July 29, 2022

Episode 311: Performing Your Best After Travel

In this episode (32:15)

In this episode, we discuss how travel before big events affects performance and what you can do about it!

You Will Learn

  • The travel strategy that has led Jennifer to national championships and world medals!
  • Why thinking about what causes you stress can help direct your travel plans.
  • How the body responds to chronic versus acute physical stress.
  • The importance of warming up after travel.

Welcome to bad dog agility, a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training tips, interviews and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm writing the show starts with your host,

Jennifer Esteban and Sarah I'm. Jennifer. I'm Esteban and I'm Sarah. And this is episode 311 Today's podcast is brought to you by SonovatinOA. Is your agility dog suffering from elbow osteoarthritis. SonovatinOA can help. It's a different way to relieve the pain that causes limping and lameness. Just one simple quick non-surgical treatment can provide pain relief for up to one whole year.

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such as co-sleeping to review the full veterinary prescribing information, visit active dog now.com/cp info. Today's podcast is also brought to you by HitItBoard dot com and the new Teeter. TeachIt an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your Teeter. So you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way, go to HitItBoard dot com for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys use discount code BDA tend to get 10% off your order.

That's HitItBoard dot com. Today. We're going to be talking about how to do your best at big events when they happen directly after significant travel. So Jen actually is just about to leave for the European open. So I would call that significant travel, you know, having to fly over an ocean to go to the event. And of course she has tons of experience internationally,

as well as you know, within the United States being a rather large country. Sometimes we have syndicates significant travel here in the United States to go to things like nationals or sinus sport or the invitational. So we wanted to talk about the kinds of things that we do to make sure that both handler and dog are coping with the travel and are in the best position to do their best at the event.

Well, let me jump in here. So Jennifer, where's the European open this year, This year, it is held in Belgium, Belgium, all right, a walkout chocolate. I'm actually flying into Amsterdam and then renting a car and driving to Belgium. And it's funny, you mentioned the size, the U S this trip will actually be shorter and travel than some of the trips to the nationals here in the United States.

So Ocala was a 13 hour drive that I did over two days where this is actually less travel than that. So it's kind of funny that I can compete overseas with less travel time, then something here in the United States. Are you counting the flight time as part of that? Yes. Ah, okay. So Under, under eight hours for me to get from Detroit,

which is where I'm leaving from to Amsterdam, I just assumed everything. Every flight to Europe was like minimum 12 hours. Is that not right? No. Nope. Nope. I've had ones under, under seven, like seven hours and 12 minutes or so. Okay. Yeah. One of, one of the three of us has never been to Europe,

let the, the audience figure out which one of that is. Okay. So it's going to be in Belgium. And what dogs are you running? I am taking B, so it'll be nice to only travel with one dog. All my recent events have been multiple dogs. So this is the first event in a long time, maybe since before, COVID where I've only traveled with one dog.

This is almost like the, the antigenic for the opposite of Jennifer, because it's one dog and not six to eight. Yes. I know. It'll be a nice vacation for me. That's right. Well, good luck and enjoy the experience. And of course, you know, good luck on course as well. We'll be following along back here in the United States.

Is that in this weekend or next week? No, it's this weekend, right? Like a week from today. Yes, that is correct. Yeah. Okay. Gotcha. All right. So Jennifer, take us through kind of your strategy for making sure that you and your dog are at your best. And, and is it kind of, do you have different routines for different dogs and how that works for you?

I do think figuring out the best performance after long travel is a little bit of trial and error and thinking about over the years, kind of what I've adjusted on my travel plans. I feel like right now, I'm pretty happy with my routine. However, I do anticipate that routine changing, you know, in future years. But the biggest thing that I look at is what makes me anxious about either the competition or leaving home or the travel.

And I try to kind of build my entire routine based on that in order to have the least amount of anxiety when performing. So for me personally, and I may be kind of in a minority on this. I have a lot of the worries in my brain is consumed by what's happening at home. So when I leave to go to an event, I have a husband who is still working.

