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Injury Prevention in the Garden

Fitness guru Wes Cole offers valuable advice on how to keep gardening from becoming a pain in the neck -- and back and knees.

Touch-your-toes stretch

Yard work can be hard physical labor. And if done improperly, yard work can lead to injury. Wes Cole, Paul James’ personal trainer and overall fitness guru, gives us valuable advice on how to keep gardening from becoming a pain in the neck—and back and knees.

Hip stretch

"Preparation for a day of garden work is very similar to that of working out in the gym," according to Wes. "It’s critical that you warm up your body before you stretch," Wes explains.

Toe raises

Wes’s favorite way to warm up is just to take a hot shower. That's what a lot of athletes do and it’s been proven to decrease injury. An alternate way to warm up is to take a stroll through your yard to elevate the temperature of your muscles. Once your blood is flowing you can move on to stretches.

Stretch your back by hugging a tree! This will work all the muscles along the spine and also stretches your biceps.

Start with the largest muscle groups first: your legs. Try a basic hamstring stretch, then move on to the hips and work each side to ensure you keep an even keel. Next do some toe raises to get the blood flowing to your calves and help prevent dangerous pulls and tears. Simple arm circles help prevent sore arms and help get your body ready for the range of motion needed in gardening, particularly in your shoulders.

Shovel-on-shoulder stretch

Here are some additional hints to prevent strains and injury:

  • Remain as upright as you can when raking, hoeing and performing other gardening tasks. This keeps the strain off your back. Also be sure to buy tools with handles made for your height.

  • Use your legs and tighten your abs (as if you're bracing for a punch) when pulling weeds or performing other chores that require bending over, such as a squat.

  • When lifting, squat down and use your legs.

  • When lifting, use your legs. Squat down, keep your back straight and lift. Or if you need to drag a heavy item, keep your arms straight and use your legs to pull, rather than pulling with your arms.

  • Stay well hydrated. Drink even when you’re not thirsty.

  • Wheelbarrows with two front wheels help reduce strain from an uneven load.

  • When using a wheelbarrow, keep your back straight. Work your arms as cables; don’t pull with your arms.

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