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.
(upbeat music) - Welcome to Bad Bog Agility. (dog barking) 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 ready.
- The show starts with your host, Jennifer, Esteban and Sarah. (upbeat music) - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah and this is episode 311. - Today's podcast is brought to you by Senovitan OA. Is your agility dog suffering from elbow osteoarthritis? Senovitan OA 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
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after treatment. Short term home care instructions must be followed, after treatment to minimize extended close contacts, such as co-sleeping. To review the full veterinary prescribing information, visit active dog now.com/cpinfo. Today's podcast is also brought to you by hitaboard.com and the new Teeter Teachit. An easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeters so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way.
Go to hitaboard.com for the new Teeter Teachit and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10, to get 10% off your order. That's hitaboard.com. Today, we're gonna 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, having to fly over an
ocean to go to the event. And of course she has tons of experience internationally, as well as, within the United States, being a rather large country. Sometimes we have significant travel here in the United States to go to things like nationals or Signo 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 is the European open this year? - This year it is held in Belgium. - Belgium, all right. Waffles, chocolate. All there. - So, and that's right. I'm actually flying into Amsterdam and then renting a car and driving to Belgium. And it's funny,
you mentioned the size of the US. This trip will actually be shorter in 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 than something here in the United States. -
Are you counting the flight time as part of that? - Yes. - Ah, okay so it's-- - It's under eight hours for me to get from Detroit, which is where I'm leaving from to Amsterdam. - Really? I just assumed everything every flight to Europe was like minimum 12 hours is that not right? - Nope. I've had one under, under seven. - You can tell the one of us--
- Like seven hours and 12 minutes or something. - Yeah, one of the three of us has never been to Europe. I'll just let the audience figure out which one of that is. Okay so it's gonna be in Belgium. And what dogs are you running? - I'm taking Bee. 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 anti Jennifer, the opposite of Jennifer, because 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, good luck on course as well we'll be
following along back here in the United States. Is that 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 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, 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 exercising, 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 and 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 practice is on Wednesday,
I'm getting there Tuesday afternoon. If we are done with a round, I did this at tryouts one year, it was traditional ABC tryouts is Friday's team practice. Saturday, Sunday is the competition. I flew in Saturday morning, skipped my practice day and flew out Sunday afternoon. I'm always like last one in first, went out because for me, what makes me the most comfortable is spending as much time managing
the stuff at home, making sure that my son's 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, leaving up to event, whether it's flying, whether it's a long drive across the country,
they wanna get there and they wanna get settled. So they wanna 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 wanna adjust to the time zone. They wanna get the dog settled. And for me getting there early, just leaves me thinking about what's happening at home. So everybody's gonna 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 at home? Did the pet sitter 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 wanna get home as soon as it's over, if I'm gonna do a vacation, I typically do not tie it in with a dog event. - That is super interesting, 'cause it's not what I would've 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, if we surveyed people, there are gonna be people, there are gonna be people like you I could definitely see that, there are going to be people that maybe, they physically struggle and maybe they're on the older side, they get stiff and sore and they're worried about themselves and their own performance. 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 okay. And do they have the exact right brand of food and all of this stuff. So I think that's super insightful to say, let's take a step back, figure out where 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 a list when we kind of gathered this idea of 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 are gonna be physically
stiff and maybe you need to say the most I can do in a car is six hours in a day. That's gonna 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 Bee 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 in 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 could be at home to put my kids to bed. I could be at home to make sure the dogs' meals were all fed and supplements were given, 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
