In the previous post, I introduced you to some warm-up exercises. I’ll continue with the Preparing Your Body for Gardening theme. It may seem a bit strange doing some exercise before gardening, but you will appreciate the results!
Garden Fitness Tips Part #3
11. Improve Leg Strength with Squats.
Leg strength is imperative when you garden. Improving leg muscle strength before you venture into the garden will ensure that sore muscles won’t be as much of a problem. There are several ways you can strengthen your legs, but one of the most effective is squats. Here are some good examples of squat exercises:
- Weight on heels. Standing in upright position, put all your weight on heels, keeping back aligned. With straight back, squat as low as you can and hold for a few seconds.
- Sissy squat. Hold a chair for balance and stand, feet apart, hip-width. Rise up on your toes while bending your knees. Lean back until knees are at 90 degrees, forming a straight line between shoulders and knees.
- Goblet squat. Standing with feet a bit farther than shoulder-length, turn feet out. Holding a dumbbell next to chest (goblet-like), hold elbows to the side. Squat until knees are at 90 degrees and then do a small jump as you rise.
Squat exercises will improve your glutes as well as strengthening your legs. You can repeat the above exercises as many times as you like, but try to get at least 20 repeats in before you stop.
12. Increase Your Stride
Your stride is important for many gardening chores because it dictates how far you can stretch without causing problems with muscles and joints. There are several things you can do to increase your stride to help you get across the garden and mow the lawn faster and easier. Here are a few exercises to try:
- Plyometrics. This unique form of exercising helps to produce energy during the contraction of the muscles. Jumping (such as performing jumping jacks), bounding up stairs, step-up exercises such as those in drills, box step-ups and more. This will help to increase your lower-body strength and improve your stride.
- Heel kicks and lifting knees. This exercise will increase the strength of a jump and lengthen your stride. Skipping exercises such as raising your knees high and then swinging your lower leg out while jumping is similar to the game, Hop Scotch, which you played as a child. When you skip, raise your knee as high as possible. Perform the exercise for about 70 feet and see how fast you can get across that distance.
- Yoga stretching. Many yoga stretching exercises are wonderful for increasing power and stride – especially those for your legs and lower body. When you try these exercises, do so slowly and gently for better results.
The more you focus on exercises for your lower body and length of stride, the easier you’ll find the gardening chores which require walking and reaching with your legs.
13. Don’t Forget to Stretch the Hamstrings
Hamstring stretches are essential if you spend most of the day behind a desk or in some other position where the hamstrings aren’t being worked. Hamstrings affect your hips, knees and back, so it’s important to ensure they’re healthy and flexible. Here are some hamstring stretches you’ll want to try:
- Hamstrings and shoulder stretch. Standing with feet hip-length apart, clasp hands behind back. Bend at hips, keeping legs straight while tucking chin and bringing hands over head. Relax your neck, release hands and place them on the back of your thighs while relaxing the knees. Hold and then roll up to beginning position.
- One leg hurdler stretch. Sitting on floor, place left leg in front and straighten. Bend right knee and place the bottom of right foot against the inner thigh of left leg. Turn and fold over your left leg with back kept straight. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat on right leg.
- For sciatic relief. Laying on back, support a thigh behind the knee with hand. Slowly straighten knee until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Attempt to face the bottom of the foot to the ceiling, using one leg at a time. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on other leg.
Hamstring stretches can also relieve sciatic nerve and bulging disc problems. It’s important not to stretch past your limits, so be careful to begin slowly and work up to deeper stretches.
14. Lunges to Keep You Fit for Gardening Gymnastics
Lunge exercises will improve almost every part of your body – especially the hips, legs and back. You’ll develop strength and flexibility over time. It’s important to practice lunges during the “off-season” of gardening to keep flexible and strong for those months when that’s all you seem to do in the garden. Here are some lunge exercises to get you started:
- The perfect lunge. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and keeping back straight (shoulders back), look forward. Step one leg forward as wide as you can to maintain a straight back. Lower hips until both knees bend at about a 90-degree angle, making sure your front knee doesn’t extend over the ankle and your back knee doesn’t touch the floor. Keep weight in the heel area as you push up to the beginning position. Repeat on the other side.
- Using dumbbells with the lunge exercise. Repeat the previous lunge exercise, but this time use hand weights (dumbbells) to make the lunge more challenging.
- Using a step for lunges. You can use a step up and repeat the previous lunge exercise movements. Use dumbbells to make the exercise more challenging and to give a good workout to your leg muscles.
Using the correct lunge techniques when you’re gardening will keep you from being tempted to use your back to bend, arching your back and causing back problems.
15. Exercise Equipment to Keep You Fit for Gardening.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership to keep your body in shape for gardening chores, but a few simple pieces of equipment such as balls and weights can help you keep fit when you can’t go outdoors. Here’s a list of some exercise gadgets that are good to have:
- Exercise bands. A great and inexpensive tool for beginners and advanced fitness experts. They are available in various resistance levels and work to build muscle like hand weights.
- Exercise balls. Use an exercise ball for ab workouts, balance exercises and stretches. When you lie across or sit on an exercise ball, you’re keeping core muscles tight and toned. Your posture will improve and so will your abs and spine.
- Hand weights. These small dumbbells are great for body sculpting and building muscle. You can begin with 3 or 5 pound weights and build up to 8 to 10 pound weights.
DVD workout videos are also great to get your cardiovascular system in shape. You can find everything from “Dancing with the Oldies,” to the more strenuous workout of “Zumba,” that you’ll enjoy.
As with other fitness routines, work out with equipment slowly as you begin and work up to faster and longer workouts. Only do what you’re capable of without risking sore muscles or injuries.
The Rest of the Series
We are almost at the end of this series! Congratulations if you have been following the advice in these posts, I’m sure you have found your general level of fitness has risen. Not only that, your garden should also reflect the extra care and attention you have been able to give it. The next post finishes off the exercise routines, and offers some advice on what to do while you work on your garden.