Anyone planning a stint in the garden will organise some
external physical protection first:-
# Shoes to protect feet
# Gloves to protect hands
# Hat and sunscreen to protect face
# Clothes to protect against heat or cold
But very few will take steps to protect their insides and
I’m referring here to muscles and joints.
Yet it is these body parts that will bear the brunt of your
Regardless of your age, a brief muscle and joint warm-up prior to a day in the garden is not just sensible, it is essential.
Before you take up your tools spend a moment or two to
stretch some key muscles and warm-up a few joints. This sets them up to handle strain, literally
waking them up and injecting extra blood supply and lubrication.
As you need a coffee or tea to get going in
the morning, so your muscles and joints need a gentle kick start.
#1. Tall side stretch – reach up, grab left wrist and pull
up/over to the right.
Hold for 20 secs then back to centre then repeat on
#2. Quadriceps stretch – stand on one leg, lift other foot
backwards into palm of hand, keep pelvis tilted forwards.
Hold for 20 secs
then repeat other side.
#3. Back Arch – hands on hips then arch gently backwards
pushing hips forwards with hands.
Hold for 10 secs and repeat twice more.
#4. Calf stretch – both hands on wall, left leg back, right
leg bent. Push left heel into ground and
lean forwards into the stretch.
Hold for 20 secs then repeat other leg.
Don’t forget, you’re not an Olympic athlete, you're a
gardener so take it easy, don’t overstretch, just loosen muscles, joints and surrounding tendons.
Shrug your shoulders up high then rotate
backwards pushing the chest out and then complete the circle. This mobilises the many joints in the shoulder and lower neck and loosens the surrounding muscles.
Shoulders in particular can take quite a strain, especially when using shears or loppers.
Repeat four more times.
Chin retractions (making a double chin) might not make you
look your best but it does stretch the neck very well and separate the
vertebrae. The neck is quite slender yet carries a heavy load so it will compress readily - unless you give it a stretch out now and again.
Five of these to start the day.
Standing against the wall for support, roll gently down (peeling off the wall one vertebrae at a time)
and hang there for 30 seconds – this will stretch the hamstrings and loosen the
lumbar spine ready for action. Anyone who has had lower back pain after gardening should always do this before starting.
Do once with legs bent and again with them straight.
Make circles with your foot in both directions
while standing on one leg (balance is not just a natural reaction, its
something you have to practice, especially as you gain in age). Your ankle contain multiple stabilising muscles so its good to ensure they are ready to do their very important work before you start yours.
Twenty seconds for each ankle.
There’s nothing inconvenient in this brief exercise routine – you can do all these in
around four minutes.
If you are really keen however then a buttock stretch will
pay dividends later. You’ll have seen
sports people do these before a game and the gluteus maximus being the biggest
muscle in the body can also do a great deal to protect the lumbar spine area if it is prepared
Lay on your back, place left ankle over right knee, lift
right leg towards chest, grab knee with left hand and ankle with right hand and
pull towards chest. You should feel a
good stretch in the buttock. Hold for 20
secs and repeat on other side.
Now you are ready to go you'll need to see my other article here on GardensOnline entitled 'Avoiding Aches and Pains after Gardening'. It explains the hows and whys of 'Opposite Movement' stretches to regularly rest joints, tendons and muscles during gardening activity.
Author Note: Catherine Stephens is the principal of Northern Beaches Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre and is a passionate advocate of Sustainable Health for all ages.
Address: Level 1, The Dee Why Grand,
Suite 4117, 834 Pittwater Road,
Dee Why, NSW 2099.
Tel: 02 9971 2185