Cani-crossing in the dark nights!
So do Cani-Fit classes only run in day time once the nights get dark ?
Do you move to street lit roads on the dark nights ?
I take it Cani-Fit classes are just seasonal in the nice weather and light nights?
Answer to all of these is a big fat NO!
Canicross is theoretically a winter sport, something best achieved and should be worked harder on in the colder temperatures .. Why ? It is far kinder and better for your dog.
You will get more out your dog training in cooler temps.
But why the dark nights ? Well most of us are busy earning to pay for our trainer, race entry and Cani-Fit hoodie addiction to only train and run the trails in day light, so night time after work is a popular time.
Yes Cani-Fit classes run all through winter, it is our best time, and yes we run in all weather, rain, sleet, snow, wind. We are based in Scotland after all.
Is this a from of punishment / torture for not attending enough summer / spring classes ?
You will actually find that you enjoy the cooler temps like your dog , all you need is a decent lightweight water proof jacket to keep you protected , good trail shoes for stability, support and comfort on the trails and a very bight head torch.
The dog still needs out, so why rush a boring walk around the streets when you can train and run with the Cani-Fit groups in safety.
Who does not want to seem like they are a dancing extra in a Daft Punk music video after all, or filming for the next Star Wars.. This is what springs to mind when you see a group of 20 head torches and high viz runners and dogs running through the trails.
So most people seem a little intimated at the thought of not only trail running , trail running attached to my dog and in the dark wearing a head torch …
We would like to put everyone at ease with some handy tips.
Firstly it really is easier to see than you think. You may miss the deathly hill climb that is 800m in front of you , before you know it you got up it without being mentally defeated. The thought of not seeing the runner turn a trail in front will certainly keep you moving ahead.
With the right brightness of head torch you light a massive path way for you and your dog to follow, making life really easy to see the best route to follow. Your dog will become more focussed and follow the trail the light makes, but also their sense will kick in to follow a familiar track or the route the lead dogs in front took. This is where your dogs magic senses really start to impress you, and you see the real team work and bond both of you have created.
As a rule at Cani-Fit, all human cani-fitters must wear something with reflective piping or high viz on their back, this allows other runners to see them from afar and keeping the groups more noticeable. When ever a cani-fitter takes a turn it is a hard rule that we must allow the person behind see or know what turn we are making, a simple out “left turn” followed by a “got it” is all that is required to keep the group moving together easily. All our classes are led by a front and tail runner, with busier classes having a third middle runner.
We stick to easier paths in the winter , that are easier to negotiate and see, the routes are familiar to the regular attendants making groups stick together and know where to go a piece of cake.
When you get home from work, its dark, raining, wind blowing side ways, the last thing you want to do is go outside , but you know the dog needs out, you know you should be out running and exercising together . There truly is no better motivation than doing it with a friendly experienced group.
We have been running classes all year round for 4 years now and can safely say that the winter is the most enjoyable , rewarding and best time to train.
Don’t be a fair weather Cani-Fitter, get the right equipment, be prepared and join us on the darker nights .
Some top tips:
Do not think, your slip on nike shoes that you get away with wearing to Zumba will do .. Invest in trail shoes that are suited to the terrain you are going to run in. Having support and grip from the right shoes will prevent injury and you falling in the mud.
Wear lightweight tight running clothes, jersey loose trousers, will get met and muddy and act like weight resistance training, tighter light weight clothes will dry quicker and not hold as much water/mud , keeping you warmer for longer.
Invest in a good lightweight running waterproof jacket, preferably one with zipped pockets. Heavy dog walking jackets will become to uncomfortable and again hold too much moisture.
Light layers are the best way to keep/warm and dry.
Make sure your tights / jacket / top has reflective piping or something high viz on the back so you can be seen.
If your dog is black , add something high viz to their harness (if not already there). Some flashing collars will not show up if they have a thick coat. cheap reflective arms bands are good to wrap around their harness.
Head torch, the cheap ones you see in the pound shop or the local petrol station, will not cut it. You are looking for something with a bright lumen. The brighter the better. You really only need maximum 2hours battery life, so go with brighter rather than longer battery. You can spend anything from £10 – £400 on a good head torch. From experience most cani-fitters have bought 2000LM Cree torches from eBay worth £10-£20 , some lasted a full winter, others chargers , batteries broke. With cheaper options this is a risk, however the brightness is perfect for what we do.
Hand torches will not allow to light the path in front of you for you or the dog, head torch will, avoid using a hand torch unless as a back up.
Keep your head torch fully charged before class, invest in a spare as back up and pop in your pocket. You can now get car chargers for them too.
Always run with a fully charged phone in your pocket and with numbers of class leader / helper in your phone for emergencies.
You can buy pup lights, lights that attach to dogs collars, not something that is necessary but a good add on and worth looking at if you like.
Keep head torch off until you need it, save your battery, keep light off round about car park , where car lights will light up.
Never turn around to talk to anyone with head torch still on, you will blind them and their dogs vision, if you are going to talk to someone head on, turn your torch off or face it away from them.
Keep a dry set of shoes, warm jumper and jacket in your car to change into after run to keep warm whilst stretching.
Do not forget that hydration is still as important for your dogs throughout the winter as well as summer, although we do not have the temps and heat, the dogs will naturally work harder, therefore still need to be well hydrated, this is an important all year round rule.
Never forget water , bowl and treat for your dog when finished, a towel and cosy bed for them to get into after their run also.
Do not forget to warm up, its always important but come the darker cooler nights more so ? You will be cold as will your dog, if you do not warm up and take off at high speed you put yourself at a higher risk of injury, more so with being tenser running in the dark. Warm up slowly, take your dog for toilet before running starts, so you are not left to catch up after picking up poo and finding a bin. Get into a good routine before starting class.
Do not forget your strength and cross training in between class, keep the core and muscles strong and active, trail running requires good strength and more so canicrossing. The keen Cani-Fitters will run harder in the winter, it is important to keep all the supporting muscles strong and active, flexibility, agility and strength is what will stop you damaging ligaments etc . Keep injury free !