Monday, April 25, 2011

Thoughts on My Canine Companion

I grew up with dogs. Throughout my childhood we had three family dogs, each coming and passing as nature intended, each teaching the family lessons in patience and love. Since living on my own, I have wanted a dog but it took a while to get to a place where it was appropriate for me to bring one into my home (I am already a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady). Seven months ago, I met and fell in love with a white German shepherd named Thor.

At first, I wasn't sure about him. While I had a total crush on the big white puppy, I wasn't sure about the disturbance he would bring to my previously feline dominated home. I was worried about about what I would do with him when I go out of town, the daily walks, and certain furniture and shoe destruction. In fact, for 24 hours after I first met him, I had decided against the adoption. But, my heart won over my head in my desire for a canine running buddy and a guard dog for my home.

Months later, I'm quietly typing this blog while Thor rests on the rug in front of the door (one of his "spots"). We had a nice paced jog after work, and while it has taken months for him to adapt to my pacing, we now run nearly one-handed. If we don't run, we walk, in fact he gets me outdoors nearly every day, regardless of wind, snow, sleet, or rain. Only once has he barked meanly at a stranger, and boy, that stranger was not comfortable and moved right along. Neighbors on all sides of the fence are comfortable petting him, and in my opinion he has become the king of the block.

At the same time, having him around called for serious alterations to my lifestyle. My desire to care for him changed my weeknight schedule and when I leave town it's one more thing to plan around (luckily I have a friend who enjoys having him around for a couple days). But it all pays off when I get the puppy dog eyes, success at tricks and a nice calm Thor Bear after a nice long run. The rewards in nurturing are definitly worth it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thoughts on Being an Athlete, Not a Jock

Over the past few years I've developed a habit of running, and with that habit came races, and my next race is a half marathon. When my registration check didn't clear within a couple weeks, I went to the race website to check on my status, and there it was. Athlete Name: Karen Magnuson. Athlete. Me?

I have had many identities, but "athlete" has never been one of them. Sister, daughter, friend, student, girlfriend, ex-wife....the list is long. Athlete has never been on it. Athletes have their picutres on Wheaties boxes and endorse Gatorade. Athletes are lean and lithe and break finish line ribbons with their arms held high in victory. Athletes are not the urban middle-class with self-esteem issues. Athletes have coaches, not trainers, and are interviewed on tv sports shows. Athletes don't huff and puff at an embarrassingly sluggish pace and are simply proud to "finish." No. Athletes compete, and compete to win. Or so I thought.

The label forced me to reconsider my definition of "athlete" and determine if I can really put myself in that category. I am certainly active, with exercise of some form happening nearly every day. Over the past ten years and especially the past four, my fitness has increased significantly. Since taking up running, I have participated in several running events and have tracked decent progress at middle distances. I find my weight training routine is designed to support running muscles and have even incorported yoga here and there to keep those muscles limber. I buy special gear, and eat special foods. When I take a true look at my lifestyle, I seem more and more "athletic" although I don't consider myself an "athlete."

Then it hit me. It's the label "jock" I'm trying to avoid. And while I'm certainly a far cry from being an elite athlete, there is nothing to stop me from living an athletic lifestyle and reaping all the benefits it has to offer. Bring on the sweaty workouts, lean protein, and copies of Runners World magazines. I'll take it.