I think most gardeners get a little out of shape over winter. But spring is coming, and to prevent injuries and be able to get all of our spring chores done it is time to get back in shape. Gardening uses most of our muscles, so a good all-around exercise routine is best. Don’t neglect those core and back muscles.
Squats are a great strengthening exercise to get ready for the times I need to get down on the ground and then back up again. Sometimes I feel like I do a million squats a day out in the garden and my body reminds me of it when I try to go up stairs. There are lots of variations on the basic squat to keep it interesting.
Lunges are similar to squats with the added element of balance. Holding deep lunges can help with balance as well as quick lunges with extra kicks in between. Lunges and squats work different leg muscles that we need for weeding and planting. Taking large steps through the garden to avoid stepping on plants is a gardener’s lunge.
Balance is very important to the gardener so that I’m not toppling over on my plants as I try to navigate around the garden. Balancing on one leg helps me to prepare myself for tip toeing through the garden around newly emerged plants. Steppingstones, roots, and pits in the ground make walking more challenging so it is good to be sure footed with good balance.
The wood chopper exercise where I lift and twist helps strengthen muscles that protect my back. This is a good exercise to do when I’m getting ready for lots of digging, mulching, or any activity that involves moving around heavy stuff like plant pots. Planting trees can be very hard on my back as I twist while digging, hauling the heavy pots, and then mulching tree rings.
I often forget to work on my hand strength over winter and then find I have a weak grip in the spring. I need to keep my fingers strong to pull out all those newly emerged silver maple trees in my garden. Grabbing trowel handles and squeezing pruners takes a lot of hand strength to do for extended periods. I ramp up my hand strength with a squeeze ball and by stretching rubber bands.
In addition to starting early in spring to build up my muscles, I also need to listen to my body. Spring fever can present so many tasks to do and so little time to do them. It is easy to overwork myself on a nice day. However, gardening is a never-ending task so we need to pace ourselves. Stretch before and after gardening and when an ache begins it is time to take a break. Listening closely to our bodies will help us work at the pace that is best for us for long term health so we can keep gardening for years to come.