Are you a gardener? Do you like super fabulous and delicious healthy food? Are you interested in combating stress? Would you like to avoid next-day soreness after gardening?
Me too! I’ve done the research for you. Enter your name and email below and you’ll receive the Garden for the Health of It newsletter and instant access to my four Fit to Garden guides to get you started. From me, to you, for free!
Get Fit to Garden
Stacy’s Fit to Garden™ program is designed to help gardeners prepare their body to safely perform the task at hand; the bending, kneeling, twisting, standing and squatting movements necessary for effective lawn and garden care.
Gardening, like any other strenuous activity, requires strength training in the off-season, a dynamic warm-up, proper biomechanics, and post-activity stretching. The goal is for gardeners to reduce the risk of injury, make lawn and garden work easier and more enjoyable… and ultimately help gardeners become stronger!
View the instructional videos and download the practical guides. These guides include detailed photos and descriptions of exercises, stretches, and proper gardening biomechanics.
Gardening is a physical activity to enjoy for a lifetime!
Lawn and garden care offers countless benefits to the largest generation in U.S. history. In addition to beautiful landscapes and fresh foods, gardening decreases blood pressure, reduces stress, improves confidence, helps focus, and strengthens the body. In addition to gardening’s physical benefits, proponents point to the psychological boost conferred by accomplishing a task and literally taking time to smell the roses.
Stacy Walters’ fitness philosophy takes those benefits one step further, presenting ways to strengthen the core for maximum endurance and techniques that can help adults with pre-existing joint pains enjoy their lawns and gardens. Stacy further leverages her understanding of the rewards associated with gardening as exercise in her Fit to Garden™ videos and practical guides located in the Fit To Garden™ section of the site.
Some noteworthy facts include:
• Yard work is one of only two activities with a significant impact on maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing osteoporosis in older women.
• Gardening provides an adequate and challenging workout, but is not as stressful on the body as other exercise options, like jogging or aerobics.
• Gardening could well be viewed as cross-training for fitness enthusiasts and as exercise for one and all.
• Lawn and garden care facilitates weight loss!
Now is the perfect time to begin an exercise program outdoors. Fall is a treat for the senses and a wonderful opportunity for an eco-friendly workout! Group events like pumpkin picking, corn mazes, haunted trails, and building leaf piles are fun family options. Here are three simple forms of exercise that everyBODY can enjoy:
Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. The key to making it enjoyable is to build it into the family schedule. Plan on after dinner walks or before work and school. You can also plan family activities that involve walking such as apple-picking adventures, or nature trails at an Arboretum or Conservatory.
Fall is a great time to go hiking–low humidity, no bugs and magnificent views. Plus, hiking burns mega-calories as you increase your elevation and really work those large muscle groups. To get started, try a Trail Finder. These interactive listings let you search by activity (from birding to horseback riding), by state, by terrain and more. Check out the options in your neighborhood or at your next vacation destination with a simple-to-use trail finder. The National Wildlife Federation’s Hike & Seek program supports the Be Out There campaign and is a wonderful physical and educational activity for the entire family.
Fall is probably the best time of year for running outdoors. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and watching the leaves change colors each time you hit the trail can make each workout a new adventure. The National Park Service is a great tool to find a park by name, location, activity, or topic. Consider using a heart rate monitor because you will definitely be burning the calories!
- Check with your physician before you begin an exercise program.
- Try to exercise in the morning or during the day. With the time changing and it becoming darker earlier, it can feel as if it is later in the day than it really is. Getting into a routine of working out early will still allow time in the afternoons and evenings to relax.
- Be sure to perform a quick warm-up and cool-down including stretches.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after physical activity.
Have fun. Happy Trails!
What in the world is ziplining?
It is the “sport” of soaring high above the ground while your body is secured in a harness and attached to an overhead cable.
What is a zip line?
A zip line is an aerial runway created by stretching a cable between two fixed points. The zip line must be sloped enough to allow gravity alone to propel riders (zippers) along the length of the cable. The zip lines constructed by eco-tour companies are usually built high above scenic areas, up to 200 feet above the ground!
What are the eco-friendly features?
