Be Active Lose Weight

How my dogs helped me stay healthy in older age

Weighing 16 stone in his 50s, Paul was struggling to keep fit – that was until he discovered Canicross.

Weighing 16 stone in his 50s, Paul was struggling to keep fit – that was until he discovered Canicross.

By Paul Kalinauckas, Telford Health Champion

When I reached my mid 50’s I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which came as quite a shock at the time. So I decided to do something to improve my health because I was also starting to feel quite lethargic.

Sporadic attempts at going to the gym and running in adult life fell by the wayside and I gradually bulked up, peaking at 16 stone with a 42-inch waist. It just wasn’t working for me.

I became more active and started losing weight when I joined a Beginners’ Session organised by  The Wrekin Road Runners.

The relaxed and friendly nature of the beginners group really suited me. The first year was really tough until I saw someone running with his dog at Telford Parkrun and discovered the exhilaration of Canicross.

Canicross is the sport of cross country running with dogs. The dogs are strapped to your waist with a bungee lead which made running much easier and exhilarating for me.

I enjoyed running with my two dogs so much that I set up Telford Canicross, which has expanded to become Shropshire Canicross and now has almost 500 members. We won a Telford’s Active Lifestyles Award in 2017.

Paul's dogs Jasper and Sheba
Paul’s dogs Jasper and Sheba

You don’t need your own dogs to take part in Canicross, we regularly take dogs from Hilbrae Rescue Kennels out for a run so they also get a chance to get some exercise.

My Canicross activity, coupled with regular group gym sessions has helped me get down to 12 stone. It’s also helped me to deal with my diabetes by optimising my blood glucose levels.

I feel so much more energised these days and love running with my dogs – my life has completely changed now that I’m 64 years young. I’m fitter than most people half my age.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of improving their health or changing their lifestyle is to find something you enjoy. That might mean trying a few new activities to see what works for you. For me it was running with dogs and finding a nice group of people to run with.

Now I am preparing for my first ever marathon to raise sponsorship for Energize – the county sports partnership for Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and a local charity.

I am a bit fearful of running 26 miles as I am not a long-distance runner. I am comfortable running shorter distances of around 5 miles but needed a new goal to stretch myself. But I love Energize’s commitment to improve the lives of people across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin using the power of physical activity and sport.

Running the Virgin Money London marathon will be a super stretch for me but also demonstrates that whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve.

You need a positive outlook, determination to succeed, support from family and friends and a goal that you are committed to. My goal is simply better health and wellbeing – what’s yours?

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