I have a seven year old son. I have dogs that are now being taken care of by pet sitters. So for me, a lot of the anxiety when I leave for a trip is in not the performance. That is like the one thing I can control, right. I can control me and my dog on course and getting them exercise and getting them decompression walk,

making sure they have their massages, but it's in the things that I can't control at home. So my philosophy is always be the last one to arrive in the first one to leave. So for me, I'm always the one that's cutting it short on my arrival time and my departure time. So when team practices on Wednesday, I'm getting there Tuesday afternoon.

If we are done with around, I did this at tryouts one year, it was a traditional AWC. Trouts is Fridays team practice, Saturday, Sundays, and competition. I flew in Saturday morning, skipped my practice day and flew out Sunday afternoon. I'm always like last one in first one out because for me, what, what makes me the most comfortable is spending as much time managing the stuff at home,

making sure that my son is taken care of making sure that the dogs at home are taken care of. So I perform my best when I know that all of that is managed. And I think I'm in the minority because for so many people, and especially when we're talking long travel, leading up to event, whether it's flying, whether it's a long drive across the country,

they want to get there and they want to get settled. So they want to get there. I know there's people already in Europe getting ready for the EO, or they'll go into the city of nationals two and three days early. They want to adjust to the time zone. They want to get the dog settled. And for me getting there early, just leaves me thinking about what's happening at home.

So everybody's going to be a little bit different. And that's why I say trial and error because I used to arrive early and then I would get nervous. I would be sitting in my hotel room a day early going, is everything taken care of at home? Did the pets that are let the dogs out? Did Ethan get to school on time? And I found that that made things worse for me.

And then, because my trips are very focused around the dog events. I want to get home as soon as it's over. If I'm going to do a vacation, I typically do not tie it in with a dog event. That is super interesting because it's not what I would have expected, but I feel like it's really insightful to basically look inward to yourself and make your own determinations,

because I'm sure that there are going to be, you know, if we, if we surveyed people, there are going to be people there are going to be people like you. I could definitely see that there are going to be people that maybe, you know, they physically struggle and you know, maybe they're on the older side, they get stiff and sore,

and they're worried about themselves and their own performance. Right. And there's going to be people that they don't even think about how they're feeling they'll push through, but they're hyper focused on how their dog's doing and is their dog can do they have the exact right brand of food and, and all of this stuff. So I think that's super insightful to, to say,

let's take a step back, figure out, like, where are, where are we are like emotionally and then kind of start there as a starting point. It's funny you bring up those other elements because I wrote down the list when we kind of gathered this idea of, you know, how to best prepare for long travel before event. And there's three things that came to mind immediately.

And that was like, what makes you anxious? And what settles you kind of emotionally, what physical demands do you need? So for example, a long day in a car to get out, you're going to be physically stiff. And maybe you need to say, you know, the most I can do in a car is six hours in a day.

That's going to affect your travel and then the dog's needs. So some dogs travel really well. Some dogs don't, all of my dogs tend to be pretty good. I know B is not as good on the road as some of my others. So for me, it is better if I can stay home longer. So even for a trial recently, it was two and a half hours away and it was a three-day trial.

And I drove there and back every day, which was 15 hours and a car in three days, that is a lot of time in a car, but I felt like it was best for her because we got to come home each night, just eat normal routine. But also it's what made me happiest because I can be at home to put my kids to bed.

I can be at home to make sure the dog's meals were all fed and supplements were given, you know, I wasn't relying on somebody else to give medication and I could sleep in my own bed. So those things that you mentioned were absolutely at the top of my list and factors to take into account, I love it. And you know, it sounds like someone has control issues and I love it because I also have control issues.

Right. So Jennifer and I I've, I've come to learn over the years, have a lot of personality similarities pointed out to me Then, you know, I mean, I feel like I'm maybe a little more chill than the two of y'all, but being a mother, I think flips on your control issues too, because I know exactly what you mean about,

you know, stressing about not being at home to, to manage everything. And, And I think when we first came up with the idea for the podcast, we were definitely very focused, I think on the physical side, at least Sarah and I, and, and mapping out the podcast topic. And I think that Jennifer you've really brought attention to the psychological component.

