Don "Red Dog" Gardner and Jim "Punkin'" O'Connell started Red Dog's Dog Days in the summer of 1984 as a fitness program designed to help prepare the Lawrence High School football team for their fall season. What started with only a handful of football athletes then spread to include the school's volleyball players, other sports, athletes' parents and siblings, and more. Since then, Red Dog's Dog Days has grown and transformed into a community workout for all ages. With the assistance of Red Dog's wife, Beverly, and a small army of dedicated helpers, the program continues to flourish. Thousands of people participate each year and that number keeps growing.

Throughout the years, Red Dog's Dog days has remained free for anyone who wishes to participate. Everyone is invited, regardless of your fitness level or athletic background.

The T-Shirts

Spend enough time in the Lawrence area and you're bound to see someone wearing a Dog Days T-shirt.

You can't buy 'em. The shirts are wearable trophies that can only be earned by extensive participation in the program. There are several shirts out there (Summer, Fall/Winter, and Saturday shirts). Thanks to our generous Dog Days sponsors, the T-shirts are free to all participants who attend a set number of workouts each season.

For Summer 2024, you need to complete 20 workouts for a T-shirt. Remember, you can do Two-a-Days and Saturday Fun Runs to get to your count.

For Saturday Fun Runs, you need to complete 5 Saturday runs for a Saturday T-shirt (sleeveless).

The Rules

Red Dog doesn't have many rules, but he does ask that you follow these guidelines: 

  • Bring a bottle of water (a towel is also recommended).
  • No cell phones.
  • No headphones/mp3 players.
  • Always encourage others. Never put anyone down.

The Workouts

If you've ever wanted to join Red Dog's Dog Days, but have been intimidated because you didn't know what to expect or thought the workouts might be too hard or too advanced, don't be! Everyone is encouraged to complete as much of the workout as they can, and at their own pace. You'll get support from Red Dog and the rest of the group whether you're the first to finish a run or the last. Red Dog's participants range from competitive high school athletes to adult weekend warriors and parents with their toddlers in strollers to 75-year-old grandfathers.

Weekdays: The workout varies every session. Each starts with some warm-ups and calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.). Sometimes Red Dog incorporates hills, stairs, lunges, shuffles and sprints. Workouts normally end with a run across campus ranging from one to three miles.

Saturday Mornings: These "fun runs" are a great opportunity to change up the weekday routine. After short warm-up, Red Dog will announce the route for the day. This typically is between 2 and 4 miles. And during the hot summer, there are always popsicles to look forward to as a prize at the end of the run!

Awards and Recognition

Throughout the years, Don "Red Dog" Gardner has been recognized many times for his ongoing commitment to the Lawrence community and physical fitness.

Best of Lawrence Second Runner Up -- Community Leader (Individual)
Best of Lawrence, Runner Up -- Community Leader (Individual)
Best of Lawrence, Top 5 -- Community Event (seasonal or recurring)
Local Winner (State of Kansas) -- Home Instead Senior Care Salute to Senior Service 2014 (coverage from Fox 4 KC)
President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award (one of only 28 such awards for 2010)
Seaver Award for community service -- Senior Center
Star of Excellence Award - Lawrence Bank
Silent Hero Award - Ballard Community Center
Hometown Health Hero - Governor’s Council on Fitness
Don Volker Leadership Award - Chamber of Commerce
Outstanding Contribution to Lawrence Athletics - David Lawrence Sports Talk – KLWN/KLZR
Lawrence Lions Alumni Association Hall of Honor
Sportsman of the year – David Lawrence Sports Talk – KLWN/KLZR
Top Ten in the Nation finalist - SGMA Heroes
Heroes Award for the State of Kansas - SGMA (Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association)
Public Servant Award - KSBA Hall of Fame
Liberty Bell Award - Douglas County Lawyers Association
Testimonial of Appreciation - Breakfast Optimists
Certificate of Outstanding Citizen of the Year - USD 497
Friends of Education Award - USD 497
Optimist of the Year - Breakfast Optimists