I had a glorious weekend tackling weeds in our garden. It reminded me of former client, who happened to be a gardener and who I trained to be strong for gardening and to protect her back. On Sunday I saw a friend's post on Facebook bemoaning the fact that she could run a 10K no problem but that gardening put her back out. It got me thinking about how much gardening should be treated as a proper workout.
When you garden you squat down, you reach up, you pull up weeks, pull a rake, push a spade or trowel into the soil, twist weeds and roots and carry loads to the compost or garden waste bins. There's a lot of movement and strength involved and you can protect your back by reminding yourself that it is exercise and that some of the simple rules of a training session can apply.
1. Exhale on exertion – as you pull or push or come up from squatting down on the ground remember to breathe out for the hardest part of the movement. Breathing out encourages you to engage your core and pelvic floor and protect your back.
2. Engage your core – don't forget your posture just because you're in the garden not in an exercise class or running. Keep that core strong, especially when lifting heavy loads or pulling that rake towards you. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to zip up those key tummy muscles.
3. Warm up before you get out there – get the arms and legs a little warm – run up and down the stairs first, swing those arms, even get a few squats in to get those power house glutes firing up before you start. Don't go out there cold and start digging in clay soil or moving bags of compost.
4. Give your body a chance to recover. I'm a big fan of a post gardening bath – helps soak out the remaining soil and splinters as well as give your muscles a bit of tlc. A nice stretch isn't a bad idea either.
I love getting dirt under my nails and seeing nature's wonders emerge from the soil, not just plants and flowers but bugs, beetles, worms and grubs. I even have a grudging respect for the weeds that are so persistent and good at reproducing. But I also enjoy the different kind of work out it gives me, it's a slow burn but a great way to get moving. If you want to stay strong for gardening then keep that core, glutes and upper body strong. You could try the following:
Woodchop (using a weight or a large rock!)
Suitcase carry (carrying a heavy load such as a kettlebell in each hand and maintain good posture)
P. S. My daughter tells me we shouldn't have a tidy garden as hedgehogs like lots of leaves and plants to hide behind. I am generally happy to oblige (not that I've every spotted a hedgehog in our garden, just deer, badgers, squirrels and a huge variety of birds).