapidly growing in the UK as more people discover it and the benefits it can bring for both human and canine alike.

Canicross in it’s simplest form is running cross country (on trails and paths, rather than roads) with your dog and many people have been doing this with their dogs without even realising there is a name for it, or that it is a sport which has it’s own competitions.

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Why canicross? I’ve divided this into the 3 sections I feel are most important

Behaviour – Many rescued and high energy dogs have benefitted from participating in outdoor pursuits with their owners such as running (canicross) biking (bikejor) and scootering in addition to the more established outdoor dog activities. The effect of activity is to allow your dog an outlet for energy which might otherwise be used for destructive and unwanted behaviours around the home & garden. Canicross is a great way to exercise a dog who can’t otherwise be let off lead due to (among other things) a high hunting instinct, which is why you will see many different breeds participating from terriers to malamutes.

Health – Recent studies estimate that as many as one third of dogs nationwide are overweight and this figure is set to rise to over half of all dogs by 2022. Obesity is linked with diabetes, orthopaedic disease, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure, skin diseases & cancer (much the same as in people) so you might even be prolonging your own life as well as your dogs’ with consistent exercise!

Fun – Taking part in dog sports usually means you and your dog get to socialise with likeminded people but even if it’s just you and your dog, you will be strengthening your bond with your dog which is very rewarding and great fun too.

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

What do I need to canicross? The basic kit for canicrossing properly is a comfortable, well fitting harness for your dog, a bungee line to absorb the shock from any pull for both you and your dog and a waist belt so you are hands free when running. These 3 main elements form the basis for a pleasant experience when running with your dog. Without the harness you risk pulling on your dog’s neck, without the bungee you can find yourself jerked after something interesting on your route and without the waist belt your may find your neck, shoulders and back ache from holding a lead.

What harness? There is now a huge variety of choice for all sizes and shapes of dogs, with new products being brought out regularly. Which harness is best suited for your dog depends on a number of factors but at K9 Trail Time we offer a free consultation to help get you started in the right direction, or to help you choose I have written a VBook here: https://bit.ly/howtochooseaharnessvbook

 

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

What line? As long as there is bungee for shock absorption then most lines will be fine. Some are made from webbing and some from stronger polypro braid but which you choose is personal preference. The standard canicross lines are approximately 2 metres when stretched but many people run with shorter or longer lines based on their own requirements. Some races have rules on line length, so do ask if you’re thinking of competing in canicross competitions and we can inform you of the rules.

The Arctic Wolf line comes in 3 different lengths in single and 2 different lengths in a double version

What waistbelt? The style of waist belt which you choose is down to what you would like from it and what you find most comfortable. I’ve written about choosing a belt here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/ but the basic things you need to ask yourself are: Do I want something padded or lightweight? Do I want leg straps? Do I want pockets? Once you know the answer to these then it makes choosing a belt much easier. The purpose of the belt is for your comfort and to ensure canicrossing with your dog does not damage your back, shoulders, neck or arms.

A good canicross belt will distribute the pull from your dog so your back and shoulders are protected

How do I get started? The best way to get started is to find a group of people locally who are already canicrossing, as there are many social groups now encouraging new people to join them. A group will most likely have spare kit they could loan you to kit to try out and will be able to offer advice about training your dog with voice commands for directions etc.

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started - Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started – Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Lastly, but most importantly, your dog needs to be fit and fully developed before you begin canicrossing. Most races will not allow a dog under 1 year old to compete and it is recommended you start your dog off very gently at around the year old stage and not before. You also have to ensure you will be putting your dog’s health first and to avoid any problems, stick to running in cool temperatures (never in the heat of the day in summer) and carrying water with you in case your dog needs it.

If you would like any more information on canicross or the equipment you need to begin please do contact me at K9 Trail Time and I will be happy to help you. There is also a lot of information on my website http://www.k9trailtime.com and on my wordpress blog:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com