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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Canicross: Canine activities

Could dogs be the key to getting the inactive moving? Kath Hudson finds out about the burgeoning sport of canicross

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 7
Canicross competitions take place most weekends in the winter months
Canicross competitions take place most weekends in the winter months
Those who are new to running are less intimidated about joining a club with their dog than they are pitching up to a running club by themselves

As I’m puffing and panting up the hills at my local parkrun, I’m regularly overtaken by people cruising past being towed by their dog, attached to their waist by a bungee lead. I have to confess I used to think they were cheating, but in fact canicross is a new sport in its own right.

Canicross Cornwall jointly runs parkrun Lanhydrock, where I run, and co-founder of the group Calvin Mudd says they jumped at the opportunity to help organise the weekly event in order to get the sport on the radar of more people.

Canicross originated in Scandinavia some 20 years ago, primarily as a way of exercising huskies and keeping them fit when there was no snow. From there it developed into a sport in its own right.

“It’s been going in the UK for around 11 years, but has really gained momentum in the past five to six years. It now it has a fairly even spread across the country, with most counties now having a group. There are also about 60 groups and pages on Facebook at the last count,” says Cushla Lamen, vice president for development at the British Sled Dog Sports Foundation (BSSF), the body in charge of canine-related adrenalin sports in the UK, and co-founder of Canicross Trailrunners.

The sport certainly has its risks: “It’s not canicross unless you’ve fallen over several times – and there’s no accounting for the squirrel moments,” says Lamen. “However, it’s a great sport for the family to do together. Also, those who are new to running are less intimidated about joining a club with their dog than they are about pitching up to a running club by themselves. We see a lot of people going from couch to 5k with canicross.”

The advent of social media has really driven the development of the sport and so far it has grown organically. However, Mudd is in the process of setting up a website in a bid to centralise information about clubs and events, as not everyone is on Facebook.

The clubs tend to be casual and friendly, with après-run coffee and cake part of the appeal. They meet twice a week, with different runs for different levels. Like a dog pack, they go the pace of the slowest runner and also wait for them to catch up.

This makes the sport particularly accessible for those who are new to running – both people and dogs. However, more ambitious runners get the chance to indulge their competitive streak, partly because the dog helps them to run much faster but also, if they’re happy to travel, because they could participate in competitions most weekends throughout the winter.

Race lengths range from 2.5k for children up to ultra marathons – and at the moment, even international events like the European Championships are open to everyone.

With the UK very much a nation of dog lovers, could we tap in to canicross to get more people active? Lots of people have dogs, an interest in getting one, or access to a dog belonging to friends or family – or even via borrowmydoggy.com. So could leisure centres put on classes to appeal to this market?

Lamen cautions against fitness instructors just launching a canicross class without proper planning, because an understanding of dog behaviour and handling is necessary: there’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands. That said, she says it would be easy to find someone locally to fulfill this role. Alternatively, a dog-loving fitness instructor could do the training required to lead runs.

Mudd says he would welcome the opportunity to team up with local operators as a way of reaching a wider market and mobilising more people. “There are a lot of unfit people and unfit dogs out there, so canicross solves two problems,” he says.

George Humphries,

Co-founder,

Ashridge Canicross

George Humphries
George Humphries

Our club was formed in January 2013. We’d been running with friends since 2010, and in early 2011 we set up a Facebook group which we used to communicate with a larger audience and to host regular runs.

As numbers swelled, it became clear we needed a club identity, so we used various sources – including knowledge from other sports clubs – to work out what guidelines were required to set up a club. Our template has since been used by other groups who want to transition into a club.

Gaining recognition from insurance underwriters has been a challenge, but this is becoming less of an issue as the sport grows. We charge £10 a year membership to pay the insurance, fund a website and buy equipment for people to try.

We’ve had challenges over group compatibility when it comes to running speeds, so have loosely followed how most running clubs structure their club with different routes and speeds for different abilities – which, in turn, requires more race leaders.

Dogs can also be a challenge, as not all are compatible with canicross and in some cases we have to educate the handlers. However, it’s so rewarding to watch someone who’s new to the sport change from viewing 5k with trepidation to really enjoying it.

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There’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands / PHOTO: ryan perring photography
There’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands / PHOTO: ryan perring photography
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/39424_117348.jpg
Could dogs be the key to getting inactive people off the sofa?
Kath Hudson, Journalist, Leisure Media,Canicross, dog, running, Kath Hudson, George Humphries, Cushla Lamen, Calvin Mudd
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features

Canicross: Canine activities

Could dogs be the key to getting the inactive moving? Kath Hudson finds out about the burgeoning sport of canicross

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 7
Canicross competitions take place most weekends in the winter months
Canicross competitions take place most weekends in the winter months
Those who are new to running are less intimidated about joining a club with their dog than they are pitching up to a running club by themselves

As I’m puffing and panting up the hills at my local parkrun, I’m regularly overtaken by people cruising past being towed by their dog, attached to their waist by a bungee lead. I have to confess I used to think they were cheating, but in fact canicross is a new sport in its own right.