And I feel like for a high level, high-level agility, that's really the difference. Right. You know, there's so many people that do well and then they go to a big show and they don't do as well. Right. And so I think largely it's not going to be because, oh, you changed your warmup routine, right. Or you didn't warm up your dog as you normally would.

It's more the psychological component there. So I think this is really Sarah pointed out insightful and hopefully helpful for people. All right. Now, moving on. Oh, I'm sorry. You were going to say something. No, I was just going to comment. I mean the physical side is certainly a part of it, you know, getting out there.

And once I get there, I always try to hike the dogs since as much for the decompression as anything. But for me, that psychological component is bigger, but I know you guys, you did the three day Trek. Wasn't a three-day drive from Texas to long beach when you did invitational or when it was New York Westminster. I Mean, I'm sure definitely the long travel days came into play for you and maybe,

you know, what was your take on that? Was it the physical aspect? I mean, how did, how did you feel like your performance played a role in after that travel? I think, and you can, you can tell me if you feel the same way. Cause it's interesting. You were going with B because B as a young dog,

what is the oldest dog that you have taken and traveled abroad or done a ton of driving for a big event? What would you say? I believe my last years with guests and blaster, they were both nine, the two years that they went and I know where you're going with this and you are absolutely spot on. Yeah. Perfect, perfect example.

I will definitely throw it back to Jen. And just a second, I guess I can speak for myself. So when we first went to the invitation and in long beach from Texas, yes. Two days driving 12 hours to El Paso, we'd stay at my parent's house overnight and then we'd check another 12 hours the next day. It's a lot of driving.

You're very stiff and sore, of course, back in 2008, let me do some quick math here. I was very young, right. Just barely 30. And so now I have to drive anywhere for like 40 minutes. I get out and I'm stiff. Got to stretch my back, like a yeah. Anyway. So I think age of handler physical conditioning of the handler,

and it doesn't matter if you're, you know, generally very athletic or active or whatnot, if you are going to be locked up in a position for a long period of time, it's generally kind of unnatural for the body to hold that position. You're going to find that you're using specific muscles in your back and your neck in your legs, around the knee,

for example, more than you normally would. And those muscles are simply not used to the exertion, I guess, shall we say? And so when you get out, there's going to be some stiffness and starting to some muscles that were completely unused during that period of time, others were used extensively. Right. So an example would be when you drive,

you get eye fatigue, right. From just watching the road. Right. So that can be an issue, right. That's why sometimes driving when you're the driver is a lot more difficult than when you're the passenger. Well, I noticed Achilles problems in my right foot on long drives from the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Right, right. So I think those are things that you become more aware of as you're older,

because the body is a little bit less resilient, has a little bit more wear and tear that's cumulated over the decades. Right. And so I, as a thinking person, I'm going to extrapolate this to my daughter. So even though my dogs can't talk or communicate to me, I have some sense that the eight year old that you're taking to, you know,

nationals, especially coming up with any kind of injury and rehab and physical therapy surgery should be handled a little bit differently from the young whipper snapper, two to three year old dog who has had no injury history and who, you know, after a long, you know, maybe you let them out every two, three hours on your trip to go to the bathroom.

We try and walk the dogs around on leash, certainly. And they, they can pop right out and go jump in the ring and compete with a little bit of a warmup. And you're really not overly concerned about it, but that's not something I would want for my eight year old dye. So Jennifer, let's take this back to the dog side.

What, what are you, what are you thinking in terms of B versus gas, these older dogs? It's always funny that we prioritize the dogs over ourselves because I'll sit there and go on, I can get in a car and drive 13 hours, but I'll make sure that the dogs get out and get walked and yeah. Agent. And that is definitely a huge factor.

I think looking at kind of what's on my brain, which is the international travel I do am fortunate enough that my dogs do fly in bags in, in cabin, on an airplane, but that's a lot different than flying in a crate. That's going to be probably plenty larger in a car. So that's definitely a factor as well. I'm a little bit more careful about what I have on the arrival side for,

for getting B out of her bag, letting her stretch, because she has really been cramped up more so than a car and a drive. And it was definitely a factor with the older dogs. I remembered the last year that swift traveled internationally, he was coming off of an injury and it was a huge thing. I was like, okay, we got to get there.

