Personal Trainer Paid in Chew Toys

by Mickey Guisewite (View from the Middle),
July 11, 1999

I've been reading a lot lately about the "no-frills workout" approach to exercise. Back to basic push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches, obstacle courses and sprints are performed in the wee hours of the morning under the unsympathetic eye of a trainer (often an ex-marine or off-duty police officer), who meets your whimpers and pleas for mercy with a blast of a whistle.

By any standards, it is a grueling fitness regimen. So grueling, it might even prepare a person for the most grueling no-frills workout of a lifetime: a walk with my dog.

When it comes to fitness, clearly it is not man nor woman, but dog, who is the ultimate personal trainer.

In my house the workout begins promptly at 5:45 a.m. when I feel a paw batting at my arm.

"Go away," I mumble from beneath the covers.

Just as I'm drifting back off to sleep, I hear the clink of a leash next to my bed.

"It's raining," I reply.

Forty-two seconds later I'm rallied out of bed by the ultimate in canine trainer motivation techniques: dog breath one inch from my face.

I throw on my running clothes, snap on her leash and without time for so much as a glass of orange juice, we fly out the door at 100 miles an hour. "Heel!" I hiss at the 70-pound husky mix dragging me down the driveway. "Heel! Heel! Heel!"

The impertinent command sends her into an all-out world record-breaking sprint.

We run down the street, around the corner, up a hill and through the school yard. Then, just when I feel I can't take another minute of punishment, my personal trainer stops dead in her tracks, sending me ricocheting in front of her like a rag doll in fluorescent Nikes.

We have now entered Phase II of the canine workout: sniffing reps. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. We lunge to the right. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. We lunge to the left. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Agility and coordination are put the ultimate test as I hop over puddles, jump clear of bushes, dart around trees, and ultimately shimmy under the neighbor's fence while my dog traces the scent of a rabbit, a squirrel, a cat, her own tail ... who knows?

I peek up from the grass and meet the eyes of the homeowner peering at us through her drawn curtain.

No time to stop and explain though, because now I'm hurdling over a bed of petunias to meet up with another trainer and his sweating human.

(SNIFF. SNIFF. SNIFF. "Is your human a big wimp too?")

(SNIFF. SNIFF. SNIFF. "Yes. Oops. I think I see chipmunk. Gotta go!")

Two more squirrel chases, a duck sighting, and a leaf-mistaken-for-a-chipmunk episode later, I stumble up the driveway behind my dog, a panting, muddy, sweaty heap.

We go inside, and in a final no-frills training assault, my four-legged fitness guru eats my fat-free muffin while I'm not looking.

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