in factors to take into account. - I love it. It sounds like someone has control issues and I love it because I also have control issues. So Jennifer and I, I've come to learn over the years have a lot of personality similarities. - That's true. - Sarah's pointed out to me. - And you know, I mean, I feel like I'm maybe a little more chilled 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 stressing about not being at home to manage everything and yeah. - 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 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 agility, that's really the difference. There's so many people that do well and then they go to a big show and they don't do as well. And so I think largely it's not gonna be because, oh, you change your warmup routine. 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 as Sarah pointed out insightful and hopefully helpful for people. All right now, moving on. Oh, I'm sorry you were gonna say something. - No, I was just going to comment. I mean the physical side is certainly a part of it, getting out there and once I get there, I always try to hike the dogs it's
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. - Oh god, that was like. - I mean I'm sure definitely the long travel days came into play for you and maybe what
was your take on that? Was it the physical aspect? I mean, how did you feel like your performance played a role in after that travel? - So I think, and you can tell me if you feel the same way, 'cause it's interesting you're going with Bee because Bee is 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 Guess and Blaster, they were both nine, the two years that they went and I know where you're going with this. - Yeah. - And you are absolutely spot on. - Yeah, perfect example. I will definitely throw it back to Jen in just a second. I guess I can speak for myself. So when
we first went to the invitation in Long Beach from Texas, yes two days driving, it's 12 hours to El Paso. We'd stay at my parents' house overnight and then we'd trek 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. Gotta stretch my back like yeah. Anyway. So I think age of handler, physical conditioning of the handler and it doesn't matter if you're 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 gonna find that you're using specific muscles in your back, in 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 gonna be some stiffness and soreness. Some muscles were completely unused during that period of time, others were
used extensively. So an example would be when you drive, you get eye fatigue, from just watching the road. So that can be an issue, that's why sometimes driving when you're the driver is a lot more difficult than when you're the passenger. - 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 accumulated over the decades. And so I, as a thinking person, I'm going to extrapolate this to my dogs. 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
nationals, especially coming up off 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 after a long, maybe you let 'em 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 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 dog. So Jennifer, let's take this back to the dog side. What are you thinking in terms of Bee versus Guess, these older dogs? - It's always funny that we
prioritize the dogs over ourself because I'll sit there and go, well I can get in a car and drive 13 hours. But then I'll make sure that the dogs get out and get walked and yeah age in that is definitely a huge factor. I think looking at kind of what's on my brain, which is the international travel I do. I'm fortunate enough that my dogs do fly in
bags 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 getting Bee 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 remember 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 gotta get there. I gotta 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 gonna do it in two days, simply for the dogs, okay, let's not put 'em in the crate for more than six or seven hours. We'll stop overnight. We'll let 'em
walk around and then reload it up the next day. And the second time we decided, well, we're gonna go ahead and do all 13 in one day with the hike at halfway point, a two hour hike at 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 usually we stay at Airbnb's 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 is a factor and definitely the age of the dog. I do not worry as much about Bee who's
only three years old getting out of her bag when we arrive in Belgium as say, I would be traveling with Swift who's now almost 10 years old. It would be a totally different ballgame. Yeah. - Wow. I can't believe Swift's almost 10. - Yeah. - I think of him 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 Gitchy because it was best for Gitchy and you drove because that was what was best for you and met us there. Didn't that happen? - Yeah. - I'm pretty sure that did happen. -
Yeah, because when I'm weighing the options and I think maybe it was for Westminster. I think we did flyer for Westminster is three days from here to New York, like two and a half days, two and three quarters, something like that from Texas. And it's a tough drive. 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 Gitchy, I just wanted to minimize that, like even taking breaks every two to three hours, getting her out of the car, I don't even have to go to the bathroom or something, but I get her out, walk around, spending several minutes and I just feel like that's not enough. And we have big crates that dogs can move around in with the best cushions
and the orthopedic stuff for them. We just felt like it would be best to one shot it, because I think in terms of a flight, what was it? Like five hours? - Yeah like not even to New York. - Yeah yeah. - Maybe four. - So it's like, she's never gonna go five hours in a car without getting out. But now it's five times five, 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 therapist and a chiropractor, is it
something that you must have, never use, use sometimes and is it dog 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, 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 gonna be a down pour. So if there's an option, if there's 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, if my
