By Carrie Sowiak, NASM CPT, IDEA Elite Personal Trainer, Certified ACE group fitness, and YogaFit Instructor
Get those legs strong for bending with squats and lunges. Be cautious with forward lunges if you have knee issues – “stepping back lunges” or a back lunge should allow you to feel them more in your legs and less in the knees. The stronger your legs are, the less you will have of that post-yardwork back pain. Even if we have a “set- up” (such as a gardening bench) to be more ergonomically correct when working outdoors, we still have those times when we’re just bending over to pull some weeds, or picking up bags of yard waste when we’re vulnerable to injury.
Be sure to switch hands from time to time when you are carrying around the watering can, or digging, or pulling weeds to prevent overuse injuries, and you’ll get a “more even workout” from your efforts! Think about your core muscles – in the midsection all the way around – while you are carrying something. Use them to stabilize your body and move more efficiently. When the watering can is in one arm, think of standing tall and pulling in your waist muscles, like a girdle.
When you are near the shed door, or any doorway, or two trees easy to grab next to each other, place your hands on the door frame or trees, and lean your chest into the doorway to stretch out your chest and shoulders. Take 5 – 10 deep breaths, un-shrugging your shoulders and lifting your chest upwards. Those chest and shoulder muscles can tighten up with all the forward bending involved in yardwork. Take time to stand up and back bend: Reach your arms overhead, interlace your fingers with palms to the sky, and just lift your chest upwards again, gently backbending your upper spine. Pull your tummy in, and keep your tailbone down towards the earth.
When your yardwork is complete for the day, come inside and lie with your legs over an ottoman or up the wall. You will approach the wall sitting sideways to it, with your butt as close to the wall as possible. (If your legs are tight, you may be unable to get your rear very close.) Then roll over onto your back stretching your legs up the wall. Lie there for 2-10 minutes, breathing deeply and feel proud of yourself for the work you have completed!