June 22, 2015
Even in Cambria with our water rations gardening and weeding is in full swing. Lots of bending, lifting, pushing, pulling, squatting and twisting will certainly reward you with aches and pains of you don't warm up the muscles before heading out. It’s hard to imagine gardening is actually an athletic activity requiring muscle endurance, strength and flexibility. However, as we age the tissues in our bodies don't seem to be quite as limber as they used to be. We can cut down on the risk of back pain and other aches by doing a few simple exercises that take a minimal amount of time before tackling your garden.
Knee lifts: Stand and hold onto a door handle. This will help keep you stable if you get a little dizzy. Lift the right knee as high as you can. Return your foot to the ground. Lift you left knee again as high as you can. Put your foot on the ground. Repeat right and left leg lifts for two or three minutes each time encouraging your muscles to stretch so that the knee comes a little higher each time allowing the fibers connected to your muscles to reach their maximum stretch. This exercise will ease-off the hamstrings, gluteal muscles (the cheeks of the bottom) and the lumbar spine muscles which are across the base of your back.
Windmills: Keeping the right arm straight, rotate forward as if you were reaching for something in front of you. Lift that straight arm up to the sky and back around behind you. By keeping the movement slow the muscles in and around your shoulder joint will relax and stretch. Ten rotations forward then rest. Repeat the same exercise this time taking the arm in a backwards motion as if you were lying on your back in the swimming pool, doing the back-stroke. Try to stretch back as far as you can. Repeat for ten repetitions. Repeat the same sequence on your left side.
Walk a lap or two- Walk around the block just to get the blood flowing through your limbs. Then perform a couple easy, mild squats, forward and backward bends and twists to warm up your joints.
While in the garden, you can also limit the stress and strain of staying in certain positions for extended periods of time by standing periodically and moving to another part of your garden that requires a different movement like shoveling verses kneeling and pulling weeds.
Finish off your day with a few static stretches while sitting on a bench. Don't forget to admire the great job you've just completed.
Seated Rotation: Sit in a chair with perfect upright posture and abdominals contracted. Now slowly rotate in one direction and hold. Repeat to the other side.
Seated Hamstring Stretch-Sit on a chair with one leg straight out in front of you and the other bent. Slowly bend forwards at the hip while keeping your back in a neutral position until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for a 30 second minimum. Repeat on the other leg.
Seated Hip Stretch- Sit on a chair with one leg bent over the other so one ankle rests on the opposite thigh. Now slowly press downwards on the bent leg until you feel a light stretch on the outside edge of your hip. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Again repeat on the other side.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch-Stand on your right leg while holding the left heel towards your buttock – hold onto the chair for balance. Standing perfectly upright, press the left hip forwards while keeping the upper thigh perpendicular to the floor. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds each leg.
Preparing your body for gardening also means staying physically active all winter. So be proactive and make a winter plan of exercise to keep moving. Walking, swimming, hiking, fitness classes and indoor cardio are all great ways to maintain your health all year long and minimize the muscle and joint aches and pains that will come next spring.