Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Dog's Life - a pearl of wisdom from AP

I was reading an article recently by Allan Pitman, who is the very successful triathlete and coach of a triathlon club that shares our water hole (pool), the East Coast Cycos. I find AP to be quite an entertaining wordsmith, who captures simple ways to explain the great mysteries of the world. He is also a top bloke who has motivated and guided a number of Ironman athletes to the big dance in Kona, as well as competing there many times himself. If you are ever crazy enough to decide to take on an Ironman distance triathlon, it is well worth your time having a chat to AP first. 

I found the latest article too good not to share (hope you don't mind AP). 

Rest like a dog - 18 August 2011

I’ve been coaching Ironman athletes for around twenty years now. One of the crazy things about them. Many are not as smart as a dog.

I’ve always had good dogs. They’ve always been females, and either Australian Cattle dogs or cattle crosses. Many years ago I bought a book on dog training. It’s simple stuff. To have a good dog, one who’ll defend the family, stay up all night watching your property, and do what you tell them. All you have to do is treat them like a dog. A big mistake people make is to think they need to be treated like people. They’re not people, they don’t think like people, they’re dogs. They think like dogs, that’s if they think at all.

My dogs respect me as though I’m their leader, the Alpha male in their pack. They read my body language, and I read theirs. They never get to eat before I’ve eaten, that’s the way it is in our pack. They know their place in the pack. I could be going soft on them, this winter my wife bought them dog jackets. I have been putting them on each night before I feed them. In forty years I’ve never had a dog with a jacket till now. My wife feels that if her horse has a choice of four different rugs, the dogs should have a jacket for the cold nights.

One thing I have learned watching my dogs. When they’re tired, they sleep. When they have a sore foot, they just lie around and lick it. They don’t try to keep running on it. They will if duty calls and they have to defend the house when the postman comes. But they’ll soon go back to resting. Triathletes on the other hand have great difficulty in resting when they’re tired. Or stopping whatever activity hurt them, long enough to give it a chance to heal.

Another thing dogs are better than triathletes at, is racing for the sheer fun of it. They don’t take races too seriously, they just love to run. They love to chase balls, frisbies, anything. They have to be seriously sick to not be able to fire themselves up and be ready to perform in a really short time. No excuses, just give everything they have.

Dogs are not that hard to manage around each other. They soon sort out who’s going to be the boss, and then they just get on with it. There might be a bit of a snarl here and there, but it’s forgotten quickly. They don’t get offended and have to leave the pack. I’ve seen that happen with adult triathletes.

Our training is our play time. If we were always ready to go hard when the stop watch came out, and ready to switch off and rest like a dog, we’d probably gain more from our training and racing. If we could race for the sheer joy of racing, we’d go faster with less muscular tension. Have you ever watched a dog chase a ball, all they think of is the ball. If only humans could race like that, just focussed totally on the finish line, no distractions, just keep the “eyes on the ball”.

Dogs don’t know what their power output is, what their heart rate is, how many calories they need to do a days work in the hot sun. Working dogs often do a ten to twelve hour day with little more than a drink of water. They pace themselves, they make the job as easy as possible, but they get the job done.

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