On the first nice day many of us have the impulse to jump into our gardens and do everything we can: rake, cutback, transplant, mulch.. but if you hurt yourself on the first day, you may not get back out there all week or even all season. So go easy! Do a little the first day and then a little more the next. And try some of these stretches to help ward off injuries caused by manic-spring-gardening. (If you already have back problems or an injury, ask your doctor before adding these stretches to your pre-gardening routine.)
Take five or ten minutes before you tackle your spring-clean up and loosen up. The previous post covered some hamstring stretches and some shoulder and neck movements. Now, lets stretch our spine.
Spine stretch - Sit on the floor with your legs straight out and feet together. Contract your abdominal muscles and curl your shoulders forward (creating a C with your spine) and reach for your toes. You are not simply folding your body in half - no- you are arching your spine as you bend, separating your shoulder blades and stretching out the spaces in between your vertebrae. Roll back up, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and repeat six times.
The Saw - Still sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, spread your feet about shoulder-width apart. Sitting up very tall, raise your arms out to your sides, (perpendicular to the floor) and twist your body. Lean forward and reach your right hand to your left foot. "Saw" off your left foot's little toe with your right pinky-finger (but this is not a back and forth motion - just a Pilates misnomer). Very gently lean a little more forward with each exhale for three breaths, then sit up and untwist. Then twist to the other side and lean forward and "Saw" off the toes of your right foot. Be gentle, don't force or bounce, and remember to twist, THEN lean forward - sit up and THEN untwist. Repeat six times.
And let's not forget our feet. Stand on the bottom step of your stairs on the balls of your feet (Hold on to the railing or wall to keep your balance). Letting the back of the feet and heels droop over the edge. Gently allow your weight to stretch out the bottom of your feet and stretch your calves. Don't bounce.
While you are gardening, especially the first few days, try not to spend too much time in the same position. Pick a section. Cut back brown stalks. Rake that little area. Dump your tarp or pop-up weed bag. (Spray the clean section with deer-repellent!!!!! They'll eat anything this time of year!) Then start a new little section.
The point is - try not to spend more than ten minutes in one position - mix it up. The other benefit of doing small little sections is you won't load up your tarp or weed bag too heavy. Drag small loads to your compost pile. So it's a few more trips? Go easy, gentle... happy and pain-free.