Happy Wellness Wednesday Everyone!
Donna here, to talk to you today about gardening and Pilates. With the Victoria Day long weekend right around the corner, I know many of us are ready to get in the garden. Gardening is a great form of exercise utilizing the legs, back, abdominals and arms to move dirt, dig weeds, plant and prune. Like any form of exercise, gardeners should maintain an awareness of posture and good alignment when tackling yard work. Pilates can set the framework for building a strong body and a foundation for mindful movement in our everyday activities. One of great things I like about Pilates is that you can use the techniques in everyday life, and it is also incredibly useful when doing more physical tasks such as gardening.
But why am I talking to you about this?
Oh, my aching back!” Many gardeners complain of low back pain after a hard day’s work of weeding or digging. While these tasks potentially require a lot of bending over, many gardeners do not realize that leg strength and flexibility (or lack thereof) can contribute to the overall health of your low spine. If there is a lack of flexibility in the hamstrings and hip joints then the action of bending over and flexing the spine places a lot more stress on the discs and muscles of the lumbar area. In addition to poor function of the legs and hips, the deeper stabilizers of the back and the abdominal muscles may not be working in concert to support your body in a flexed position.
Some tips to help you have a happier back after gardening:
1. Break up your task into smaller chunks. 4 hours weeding in one go is going to make your body achy and sore. That length of time doing any one activity is going to be hard on the body, so try to only do 20 minutes of let’s say weeding, then 20 minutes mowing, 20 minutes cutting up branches, then 10 minutes picking up branches. Take regular breaks, stretching out your back and legs.
2. Regularly alternate your position and be aware of your posture. If weeding and kneeling (don’t forget those knee pads or kneeling mats, be kind to cartilage!), try swapping the hand you use, swap the leg that goes forward first. If picking up sticks and branches, change the leg that goes forward first. 100 lunges on the one leg is going to hurt.
3. Use your core! Make sure you use those deep abdominals and your pelvic floor when lifting. Not just the heavy items such as removing a heavy grass catcher, try to be conscious even when doing the lighter tasks. Think of how you use your core in the Pilates Studio and use those same techniques. If lifting something heavy, remember to breathe out on the exertion, it makes it easier to recruit those deep stabilizing muscles.
4. Use your legs and glutes, AKA Butt muscles. Along with using you core when lifting, make sure the glutes are also supporting your pelvis. The glutes are vitally important. The core helps to support the spine and stabilize your torso, but the pelvis supports the spine and glutes support the pelvis. They also make it easier to walk up hills. So if carrying branches for burning up a slope, use the glutes. If lifting somethings keep a neutral spine, use the legs and the glutes to lift.
5. Stretch afterwards. This one is really important and so easy to forget. Spend at least 15-20 minutes stretching the legs, buttocks, back, shoulders, arms and chest. Think of stretches you do in the Pilates Studio and do those; thigh stretches, hamstring, calves, buttocks, chest. Use the massage ball or foam roller into the tights spots. Pilates exercises such as hips rolls (foam rolling IT band) and arm opening (clock) are perfect for post gardening.
What to do Now?
Pain Free Movement through Pilates
Practicing good alignment and mindful movement is the essence of bringing Pilates into your everyday activities. For more information about Pilates or to schedule a session, visit the website at www.innertouch.ca , or contact me directly at email@example.com.
Summer Session starts June 6, classes fill up fast, email to register for classes or to try a Free class.
Happy and Safe gardening!