Canicross Cornwall jointly runs parkrun Lanhydrock, where I run, and co-founder of the group Calvin Mudd says they jumped at the opportunity to help organise the weekly event in order to get the sport on the radar of more people.

Canicross originated in Scandinavia some 20 years ago, primarily as a way of exercising huskies and keeping them fit when there was no snow. From there it developed into a sport in its own right.

“It’s been going in the UK for around 11 years, but has really gained momentum in the past five to six years. It now it has a fairly even spread across the country, with most counties now having a group. There are also about 60 groups and pages on Facebook at the last count,” says Cushla Lamen, vice president for development at the British Sled Dog Sports Foundation (BSSF), the body in charge of canine-related adrenalin sports in the UK, and co-founder of Canicross Trailrunners.

The sport certainly has its risks: “It’s not canicross unless you’ve fallen over several times – and there’s no accounting for the squirrel moments,” says Lamen. “However, it’s a great sport for the family to do together. Also, those who are new to running are less intimidated about joining a club with their dog than they are about pitching up to a running club by themselves. We see a lot of people going from couch to 5k with canicross.”

The advent of social media has really driven the development of the sport and so far it has grown organically. However, Mudd is in the process of setting up a website in a bid to centralise information about clubs and events, as not everyone is on Facebook.

The clubs tend to be casual and friendly, with après-run coffee and cake part of the appeal. They meet twice a week, with different runs for different levels. Like a dog pack, they go the pace of the slowest runner and also wait for them to catch up.

This makes the sport particularly accessible for those who are new to running – both people and dogs. However, more ambitious runners get the chance to indulge their competitive streak, partly because the dog helps them to run much faster but also, if they’re happy to travel, because they could participate in competitions most weekends throughout the winter.

Race lengths range from 2.5k for children up to ultra marathons – and at the moment, even international events like the European Championships are open to everyone.

With the UK very much a nation of dog lovers, could we tap in to canicross to get more people active? Lots of people have dogs, an interest in getting one, or access to a dog belonging to friends or family – or even via borrowmydoggy.com. So could leisure centres put on classes to appeal to this market?

Lamen cautions against fitness instructors just launching a canicross class without proper planning, because an understanding of dog behaviour and handling is necessary: there’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands. That said, she says it would be easy to find someone locally to fulfill this role. Alternatively, a dog-loving fitness instructor could do the training required to lead runs.

Mudd says he would welcome the opportunity to team up with local operators as a way of reaching a wider market and mobilising more people. “There are a lot of unfit people and unfit dogs out there, so canicross solves two problems,” he says.

George Humphries,

Co-founder,

Ashridge Canicross

George Humphries
George Humphries

Our club was formed in January 2013. We’d been running with friends since 2010, and in early 2011 we set up a Facebook group which we used to communicate with a larger audience and to host regular runs.

As numbers swelled, it became clear we needed a club identity, so we used various sources – including knowledge from other sports clubs – to work out what guidelines were required to set up a club. Our template has since been used by other groups who want to transition into a club.

Gaining recognition from insurance underwriters has been a challenge, but this is becoming less of an issue as the sport grows. We charge £10 a year membership to pay the insurance, fund a website and buy equipment for people to try.

We’ve had challenges over group compatibility when it comes to running speeds, so have loosely followed how most running clubs structure their club with different routes and speeds for different abilities – which, in turn, requires more race leaders.

Dogs can also be a challenge, as not all are compatible with canicross and in some cases we have to educate the handlers. However, it’s so rewarding to watch someone who’s new to the sport change from viewing 5k with trepidation to really enjoying it.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
There’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands / PHOTO: ryan perring photography
There’s skill involved in getting the dog to run in front and listen to left and right commands / PHOTO: ryan perring photography
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/39424_117348.jpg
Could dogs be the key to getting inactive people off the sofa?
Kath Hudson, Journalist, Leisure Media,Canicross, dog, running, Kath Hudson, George Humphries, Cushla Lamen, Calvin Mudd
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In collaboration with ukactive, FunXtion has driven a global discussion with some of the world’s leading fitness operators and influencers, exploring how digitalisation will influence the delivery of fitness services and products moving forwards.
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