Heed Before You Weed!


By Sherry Steinman

In the world of Health and Fitness, referring to gardening as good exercise may seem to be a stretch – and it is. And you should!  Stretch, that is, before you garden.  And afterward.


What we’re talking about here is laying the groundwork to prepare your body for the gardening season so you don’t totally stiffen-up after a long stint of crouching and digging. A little stiffness will be natural, but we’re striving for less discomfort.

Remember last season? You went outside to pull a few weeds and maybe loosen up some dirt after spring breezes whispered it was time … and the next day you felt like one of those gnarled roots you ran across and flung in the trash.  Let’s avoid that this year.

First, you will garden approximately four times longer than you intended to. It’s a given — especially if the season is young and the novelty is still there.  So, don’t think that warming up and stretching your muscles is foolish for a “15-minute gardening project.”  There is no such thing.

You know you will be out there at least an hour!

Stretching your arms and legs, as well as loosening up the waistline area and lower back region takes only a few minutes. It should be done slowly.  Long, slow stretches – no bouncing.  Hold the furthest comfortable stretch in each direction, and repeat the moves at least twice through.  For the neck and shoulders, rotate gently – shoulders 360-degrees each way, and neck 180-degrees front only, no neck-to spine.

Proper Rotation and Planning

As you rotate those petunias and impatiens, also rotate your body position. Not too long in one spot, on one knee, or using only one wrist.  Wear a watch that you can peek at under those gardening gloves (yes, wear those, too!) or you may not realize how long you’ve been bent over the same way until it’s too late.  Try not to sit, kneel, or lean in the same way for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

Next, be realistic. You will need at least twice as many tools and other gardening ‘stuff’ than you think you will.

“I’ll just bring this shovel and a basket for the pullings,” I remember saying to myself last spring. Ha! Don’t try to make this work for you.  A shovel is not designed to do everything — and yesterday’s newspaper is not a good knee cushion.

Get a heavy foam pad and the rest of the tools you’ll need, and put everything within easy reach. Maybe in a handy basket, or wheelbarrow to move along with you.  Before you’re done there will be several tools and baskets filled with pullings strewn all about.  But so what?  You planned it that way.

Water and Loving Care

The watering here is for you.  Especially if it’s hot out, be sure to have a bottle of cool water near your gardening area.  Drink it!  If it’s not hot outside and you’re in the shade, you still might find the water handy to sip on and to rinse something clean, or liven up a planting.

Now that you’re about done with your hour of gardening (OK, you can see it’s been at least two hours) aren’t you glad you stretched? Do it again. After you are done, and after all those tools are cleaned and put away, be sure you do the same stretches again at least once through, including the neck and shoulder rotations.

Also, wind your wrists in a ‘figure eight’ pattern a few times and wiggle and flex your fingers. You will be glad for this the next morning.  Also, a little loving care with some good hand and body lotion following a nice bath or shower should work wonders.  Soon you’ll be back out there again, leaving  your neighbors to wonder, “How can he/she do all that gardening and not complain about aches and pains?”

Don’t tell. Just say something cryptic like, “Heed before you weed.”

They’ll probably leave you alone after that!