Originally published June 12, 2015
By Nicole Tsong, former Fit for Life writer
CALLING MYSELF A gardener is, well, a stretch.
I test my gardening abilities every year with vegetables. I like to put in kale, cucumbers and pole beans. I have experimented with various seeds that never came up. I do decently well with cherry tomatoes, though I credit my south-facing garden with that achievement rather than a green thumb. I considered planting dahlias a bold move.
I rarely spend a full day in the garden or the yard, though I have done enough hammering of stakes for tomato plants and watering of vegetables to know that you can work up a sweat. If you spend the entire day out there weeding or trimming hedges, you probably deserve that ice-cold drink afterward, too.
It’s easy to forget you are challenging your body with a physical workout. Spend a day out in the yard moving compost, digging and pulling, and your back, legs and shoulders all are likely to speak up. Your garden can prove a good test of your general fitness.
You can take a few steps to stay healthy by warming up and also lessen next-day aches by stretching post-gardening. Take a few extra minutes to take care of yourself, and you might be surprised by the results. To warm up, you can jog; do jumping jacks; or do two rounds of 10 each of lunges, squats and push-ups.
Instead of plopping into a chair after you’re done and calling it good, do a few stretches for areas of your body that worked the hardest. Unwind your spine with a twist, do lunges to stretch your hip flexors, and stretch your spine and hamstrings with a forward fold. Breathe deeply when stretching.
Some supportive stretches to include after gardening:
• Use a tall gardening tool for support.
• Lower your back knee to the ground. Square your hips forward. Shift forward toward your front foot to stretch into your hip flexors. Engage your core to support your low back. Hold for five counts. Switch sides.
Low lunge with a twist
• From your low lunge on your right side, lower your left hand down inside your right leg. Reach your right hand up to the sky for a twist. Keep your core engaged, and hug your shoulder blades toward your spine. Look up past your right hand. Hold five counts. Switch.
• For this active hip stretch, cross your right ankle over your left knee, and bend your standing leg. Use a tool or a fence for support. Flex your toes on your upper foot. Lower your chest toward your upper leg for a deeper stretch into your hip. Hold five counts. Switch sides.
Seated forward fold
• Sit on the grass. Extend your legs straight. Reach for your feet. If you can’t reach your feet, bend your knees, grab your feet and slowly extend your legs to stretch into your low back and hamstrings. Squeeze your thigh muscles to open safely into hamstrings.
Twisting seated forward fold
• Extend your left leg. Tuck your right foot into your left thigh. Reach your left hand toward your foot. Stretch your right arm up and over toward your extended foot. Soften your shoulders, and twist your chest toward the sky. Stay for five counts. Switch sides.
Rag doll with a bind
• Bring your feet at least hip-width distance or wider. Interlace your hands at your low back, or use a tool. Fold your chest over your legs. Extend your arms away from your low back to release in your shoulders. Relax your head. Stay for five counts.