Ziplining should be commended for the creative and non-invasive approach to providing a recreational opportunity for the public to experience an eagle’s eye view of some of the best arboricultural treasures Mother Nature has to offer. I am particularly excited that the zippers are encouraged to involve themselves with and appreciate the trees that house the platforms.
The entire ziplining course I recently visited is constructed in an area where paved road was not required, and with the platforms and zip lines suspended high above the forest floor. The guides aim to promote environmental awareness through dialogue with the zippers, and they discuss key points about local ecology and wildlife. Ziplines use no electricity, emit no fumes, and burn no fossil fuels. What a spectacularly green activitiy, not to mention an exhilarating way to enjoy nature.
Get your zip on!
….even as the leaves start turning beautiful autumn colors! Outdoor recreation is my favorite form of exercise, although sometimes it can be a challenge to squeeze in a good strength training workout. Enter my new best friend…the TRX Suspension Trainer. I just call her ”TRX” for short.
Fitness Anywhere® developed a way to workout anytime, anywhere. Weighing-in at less than 2 pounds, TRX is a revolutionary method of leveraged bodyweight exercise. The design allows me to transition between many exercises quickly and easily. TRX is one of the few pieces of fitness equipment that allows me to work on strength, endurance, core, flexibility, mobility, and stability all at the same time! Only one other friend comes close, my Pilates Reformer machine…but she can’t leave the house.
TRX wants to be friends with everyone. The suspension trainer is so versatile that everyBODY can use it. The exercises can be modified for all different fitness levels.
- Keep shoulder blades flush with back
- Pull naval in toward spine to protect the back (engage core)
- Don’t lock the elbows
- Keep elbows bent 90 degrees
- Keep shoulder blades flush with back
- Pull naval in toward spine to protect the back (engage core), do not allow the low back to sag
- Use strength of the abdominals to pull knees in toward chest
I performed 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise, then finished up my run. The days are getting shorter and I find myself spending less time in the yard and garden as autumn approaches. I will continue to highlight TRX exercises during the gardening “off season”.
Here’s to new friends!
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to stress the importance of exercise in reducing the risk of breast cancer. I have also discovered a way to get more bang for your buck…get that body moving AND raise money to find a cure at the same time.
Let’s start with some statistics…
Did You Know?
- The American Cancer Society estimates that one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer.
- Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer.
- Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women.
- One out of 208 breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40.
The Benefits of Exercise:
- By maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and limiting alcohol, women can dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer.
- Exercise pumps up the immune system and lowers estrogen levels. With as little as four hours of exercise per week, a woman can begin to lower her risk of breast cancer.
- Vigorous exercise may cut the risk of breast cancer by 30 percent in normal-weight women.
- Exercise likely offers protection against breast cancer regardless of a woman’s stage in life.
Cybex International, Inc (CYBEX), a premier commercial fitness equipment manufactuer, formed a partnership with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) to create awareness of the importance of exercise in reducing the risk of breast cancer and to raise funds to find a cure. CYBEX launched the Pink Ribbon Run campaign and for every mile logged on the company’s pink treadmills, CYBEX will donate 10 cents to the BCRF. In 2009, over 250,000 miles were logged on the pink treadmills and CYBEX donated over $50,000 to breast cancer research!
I am thrilled that CYBEX added the pink Arc Trainer to the menu in 2010. CYBEX has upped the ante and is committed to donating 20 cents per mile logged on the pink Arcs. Not to mention the Arc Trainer is eco-friendly (no electricity required!) and is biomechanically superb –my all time favorite piece of cardio exercise equipment.
I could swoon over the Arc Trainer endlessly, but for now I’ll just say it is the most versatile cross-trainer available, and burns more calories than any other elliptical machine. Effective for beginners to professional athletes, the arc pattern of motion provides an optimal workout without exerting stress on the joints.
Wait, it just keeps getting better. Another bonus is that CYBEX is committed to protecting the envirmonment and has adopted many eco-friendly practices.
So, let’s get moving ladies! Simply placing one foot in front of the other will help protect you against breast cancer, as well as rally support for a cure.
