As we all know, gardening can be physically demanding. Our bodies can get out of shape even after just a few months off during the winter months. Whether you are still needing to get in shape, are working on that New Year’s resolution to get fit, or suffer aches and pains of arthritis or back troubles, getting physically warmed up now for the rigors of spring planting later may help minimize muscle aches and pains when the work begins again. And that “later” is really just around the corner!
Making stretching a regular practice is advantageous to gardeners all season long.
Stretching lengthens a muscle and decreases tightness that repetitive motion and exertion create. It’s best to stretch when your muscles are warmed up because they are more elastic and pliable (after a hot shower or physical activity). It’s a good habit to start now, and continue every time you garden.
Focus on the parts most affected by the movement demands of our gardener’s bodies. The bending and stooping we do affects our lower back and hips. Our neck, shoulders, upper back and knees can also take a beating.
Yoga is a great way to stretch. Poses like the Child’s Pose, Cat/Cow, Downward Dog and Cobbler’s Pose would work those areas. I’ve seen several good books, videos and websites offering yoga practices especially for gardeners. You can easily find these on the internet, or consult a physical therapist or athletic trainer at your local fitness center.
One resource by Bob Anderson, Stretching, offers a section on before-and-after gardening stretches. (ShelterPub.com)
Everyone says gardening is good exercise, and it’s true, but you don’t want to start out picking up a 50 pound bag of rocks or even a heavy bag of soil or compost without some strength training. That’s a recipe for back strain, and could affect your ability to garden the rest of the season.
Be smart and prepare your body for the bending and lifting required for prepping a garden. You can do this by mimicking gardening movements with appropriate weights. My friend, blogger Erica Strauss, created seven exercises and an explanation of exactly how they prepare your body for specific gardening activities. You could pick and choose which ones you want to perform based on what you will be doing this spring. The exercises are simple and use only dumbbells. They can be done at home, in the garden or at the gym. It is definitely worth checking out Erica’s exercises at http://www.nwedible.com/2012/03/the-7-best-strength-exercises-for-gardeners.html.
One yoga position also offers great core strengthening aid, as well as providing overall upper body strength – the Plank. Anywhere from 15 seconds to 5 minutes of this position each day provides great benefits. It is one of the fundamental yoga poses. Consult a professional for instructions on how to do it correctly.
There is another way to help minimize aches and pains, too: using the right tools. Many of our Garden Weasel products are designed to help save work on your back. The long handles, ease of use and quality of our devices absorb a portion of your workload. Consider adding one of these helpful gizmos to your garden toolshed this spring! You can find more details about them on our website: www.GardenWeasel.com.