Gardening is therapeutic, it’s a a form of art and it’s a nice excuse to be outside. But sometimes, you get too into gardening and you start to feel the aches and pains in your body. You may have started to garden in the early morning before the sun comes out, and next thing you know 4 hours has passed and you’ve been hunched over your plantar box for much too long. Your back is sore, your hands hurt and let’s not even talk about the neck pain you didn’t know you had until you looked up.
How can you make your body feel as good as your garden looks. Just like how you prepare your garden bed in the fall, you have to prepare your body to garden. When I interview new Kinesiology clients and I ask them about what they do for physical activity, very few of them mention gardening. So when I ask if they do garden, my clients always go “of course”. Well there you go, you’re doing physical activity and you have to prepare for that!
What does your body go through when gardening?
- you’re going to be using your hips to keep you steady,
- your upper back, shoulders and wrists when digging and planting
- Midback mobility when twisting about
It’s a full body activity!
How to prepare your body to garden
The best way to prepare for the gardening season in the summer is to strengthen your full body year round! Here’s some typical strengthening exercises that can help you with that and improve your posture! The main areas you want to focus on when it comes to strengthening are our the upper and mid back, the neck, and shoulders. Strengthening the muscles in these regions will actually help decrease the pain and stiffness you may feel afterwards and increase your endurance of those muscles. ( Hello gardening marathon! )
Next, increasing the mobility in some joints of your body will help you with any stiffness you may feel when gardening as well. Some areas to focus on when working on mobility is that Thoracic Spine as well as the hips. You’re either kneeling or doing some deep squats when you’re gardening. If you don’t have the mobility to do that, you’re going to have a hard time getting out of that position afterwards.
Finally, you’ll also want to stretch the forearms. This is because you’re gripping a shovel or a trowel and that’s causing a lot of muscles in your forearm to be activated. Self-massage the forearm with a soft ball is a great idea as well to release any knots that may have occurred during your gardening escaped.
- Strengthen the back, neck and shoulders
- Increase mobility of the hips and thoracic spine
- Stretch and self-massage your forearms
When it comes to strengthening your body, take it slow. You shouldn’t be sore for days after doing a simple strengthening exercise. This is a cue that you are doing too much too soon. When it comes to mobility and stretching, you are safe to do these everyday, but remember to not over do it! You should not feel any pain or severe discomfort when you are working on your body!
Some examples of strengthening for gardening include:
- Rows 3 x 10
- Shoulder protractions 3 x 10
- Shoulder depressions 3 x 10
- Shoulder external rotations 3 x 10
Some examples of mobility exercises include:
- Butt Kicks 30 seconds
- Leg swings 30 seconds
- Deep Squats 3 x 1 minute holds
- Thoracic Spine extension 20 pulses
- Thoracic Spine Rotation 8 reps
Finally, remember to stretch and self-massage those wrists!
Self-Massage for Gardeners
So, once you have the exercises down pat, you can learn to self-massage the areas of your body that are sore from gardening. A great place to start is right at the nape of you neck. Press down where your neck becomes your shoulder and hold it there for 30 seconds to 1 minute. At the same time, you can stretch your neck to the opposite site to feel even more relief.
After your neck, massage the front and back of your forearms, starting at your your elbows and moving down your hands. You can watch this video for a better explanation on how to self-massage your forearms.
“Gardening IS a physical activity “– Dylan Crake
Self-Massaging your own body is a great way to learn about where your aches and pains are and how you’re able to deal with it. This will help you so much if you decide to see a health care practitioner for your aches and pains because you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas more accurately and your recovery will be quicker.
You now know some exercise to help your body and you know how to self-massage your body! This means you can stay out and garden for longer, and you’ll even be able to enjoy your garden without being in pain!
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