It is common for gardeners to experience muscle soreness after a long afternoon in the garden. General muscle soreness disappears in a few days, but many gardeners complain about chronic elbow pain. Gardener’s elbow can occur on the inside or outside of the elbow, presenting symptoms similar to tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. The primary differences between these conditions are the location of the pain and the activity that leads to injury. However, both conditions are caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, leading to inflammation and pain around the elbow joint.
What is Gardener’s Elbow?
This nagging problem is a form of tendinitis. Tendons are the ends of muscles that attach to bone. Because of the force of the muscle, the points of insertion of the tendon on the bone are often pointed prominences. The medical names, lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis, come from the names of these bony prominences where the tendons insert, and where the inflammation causes the pain.
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a result of repetitive wrist and elbow EXTENSION. Imagine the “backhand” range of motion pictured below. The right arm and wrist extend and subsequent pain is felt on the outside of the elbow. Most gardeners do not develop tennis elbow as a result of gardening; however, gardening may inflame existing tennis elbow symptoms.
Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a result of repetitive wrist and elbow FLEXION. Think about the range of motion of the right arm in the photo below. The arm and wrist are flexing and subsequent pain is felt on the inside of the elbow. Gardeners repeatedly flex the elbow and wrist while gardening, therefore gardening could actually cause pain in this area.
What Causes Gardener’s Elbow?
The mechanism of this injury can vary from a single violent action to, more commonly, repetitive stress injury (RSI) where an action is performed repeatedly and pain gradually develops. The pain of gardener’s elbow is usually a result of repetitive flexion of the elbow i.e. lifting, carrying, weeding, digging, planting, shoveling, pushing a wheelbarrow, pruning. The injury typically occurs at the beginning of the gardening season, or when a specific gardening activity is increased in intensity or duration. Performing gardening tasks is one common cause of these symptoms, but many other sport- and work-related activities can cause the same problem and gardening tasks exacerbate the injury.
Signs and Symptoms
Pain is the most common and obvious symptom associated with gardner’s elbow. Pain is most often experienced on the inside of the upper forearm, but can also be experienced anywhere from the elbow joint to the wrist. Weakness, stiffness and a general restriction of movement are also quite common, even tingling and numbness can be experienced.
Preventing Gardener’s Elbow
Perform thorough warm-up to help prepare the muscles and tendons for any activity to come. Without a proper warm up the muscles and tendons will be tight and stiff. Check out the Fit to Garden Warm-up practical guide (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides) and video!
- Proper Biomechanics
Poor gardening ergonomics can certainly result in pain or injury. The use of everyday gardening hand tools can cause strain, and in effect be a major source of discomfort for many gardeners. The hands, wrists, and elbows are complex joint structures that are vulnerable to overuse injury and degenerative conditions. Check out the Fit to Garden Proper Biomechanics for Gardening Hand Tools article, Proper Gardening Biomechanics practical guide (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides) and video.
Flexible muscles and tendons are extremely important in the prevention of most strain or sprain injuries. When muscles and tendons are flexible and supple, they are able to move and perform without being over stretched. If the muscles and tendons are tight and stiff, it is quite easy for those muscles and tendons to be pushed beyond their natural range of movement. When this happens, strains, sprains, and pulled muscles occur. To keep your muscles and tendons flexible and supple, it is important to undertake a structured stretching routine. Two key stretches are provided below, be sure to also check out the Fit to Garden Post-Gardening Stretches practical guide (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides) and video!
Lift your arm shoulder level high and aim fingers upward. Using your opposite hand, apply even pressure across the entire palm and gently push fingers upward to stretch the bottom of the forearm.
Clasp hands and then lift your arm shoulder level high. Using the bottom hand, apply even pressure across the entire and gently push fingers downward to stretch the top of the forearm.
- Strength Training
Strengthening and conditioning the muscles of the forearm and wrist will also help to prevent golfers elbow. There are a number of specific strengthening exercises you can do for these muscles:
WRIST EXTENSION AND FLEXION
Unscrew the broom from a broom handle. Hold the broom handle in the center with an underhand grip. Glue elbows into your sides and hold forearms parallel to the floor. Extend your wrists to aim knuckles downward, then curl the broom handle so the knuckles are facing upward.
Extend the arm and hold the broom handle vertically at shoulder height. Tip your wrist forward with your thumb on top, then tilt your wrist toward you as far as possible without bending your elbow.