I got to make sure that he has plenty of time to adjust. I wanted him to get in with the massage therapist before we even had our first team practice. So that's huge. And as far as like travel in the states, the last two times, I've gone to Florida, both within the last 18 months, it's about a 13 hour drive.

And the one time we decided we were going to do it in two days, simply for the dogs, like, okay, let's not put them in the crate for more than six or seven hours. We'll stop overnight. We'll let them walk around and then reload it up the next day. And the second time we decided, well, we're going to go ahead and do all 13 in one day with a hike at half point and a two hour hike at the halfway point.

But then that second day that we had, we would be in Ocala to spend the entire day walking around. So it was still the same travel time for us, but it was like, do you push through on one day? But then they get more time to relax or do you have two more mild days? And it never was about me. It was never about what worked best for me in terms of my physical demands.

It was what was best for the dogs. And I did find that just pushing through in one day, but then having an entire day to relax and move around on the, you, usually we say at Airbnbs, the backyard and stuff did end up giving all of us, them and myself a little bit more time to relax. So I do think traveling in a car where you can kind of pick the crate size versus flying as a factor indefinitely,

the age of the dog, I do not worry as much about B who's only three years old getting out of her bag. When we arrive in Belgium, I say, I would be traveling with swift. Who's almost 10 years old. It would be a totally different ballgame. Wow. I can't believe so. So almost as a very young dog, I know.

Right. You know, when you were talking about doing what's best for the dog versus the handler, it like struck a memory. Tell me if I'm making this up. I don't think I am, but I think we've had at least one big event where I flew with Gitchi because it was best for Gitchi and you drove because that was what was best for you and met us there.

Didn't that happen? Pretty Sure that did have. Yeah, because when I'm weighing the options and I think maybe it was for Westminster, I think flyer for Westminster is three days from here to New York, like two, two and a half days, two and three quarters, something like that from Texas. And it's a tough drive. Okay. When I get out,

my back is really tight and sore and all those things. And even this was several years ago. And I think for Gitchi, I just wanted to minimize that, like even taking breaks every two to three hours to get getting her out of the car, you know, I don't even have to go to the bathroom or something, but I get her out,

walk around, spending several minutes and, you know, I just feel like that's not enough. And we have big crates that I can move around in with the best cushions and the, you know, the orthopedic stuff for them. We just felt like it would be best to one shot because I think in terms of flight was like five hours. Like not even to New York.

Yeah. Yeah. So it's like, it's like, she's never going to go five hours in a car without getting out. But now it's five times five, right. 20, 25 plus hours of driving versus just one five-hour shot. And so, yeah, I'd completely forgotten about that, but we made the decision to fly her and it was to optimize around performance or what we thought would help her perform the best.

Yeah. That's pretty interesting. Let me take a tangent here and ask you, what are your thoughts or how do you use massage massage therapist and a chiropractor? Is it something that you like must have never use use sometimes and is a dye dependent? What's your kind of take on that Specifically for big events after traveling After travel. Right. Right. It's always something that I,

if I have the option, I would prefer to have it's in my mind, it's kind of the pack, the umbrella, and it won't rain. But if you leave the raincoat at home, it's going to be a downpour. So if there's an option, if there is a massage therapist attending a big event, if I have availability or given options for openings,

sometimes those people book up with their local clients really early. I will always book time with my dogs. And I typically like earlier in the event, more so than late, like a lot of people will be like, oh, my dog makes finals. I'll book a massage. And for me, it's the front end. It's the proactiveness. I want them loose.

I want them stretched out. And I always try if I can to get one after traveling before the first run, but it's not, it's not a vice for me. It's not something I have to have. If the option is there, I will always take advantage of it. But for example, this year for EO, we do not have anybody traveling with the team and I'm okay with that.

It means I'll have to do a little bit more on my end, but I'm not having a meltdown over the fact that somebody is not there. I am fortunate that our local massage therapists, a lot of times we'll go to the bigger events, the national events. And I definitely book appointments. And I like to have that even for the dogs who are young or are going into it without any history of injury.

