Blog of the Week: Tips From Pilates For Gardening with Better Body Mechanics

Tips From Pilates For Gardening With Better Body Mechanics

Hooray!! Spring has sprung and Mother Nature is calling us outside to play in the gardgardeningen.  It’s time to clean things up in the yard and watch things bloom and grow. I always feel excited to get out there and see what new little plant has popped its head up. It feeds my soul to get my hands in the dirt and nurture the brave little things along.

I know for myself, after a period of raking, trimming, digging and pulling weeds, my feet, hands, legs and back always remind me that I’ve done something out of the ordinary, especially in the Spring, from using a few muscle groups that don’t get worked in my normal Pilates and resistance workouts.  I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve seen that come crawling into the studio after a weekend of gardening complaining that their back hurts!  And while I can’t promise that you’ll be able to totally avoid muscle or joint soreness when gardening season starts, there are some things you can be mindful of to help keep your body well-balanced while you’re digging, chopping, raking and having fun “green thumb” experiences.

Pilates is the perfect off-season gardening training program!  We do exercises while standing, seated, kneeling, face up, upside down. We focus on spine, hip and shoulder mechanics, core support, and so many things to help you become well-balanced and aware of how you are moving.

So how do we stay healthy and avoid knee, hip and back pain while having fun working in the yard and gardening? Here are my top five Pilates tips to help you stay pain and injury-free this season.

Pilates Tips for Gardening without Back Pain

  1.  Use Your Core MORE.  That strong low abdominal support we work on in Pilates is critical when you’re bent over and working in the yard.  Not only does your deep powerhouse need to work as you’re digging pulling, and lifting, but they need to stay engaged the whole time you’re bent over to support your lower back! Check in on your shoulders… if you find you are hiking your shoulders up, it could be your abs are not doing their job.       Ab strength rocks!
  2. Coordinate Your Breath with Your Effort.  You will have maximum core support when you exert on an exhale.  Even if that little weed you might be pulling is small, it may be tenacious.  So inhale to prepare, exhale (pull your abs in, melt your shoulders down) and then pull on the weed!  Develop a Pilates-style breathing pattern that supports your efforts, whether you’re pulling weeds, digging, pruning, everything you’re doing and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
  3. Alternate the Leg You Squat Down With.  We habitually tend to put our dominant leg forward.  If you do this while you are gardening, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing tons of full squats on one leg and zero full squats on the other side.  This will overdevelop your strong side, and continue to weaken your weak side, shifting your hips, pelvis, and back out of alignment.  Alternate legs when getting to the ground and when getting up. That way you’ll work both legs evenly and you’ll find your body feels better when you’re done. Think balance!
  4. Alternate the Hand You Use To Do the Work.  Again, balanced muscle development.  It’s important to think about strength training to develop both sides of your body evenly.  It’s a challenge to use your weaker hand, arm and shoulder to pull weeds and plant.  Can you do it?  Squat down with your left leg and pull weeds with your right hand.  Squat down with your right leg and pull weeds with your left hand.   It can be as much of a brain-game as a whole-body workout to be consciously working the body evenly while you’re digging in the dirt!
  5. Take at least 15 Minutes and STRETCH when you’re done.  I know you’re tired! You’ve been getting a workout… and if you’re like me I sometimes go way past fatigue when gardening. Lots of leg work is involved in those deep squats.  Your hips and back will be tight and tired. Your body will thank you to do some stretches for Spine Extension, Shoulders, Hamstrings, Quads, Inner Thighs, Outer Hips, Calves, Hands and Feet.  (Sneak Peek) Visit our blog this Friday for some great gardening stretches 🙂

Gardening can be a fun way to put your Pilates body into action and apply everything you know about moving efficiently. Incorporate these 5 Pilates training tips to help avoid knee, hip, and back pain while gardening and discover how valuable your Pilates training really is to keep you strong, fit, and flexible.  Enjoy every minute of your time your nurturing green spaces AND still be able to leap out of bed the next day with a healthy body and happy back!

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