Hold a broom handle or garden tool at shoulder height. Twist your wrist downward as if you’re pouring water, then twist your wrist upward as far as possible without moving your arm.
Treating Golfers Elbow Golfers elbow is a soft tissue injury of the muscles and tendons around the elbow joint, and therefore should be treated like any other soft tissue injury. Immediately following an injury, or at the onset of pain, the R.I.C.E.R. regime should be employed. This involves Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Referral to an appropriate professional for an accurate diagnosis. Please be sure to consult your physician prior to performing any of the stretches or exercises described here.
Ok, I know you’re thinking that asking you to warm up before heading out to the garden is already pushing it, let alone suggesting gardeners wear heart rate monitors. I promise it won’t slow you down or be an overwhelming process, I’m here to walk you through the Fit to Garden benefits.
You don’t have to be a hardcore athlete in training to benefit from wearing a heart rate monitor. Whether you’re monitoring your physical activity to control weight, tone muscles, build endurance, strengthen your heart, relieve stress, or simply maintain good health and fitness, a heart rate monitor can help you find the right pace and intensity to achieve your goals. As a gardener, you are outdoors working hard anyway, so you may as well get the most out of it! Gardeners benefit in two important ways 1) you will learn how to burn calories more efficiently, and 2) you can keep your “finger on the pulse” while in the garden to avoid overdoing it.
Gardeners already know that yard work and gardening is a real workout! Research indicates that an individual can use just as much energy working in the garden compared to a gym-based exercise program. The chart below provides the average number of calories gardeners expend performing different tasks for 30 minutes:
A heart rate monitor can help you maximize and monitor your effort in the garden to achieve the best results. When gardening simply by time or by feel, you may not be elevating your heart rate enough to generate cardiovascular and weight loss benefits. Monitoring your heart rate enables you to set your pace without wasting time at a too-slow or too-fast level that defeats the purpose of your exercise. Gardening within the appropriate heart rate zone takes the guesswork out of your desired physical activity by customizing the proper intensity to burn calories effectively. Click here to watch an excellent video on the benefits of monitoring your heart rate during physical activity.
Those who regularly wear a heart rate monitor while gardening will know immediately if they are overdoing it. Is your heart rate higher than you would expect it to be, given the pace of your activity? It may be a sign that you are dehydrated, the particular activity is too strenuous, or you may simply be fatigued from a long day in the garden. Many heart rate monitors allow you to set a warning beep when you exceed (or fall below) your target. A heart rate monitor is a great “early warning signal” that can help improve your preventative health care.
FIT TO GARDEN’S CASE STUDY
I have been wearing my heart rate monitor in the garden for about a year now. I am compiling and analyzing the data for future reports. On June 1, 2010 I volunteered my Fit to Garden muscles to the Fiskars Project Orange Thumb Linden Neighborhood Makeover in Columbus, Ohio. I wore my heart rate monitor and would like to share the results of this extraordinary day.
THE PROJECT: Fiskars selected the Linden neighborhood for beautification and creation of a healthy, sustainable food source by way of a hands-on garden makeover. Working closely with neighbors, business leaders, volunteers and community partners, Fiskars rolled up their sleeves to transform this barren lot into a beautiful, productive community gathering space — all in a single day.
Before During After
THE ACTIVITY: I spent about six hours digging, shoveling, pushing the wheelbarrow, raking, building raised beds, planting, mulching, hauling and laying sod, and watering plants. It was 95 degrees and the work was steady, although I did take frequent water breaks and rested during lunch. I kept the heart rate monitor going the entire time.
THE HEART RATE MONITOR: The most accurate heart rate monitors feature a chest strap. The chest strap fits snugly around your chest, which is the optimal area for heart rate monitor sensors to detect the electrical activity of your heart. The sensor then transmits your heart rate to a wristband to relay your heart rate information to you.
THE RESULTS: At the end of the project I burned 1430 calories! My average heart rate throughout the day was 98 beats per minute (55% of my max heart rate) and my maximum was 132 beats per minute (73% of my max heart rate). This means that I paced myself and I spent almost the entire day burning fat–not just carbohydrates. I deligently reminded myself to use the Fit to Garden proper gardening biomechanics (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides) and I was very sore the next few days. It was a wonderful sore (yes, there is such a thing!), the feeling that lets you know you did something good for muscles–not pain.
