The Gardner’s Workout

The Gardner’s Workout

Marcia Guy LMBT, CPT

Why I workout: keeping up with my chickens, weeding my garden, enjoying my harvest!
The “Fruits” of our labor: our chickens, strawberries, oyster mushrooms

As a fellow Weekend Warrior, I spend my weekends in the yard: digging up daffodils that are too shaded to flower and dividing them out into new homes, mulching our front path, weeding/mulching our asparagus bed, planting hostas. (Can you tell our yard is heavily shaded?). I could feel a familiar stiffness in my low back as I finished up in the asparagus. In fact, Mondays tend to be a busy day at the office as we get calls from people who went a bit too hard, too long over the weekend. Frequently, when we have pain like this, it’s because the muscles lack the necessary strength to perform the task we’re asking of them and when we’re in “go mode” we also don’t stop to stretch and take breaks the way we should. This then abuses those unprepared muscles and leaves us stiff, aching, and sore.

Exercise Lays our Foundation

One way to make gardening and yard work easier is to exercise those key muscles that we rely on to perform our tasks. By taking time to tone the tendons/ligaments and add some strength to the muscles, we reduce our risk of pain and injury. Furthermore, when exercising we can take the time to focus on proper form, this then drills that correct movement into the “muscle memory” so when we are going about daily life we are more likely to use it. This is another problem with the “go mode” mentality. We are so focused on finishing the task we don’t pay attention to using good form.

The following is great for any experience level and only requires a set of dumbbells or a resistance band. Perform the warm-up once, then run through the entire exercise circuit before repeating it a second time. If you exercise regularly, try going for a 3rd repetition. The whole workout should take you about 5-6 minutes if you run the circuit twice and keep a good pace.

The Gardner’s Workout

Warm Up:

  • 10 Arm Circles (10 forward and 10 backward)
  • 10 Windmills
  • 10 Jumping Jacks

Exercise Circuit:

  • 8-15 Deadlift
  • 8-15 Prisoner Squat
  • 8-15 Bent Over Row

– Check below for Success Tips –

The Gardner’s Stretch

This stretch protocol is a good cool-down after the workout, or can be used after a day in the garden. You’ll notice with the hamstring stretch you can rest your palms against your shins if you can’t reach the floor. Also, during the “Eagle” stretch, if you can’t interlace your arms, that’s okay. Make sure the side you’re stretching keeps the upper arm parallel to the ground and your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Then use the hand of the opposite side to pull the elbow in and across the body. You should feel this most in your shoulder blade.

Tips for Success:

  1. If you don’t exercise regularly, I suggest using very low weights for the workouts, 2-10 pounds. The first step should be focusing on endurance, this allows us to tone the tendons and ligaments (which take longer to adapt to exercise). Build up your number of repetitions before increasing your weight. When you add weight, reduce your repetitions again and then build back up. This progressive approach to training ensures the body has time to adapt and reduces our chance of injury. 
  2. Never “push through the pain”. We push through fatigue, but when we hurt we are more likely to compensate and use improper form, especially when we are new to exercise or getting back into it after a break. This is how we injure ourselves during exercise.
  3. Always warm up before and always stretch afterward. Muscles that are “cold” are more susceptible to strain. Furthermore, after spending our workout contracting our muscles repeatedly, it’s very easy for them to remain in that contracted state. Stretching after a workout helps us in multiple ways: It lengthens the muscles to their proper position, it squeezes out the increased blood volume (ensuring fresh blood comes in), it encourages new muscle tissue being laid down to orient along the grain of the muscle (allowing us to heal faster).
  4. 4. Hydrate!

For more tips on starting to exercise, check out our post The Easy Workout Guide for Beginners. Are you interested in more hobby based workouts? Comment and let us know what you’d like me to put together!