done my gardening and I can't get up!
up with the annual spring ritual of crippling yourself from the yearly
garden chores? Or maybe you have that large undertaking like putting
in a new patio ahead of you? Well here are some stretching and
limbering-up exercises to do before, during and after your garden work to
help prevent injuries and muscle cramps. Ok
let's get started!
the pictures at left and right here, are some sample warm-up
exercises... Just kidding! If you can do these, you should run
away from home and join the circus!
But, some great stretches are
described below that are a little less er, acrobatic.
Before we start, let's take a
moment to look at gardening safely in general.
body weight do the digging, don't lunge into the earth using arm or back
muscles. Stand on the shovel with one foot - or two if there is a
sturdy support you can hold onto nearby. Better yet, if you plan to
dig, make sure the area has been deeply watered 2-3 days in advance to
make the soil easier to penetrate (good tip for clay soils!) but will no
longer be wet and heavy.
digging with hand tools, lean forward over the tool to use your upper
body weight to push the tool into the soil. Don't stab at the
soil putting strain on wrist and elbow.
bend your knees and squat to grab hold of anything heavy that you will
be lifting. Straighten your legs to lift, never lift with your back.
shoes with good support and solid soles - floppy footwear accounts for
a large percent of gardening related injuries.
comfortable loose fitting but not too baggy clothing - baggy clothes
can easily get caught up in garden tools or snag on garden structures
a broad brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes from the sun.
quality gloves provide dexterity and protect your hands - avoid large
loose gloves except when working with rocks or lumber.
underestimate the power of labor-saving tools!
possible, use ergonomically designed tools, and the right tool for the
job. Use sharp shovels, spades, hoes, and pruners, clippers and
other hand tools. Repair or replace tools to ensure that springs are
working and handles fit tightly.
Remember when you do these,
NO LUNGING and no sudden jerking! These are stretches that have to
be done gently and the important thing is to hold the stretch. Watch
your breathing too. Always move on the exhale.
The hamstring stretch
on the ground, with legs at a comfortable distance apart, straight out in
front of you. If it is more comfortable for you, bend your left leg while
you do the stretches on the right leg, and vice versa. Inhale through your
nose into the sides of your ribs. Begin to exhale as you keep your back
straight and lean forward from the hips. Lean over until you feel a good
stretch in the backs of your thighs. It helps to keep your back straight
if you keep your head looking forward when you do this. If you want to get
a calf stretch going too, flex your feet. Breathe normally while holding
the stretch for 30 seconds. Inhale again and as you exhale, deepen your
forward lean to get a bit more stretch - remember to keep your back
straight and face looking forward. Hold for 30 seconds. Take one last
breath and straighten up as you exhale. Repeat three times.
For a deeper stretch, you can
try reaching your arms forward to grasp your lower leg, ankle or foot
(depending on how limber you are) - but do not lunge forward, just lean
The calf stretch
your hands on your hips or out to your sides, and stand with the right leg
ahead of your left leg, with your right foot about 24-36 inches ahead of
your left foot - find a comfortable distance for YOU. Keep both feet
pointed forward. Bend your right knee, keep your left leg straight,
and keep your back straight. Now move your hips forward as if there
was a string attached to your belly button pulling it forward, until you
feel a nice stretch in your left calf muscle. Your right knee will
also bend a little deeper when you do this. If you feel a tensing in
your lower back, you did it wrong - remember the belly button string and
to keep your back straight - don't let it arch backwards. Exhale
slowly as you move your hips forward. Hold the stretch for 30
seconds while breathing normally. Inhale, and as you exhale slowly,
pull that belly button string a bit further forward to deepen the stretch
- your right knee will bend a little deeper yet. Hold for another 30
seconds as you breathe normally. Inhale, and as you exhale,
straighten and put your feet together. Repeat with opposite
legs. Do 3 sets of these for each leg. It may help to be near
a wall, counter or sturdy chair to steady yourself if you get a bit
"tippy" during this exercise.
Standing near a wall, counter
or sturdy chair for support, bend your right knee and bring your heel to
your bottom. Grab your foot with your right hand and hold the
stretch for 30 seconds. You will feel the stretch in the muscles on
the front of your thigh, and maybe in the lower front of your hip
too. Repeat with the left leg. Do 3 sets of these stretches on
Inner thigh stretch
straight with feet about 30" or more apart. Inhale. As
you exhale slowly, bend the right knee and point it slightly outward as
you lean your body to the right until you feel a nice stretch in your
inner left thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds while breathing
normally. Inhale and as you exhale, return to starting
position. Repeat on left side.
If you are relatively limber,
you can try to deepen the stretch by bending the knee a little more and
leaning a little further. Remember to inhale first and deepen the
stretch on the slow exhale. Don't do this if you aren't already
relatively limber, as you will end up with aches and pains in that poor
underused inner thigh muscle.
Outer thigh stretch
comfortably with your legs out in front of you and feet about shoulder
width apart. If it is more comfortable for you, you can bend the leg
that is not being stretched so that the knee points out and the foot is in
front of your hips. Bend your right leg and place your right foot on
the outside of your left thigh as close to your hips as you comfortably
can. Inhale. As you exhale slowly, grasp your right knee with
both hands cupped around it and pull it to the left until you feel a nice
stretch down the outside of the thigh and maybe into the hip
muscles. Breathe normally while you hold for 30 seconds.
