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The Stooped Gardner

31 Mar. 2014 Posted by Hannah Mich
garden, gardening, exercise, gardening warm-up, gardener injury

I have a community garden plot that is approximately twenty feet by twenty feet. It is a glorious sight to my eyes...well at least when I am looking at it AND envisioning a garden in full bloom. Getting there paints the garden into a entirely different picture. It can be back breaking work preparing a garden for planting season. Although the work creates physical fatigue, it allows my mind such a break from the day to day grind of phone calls, emails, taking care of a two year old and managing dinner. I always feel this sense of peace after doing garden work.

But back to the physical effort needed to make a beautiful garden...the shoveling, tilling, hauling and planting is a whole body workout: squatting, lunging, lifting, pulling, pushing, and rotating. Many gardeners, including myself at times, would not even think twice about going right into gardening without any sort of preparation to our body, no warm up. Yet, we would not even consider playing a round of golf or going for a 2-mile jog without our routine of bending down to toes, swing our arms and stretching the rest of our body beforehand. So, let's be kind to our body before gardening season goes any further.

Gardener Warm-Up:
(All exercises are performed standing)

1. Roll your hips like you are hula hooping 10 times in each direction

2. Curl one knee, or leg, back and then the other, repeating rhythmically for 30 to 45 seconds

3. March in place for 30 seconds

4. Calf raises- get up on your toes, raising your heels upward and then come back down and repeat 10 times

5. Swing your arms forward and back, going as far forward and upward as you comfortable can and as far back as you comfortable can. Perform for 20 to 30 seconds

6. Extend your arms out in front of you and make circles with your wrists 10 times in each direction

7. With your arms out in front of you, open and close your hands into fists 10 times

8. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, relax and repeat 10 times

Once you have warmed up, don't zip right into gardening. Instead I want you to look at your garden and visualize what you will be doing for the day. I do not mean just going down your to do list. I want you to imagine yourself squatting down, digging a hole and placing your beautiful lavender plant in the hole, covering it up, giving the soil a gentle press and watering the plant. These visualizations are a wonderful preparation for our nervous system.

Lastly, I want all gardeners to be aware of posture. Stooped posture and fatigue are the two biggest culprits to low back stiffness, pain and injury during gardening in my professional opinion. To avoid this, think about three cues:

1. Keep your sit-bones upward and outward. You can clench your gluts and relax to feel your sit bones shift upward and outward. We do not want a clenched butt!

2. Elongation of your spine. Lengthen your spine with the top, or crown, of your head.

3. When squatting, always think about pushing your hips back before you bend your knees down to engage your hip and core muscles more efficiently.

Well, now it is time to garden. What are you waiting for!

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