Now that June is here and the sun is shining, many of us have migrated to the garden. While gardening is a great way to get active, it is important to take steps to prevent digging your way to a sore back. Use these tips to enjoy many pain-free days in your garden.
Warm-up: Like any other form of exercise, warming up is key to preventing injuries in the garden. A light five or ten minute walk will warm up your muscles. After the walk, take five minutes more to stretch. Stretching your neck, shoulders, wrists, lower back and legs can help prevent aches and pains.
Ease into the gardening season: You wouldn’t go out and run a marathon after a winter of rest, so don’t expect to spend hours in the garden in the spring without paying for it the next day. Set reasonable goals for what you want to accomplish each day in the garden. After all, you still want to be able to garden tomorrow!
Kneel, don’t bend over: Getting down on your knees in the dirt instead of bending over puts much less stress on your back and spine. Wear knee pads for added comfort, or kneel on a folded towel. If you must bend over, limit the time spent in this position. Take stretch breaks regularly. To stretch, stand up, place your hands on your lower back and arch back slightly.
Change positions often: Staying in one position for too long can lead to strain on certain muscles and joints. Similarly, doing the same repetitive task for too long, such as shoveling or raking, can also cause soreness. To save your body, change positions frequently. When raking, or doing similar tasks, switch hands regularly to balance the muscles in your body. Also, take frequent breaks to give your muscles some rest.
Use good form: Just like in the gym, form is important in the garden. To lift an object, bend at the knees in either a squat position, or by kneeling on one leg. Carry objects close to your body to avoid excess load on your lower back. If you need to tackle a heavy object, ask someone to help you. When trimming, raking or digging, use your legs to move your body instead of bending and twisting at the waist.
Finally, keep those well-trained abdominal muscles engaged to prevent back injuries.
Be sun savvy: While the warm sun is a welcomed change from our long winter, too much sun can be harmful. To protect yourself, wear sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. Also, be sure to drink enough water. Keep a water bottle filled with ice water beside you and take sips during your rest breaks.
Cool down: Every day in the garden should begin with a warm up and end with a cool down. So, instead of putting your feet up right and admiring your work right away, take a few minutes to stretch.
This spring, follow these tips to prevent aches and pains in the garden. I wish you many wonderful hours spent perfecting your backyard haven.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, golf fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and exercise therapy. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers personalized fitness coaching, group fitness, and in home fitness in the Chilliwack area. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.