Weight Training For Sled Dogs


Here are some of my thoughts on weight training (dog mushing stuff).

First off, you all will need to keep in mind that I’m not a mathematical person; that is one of the reasons why you may have noticed that I write so much philosophical and opinion based material, and I’ll just say right here and now that in my view the art and philosophy of dog mushing are much more important and valuable overall (to me at least) then the technical stuff.

With that said, I do give the occasional nod to various formulas, and certainly understand that in order for me to successfully transfer something of my knowledge over to someone else, I’ll at least have to put this into some kind of equation.

So, here we go.

Assuming that we have good snow and a base to hook down to, I run almost exclusively 11-14 dog teams, certainly no more, on a sled. The exact number really just reflects how many total dogs I have in my pool come late November and December, split in half. I really enjoy a 14 dog team, but I rarely have 28 healthy dogs in that stage of the season. So you can see right there that I am essentially training a middle distance race team at all times (I do switch to a 16 dog team right before the Iditarod, maybe two weeks before), so my ‘load’ is always calibrated to fit those particular objectives.

Early in the Iditarod, when I still have a full team, I feel that I have a dramatic surplus of power, and that by the midway point I probably will be driving a 14 dog team, so again you can see where my thinking is. By the end of most big races, 400-1000 miles, most of the time I’m down to 9-10 dogs, so I want to know that when it comes to power, my ‘smaller’ team can cope with my gear/extra food/dog in the sled.

So, when it comes to weight training, I tend to reflect these ‘maximum loads’ in about a third of my runs, but I am careful to not give the dogs the idea that it is always going to be like that.

Keeping in mind that I’m constantly swapping their run schedule and frequency around (2 on 1 off, 3 in a row 2 off, 5 in a row 1 off, for instance), I tend to employ a 3 run breakdown that looks like this:

Day 1-maximum load…very heavy, dogs really have to buckle down. At least four times whatever mandatory gear is going to be.

Day 2-race load…mandatory gear plus trail food.

Day 3-almost nothing but basic survival gear.

Then rotate back to the beginning, pretty much the whole time from first going on to sleds til finishing up in late December.

I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, all of my why’s and wherefores, so to speak.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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