THE FINALE: Author and Growing a Greener World TV host Joe Lamp’l, designer of the garden, was on hand to oversee the planting throughout the day. Here we are at the end of the day admiring a job well done.
What a wonderful experience that did my heart good, both literally and figuratively!
Please consult your physician before beginning any form of physical activity. Some heart patients may be taking medications that cause a decrease in the heart rate. These patients should discuss with their doctors, the target heart rate for their exercise program, and they should not attempt to exceed this heart rate.
In many parts of the country the beauty of autumn is unfolding with breathtaking foliage. The pleasant cool air, the smell of warm apple cider, and the colorful leaves floating down are all reasons why autumn is my favorite season.
Unfortunately raking those colorful leaves is another story though; especially if you suffer from an injury or other limiting condition. Here are Stacy’s six common sense ideas to make garden clean-up raking less of a painful chore and more of an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day outdoors.
To prevent muscle injury, perform a light warm-up before picking up that rake (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides). A quick five minutes will do the trick, you can thank me later! Simply walk around the yard and pick up sticks, check the garden beds, do some arm circles, fill the bird feeder, walk the dog, whatever. Just get that body moving and you’re good to go.
2. AVOID BENDING AT THE WAIST
Pay close attention, this is definitely my most important tip. Do not hinge forward at the waist while extending the rake in front of you. Instead, keep your knees slightly bent and keep your work as close to you as possible.
3. RAKE DANCING
Move those feet! Walk backwards or sideways while raking to cover more ground. Staying in one spot results in awkward bending and reaching ultimately stressing the low back and shoulders.
4. THE OLE SWITCHEROO
Be sure to switch leg and arm positions frequently. It is also important to keep a broad stance. A good rule of thumb is to stagger your feet as wide as your shoulders. Avoid holding on to the rake at the end of the handle, keep one hand half way down the handle to enhance maneuverability. Imagine you are pushing and pulling the rake almost like a pool stick; the hand that is placed down the handle will glide.
5. NO TWIST & SHOUT
If you twist your body while raking, you will be shouting the next day! Simply point your feet in the direction that you are reaching. Keep moving those feet to protect your back…hey, you will burn more calories, too.
I know, I know. I KNOW. Don’t even say it! You just spent two hours raking the yard and you don’t want to hear my enthusiastic lecture about stretching. Just humor me this one time and perform a couple of chair stretches(sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides) . Spending five minutes at this point is much better than feeling sore the entire next day.
Shhhhh, don’t tell…raking leaves is a great way to sneak in some exercise and burn a significant amount of calories. So go ahead and enjoy that caramel apple!
Gardening is on the rise, yet about one in every five do-it-yourself injuries occurs during the activity. It’s important to recognize, however, that gardening does not cause injury. Poor gardening biomechanics cause injury.
The use of everyday gardening hand tools can cause strain, and in effect be a major source of discomfort for many gardeners. The hands, wrists, and elbows are complex joint structures that are vulnerable to overuse injury and degenerative conditions. Novice and expert gardeners alike need to be aware that poor biomechanics can result in osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury, or cumulative trauma disorder.
If you’re like me, you’ve tried every tool and gadget on the market promising to make gardening tasks easier and more enjoyable. Gardeners understand each tool’s purpose, but what they don’t understand is how to use the body appropriately to OPERATE the tool. Gardeners can avoid reduced mobility, strength, and next day soreness by adopting a few simple habits when using hand tools.