So I have a question for you guys. So when we're talking about travel, I kind of have the feeling for myself. And then I think I projected on my dogs. I'm like, no matter how hard the travel is, like after a night's sleep, it's a new day, you know? So I feel like no matter how bad the travel was,

I'm like after a good night's rest now I've been out of the car for 12 hours. I feel like I can go out and perform. Like, I guess maybe even from the medical or the athletic side, like, am I being too cavalier in that attitude? Or do you think that just as long as you show up, not morning of the event,

that you can have some faith that you are probably going to be able to perform well. So if the, if the worst case happens and you're showing up, you know, Thursday evening and national starts Friday morning, like all is not lost, you can still like dig deep and perform When you go first on this. Yeah. I mean, going back to what I said earlier,

I think it's a little bit person dependent, but I'm with you, Sarah, if you, as long as you come in, not totally zombie, like a good night's sleep and you're ready to go. But remember my motto last one to arrive in first one to leave. So the arriving Thursday night for the Friday performance works for me. I know it's worked for me.

I've been reinforced for that mindset many, many times, as I mentioned, EO tryouts this year, I skipped practice on Friday. I drove over Saturday morning and I won both of the rounds on Saturday. So I'm reinforced for that, but I did get a good night's sleep the night before. And I think that was, I think a lot of it is that was the plan.

Like I knew all along, things were going as planned. That was what I was going to do. I think where that can shift for people is if there's travel plans that change, you get a flat tire, you get stranded in a city, you're running late, a travel delay, an airline is canceled or your dog gets sick. And you're out of town,

six hours away at the emergency clinic trying to get fluid. Those things, those are going to, what's going to be causing problems. But if you are the type that you can get a good night's sleep, wake up the next morning and do it. I'm with you, Sarah, as long as it's the plan. I think it's not being too cavalier.

I think you're fine. Yeah. I think for the most part, as far as the athletic performance, the body has incredible adaptability over a short period of time. So if I've got a big event, let's say tomorrow, I'm not too worried about how much sleep I'm going to get tonight. Right. I know that if I'm super excited, pumped up anxious,

whatever, and I don't sleep well. As long as I've been having good sleep, my body will be able to overcome one poor night of sleep. And I can still put in a record breaking, you know, a little bit level type of performance in just about any event. If you have not been sleeping for two weeks straight coming into your Olympic final,

you're probably not going to do well. Right. So I think, I think that's something to keep in mind. The other thing I'll say is that in dog years, Janice, like in her prime, she's like, she's like four years old, four or five, I'm more like six or seven and getting really close to eight. And so I will share that back.

I think it was in February, right? I herniated a disc in my back. So I was out no agility, no running anything for four months. So I hadn't done any agility. Rehab came all the way back, was lifting weights. I can walk and all this stuff. And then we were taping the short sequences for the golden, just a couple of days ago.

I could have, I could have trained earlier like several weeks before, but then we hit this massive heat wave in Texas. And I just refused, I didn't want the dogs running out. And I took her out there and all I did was three or four runs, three or four sequences, like five obstacles each. And you feel fine while you were doing it.

And I came in and then like 20 minutes later, I couldn't walk. I couldn't put weight on my left foot. So as the Achilles. Right. And so the good news is it's not like completely torn or ruptured saw. I don't think I'm going to meet me having surgery or anything. I have to go see ortho this week. I had x-rays yesterday.

But let me tell you, I did not warm up. Right. So four months out because of a different injury, like just think you can imagine my legs just atrophied and not being used to doing things, but I actually did a ton of walking and biking and stuff like that, but just not able to make the cuts. You know, I have a very aggressive running style that is basically like Jen's,

you know, we do lots of like fonts and blinds and running around and ACL diesel. Like we are very mobile handlers and we are mobile in our approach to running a course. And so we it's like playing soccer or basketball or football we're out there. And we plant our feet and we make cuts and things like that. And I was out there and soccer shoes.

