Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Practice Day - A Different Perspective

There it is! The space is waiting to be used, and you and your two legged partner are going to put yourselves to the test. A nice little warm up to get the blood flowing and muscles ready for what's to come. The temperature is perfect and there is no wind at this place; that is if I cared about such things at this time. Time's a wastin', so let's get down to business. Your heart starts to beat a bit quicker in anticipation, and your eyes focus intensely toward the task in front of you. Out of respect for the official way to do things, your partner counts down - "3, 2, 1, Go!"

Your muscles engage as they explode with as much power as your body can provide them. You go out hard and are moving as fast as your physical limitations allow. Your heart rate rises and lungs inhale deeply to fuel your body with enough oxygen necessary to continue.

Half way through - Your heart is thumping, but your muscles are still strong. Slowing down is not an option you want to take because there is still much work to be done.

Three quarters of the way through - Your mouth is wide open and dry. Your heart is pounding against your rib cage, and your leg muscles are starting to weaken from the constant output. You fail to notice that two worn down callused pads rip open and begin to bleed. You continue on, ignoring the pain and signs of fatigue.

Almost done - Both your muscles and lungs are burning. Saliva fills your mouth, but you'd love nothing more than a drink of water. Not quite yet though; not quite finished. You feel a twinge where your calluses were reminding you that you may be hurt, but you push through to finish the task. "Time!"

Your muscles are weak, on the verge of failure. Your lungs are expanding and contracting at maximum capacity, yet it seems impossible to catch a good breath. You're done now though, and it's time to rest and recover. Your heart rate and breathing return to normal after a nice cool down and stretch. You jump back into the car and head home for some dinner with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

When you reach home, your four legged teammate greets you at the door, disc in mouth and back end wagging side to side in hopes for his workout to begin. You tell him - "Not quite yet buddy. I need to eat and rest a little first." After dinner you take your dog out to play disc, and he puts himself through the same rigors you just experienced. When you're done with your dog's workout, you head down to the computer and visit to find out what Workout of the Day will be waiting for you and your two legged workout partner tomorrow.

As a discdogger, I feel that properly trained discdogs are elite athletes participating in one of the most physically demanding canine sports out there. It's one thing to know that your dog's physical abilities will lessen as it tires. It's a completely different level of understanding and appreciation when you live as an athlete and experience it yourself. I have been an athlete the majority of my life, but I have not kept up with intense training since my collegiate soccer career ended due to graduation and entering the "real world". I have started a new program to keep myself as healthy as possible. Getting back into becoming a better athlete again, I have been reminded of what we ask our dogs to do on a regular basis. I not only know that my dog will slow down as he tires, but I can relate to what his body is going through because I put myself through it as well. Can you be a good handler and have success without being an athlete yourself? Definitely - you see it all the time. Do you have to go through as intense of a workout as I described above? That's for you to decide. I just wonder how much better teams could be if the handlers could not only perform better themselves, but also relate better to what they were expecting their dogs to do. As much as they sometimes seem like machines, they are living athletes. How well do you really understand what that means when you ask them to perform?