According to Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete, a human study showed that “70% of people who exercised without a warm-up developed abnormalities in the electrical signals to their hearts.” Yowza! Aside from all the normal reasons to warm-up (stretch muscles/tendons/ligaments, dilate blood vessels, align bones, distribute synovial fluid over joints) this one was a surprise, and quite compelling. It also stated that “in a study of Olympic athletes running the 100m race, those who did not warm up ran 7% slower. This is the difference between winning and finishing dead last.”
This is a good point for gaiting in the ring, too. While the conformation ring doesn’t require complex movements like jumping or weaving, it does require fluid and relaxed movement. A dog just pulled from his crate won’t move with the same ease as a dog who has jogged a few minutes and stretched his legs. In my experience Wally is a lot more relaxed both mentally and physically if he’s had a little bit of a workout.
Duration: 90 seconds
Goal: flex and extend the spine and legs, increase heart rate and blood flow, focusing exercises
– Give him a good rubdown to increase body awareness. Move from nose to tail and “activate” every body part.
– Have the dog stretch his spine (like a cat stretch)
– Lure the dog to stretch his spine from side to side
– Trot down and back about 50ft to get the blood pumping
– Have him focus on you
A cool-down is important to prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure, which could cause dizziness. [I admit, even as I wrote that I thought it sounded silly. Who knows, they can’t talk!] It also allows the dog to downshift a few gears from competition to “just hanging out”.
Duration: 5 minutes
Goal: physical recovery, decompress mentally
– Walk at a moderate pace and in a relaxed manner
I’ll admit, I don’t do warm-ups when I personally workout — no stretching, no arm circles, I just start slow for a few minutes and then increase the pace. Apparently fitness experts agree with me and most give the thumbs down on pre-workout stretches. The above isn’t so much stretching as it is truly warming things up, though, so focus more on moving than on stretching.
Up Next…Making the Plan