We all need to move our bodies every day. Period. Running, walking, spinning, biking … whatever your choice is, you’ve got to do it. You’ll keep your weight down, health check numbers where they should be — and it just feels good! But sometimes we need that little extra reason to get us out there.

While writing The Best of Everything After 50, I insisted that my readers had to, at the very least, walk 10,000 steps every day — and yet, I was barely making it to 3,000. Why? The same excuses that you probably have – too busy, too tired, will do it later, have a headache. There I was, telling women what to do, and barely doing it myself. Until Gunther entered our lives.

My daughters have been asking for a dog since they could speak. Every year, their birthday and holiday wish lists had “dog” at the top. My husband and I put them off for years (full disclosure: especially my husband). But, one day two years ago, hubby woke up and said, I think we should have a dog. Huh? Was I not smack in the middle of writing a book? Could I possibly devote any time to training a puppy (which is what I had assumed he meant)? And,we all know it’s mom who takes charge of the new dog, no matter what the other family members may say. But it was too late. His words hung in the air. The girls were too stunned to talk — mouths open, eyes wide. The puppy train had left the station.

As I sat there, pondering how I was going to deal with a new puppy on top of everything else, a brilliant idea popped into my head. I stood up, feet firmly planted on the floor, hands on hips, and said, “Okay. I’ll agree, with one caveat — our dog must be a rescue dog, and not a puppy.”  There, I said it. I agreed to the plan, but with my own little spin. It really made perfect sense — we’d be rescuing a dog that needed a home, and it would be a dog, not a puppy, so the presumption was that he or she would be at least partially trained. Since the girls had decided long ago that their dog of choice was a Brittany, they flew to the computer and went to the National Brittany Rescue Network and got to work finding their dog, while chatting and fighting over who would get to walk him the most. Yeah, right.

It took a few months, but finally, Gunther, a beautiful 6-year old male, was flown to us from Michigan. At La Guardia airport, the crate slid down the ramp, with Gunther inside. We were so nervous we could barely bring ourselves to open the crate door. But, we did, and out he came, looking like he was saying “Okay, let’s go home.” And that’s just what we did.

Gunther is a Brittany, and Brittanys need to move. Living in an apartment building in Manhattan, I’m not about to let him “out the back door” to run around a few times a day (it’s a pretty big drop from the 18th floor), so I am forced to get out and take him on long, intentional walks and runs. Gunther has been the number one biggest contributor to moving my body every day, no matter what the weather. Three times a week Gunther and I run/walk for five miles through Central Park, and the other days I take him on long, fast walks … all of which have allowed me to surpass my goal of 10,000 steps every day (and lose those lingering post-menopausal 15 pounds).

Gunther and I have been doing so well with our running/walking program, in fact, that I registered for the 2011 New York City Marathon, to celebrate my 55th birthday. This will be my second time, and once again, I’ll follow the program created by Jeff Galloway, one of the key experts I interviewed for my chapter on fitness. Jeff’s program actually allows you to have a life AND train for a marathon. I can truly say — having gone through the training and the actual marathon several years ago — that if I can do it, anyone can. (The assumption is you’ve been running — even just 3 days a week — for at least a year, and all you have to do is build on that foundation.) Here’s the plan, in a nutshell, but check out Jeff’s website or the fitness chapter in my book for details:

  • Start serious training six months prior to the event date
  • Two days a week: run 45 – 60 minutes (never consecutive days)
  • One day a week: start with a three mile run, then add one mile to that run each week. Two weeks prior to the event you will have run 26 miles.
  • Run for 2 – 3 minutes, then walk for 30 – 60 seconds every time you run, no huffing and puffing, but gentle, slow running.
  • Walk breaks are the most important part of this program. They will allow you to run for the rest of your life, and complete a marathon.

If you already have a dog, don’t just let him out into your yard. Walk him, run with him, and wear a pedometer while you’re doing it so you can make sure you’re getting the 10,000 steps in. It’s good for you and it’s good for your dog. If you don’t yet have a dog, consider rescuing one. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself running (with walk breaks) 26.2 miles!