Here are Stacy’s four key guidelines to serve as your operator’s manual for gardening hand tools:
1. Always use a right angled grip to ensure proper alignment of the forearm, wrist, and fingers.
This is actually much easier than it may seem. For example, quickly examine the proper trowel grip. Simply take the trowel, direct the point at the target, and shake hands with it (similar to gripping a golf club for my golfers out there). Many manufacturers actually draw a map for you right on the tool. As a matter of fact, this Corona eGrip trowel is designed with what I call a “thumb rest” and a “grip stopper”. The thumb rest provides a slip resistant protruding ledge that allows the thumb to stay straight in proper alignment. Even better, the grip stopper is a comfortable hook that keeps the fingers perfectly aligned with the thumb.This grip seamlessly prepares the body to recruit the appropriate muscles of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and neck to perform the work. I see gardeners time and time again make the mistake of grabbing the trowel toward the end of the tool as if they were grabbing a doorknob. The wrist is immediately set up to take the brunt of the work with a little help from the forearm and elbow joint. Not to mention, what do we do with doorknobs? Twist! The very motion we should avoid while gardening.
2. Keep the work close to you.
Do whatever it takes to position yourself close to your work. Kneel on a pad, squat, or sit on a stool. Avoid bending over at the waist to reach the task, as well as twisting a joint resulting in an awkward motion. Try to circumvent working with the arms overhead, and consider working from a ladder. Of course gardeners will find themselves in situations when they cannot follow these recommendations; however, it is important to evaluate the dangers and ask a fellow gardener for assistance.
It sounds easy enough, but HOW exactly do you do this? The first question you need to ask yourself when you’re setting up for a gardening task is “How can I position myself so that I am using my entire arm and shoulder for this task?” Quickly access how to capitalize on the mechanical advantage of the stronger joint structures and muscles of the arm, shoulder, and even the abdominal muscles. You do not need to be an expert in biomechanics to accomplish this.Typically this just means you will use the techniques provided in guideline #2 to stay close to your work, and keep your shoulder over the tool. Feel free to use both hands when greater force is needed, but be sure to use the proper grip. Simply shake hands with tool, and then wrap the other hand around the tool with the thumb on top (this is very much like the golf grip!). As you begin to move through the range of motion, ensure that you are engaging your abdominals and driving the work from your shoulder. Do not excessively flex or extend the wrist, avoid the flicking motion, and do not lock (completely straighten) the elbow joint.
4. Fit to Garden Basics:
- Complete a gardening warm-up wrist, arm and shoulder stretches (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides)
- Begin with easier gardening tasks and progress to more difficult projects
- Don’t spend too long in one position, be sure to alternate tasks
- Wear gloves for extra cushion
- Perform post-gardening wrist, arm and shoulder stretches (sign up for the Garden for the Health of It newsletter right here and receive my FREE Fit to Garden guides)
- Stop when you’re tired, that’s when most gardening injuries occur
Spending just a few moments concentrating on these guidelines will enhance body awareness and protect gardeners from unnecessary injury. While you’re chipping away on those gardening projects and performing mindful movement, you will also be burning approximately 200 calories every 30 minutes.
Gardening is on the rise, yet about one in every five do-it-yourself injuries occurs during the activity. It’s important to recognize, however, gardening does not cause injury. Poor gardening technique causes injury.
Planting flowers or an organic vegetable garden should be enjoyable. Call me crazy, but I actually think weeding is a great way to relieve stress and connect with nature! However, spending time working in the yard or garden is not fun if you wake up sore the next day.
My low back was very tight before I headed out to my garden on Saturday. I never would have been able to enjoy the day in the garden without practicing what I preach. Stacy’s number one rule while gardening? AVOID BENDING OVER AT THE WAIST!
Instead, avoid discomfort by alternating between sitting on a stool (get creative, an upside down pot can work just as well)
Remember to keep your work close to you and tighten your abdominal muscles if you need to reach or move. It is also important to keep your wrist in alignment and avoid “flicking” your wrist as you dig.
For more information on gardening biomechanics, check out the proper lifting technique demonstration.
Spring has sprung and if you’re like me, we find it difficult to pace ourselves on gardening projects. The lure of the garden proves challenge to stay hydrated, eat, and come indoors short of 8 hours, let alone find the time to stretch.
The next day we wake up very sore. The low back is screaming the loudest, right? The only way I will take time to stretch is if it’s convenient, no equipment is needed, and the stretches are fast and easy.
I realize you don’t want to hear all of the anatomical jargon, so I’m going to simply give you the top 4 stretches to perform after gardening. Spend just 5 MINUTES before you call it quits for the day and your back will be much happier the next morning!
