Handler Stretching

09 Sep 2004Steve Schwarz

Sprinting in Agility class last night reminded me of the importance of stretching before running Agility. Stretching is essential for both the dog and the handler. I’ll discuss stretching for dogs in the future. Sitting around for hours and then dashing about an Agility course at full-throttle is a prescription for injury.

Those that know me know that I’m not a paragon of fitness, but I’m getting old enough that it can take a long time to recover from an injury. Spending a few minutes warming up and stretching before practice and trials has made a big difference in my post-Agility recovery.

There are stretching and flexibility improvement courses offered at health clubs and YMCAs around the country. Personal trainers can also be resource for learning about stretching.

I learned to stretch from the classic book Stretching by BobAnderson and Jean Anderson.

It has simple drawings that make the stretches clear along with straightforward explanations. The authors also offer multiple stretches for each muscle group. This lets you choose the stretch for a set of muscles based on your abilities or environment. Don’t want to sit or lie on the wet ground? Learn a corresponding standing stretch instead.

The aspect of the book I liked most was the sport specific sections at the end. Each section shows a set of stretches along with the number of repetitions and time to hold each stretch. This is a helpful reference once you learn the stretches. Since Agility is mostly about sprinting with some twisting and turning I use the Running stretches. The summary sheet can be copied and thrown in your agility bag to help you get started.

My stretching ritual is as follows. I arrive a little before class starts and do my stretching while tossing the dog’s toys to warm them up. This way they are moving to warm them up before they are stretched. At a trial I might jog a little with the dogs to warm us all up before starting my stretches. I have to admit I don’t always do my stretches afterwards, but I try never to skip the ones before.

However you learn about stretching, consider taking a few minutes to look after your health before your next Agility class or trial, you deserve it.

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