3 Tips for Pain-Free Gardening
During the winter we spend most of our time in our offices working or snuggled on the couch with a hot drink. Then spring comes, and suddenly we are bending, twisting, stretching, reaching, digging, chopping, sweeping, kneeling, climbing, pushing, pulling, carrying…and the list goes on! Many times our body will let us know in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t appreciate all this change!
By thinking ahead we can avoid some of these aches and pains that just seem to go along with being outdoors, especially while gardening.
- Mix up your tasks. It is always a temptation to see a flower bed that has been untended through the winter and want to go in and do all the planting or all the weeding all at once. The repetitiveness of this, combined with using the same muscles over and over can lead to strains, aches, pains, etc. A better solution is to work in one area of the garden each day. Decide to take one section of the garden and weed a while, plant a while, and then mulch a while. Then the next day, choose another section and do each of these activities. Each task uses different muscles; by mixing up the activities, you give your body a better workout and avoid repetitive stress injuries.
- Stop to take a break before you feel that you need to. There is never enough time to get everything done that needs to be done in the garden! The temptation to keep going “just a little longer” can be great. But it also leads to aches and pains, so stop before you get to that point. Split up your time with mini-breaks. Give your body a few minutes to rest every so often, and you will be able to enjoy the task of gardening much more.
- Bend with your knees, not your back. Our legs have 3 joints: hips, knees, and ankles. All of them are intended to bend. But our “waist” is not a joint. It is not designed to be bent, as the hips, knees, and ankles are. When you do need to squat, be aware of keeping your back straight, and use your hip, knee and ankle joints to do the job. Not only will your back feel better, but you will be helping to keep your joints lubricated and moving better.
When you bend down, think of moving your head up in space as you go down. This will help to keep your back straight. As you come back up from a squatting position, first raise your back side a little, then gradually unfold your leg joints. Be sure to avoid pushing with your legs. If you want to see a great example of proper squatting, watch a toddler—they are excellent squatters!
Enjoy your gardening this spring! Share with us your best strategies to stay pain free as you do your yard work.