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds
- Avoid bouncing
- Effective stretching results in slight discomfort, not pain
Begin by sitting in a lawn chair. Scoot your buns to the edge of the chair and allow your should blades to rest on the back of the chair (keep space between your low back and the chair). Hold underneath one knee and pull it in toward your chest, imagine you are making a “C” with your spine. Switch sides. Complete the stretch by pulling both knees in toward your chest. Feel the stretch in the low back.
Begin by sitting in a lawn chair. Scoot your buns to the edge of the chair and place one heel on the ground in front of the chair with a straight leg; the opposite knee is bent with the foot on the ground. Place your hands on the bent knee for support. Gently lean forward with a straight spine and feel the stretch in the back of the leg. Switch sides.
Begin by sitting in a lawn chair. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Gently lean forward keeping the spine straight and feel the stretch in the buns, hips, and even the low back. Switch sides.
Begin by sitting on a bench (or on the ground) with both legs straight. Bend one knee and hug it in angling toward the opposite shoulder. Gently round the low back and lean back slightly. Feel the stretch in the low back and hip area. Switch sides.
See, just a quick 5 minutes before you head in for a hot bath. Let me know how the stretches work for you, cheers!
Visit my Fit to Garden page for more photos, descriptions, and videos on avoiding next day soreness.
Attention gardeners! Perform this simple ball chop exercise to strengthen the core muscles, lower body, and shoulder girdle stabilizers. Strengthening these muscles will help gardeners avoid next day soreness and protect the low back. Complete 3 sets of 8 repetitions on each side.
As we jump into the marathon spring gardening sessions, are there any gardeners out there who spend a lot of time bending over at the waist? I’m here to make sure you STOP bending at the waist and use the strength of your legs! Let’s get more familiar with strengthening and using those legs.
Lunges are a great exercise for the entire lower body. Several muscles are used to stabilize and assist throughout the range of motion, but the prime muscle groups worked are the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the upper leg), hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the upper leg), and gluteals (buns of steel).
Tips to Perform the Perfect Lunge
- Find a gorgeous open outdoor space!
- Exhale on exertion each time you stand up
- Imagine you are balancing a book on your head throughout the range of motion, keep your body under control
- I recommend stepping back as you perform beginner lunges so the knee is protected
- Be sure to keep the knee over the ankle, do not allow the knee to shift past the toes
- Keep a straight spine and do not lean over
- Avoid placing weight in the front toes, push through the heels
- Do not hold dumbbells while performing the advanced split jumps
- Consult with your physician before performing this or any other exercise
Beginner: Standing Reverse Lunges
Begin standing with feet together. Take a big step backward with the right leg and remain on your back toe. The front left knee should be bent 90 degrees, do not allow the knee to go over the toes! Lower down until the back knee comes close to the ground. Pull yourself back up with the strength of the front leg and avoid pushing off the back toe. Switch sides. Alternate for a total of 20 repetitions x 3
Intermediate: Walking Lunges
Begin standing with feet together. Take a big step forward, keeping your front knee behind the ankle! Imagine lunging STRAIGHT DOWN as opposed to lunging forward, then use the strength of your front leg to pull you up. Alternate for a total of 20 steps x 3.
Advanced: Split Jumps
Begin standing with feet together. Carefully hop up and land in the same lunge position described above. Do not allow the knee to touch the ground. Focusing on the front heel, press yourself up, hop and switch to the other side. Alternate for a total of 12 repetitions x 3
Concentrate on using those strong LEGS while working in the garden and always avoid bending at the waist. Get growing!
Attention gardeners…this Pilates reformer exercise is definitely for you!
While gardening, we spend many hours carrying, lifting, and squatting down. These repetitive movements can result in low back pain, tight hamstrings, and poor posture.
I am a Pilates instructor and advocate, and I absolutely adore the reformer machine. Consider trying a class at your local studio. Many studios offer complimentary reformer orientations. I promise you will enjoy the class, it is addicting!
This exercise is called the “Upstretch”, although I like to call it the “Green Thumb Rx”. The exercise focuses on core stability and strengthening, upper body strengthening, and hamstring/calf flexibility. A perfect exercise to strengthen and stretch the muscles we use while gardening. Ultimately, this exercise helps realign joints and assists in correcting muscle imbalance.
