5 reasons why dogs truly are man's best friend.
Kamerion Wimbley is an NFL defensive end and former first-round draft pick who uses his 6'4", 255-pound frame to manhunt any quarterback lining up against the Tennessee Titans. Yogi is Wimbley's dog. Stocky and affable, he's a 6-year-old American Staffordshire terrier and his owner's most consistent workout partner, joining Wimbley on distance runs three or four times a week. Here's why the partnership works so well.
1. Dogs Keep You Guessing
One minute Yogi is trotting along at a spirited clip in the woods behind Wimbley's home; the next, he's off like a hellion, bolting up a trail or doing laps around a clearing. Hard as it may be to keep up, following those canine whims can turn into an interval workout. "When we're playing football, it's not always the same tempo," Wimbley says. "Some plays are over in 4 seconds, and others extend to 15." Enrich your own endurance workouts by varying your exertion levels.
2. Dogs Don't Have YouTube
Video games. Stuff to fix around the house. Minutia brought home from work. There are plenty of reasons you can give for postponing a workout—and none apply to a dog. Tempted to spend your evening catching up on an episode of Dallas? A pooch will keep those priorities straight. "Dogs are really into routines," Wimbley says. "I get on the computer a lot—and if it becomes time to go, he'll be sitting there waiting for me. If you're not ready, your dog will let you hear about it."
3. The Focus Is Fixed
Day in and day out, a committed workout partner—human or canine-can challenge you to improve your performance. At the very least, he'll push you beyond your usual limits. "You're more likely to complete a workout if you have someone there holding you accountable," Wimbley says. "It's the same way with animals. Yogi's an athlete dog. He's built for working, so he and I feed off each other's energy. He'll motivate me: If he's going hard, I'm going to want to go hard as well." More often than not, that's half the battle.
4. His Meal Is a Model
Wimbley hopes to one day enter Yogi in dog shows. Much like playing in the NFL, that goal requires conditioning that's difficult to achieve through workouts alone. Diet is critical. As an athlete at Florida State from 2002 to 2006, Wimbley didn't just blindly raid the dining hall. "We learned the benefits of each type of food," he says. "You want to ask yourself, why am I eating this? What does it do?" He became versed in the gospel of good nutrition. "It was fascinating to find out how the quality of the energy you put into your body translates into your performance, whether it's on the field or in the classroom." Those lessons apply to Yogi too. Wimbley carefully reads dog food labels to make sure the food has quality ingredients, and he serves Yogi portions that correspond to the dog's weight and muscle mass. In the process, Wimbley reinforces his own habits. "I try to buy us both natural, organic food. No artificial flavors or fillers. No by-products for the meat source. I shop around the edges of the store and avoid the stuff in the middle—the food that has been tampered with."
5. There's No Quit
Sometimes it pays to act like a puppy. "Dogs can pretty much outrun humans, at least where distance is concerned," says Wimbley, "and they want to please, so they'll keep working." When Wimbley got Yogi in the winter of 2006, he was at a critical moment in his career and appreciated the pup's tirelessness. "At the time I was training for the combine, so we'd go for miles. We'd even do two-a-days together." After 6 years, Yogi's tenacity has become an inspiration for Wimbley, both physically and mentally. "I try to model my game after him," Wimbley says. "His unwillingness to yield when it comes to competition, and the way he has fun the whole time while doing it." Still, Wimbley is quick to warn potential owners against bringing a dog into your life until you're sure your activity levels will align. "You need to really study breeds to know which ones are the best for you and your lifestyle," he says. "Some dogs require a lot of exercise to be happy and healthy—and if you're not helping them burn that energy, they're going to find ways that may not be the most desirable."
By Neil Janowitz