I have always enjoyed (casually) running, and I've started running with more regularity, but I feel like I could be doing it better. Some times I get a good cadence going, and other times I feel like I'm running through jelly, even though I'm running in the same areas. Oh, and my running partner is my dog, who I'm training to ignore various exciting things while we run. More inside.
I live near this path and park
(Google maps) in suburban north-central New Mexico (north of Albuquerque), which has some great paved and gravel/soil trails for running. I'm in good shape and getting better, as my pants are all a size or two too big, thanks to jogging/running twice a day on most days, for 20-40 minutes per outting.
Some times I struggle up minor inclines, and other times I chug up without an issue, running the same little loop a couple times (for my dog, see below). Some of these times I feel like I'm not breathing enough, but I'm not gasping for air. I know that at times I hold my breath when I exert myself, so some of this comes down to focusing on my breath.
I run with our dog, a cattle dog some pit bull mixed in for good fun (she's from a shelter, so we don't know her true lineage and background). She's assertive/aggressive towards little ground-living things (rabbits, prairie dogs, cats), dogs, and the worst is cars, so I take her in areas where we won't pass too many cars. I'm working on her aggression, but it requires me to slow down or stop, often in advance of a trigger, so we can look at it and either avoid it (with dogs who are on walks) or wait calmly for it to approach and move on (cars).
Because of these distractions, I can't stick to a Couch to 5K-type regiment of timed walking/jogging/running cycles. But I know my stamina is increasing, because I can jog and run farther than when I started a few months ago, and I now find that I'm heading back home because my allotted time for running is up, instead of being completely worn out.
Also, I carry a number of items in my pockets, which can be annoying, but most items are necessary for one reason or another. An inventory of my pockets: tissues to blow my nose as needed, a bag of treats to distract and reward my dog when she sees something that she wants to investigate/attack, my smartphone as a clock and as a phone, a headlamp for the dark paths, bags for picking up dog poop, and keys.
Summary of my questions:
1. How can I feel better when running so I can run more (timing eating, drinking [beer], bathroom breaks, warm-up [breathing] exercises, or just slogging through it)?
2. Do you have any suggestions for jogging with a distracted dog?
3. Can you suggest an alternative to pockets full of stuff, like a few small pouches that can attach to a belt and stay snug to my hips? Are there better shorts for running?
4. And when/how should I stretch?