THE GREEN THUMB RX
Set Up: Place balls of the feet on the carriage with the heels against the shoulder rests and hands should width apart on the footbar. Keep the (green) thumbs with the fingers, press the chest toward the thighs and the tailbone toward the ceiling. Resistance 2-3 springs.
Movement: Push the carriage back as you extend the hips into a plank position. Come forward over the footbar while maintaining the plank. Keep your hands in line with your shoulders and shoulder blades flush with your back. Bring the carriage to a parked position by returning to the starting position. Perform 8-10 repetitions.
Give it a try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Gardener’s Pre-Season Strengthening Exercise
Place your body in a straigtht line lying on your right side. Place your right forearm on the floor and bend your right knee so that your foot is behind you. Press yourself up and balance on your forearm and side of your bottom knee.
When you are ready to progress and increase the intensity of this exercise, straigthen both legs and place your right hand on the floor.
Keep your shoulders down and naval in.
Hold this position 20-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Performing this exercise will strengthening your core and shoulder girdle stabilizers to prepare your body for the marathon gardening demands at the beginning of the season.
FOR MORE EXERCISES, check out the Gardener’s Pre-Season Strength Training video!
Gardener’s Pre-Season Strengthening Exercise
If you’re like me, you’re itching to get outside and get those hands dirty in the garden.
Now is the perfect time to start strengthening the primary muscles used while gardening!
The Superman exercise targets the core muscles. Begin on your hands and knees. Stabilize your shoulder girdle and keep your shoulder blades flush with your back. Slowly extend the right arm and the left leg, and then alternate sides. Imagine that you are balancing a glass of water in the small of your back as you move through the range of motion.
Perform this exercise 2-3 times each week and complete 8-12 repetitions to prepare your body for the marathon gardening demands at the beginning of the season.
Ready for more exercises? Watch the Gardening Pre-Season Exercises video!
Gardener’s Pre-Season Core Strengthening Exercise
Begin by facing the wall arms-length away, feet hip distance apart, legs straight with weight in your toes. Place hands on the wall slightly wider than your shoulders.
Keep your head in a neutral position, bend elbows to lower head/chest toward wall, coming as close as you can to it but not touching it.
Straighten arms and return to starting position.
FOR MORE EXERCISES, check out the Gardener’s Pre-Season Strength Training video!
The neighbors could hear me grumbling this weekend as I threw on my winter coat and boots to shovel snow again. As the cold air hit my face, I reminded myself that March 20 is the first day of spring, and a little smurk instantly appeared. While visions of my new garden were dancing in my head, before I knew it I actually had a great workout! I calculated that I burned 165 calories in 30 minutes. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that we have received our last layer of the white stuff.
A few quick snow shoveling tips:
- Consult with your physician before shoveling or engaging in any strenuous activity. Be sure to stop shoveling if you feel weak, dizzy, or short of breath.
- Don’t wait until 6″ has covered your driveway, get out there every 2″ or so (you can thank me for this tip later).
- Drink plenty of water as you gather your warm winter wonderland get-up. Staying hydrated and warm will make the activity less of a strain. Cold air makes it more difficult to work and breathe resulting in greater strain.
- Perform a 5-10 minute warm up. March in place indoors, scrape the car windows, or walk around the yard.
- First and foremost, choose an ergonomically correct shovel. Choose a shovel that is lightweight with a countoured handle.
- Whenever possible, plan to push the snow straight to the end of the driveway or sidewalk.
- When scooping and throwing snow, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Keep feet in a scissor stance and concentrate on using your legs to lift the snow
- Knees should be bent and back should be straight
- Step in the same direction you are throwing
- Keep one hand on the handle and the other hand close to the load
- Hold the load close to the body
- Avoid bending at the waist, twisting the spine, placing feet close together, overloading the scoop, and wiping your nose with your sleeve.
- Rehydrate and have a warm snack
- Stretch! Perform the Fit to Garden post-gardening stretches.
And above all, imagine the sun shining down as you reunite with the garden. 20 days and counting….
Medical and Site Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified medical professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Stacy Best, stacybest.com, and Best Holistic Lifestyle Services, LLC.