The Joy of Active Recovery Living on the Coast with Canines

‘Active recovery is a common method of recovery used by team sports and individual athletes alike. Typically, active recovery involves periods of low intensity exercise performed between heavy training sessions or between competitions, as a means to enhance the recovery process’

I‘ve been extremely fortunate to have spent most of my life living by the sea. The furthest I’ve lived from the ocean is 20 miles, practically land locked! I’ve also always had pets, cats and dogs for the most part. Now by no means do I subscribe to the notion that you’re either a dog person or a cat person, my life is improved for sharing it with 2 of each species. It’s like comparing press ups with bench pressing, they’re both very similar and yet very different in many facets, both are great, and both have their place.  That said, my dogs are my favourites, cats come and go but dogs are a constant companion. For me, the same can once again be said of our exercises, I’ll bench press if it suits and I’m logistically able, however the humble press up can be performed anywhere and at any time, a constant presence in my training schedule.

To my eyes there are endless reasons to love dogs, as well as I must admit, a few reasons not to. The somewhat pungent gas released after consuming something funky washed up on the shore I could certainly live without. Forgiving the odd aroma, the addition of dogs to my life by the sea brings ample opportunity for fun exercise outside of the gym environment. Many of these activities are perfect for ‘Active Recovery’ and here are a few of my favourites.

Swimming: If you’ve got a dog that loves swimming, then you’re in for a good time. Not only is it a real pleasure to watch your furry friend cooling off in the ocean on a hot summers day, swimming is also incredibly good for both them and you. For humans and hounds alike, swimming is great for elevating your heart rate and building endurance, cardiovascular fitness and strength, all with the bonus of reducing the impact stress on the bodies of both us and our four-legged friends. Perfect for when we’re feeling sore from a heavy session in the gym or if like Marge (my 12-year-old Rottweiler x English Bull Terrier) the joints tend to get a little stiff with too much impact exercise.

Walking or Running and anything in between: What can be said of a sunset stroll along the beach which hasn’t been captured in verse or on canvas by poets and artists with considerable more talent than I? Not only is a walk on the sand one of life’s most simple pleasures and most relaxing forms of gentle exercise, it also represents an opportunity for the dogs in your life to hare around like lunatics with relatively low impact on their joints due to the softer ground. If the thought of joining your canine companions in their higher tempo pursuits holds greater appeal than a picturesque stroll, then I fully encourage you to get involved. Whatever your preferred speed, be it on two legs or four, I doubt you’ll be disappointed by the experience.

Throwing: Throwing is one of the human races most fundamental and primarily important skills. From early man throwing crude spears whilst hunting food, to Kasper Schmeichel (or dad Peter if you’re of a certain vintage) launching a forty-yard throw to set his team on the offensive. The art of throwing has many different facets, power, speed, distance and accuracy and are all important and measurable factors within a throw. The throwing action is commonly broken down into five phases, wind up, cocking, acceleration, deceleration and follow through. Dogs love chasing things and, in my experience, other than squirrels, balls and stones come top of the list. Next time you walk your hound on the beach why not consider the different phases of the throw and practice throwing things for your pooch. Try throwing as far as you can or aim for a fixed point to add a little accuracy practice. If your extremely one sided as I am, why not practice throwing with your weaker arm? However you choose to throw, you can count on one certainty, your dog will chase it. Whether or not they choose to bring it back is another matter entirely.

These are just a few ideas of active recovery to enjoy on the beach with your four-legged friends and by no means are they the only options. In recent years stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and sea kayaking have become very popular and are also great forms of active recovery. I have friends who take their paddle board out with a forty-five kilo German Shepherd at one end and a six kilo Jack Russel at the other. If you get the opportunity to try paddle boarding, go for it, it’s a lot of fun and great for the core and trunk. If you can convince the dogs to join you either on the board (even the inflatables are tough enough for dog’s claws) or in the water alongside you then all the better.

The combination of beach and beast is not only good for our physical well-being, it’s also fantastic for our mental health. Many studies bestow the virtues of having animal companions on our feelings of self-worth and confidence. Add to this the obvious benefits of fresh sea air and vitamin D from the sun and an hour spent on the beach with your hounds is guaranteed to bring a smile to both your face and theirs.  Until next time people, look after yourselves and your dogs and enjoy the beach together throughout the rest of this balmy summer.