Inhale. Exhale as you release your knee. Repeat with the other
leg. Do 3 sets on each leg.
The torso stretch
on the floor on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the
floor. Flex your pelvis up and down to find a comfortable position
for your lower back. Keep your arms straight and out to your sides
at shoulder level. Inhale. As you exhale, lift your right leg and
foot off the floor, keeping the knee bent. Let your legs fall over to the
left as far as they will comfortably go. At the same time, turn your
head to the right. Hold for 20-30 seconds as you breathe
normally. Inhale, and as you exhale, roll your legs back up to the
starting position and straighten your head. Repeat with the left leg
up, rolling legs over to the right and turning head to the left. Do
2-3 of these stretches on each side.
Over time, you will probably
be able to deepen your stretch so that the knee of the raised leg will
touch the floor on the opposite site. Don't strain to do this, let
those old muscles loosen up gradually.
Shoulder and chest
Stand straight but relaxed,
imagining that there is a string tired to the top of your head and pulling
it up, keeping your arms hanging comfortably by your sides. The
following arm swings are designed to be done as a set, moving smoothly
from one into the other. Repeat 3 times. Do not strain or
lunge with your arms.
Swing both arms forward up to
shoulder level, and then back down to your sides. Now swing arms forward
and up so they are pointing straight up over your head, and back down to
your sides. Then swing them forward and up and into an arc, circling
down and behind you as far as you can comfortably reach. End up by
circling arms back to the front at shoulder level, with palms facing each
other when they meet. Now keeping arms at shoulder level, swing them
out to your sides and as far back as they will comfortably go. Bring
arms back to hanging position at your sides.
Standing straight as for the
arm and shoulder limbering above, put your right hand behind you with the
back of your hand against the middle of your bottom. Turn your head
to the left as far as you can comfortably go until you feel a nice stretch
down through the neck and into the shoulder. Hold for at least ten
seconds - 30 seconds is even better. Repeat on the other side.
Do 5-10 sets of these on each side.
Stand with feet about shoulder
distance apart. Lift your right arm up gracefully overhead arcing it
slightly with palms facing left. Inhale. As you exhale slowly,
lean to the left until you feel a nice stretch down the right side of your
body. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds while you breathe
normally. Inhale. Exhale slowly as you return to the starting
position. Repeat with a lean to the right. Do 3 sets of these
on each side.
Hand and forearm
Sit or stand near a flat surface that is slightly higher than waist
height, and with an edge less than an arm's length away. Sitting at a
patio table is about right for this. Straighten your arm with palm
up so that your wrist is over the edge of the supporting surface. letting
the elbow stay relaxed. Let your hand drop downward over the edge of
the supporting surface. Now flex your hand upward bending only at
the wrist (it should be roughly a 90 degree bend here) so that your
fingers are pointing back at you. You should feel a stretch in the
back of the forearm and tension in the front. Hold for 5-10
seconds. Repeat 5-10 times on each hand.
Straighten your right arm out in front of you with palm up, or up over
your head with palm facing forward. Place the palm of your left hand
across the fingers of your right hand and pull your fingers toward you
until you feel a nice stretch in the front of your forearm. Keep
elbow straight so that you get a bend of about 90 degrees at the
wrist. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release. Repeat with opposite
hands. Do 5-10 sets of these on each arm.
Hold your right hand, palm up,
at about mid-chest height and a few inches out from your body. As
you do this stretching, find the most comfortable height and location for
your hands. With your left hand, wrap your fingers around your thumb
and push the thumb down until you feel a nice stretch in the palm of your
hand and in your thumb muscles. Hold for up to 5-10 seconds, then
relax. Now do the same for each finger on your hand, pulling the
finger down till you feel a nice stretch in your palm and finger
muscles. Repeat on the left hand.
Hold your hands as for the
hand stretches above. This time, grasp your right thumb with your
left hand fingers, with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand at the
base of the thumb on your right hand. Gently but firmly twist the
right thumb with your left hand back and forth, working from the base of
the thumb to the tip. Do the same for each finger. Repeat on
the left hand.
When working in a position
where you are bending forward for long periods of time, take time to
realign your spine about every 15-20 minutes. The forward bend for
extended periods of time can cause the disc that is the padding between
your vertebrae to slip out of place. Put down your tools and slowly stand
up straight. Tie that imaginary string to the to the top of your head, and
pull it upward. Without straining or sudden movement, arc your body
backwards gently to ease the muscles and let the discs slip back into
place and slowly straighten up again. You can do this with your
hands behind your head, at your sides or on your hips. Repeat 2-3 times
before returning to work.
the time to do a few of these stretches during your garden chores too.
the leg muscle stretches during work that requires digging or
the torso, side stretch. spine realignment relaxer, and chest/shoulder
limbering exercises during raking or hoeing work or any work that
requires bending forward for long periods of time.
the hand and forearm limbering exercises during pruning, weeding or
hand-digging work (these are good to do while on the computer if you
have been using the mouse a lot, or any activity that causes you to
tense up your hands and fingers).
the neck stretch whenever you are working with your hands higher than
your shoulders for long periods of time, or having to hold your head
in the same position (this is another good one to do if you've been
reading or sitting at the computer for long periods too).
all of the exercises if you have been doing heavy lifting or pushing.
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