So long story short is I did not warm up properly. And I think I paid the price. There need to be a little bit more careful going forward. I'm going to have to go through a lengthy rehab process again. And so eventually Jennifer will no longer be four and all years. Okay. Eventually she will be a little bit different on this podcast and maybe not zipping in at the last moment,

but I think as long as you're taking the time to really get yourself warmed up onsite, where it's not so much about the day before, but the same care that you are giving your older dogs to give yourself. And for the young ENS, I know it's going to be pretty impossible for me to convince you because I remember being in my twenties as well.

And you can do amazing things with your body and your twenties, and that eventually will go away. And there's really no way of convincing you. You also are going to be positively reinforced for all the times. You just showed up and you just ran and it was snowing and it was cold and you saw other people trying to warm up and you're like,

yeah. And you know, it's cold anyway, it's fine. But yeah, I will be, I will be a little more diligent about, Yeah, yeah. I got wiped out in practice. At least it wasn't out of trial. So, And do you recall, I started this podcast by saying that these are my current thoughts, but the future of my travel may change Alluding To,

We are mostly just being sad for myself and throwing myself a little, little pity party here at the very end of the podcast. This really, I think for me, a lot of it is, you know, right now currently my son is seven. So there's a lot of managing and maintenance and, you know, go back a couple of years,

even those even harder. So my thought was as he gets older, as he gets to the point where he can come home from school and be home by himself for a few hours before, you know, my husband gets home from work, I'm like that will make things easier. And one other thing I do think that should be taken into account, but I did not mention time change when you're traveling,

whether you're traveling within a time change, that affects things as well. So using the example of my a 13 hour trip to Florida, it was the same time change. So that made things nice for me. And typically for me, if I'm going to go west, it's easier because there might be a walkthrough at 7:00 AM or 7:00 AM in California is going to be 10:00 AM for me.

So I'm not going to be dragging. I do know that, you know, looking at the west coast, people who have come all the way out to USA nationals or the U S open a 6:00 AM walkthrough is like 3:00 AM their time. So on their end, they, you know, depending on where you're going within the time zones, it definitely might be something where you do need the extra day to adjust.

So if I was from California traveling to New York, I definitely don't know that I would want to arrive at, you know, 1:00 AM and then try to get up and do a 7:00 AM when that makes it feel to me like it's 4:00 AM and same thing with the European travel. I think it's pretty common for the handlers from the United States to go a day or two early,

just simply to make the adjustment for the time zone. So that is something that I think needs to be taken into account as well. Yeah. I thought west coast people were just whiny, but you're right. They have a good reason to be whiny. No, I'm totally kidding. I'm totally kidding. I know, because, you know, I grew up on a,

on a Pacific island and so it's always tough to go out to these other competitions and get hit with that time change. Certainly. So I think the, the, the reason that I wanted to ask that last question, the question about like, you know, can you perform with, you know, after one good night's sleep is, you know, as Jen said,

she said, if it's the plan, it's okay. It's when it's not the plan that it really affects people. And so what I want to point out to you is that even if it's not the plan know that you are not, it is not a foregone conclusion that you are not going to do best. If you go in there thinking that you have already ruined your chances,

that you're already are not going to be able to do it. You're like very fatalistic about it. Then you're not gonna, you're not even going to enjoy your experience because remember the vast majority of people at any event do not make the finals. So a good part of the experience is enjoying your time there. And you're, you're taking that away from yourself.

So I just want people to know, even if things go bad, just tell yourself it's okay. Like Sarah and Esteban. And Jen said that, you know, my body can adapt and I can still do well at this event. I'm going to put like the bad stuff that's happened behind me and wake up tomorrow, ready to go, ready to walk,

ready to put in my best effort for me and my dog. So that's kind of what I want people to take away from there. So thank you so much, Jen, for, for joining us. Cause I know you have to get ready to go, but I thought this was kind of a nice time because it would be on your mind, like what you were thinking about how you were going to approach it and all of that.

Absolutely. I am leaving on a Monday getting there Tuesday and we have team practice Wednesday. So I'm, I'm doing that late arrival and then leaving home Monday morning. So you are right. It is on my mind and making plans for what I think will be best for the travel for being myself. Perfect. All right. Well, that's it for this week's podcast.

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