In this edition of ‘In the Spotlight,’ let’s talk with Leah Oakley. Leah is very a motivated, hardworking, and interesting woman to work with… That’s because she competes in dog agility competitions regionally, as well as nationally.
Dog agility was somewhat new to me when I first met Leah. Once you understand the sport, it makes you realize how demanding it really is, as it consists of: quick accelerations, immediate stops, change of direction, balance, stability, and reactiveness.
Leah and I have worked together in several different capacities. From therapy and rehabilitation to strength and performance training. The reason for this is because there has to be a proper transition after resolving an injury and returning back 100% to a demanding sport, such as dog agility. I often feel this is the missing link as people are “cleared” when they become pain-free. Luckily, that was when Leah took the next step to continue addressing several underlying limitations and building strength, power, and stability to be successful long-term.
Without further ado, let’s shine the spotlight on…
Q: Where are you from?
A: “Nashville, Tennessee.”
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be? Why?
A: “I’d have a place in both the Smoky Mountains and at the beach so I could have the best of both worlds–both have access to dog agility competitions too.”
Q: What do you do for work?
A: “I am a project manager in the wireless industry, I design knitwear, and have a holistic dog food delivery service.”
Q: When you aren’t working, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: “Dog agility, canine conditioning (fitness trainer for dogs), dog training, knitting, spinning, and audio books.”
Q: How did you get involved in dog agility and what are the top reasons you enjoy the sport?
A: “The first time I saw an agility competition, I said, “I am going to do that and I am going to be on TV.” I KNEW this was the sport for me. In 2002, I began training and competing with a rescue Yorkshire Terrier, which is not a traditional agility breed. In 2010, my Yorkie placed first at the AKC Invitational for a Yorkie and 4th overall for his height. Since then, I now run a Pomeranian and Rat Terrier (both small dogs) and compete with them at regional and national events.
I enjoy the sport because it involves both mental and physical aspects, as well as a bond with your dog…. a team of two. It takes many, many hours to train a dog and is both rewarding for both the dog and the human. I also love the sport as it keeps me fit and helps me stay young and mobile.”
Q: When you first started working with Garrett, what were the goals you wanted to achieve?
A: “I started working with Garrett because I needed Active Release Techniques (ART). As I learned about his program for runners, it was also around the time I began experiencing foot pain. I decided I needed to get involved to reduce my chance of injury and also figure out how to get rid of the foot pain when I run.”
Q: What are the most noticeable improvements you’ve seen so far?
A: “After five months, I now run pain and injury-free!”
Q: Were these improvements easy to achieve? And, tell us a little bit about any struggles along the way.
A: “Nothing worth having is really easy. I constantly struggle with hamstring and hip/glue/piriformis pain, then most recently from last year, foot pain. I truly believe all of these issues are inter-related. I would get the hamstring/glute/piriformis issues resolved and then it would flare up again. I believe the answer is a combination of strength training, wearing the right shoes, and working to align your body.”
Q: What is your favorite part about the sessions?
A: “I really like the videos that Garrett provides of the exercises so you can check in to see how they are supposed to be done correctly. The evaluations are also helpful as it is motivating to see progress and highlight what body areas to focus on.”
Q: Are there certain exercises or drills that you credit to having the biggest impact on your hip and foot pain?
A: “Calf stretches as well as weight loading, such as squats, are really important. Also, I have switched to zero drop heel shoes and am working on changing my gait when running to not heel strike.”
Q: You recently completed a 6-week strength training program after your pain had stabilized. How do you feel that improving strength, stability, and balance has allowed you to see good results?
A: “Strength, stability and balance are all very important. I can tell when I slack off in any of the three areas….something will start aching and telling me I need to get back on it. I recently came back to training after taking a few weeks off and said I needed to do more!”
Q: With the demands of dog agility, is strength training necessary to be successful and resilient?
A: “In dog agility, we do lots of sprinting with fast stops, starts and direction changes….often on unstable surfaces. Strength straining helps you maintain your balance and ability to stay upright. keep going, and not fall when you hit a hole or deep patch of loose dirt. When you are in a competition, staying upright and your dog headed in the right direction can mean the difference in first and second place, or even qualifying.”
Q: What are the most important things you do that physically prepare you for dog agility and sprinting?
A: “It is a combination of strength, core, balance and flexibility. All of which Garrett’s program focuses on. Without any one of these, there might still be issues when running. Working on all of these areas, I can run pain-free and be where I need to successfully get my dog around the course while have fun doing it!”
Q: How do you feel Garrett’s services may differ from other professionals in his field?
A: “Garrett takes the time to figure out your running style, understand your goals, and puts together a program that will help you achieve them. He is great at breaking things down in a way that is easy to understand, which helps you obtain the results you are looking for.”
Q: Looking ahead, do you have any new goals you are working towards in 2019?
A: “I want to run pain-free and work towards running at the AKC Invitational (the top five of each breed is invited to run) in Orlando, Florida in December. I’d like to be able to improve my running gait and eliminate heel striking to land mid-foot so that I can run longer and pain-free.”
Thank you for reading this ‘In the Spotlight’ segment. And, a big shout out to Leah Oakleyl! Please feel free to comment below with any questions or feedback.