Dogercise: the Millennial parent workout solution

As a new millennial parent, also known as a “pawent”, I have had to make some lifestyle adjustments. As gym sessions got swapped for dog walks, I realized I didn’t want to gain a friend and also a couch bod. I recognized the need to raise the fitness bar with my furry friend. So to complement my airport yoga routine, which helps me stretch my way through JFK on work trips, I’ve developed a plan for me and my dog to both keep up with the squirrels: dogercise. With this new approach to workouts, you’ll see you lose none of your fitness and gain all the time you need with your fuzzy companion.

Bench press → Puppy press

Use a 10-15 lb dog for toning. To build muscle mass, choose a 20-50 lb dog. On a flat back with bent knees, position one hand on the ribs and one hand mid-belly. Repeat 3 sets of 15 reps. Stretch in between by fully extending arms while scratching your dog’s back in reward for being a good boy.

Running → Chasing

In a place where your dog can be off leash, either in a dog park or a living room, chase dog in circles until he or she has been panting for at least 5 minutes. To get your dog highly motivated to maintain the pursuit, bait him or her with a favorite “keep away” object not intended for chewing, such as a shoe or sock. Ensure that the baiting shoe is not one you will miss.

Mason twists → Mason tugs

Sit on the ground with your back angled at 45 degrees. Get your dog engaged with a tug toy by squeaking or shaking in front of his or her nose. Once dog grips the tug toy, raise legs parallel to the ground, with toes pointed, and pull the tug toy under your legs. Pass the tug toy from one hand to the other, until dog has walked a 180 degree arc under your legs. Repeat the passing for 20 reps. Rest in between sets by snuggling your dog.

Yes, you truly can have it all. And as they grow from puppy to adult, yoga may be the next frontier, with tandem downward dog. Namastay. Good boy.

Define exercise?

Like many young millennials, I am a bit of a maximizer. I look for the shortest queue at the supermarket. I try to fit in just one more errand en route to a brunch date, so I don’t have to walk back across town later (I’m often just a smidgen late). And I try to max out my fitness benefit that my work provides me.

Rather than simply paying for your gym membership, like many start-ups these days, my corporate office offers a more flexible 75% refund of up to $500 total in fitness spending per year. Rather than throw it all at a ClassPass that I would underutilize during my erratic travel schedule (that wouldn’t be very good maximizing…), I decide to spend it piecemeal. $150 on a new iWatch (it hurt a little when they came out with version 2.0 a few months later…). $50 on some yoga equipment. And then, I was left to wonder with my remaining $300, what expenses qualify?

I remembered some completely miscellaneous items on a list from when I first joined the company, and the dire complaints of a colleague who couldn’t get his form roller reimbursed (“How is this not fitness equipment?!” he balked). So I knew they were pretty selective about what got through. I decided it was time to do a bit of research.

Unfortunately my intranet pointed me to the WageWorks helpline. I call, and proceed to navigate through the touch-tone. I finally reach a human that asks me the same questions as the automated recording. “What are the last four of your social?” I give them to her. “But that’s not what I see in the system!” she practically gasps. “What does that have to do with my question?” I ask. Indeed, clearly whoever writes these call scripts is not a maximizer themselves. If this were a consultant’s dreamland, I could magically inspire Jedi-like focus within her on how to minimize the time of both the callee and caller are on the phone. I’d waive my hand like Obi-Wan, and say in a soothing voice, “You want to cut out the unhelpful form-filling and answer questions as quickly as possible.” “Yes,” Susan would say, “How can I help?”

Finally, after 20 minutes of help line circles, I learn that nothing intuitive seems to count as exercise. “Does Citi Bike [bike sharing] qualify?” “Yes.” Most places would count that as a commuter benefit, but I was happy to take it. “What about roller blades?” “No, that does not qualify”. 

She then points out that all of this stuff is on their website. “Oh!” I say, “I’ll have a look for that.” Of course it wasn’t on the public WageWorks website. It was squirreled away on a private login site hidden within the intranet. 

In support of all maximizers out there, I have provided the list of WageWorks qualifying expenses below. This list can vary by employer, but this is a good starting place. Nutritional counseling is in. Swim classes are out. Logic be damned.

Description Covered Benefit Max Benefit p.a.
Activity Tracker or Smartwatch (once every 3 years) Yes 75% $150
Any expenses not explicitly listed No
Bike Sharing Memberships (Monthly or Annually only) Yes 75% $500
Dance Class No
DVD/Exercise videos Yes 75% $500
Exercise Class Yes 75% $500
Fitness Center, Club or Studio Membership Yes 75% $500
Fitness Counseling Yes 75% $500
Fitness games for game consoles No
Form Rollers No
Golf Lessons (including those from a country club) No
Golf or Country Club Membership No
Gym Membership Yes 75% $500
Health Center or Club Membership Yes 75% $500
Health Spa Membership No
Home Fitness Equipment Yes 75% $500
Initiation Fee (for covered services) Yes 75% $500
Inversion Table No
IWatch with tracking capability Yes 75% $150
Jogging Stroller No
Karate Yes 75% $500
Kick Boxing Yes 75% $500
Locker Service No
Martial Arts Yes 75% $500
Massage Services No
Medical Expenses / Medical Copays No
Monthly billing fee (for covered services) Yes 75% $500
Mountain/Road Bikes (One every five years) Yes 75% $500
Nutrisystem No
Nutritional Counseling Yes 75% $500
Online Classes Yes 75% $500
Personal Trainer Yes 75% $500
Pilates Yes 75% $500
Race Fees Yes 75% $500
Registration Fee Yes 75% $500
Rock Climbing Yes 75% $500
Shoes and Apparel No
Smart Watch with tracking capability Yes 75% $150
Smoking Cessation Products No
Spa Membership No
Spin Classes Yes 75% $500
Swim Club Membership No
Swimming Lessons No
Tae Kwan Do Yes 75% $500
Tai Chi Yes 75% $500
Tennis Club Membership No
Tennis Lessons (including those from a Country Club) No
Towel Service No
Weight Watchers Meals No
Weight Watchers Registration Fee Yes 75% $500
Wireless Activity Tracker (once every three years) Yes 75% $150
Yoga Yes 75% $500
Yoga/Workout Mats Yes 75% $500