dog makes finals, I'll book a massage. And for me, it's the front end. It's the proactiveness, I want 'em loose. I want 'em stretched out. And I always try if I can to get one after traveling before the first run, but it's not advice 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's not there. I am fortunate that our local massage therapists, a lot of times will 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 project it on my dogs. I'm like, no matter how hard the travel is, like after a night's sleep, it's a new
day, so I feel like no matter how bad the travel was, I'm like after a good night's rest now I've been outta 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, 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 worst case happens and you're showing up, Thursday evening and national starts Friday morning, all is not lost, you can still dig deep and perform. - I'll let Jen 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, 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 and 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 what's gonna 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 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 gonna get tonight. 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 Olympic level type 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. So I think that's something to keep in mind. The other thing I'll say is that in dog years, Janice, in her prime, 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, I needed 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 can walk and all this stuff. And then we were taping the short sequences for the golden just a couple days ago. I could have trained earlier like several weeks before, but
then we hit this massive heat wave in Texas and I just refused to. - 100 degrees. - Yeah I didn't want the dogs to be out in that. 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 felt fine while you were doing it. - Yeah 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. And so the good news is it's not completely torn or ruptured so I don't think I'm gonna be needing surgery or anything, I have to go see ortho this week, had x-rays yesterday. But let me tell you, I did not warm up. So four months out because of a different injury, like
just think you can imagine my legs just atrophying and not being used to doing things, but I actually did a ton of walking and biking, stuff like that, but just not able to make the cuts. You know, I have a very aggressive running style that is basically like Gitchy, we do lots of like fronts and blinds and running around and A-saw B-saw. Like we are very mobile handlers
and we are mobile in our approach to running a course. And so it is 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 in 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 gonna have to go through a lengthy rehab process again. And so eventually Jennifer will no longer be four in dog years. 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 on site 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 youngins, I know it's gonna be pretty impossible for me to convince you because I remember being in my 20s as well. And you can do amazing things with your body in your 20s. And that eventually will go away. And there's really no way of convincing you. You also are
gonna be positively reinforced for all the time 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, it's cold anyway. And it's fine. But yeah, I will be a little more diligent about-- - You're the cautionary tale. - Yeah, yeah, I got wiped out in practice. At least it wasn't
at a trial, so. - And do recall, I started this podcast by saying that these are my current thoughts, but the future of my travel may change and not-- - Absolutely, I'm not at all being critical of your approach. - Oh, I'm very aware. - Mostly just being sad for myself and enjoy myself a little pity party here at the very end of the podcast. That's what this
really is. - I think for me, a lot of it is right now currently my son is seven. So there's a lot of managing and maintenance and go back a couple years it was 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 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 that 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 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 gonna go west, it's easier because there might be a walkthrough at 7:00 AM. Well, 7:00 AM in California is gonna be 10:00 AM for me. So I'm not gonna be dragging. I do know that looking at the west coast people who have come all the way out to USA nationals or the US open, a 6:00 AM walkthrough is like 3:00 AM their time. So
on their end, 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 wanna arrive at 1:00 AM and then try to get up and do a 7:00 AM walkthrough 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 take be taken into account as well. - Yeah great point. - Yeah, I thought west coast people were just whinny, but you're right they have
a good reason to be whining. No, I'm totally kidding I'm totally kidding. I know because I grew up on a Pacific Island and so it's always tough to go out to these other competitions and get hit with that time change. - Right. - Certainly. - So I think the reason that I wanted to ask that last question, the question about can you perform after one good night's sleep
is, 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 it is not a foregone conclusion that you are not going to do your 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 even gonna 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 are 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, Esteban and Jen said that my body can adapt and I can still do well at this event. I'm gonna put 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 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 gonna 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 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 Bee and myself. - Perfect. All right well that's it for this week's podcast. We like to thank our sponsors Senovitan OA and hitaboard.com. Happy training. (upbeat music) - Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility.
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