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South Tampa News

Exercise class a workout for people and pooches

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: April 18, 2013 at 04:23 PM
DAVIS ISLANDS -

Oscar is a born runner.

But on Wednesday night, he let his workout partner do most of the exercising while he barked encouragement. He never left her side, even when she let go of his leash for a few minutes while she did pushups.

A 9-year-old Italian greyhound, Oscar was a student in the first Pawfit class, a new exercise boot camp designed for people who want to bring along their dogs while they exercise.

“The human gets a workout and the dog gets a workout,” said Kim Carlisi, one of the founders of the class.

Led by instructor Laura Petrolino, a group of five women – and their dogs -- gathered in a field across from the Davis Islands Yacht Club and stood in a circle doing lunges, burpees and other exercises. Wednesday's class was a free trial, but beginning May 1 the group will meet three nights a week.

“There's been a lot of excitement about it,” Petrolino said.

She came up with the idea to start Pawfit while she was out with her dog, and Carlisi immediately got on board.

“Anybody who knows me knows that two of my favorite things are dogs and working out,” Petrolino said.

A lifelong dog-lover, she said many people struggle to incorporate their dogs into their busy lives. Sometimes people even will return their dogs to animal shelters because they can't figure out how to include them.

Pawfit gives dog owners a way to combine exercise, socializing and spending time with their pets, Petrolino said.

“This is just a way to be more active with it and get on the ground with the dogs,” she said.

That's what attracted Meriel Read, a friend of Petrolino's who came to the class with her dog Haley, a 5-year-old lab mix. Often people have trouble scheduling a workout and time to walk their dogs, she said. With Pawfit they can do both.

“It's a good solution,” she said.

During the first five minutes of the hour-long boot camp, the dogs can do some sniffing and get to know each other. After that they run warm-up laps with their owners.

They always have to be on a leash, per park rules, Petrolino said. Group members should not bring treats, and they should be prepared to clean up after their dogs. Water bowls are set out for the dogs when they need a break.

Petrolino and Carlisi have big plans for the sessions. They want to incorporate a lunchtime class on Fridays, and maybe some doggie yoga classes on weekends. They want to donate the proceeds of one class a month to an animal rescue group of the class' choice, and work out a way to invite well-behaved foster dogs to the boot camp.

“I think people will really flock to this,” Carlisi said.

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