How I Got This Body: Happy together

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 11, 2012 - 3:16 PM

For the past four years, Don Potter and his German shepherd, Reina, have raced up and down hills on an almost-daily basis. They are, he says, "a perfect match" as workout partners.

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Don Potter and his German Sehepard, Reina.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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Don Potter, 54, accountant, Bloomington, and Reina, 4, German shepherd

When Don and Janyce Potter adopted a new dog four years ago, the couple thought the 9-month-old German shepherd, Reina, would be a good watchdog and companion. When they her brought home to Bloomington, though, Don, a former competitive soccer player, instantly realized she could be something more: his workout partner. Four years later, the pair have raced up and down hills on an almost-daily basis. “She is absolutely in step with me,” he said.  “We are a perfect match.”

RUNNER'S BEST FRIEND "Right at the time I was having to step away from soccer, we got Reina. I've always been a runner to stay fit for soccer, but I found myself less and less able to do roadwork on concrete; it was too hard on the knees. I read different things about the value of more interval training, instead of just running around Lake Nokomis a couple of times. So, I stepped up my level of training to include off-road, and I just go out and I mix it up between sprints and hills and muscle work."

IN STEP "When I walk in the house and move toward my workout stuff, she wags her tail and runs around in circles. We go out in all extremes; I love the elements. I put [Reina's] leash around my waist and when I sprint, she sprints. When I stop, she stops."

A WORKOUT FOR SUMMER ... "In the summer, we go over to a ski area in my neighborhood four or five times a week. We do five to seven hills from bottom to top. The hills take about 2 minutes, 40 seconds [up]. At the top, I do some muscle work. It's typically 45 minutes of nonstop exercise. I'll see runners out there who look pretty fit, and they'll get about halfway up before they start slowing down and then at three-quarters, they're walking. It's a very different kind of cardio; it's easy on the joints, which is why I like it."

... FALL ... "In fall, you can't go to the ski hills, so I go to a playground at an elementary school with ball fields and a hockey rink and a small hill, and do lots of interval training. We do ladders on the grass in the hockey rink, run the outline of the soccer field in a figure 8, use the playground equipment for muscle work. There's also a set of 29 stairs. I hardly speak a command [to Reina] except, 'Let's go!'"

... AND WINTER "We do the same things in the snow, except I'm not running on the hockey rink. This winter was terrible for it, but last winter I was running in snow up to my knees and the dog was bounding through it. It's natural resistance, and you have to lift your legs high to get out. I go out as cold as it gets. ... The dog loves it. She motivates me, knowing that this is a dog that needs a lot of activity. Sometimes when I get home tired and hungry and it's 12-below, I would probably talk myself out of it if it were just me, but looking at the dog -- who I feel this commitment to and who wants to get out and exercise -- it motivates me in a way I might not have on my own."

PREVENTIVE MEDICINE "My orthopedic doctor is very interested in what I do and is convinced it's excellent maintenance for the long-term care of my knees, which are not great following 35 years of competitive soccer and two surgeries."

A DOG'S WORK "We had a samoyed that I would run with, but she might get bored halfway through. Reina treats it as a job. I love the companionship. It's like a best friend to go out and work out with anytime you want to. There's an unspoken connection between us."

SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED,

SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE

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