Surprisingly, it was a dog that ceased my regular runs. For years, I’d been jogging three to five times per week, mixing up pavement and trails. I ran in Vancouver’s Sun Run annually; my best times were in the low-50-minute range for that crowded 10K.
It was good. I didn’t call myself a “runner,” as I had friends who ran ultra-marathons and achieved sub-40-minute 10Ks. I was simply “someone who ran.”
Then Chesterman came along—a hyperactive Labrador-cross and my running partner to be.
Except he wasn’t. Not yet.
You see, I learned right away that one shouldn’t jog regularly with a young pup until its bones have developed, which is around the one-year mark. So I slowed my pace. My daily kilometres were up, ironically, but jogs became walks. Four times per day walks—leaving little energy left to jog a 5K after I’d already walked eight.
Chester turned one this autumn. And we’ve started jogging together. He’s a natural. We’re working on pacing, but he can outlast me any day of the week. Especially since I’ve fallen out of running for a year.
But I’m back. And with it comes these valuable gear recommendations I’ve learned to rely on over the past several months, followed by some handy technique tips (for all joggers, not just doggy joggers):
A couple of years ago I experimented with a pair of $70 outlet-store runners to see if there was much of a difference between them and my $190 professionally fitted shoes. I lasted two runs.
Shoes matter. If you’re new or returning to running, head to a brick-and-mortar running store and get some pro advice and a proper fitting. Try several models. Buy the one that fits you best and suits your stride. (Whatever you save on cheapo shoes, you’ll spend on physio.) And realize that, with regular runs, you’ll only get about six to eight months per pair. Still cheaper than a gym membership! (How will you know your shoes are worn out? Your knees, hips and IT bands will tell you—listen.)
I’ve worn a lot of shoes—Mizuno, Hoka One One, Nike… today I’m loving my Saucony Triumph ISO 4 (pictured above). A neutral shoe suits my stride, and the ample cushion is excellent for road running. For the trails, I switch it up to my Saucony XODUS ISO III. Most notably, they offer six-millimetre lugs to dig into the mud. Read our review of those trail runners here.
Socks! If you run in cotton socks, you won’t run for long. Wool, synthetic and wool-synthetic blends are your only options. I have many pairs of running-specific socks. The Balega Blister Resist Quarter and Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Micro Socks are my two faves.
In summer, athletic shorts and a wicking shirt are all I need. (Looking for a sports bra? Read our reviews here.) In winter, it’s a different story. For apparel, this is my go-to kit:
Pants: My Lululemon Surge Joggers do the trick. Some runners prefer lightweight tights, but I’m not that serious.
Shirt: If it’s freezing, I wear a proper base layer like the Icebreaker Body Fit Base Long Sleeve Half-Zip. If it’s warmer, a simple wicking T-shirt like this one from Eddie Bauer will work just fine.
Insulating Layer: My go-to jogging jacket is the Smartwool Corbet 120. Read my review here. I’ve also had good success with the Helly Hansen Lifaloft Hybrid Insulator Jacket—but it’s better suited to colder days. Pick up the Winter issue of Explore to read more about that one.
Outer Layer: I have to be pretty motivated to jog in the pouring rain. When I do, I need something ultra-breathable and watertight. Nothing beats Columbia’s OutDry EX Eco Jacket. I wear an "Undyed White" unit for extra visibility.
Headwear: From about mid-October to late-April, this toque from Sunday Afternoons is my go-to. Any merino-acrylic blend is ideal for high output activities.
Accessories: When road-running, I go minimalist. For the trails, though, some storage is necessary. I prefer a fanny pack to a backpack. This model from Avventura Outdoors carries 1.5 litres of water, plus some basic first-aid, dog and human treats, my phone and wallet.
Keep this advice in mind when you start your running regimen:
Breathe, don’t puff. Avoid short, hyperventilating breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Don’t breathe in time with your footsteps; don’t breathe erratically.
Stand tall. Hunching over not only is bad for your back, but it inhibits your breathing, meaning you’ll tire easier. This is especially important while trail running, as jogging on inclines often encourages hunching.
Keep your form. Aside from standing tall, some other basic form-rules to follow include—land every stride midfoot (on the ball), relax your hands and shoulders, look ahead (not down) and always keep your toes pointed in your direction of travel.
Walk, if you need to. If you can only jog three kilometres but can make it to four if you walk a klick—do so. In fact, many experienced runners mix intervals into their runs, or create a regimen of High Intensity Interval Training. Nobody’s keeping score—it’s always better to keep moving than to call it quits.
Warm up. I used to run right out the front door. It was the worst part of my jog. Now I walk a block or two first. It starts the blood flowing, loosens the limbs and sets the mood.
Buddy up. Mine is my dog. Maybe yours is too? Stats show accountability keeps us moving—and nothing motivates more than a hyperactive pup or a nagging best friend.
Set distance goals. I like weekly goals that I can meet with a variety of distances. Perhaps your goal is 15 kilometres per week? Run two 5Ks, one 3K and a simple 2K—the last of which will likely take less than 15 minutes. Implementing a variety of distances will keep the motivation up and the monotony down.
Schedule your days. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “I’ll jog three times per week.” Rather—“I’ll jog Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.” Treat it like a job and it’ll pay off like one.
Foam roller. Stretching is good. Foam roller is better. Pickup a foamy from your local fitness store and roll out those muscles post-jog. You will learn to love it. Glean some tips here.
Bonus: Doggy Jogging Gear
Every dog is different. Mine is 70-plus-pounds of greased lightning. Yours may be half that size or double it. So some general gear guides are:
Harness beats collar. My day-to-day harness is a simple nylon-webbing model, with both a front- and back-clip. For hiking and trail running, I use the Hurtta Trail Pack—but I clip off the saddlebags and just use the padded harness. Choke chains? Not for a run, not for a walk. Never.
Leash—I use the Kurgo Quantum. This one leash can be adapted to a variety of styles, from long to short; belt to messenger. Check it out here.
Supplements. Chester is a big doofus, who has already twisted his leg twice playing in the park. So I've chosen to be proactive about his joint health by using supplements. He takes SierraSil Leaps & Bounds semi-regularly. They're designed for older dogs, but it can't hurt to get ahead of it, right?
Water. By far and away, this water bottle from Petkit is the best doggy-drinker we’ve ever used. It has an attached dish for the pup to drink out of, and the push-button valve allows unconsumed water to drain back into the bottle, meaning you can carry less than if you were tossing the leftovers every time.
Poop bags. Go biodegradable—we use Earth Rated. And pack it out, please.
For safety on those dark winter nights—both me and the dog—I clip on the Nite Ize LED Carabiner Light as well.
PS: Are you looking for new ways to get motivated?
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