Just six months ago Karen Holley, a complete beginner to running and who battles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, was struggling to complete a Couch to 5k programme on her own. Yet today, after contacting her local DogFit Trainers, Karen and her gorgeous three year old Jack Russell cross Parson can be seen regularly canicross running 5k in their local Basingstoke area.
Karen was a complete novice when she joined her local DogFit Trainers, Jules Clapham and Carli Pike, for canicross classes. As Karen jokes, she was never particularly sporty “unless eating cake is considered a sport!” She has always competed in agility and walks her dogs but that was her limit.
In our latest My Story, hear how Karen overcame her personal challenges and, with support from her DogFit Trainers and her running partner Skip, now enjoys a completely new and fitter lifestyle!
As a complete beginner to running, what made you approach DogFit Trainers Jules and Carli about canicross classes in the first place?
Canicross has always intrigued me. Skip has such huge energy reserves but also needs something to work towards. I wondered what running with him would be like. I saw Jules’ and Carli’s group advertised online and was inspired by other groups achieving 5k in a matter of weeks.
Jules and Carli were always super positive about the training, giving me options for when things got tough but not allowing me to give up.
Running with such support was very appealing and to be able to run my dog at the same time felt like a win-win for us both. I really loved the idea of Skip and I running together and I can honestly say, it’s improved our bond and he really enjoys coming with me.
Did you have any apprehensions about trying canicross and how did you overcome these feelings?
As well as concerns about my chronic fatigue syndrome, I was also worried about Skip. It’s not like he can say that he doesn’t feel like running but I figured he would communicate somehow if he didn’t like it.
I had no need to think this though as within a few classes (plus the homework sessions) he would be wagging his tail next to me every time my trainers came out!
How would you describe your first canicross class?
The friendliness of everyone set the tone for the whole course. Everyone is supportive of others. It was really interesting to see the other dogs taking part too. There’s no ‘type’ of person or dog that takes part.
It was, of course, quite noisy while we all kitted up. It was reassuring to know that Carli and Jules had all the kit sorted and knew how to fit it to us all. The dogs were pretty excited!
I remember feeling quite physically sick half way round and disappointed that I felt so unfit. If I hadn’t had Jules and Carli to follow I would have given up at this point alone, so getting to the end of the first session felt fantastic!
How did you find the Couch to 5K course? Were there any challenges along the way and how did you manage to overcome them?
For some crazy reason, I started running in the winter. The weather on the second week was appalling and the head wind and rain nearly put me off. However, Carli always posts the homework to Facebook and everyone posts when they have completed a run. This never failed to inspire me to get those trainers and Skip’s harness on!
I found the weekly runs a challenge in themselves but as soon as I found it difficult, Carli would always find the right thing to say, “One more minute”, “lets get to the top of the hill” and “you’re doing amazingly well”.
The other downside to running in winter was that I was beset by viruses and this contributed to my fatigue. This meant I found maintaining my first course completion tricky but it was so lovely to know that all I had to do was get in touch with Carli and she would adjust my runs to ensure I quickly regained my fitness.
I cannot put into words how amazing it felt to finally achieve a 5k run!!! Superb 🙂
How did Carli help to reassure you and give you the confidence to persevere with the training?
Carli is always inspiring – before, during and after a run. She would check what our aims were and explain what we would be running. She always makes sure she sets a challenging pace without it being unachievable. I think I even got a slice of cake afterwards as a reward too.
Both her and Jules remember the days before they were runners and never lose sight of the fact that we (their clients) are doing this for fun!
How did Skip take to canicross and the Couch to 5K course? Did you observe any changes in his fitness or behaviour?
At first Skip seemed a little lack-lustre, especially during the homework sessions. He took a few runs to get used to the kit. By week three however, he was pulling and enjoying running alongside his buddies. His fitness has massively improved and he seems to have gained the body of an athlete (unlike me).
So now you’ve completed the course what are your canicross plans next?
For now, I am happy maintaining my fitness alongside Skip. I love being able to just pop on my belt, harness and trainers and off we go.
I love running for charity but have always needed to walk so will be looking forward to be able to run them. I’ve looked into a few canicross races and can’t wait to try out my new skill.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating trying canicross?
Absolutely give it go. Try it for a few weeks and you’ll be so pleased with the improvement in fitness levels for you and your dog. Not to mention improving your bond – nothing like having a running buddy by your side.
What would you say are the benefits of joining a class or course with a DogFit certified trainer?
I would not have survived without the support of a DogFit Trainer. It’s also important you have the support of someone who is knowledgable about the harnesses and kit for the dogs as well as dog and human health.
Find out more information about Jules’ and Carli’s canicross classes here – even if it’s to join a taster session. All levels of ability are very welcome.