The moderate fall temperatures have many of us still outside working on landscaping, gardening and general yard work projects. While you are caring for your yard – don’t forget to take care of yourself. You need to prepare for this type of work just as you would any other exercise routine. Whether you exercise every day, or yard work is the only exercise you get, you may experience soreness by physically straining muscles that are not used regularly.
Cultivate proper gardening techniques
Overuse of muscles that are out-of-shape can be painful. Before beginning any yard work or gardening, there are a few things you can do to reduce muscle and joint strain – especially for your shoulders, back, neck and knees.
- Get your heart rate up: A simple 10-minute walk is enough to do the trick.
- S-t-r-e-t-c-h: Loosen up those muscles. Try rolling your shoulders back in a circular motion and slowly moving your head from side to side in addition to stretching your arms and legs.
- Select the proper tools: Before you get started, make sure you have the tools you need for each task. Select lightweight tools that feel comfortable to you. Long handled tools can help you with hard-to-reach places. A garden cart or wheelbarrow is great for moving heavy planting materials. Gloves provide padding and protect your hands.
- Ask for help: If you have something heavy to lift or move, be sure to ask for help. Your muscles will thank you.
Plant yourself properly
When working out in the yard, be sure to “plant” your body properly for each task.
- Change positions frequently: This will help you avoid muscle stiffness and cramping.
- Kneel on one knee: Keep one foot on the ground and your back straight when kneeling to give your back more stability. If you have to kneel, only do so for about 20 minutes at a time and use knee pads or a pillow to absorb some of the pressure.
- Lift correctly: Get close to the object you want to lift, bend your knees, plant your feet shoulder width apart, keep your back straight, contract your abdominal muscles and lift with your legs.
- Let’s NOT do the twist: Move your whole body where you need to be instead of bending, twisting or overreaching. Even reaching to tug at a small weed can cause back strain.
- Keep your head and shoulders above your work: Working below shoulder level is best. If you do need to reach above shoulder level, only perform the task for five minutes or less at a time. And if you need to work with your arms extended out in front of you, be sure to keep your shoulder blades pulled together.
- Mix it up: If you have a lot of yard work to accomplish, a great way to avoid fatigue is to switch activities every 30 minutes. Going from sitting to standing to sitting works well. Listen to your body and switch tasks if you begin to feel a muscle ache.
- Take a break: Doing a lot of repetitive motions? Take frequent breaks to give those muscles a rest.
- Have a drink: Your muscles need water for peak performance. Be sure to keep hydrated.