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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Your Feathered Little Coach

By Laura Doering
Join in on Laura's fun and experiences of bird ownership, and share in her adventures as the editor of BIRD TALK, the world’s most widely read pet bird magazine, in Wayward Feathers.

I read an online article today about how pets can be partners in fitness. Read here. Of course, by "pet" they mean dog or cat. It profiled a woman who uses her cat as a barbell instead of lifting weights. It also mentioned that exercise videos “to get plump pets and their owners in shape together,” many of which are infused with walking and running exercises.

That got me to thinking about us bird owners. Most parrots would prove useless as a barbell … they’re too light for you to “feel the burn” and you’d probably have to contend with wing flaps to the face. And even if your bird is harnessed-trained, you can’t just take it on a run around the block. (And before you even go there, I don’t think running with your flight-harnessed bird flying above you as if you are flying a kite is a recommended by the manufacturer).

So what, if anything, can we do with our birds to get in ourselves in shape? Here are some things I’ve tried at home and can attest to as fun exercises with the flock:

1. Sit-ups: My conure loves sit-ups. Specifically, he loves when I do sit-ups. He bobs his little head to the rhythm, as if he’s my exercise coach counting my crunches. And I think uncontrollable laughter while doing stomach crunches helps tone the muscles even more.

2. Cleaning: I set aside Saturday mornings for my super-clean the bird room sessions. Once I learned that sweeping, mopping and scrubbing not only tones the muscles but it burns up 200 or more calories an hour, I stopped thinking of scrubbing the cages and cleaning the floor beneath as a chore and more as a workout.

3. Yoga: OK, I admit I’m one of the few who have never actually tried yoga. However, I think I might have been doing some yoga-esq moves without even realizing it. Yoga incorporates holding a specific pose for a certain amount of time, right? Well, when the whole flock is chilling with me in front of the TV, I have to keep my arm in such a way so as to prevent it from dipping too much at the elbow and thereby giving my conure a bridge to my shoulder. And I have keep both ’tiel and conure a comfortable distance apart to prevent squabbles, so I often have to re-adjust my pose to offset their position changes. And I certainly know the consequences of sudden or jerky movements when my birds are on me, so even getting up takes a series of slow, calculated movements. Oftentimes, after a sitting through an entire show with them, I feel the burn in my arms and shoulders.

4. Dancing: This one is a no-brainer since a lot of birds love to dance. Ollie is the ideal dance partner for me. He doesn’t make fun of my lack of dance skills.  He’s like a mini dance coach, always offering an encouraging, “That’s it, that’s it!” head bob when I start to groove. And if your bird just sits and stares at you as you dance in front of it? At least you’re keeping your bird entertained … and yourself moving.

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