Preseason Exercises for Gardeners are just as important as the preseason training in competitive sports. The preseason warmups prevent injury, keeping the gardener in the game, ensuring a long and profitable gardening season.
Do you remember to do this before you plant those first seeds? If you forget this you aren’t alone. Even veteran gardeners forget and when the unthinkable happens they suffer just like the beginners. Most gardeners are so eager to get outside and start playing in the dirt, after a long winter, that they neglect this one important thing. While even teenagers can forget this crucial thing and suffer for it. If you are older it can be very serious indeed.
I had a gardening mentor that forgot this important step to successful gardening. She was a garden writer. She had numerous journal articles and gardening books to her credit. I was having tea with her one April afternoon, talking with her about her latest article on rose gardening.
She could barely move. As she sunk into the chair across the table from me, I could see the grimace in her face. She had forgotten this very important start to the gardening season. Now she was paying for it ,big time. Her neglect would cost her weeks of pain and productivity. Her garden would have a late start.
By now you’ve probably guessed this crucial first step to successful gardening. It isn’t about the kind of seed you buy. It isn’t companion planting or even garden planning. The crucial first step is the preparation of the gardener.
Warm-up with preseason exercises for gardeners
Beginning now, before you even go out to the garden take some time to condition your muscles and your heart for a successful gardening season. Just like the marathon runner stretches out before the daily run, the gardener needs to start even a few weeks before the snow melts completely, gently stretching arms, shoulders, back, and leg muscles. This pre-garden warm-up is the crucial first step every gardener needs to have a successful gardening season. And the older you are, the more sedentary your winter was, the more crucial these seasonal exercises for gardeners are.
Gentle stretches will help you warm up to the physical strain of gardening and help you avoid injuries that are common to older gardeners. These exercises and stretches will prepare your body for a painfree gardening season.
Begin by warming up the body by doing 15 minutes of brisk walking or dancing to get the circulation going and warm up the muscles. Don’t worry about the neighbors watching you. Put on some music, if you like, and let your body move.
Then do a few of these light stretches that focus on the back, the shoulders, the legs, and the arms. Stretching should be done slowly, without bouncing. These are the ideal exercises for gardeners because they are slow and intentional without putting undue strain on the lower back and the joints. If you have joint pain or an old back injury, do them slowly and stop before you feel any pain. For most people these gentle exercises are safe and beneficial, but if you have old injuries or an ongoing pain problem, definitely check with your doctor before engaging in any exercise.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a dance class or an exercise class, you might want to check out the class offerings at your local recreation center or gym. When you exercise in a class setting you have the benefit of direct instruction to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly so you can avoid injury.
Once you’ve got the exercise class routine down pat, you can easily use it at home to stretch out before, during, and after gardening.
Here’s a few stretching exercises for gardeners to get you started:
I’m a tree!
With feet hip distance apart, clasp your hands over your head and slowly stretch as high as you can, imagining your feet pushing down like roots into the ground. Hold the position for 5 seconds. Then gently move your arms forward and bend at the waist, without bouncing, to stretch your hips, buttocks, and hamstrings. Hold for a few seconds and stretch up again. When doing this it’s very important to stretch gently without bouncing. When you bend forward you can gently bend your knees. There should be no strain on your lower back.
Place your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Clasp your hands in front of you. Turn your palms to face away from you and hold the stretch for 5 seconds, rounding your shoulders. Release your hands and let them fall to your sides. Repeat the hug.
Sit on a chair or on the floor. Place one leg over the other leg, Crossing the knee with the other ankle, making the shape of a number 4. Put gentle pressure on the bent leg on the knee to gently stretch the hip. Hold for 5 seconds. Release. Repeat with the other leg.
Sitting on the floor with the soles of the feet together, bring the feet along the floor toward your center. Gently push on either knee with your hands to stretch the hip and inner thigh. Be slow and gentle with this movement. Don’t force the knee down. You want to feel just a slight stretch on the inner thigh. Hold for just a few seconds and release.
If you can’t get down on the floor you can do this while sitting on a chair but only stretch one leg at a time, leaving the other leg on the floor to stabalize your balance.
It’s too late! I’ve already got back pain!
If you do find that you strain your back during gardening, there’s a few home remedies you can try that might set things to right quickly.
A warm epsom salt or Dead Sea salt bath immediately after muscle strain can sometimes relax the muscles enough to stop the muscle spasm and pain. This recipe for fir infused Dead Sea Bath Salts is especially soothing to sore muscles.
Massage with St. John’s Wort oil or St. John’s Wort-Cayenne Salve has helped me when I’ve over done it in the garden. St. John’s wort is especially helpful where there is shooting pain that goes from hip to thigh or recurring sciatica pain.
Arnica gel or salve can also help to soothe muscle strains. You can make your own using this recipe.
Back pain can really rob you of the joy in your time in the garden so don’t neglect the pregardening preparation that all gardeners need.
As you make plans to head out to the garden, use these stretches and exercises for gardeners. By doing gentle stretching and increasing your physical activity slowly you can avoid injury and extend the gardening season longer.
And before you go, if you do suffer from chronic back or joint pain go a little deeper and try the exercises in the book, Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Peter Egoscue. This book made a huge difference for my husband when he suffered with chronic back pain after falling 20 feet out of an Old Pear Tree, while harvesting pears in 1997.