Thursday, March 27, 2008

No 5K for Me! by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

It’s here! Can’t you feel it? Smell it? Certainly you can begin to see it! It’s Spring!

New green growth is pushing up through the still frozen earth. The bulbs, quietly dormant under the record snow cover of this winter, seek the warmth of the sun. I’m always surprised at the rate of survival from year to year. Each day a new little nub of green I spot. No doubt I will squeal with delight at the sign of my first crocus!

Soon the squealing will be replaced with the groans and moans of a dormant body beginning the chores of spring. Each year I vow I will not put myself through the agony that is bestowed upon an out of shape me. I will prepare as an athlete prepares. Surely each Red Sox player has a regimen they follow before they step on to the baseball field for the first time. A marathon runner doesn’t go from a couch potato to 5K run. Why should an activity as physical as gardening be any different? This year I declare to get my self in shape first. Don’t worry, you will not see me jogging around ‘the boulevard’ or practicing thrusts, though perhaps I should. No, just simple stretches for me. Anything is better than my usual 0 to 120 mph as many gardeners do.

Even weekend gardeners need to prepare for the coming season. The repetitive movements such a weeding, raking, digging and pruning put stress on hand and wrist. We also must be mindful of our knees, back and shoulders. Something as simple as a daily walk will begin to get the body prepared.

The following warm-ups were given to me by Andi, a Physical Therapists at the call center where I work. She knows my season is coming up and wants to make sure I’m in shape for all my jobs.

The American Society of Hand Therapists ASHT® has this to say about preparing for the gardening season; “Warming up before gardening is just as important as warming up before a vigorous workout. After warming up, stretching exercises for the major muscle groups that will be involved in performing the task can reduce the risk of injury.”

ASHT® recommends following warm-up exercises:
(Note: These exercises should never be painful. You should only feel a gentle stretch. Should you experience pain, please consult your primary care provider.)

œ Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward. You should feel a stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.
œ Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms overhead. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.
œ This is a stretch for the upper back and shoulder. Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times for each arm.
œ This stretch benefits the triceps. Raise one arm overhead. Bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on the bent elbow and gently push the elbow back and forth for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times for each arm.
œ To stretch forearm and wrist muscles. Extend an arm in front of you; making sure the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend the wrist downward, hold for 10 seconds. Then turn the palm up and stretch the wrist backwards, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times for each arm.

Another suggestion offered by the ASHT® surprised me; ‘work with well sharpened tools as well as tools designed for the task’. It does make sense. Too dull a tool, say a pruner, may not only damage the plant you are pruning but will result in too tight a grip to achieve the desired result. Another big ‘no’, is trying to prune a 4 inch limb with pruners more suitable for a 2 inch branch. Been there, done that. If it is taking you 2 hands to do the job meant for one, it is time to switch tools.

Other stretches offered by ‘my trainer’ I find very relaxing. At first I could not see how balancing on an oversized beach ball would help but I was assured it would. The balls circumference is approximately 3 ft and I take turns balancing on my stomach and back. The key is not to put pressure on feet or hands. This will prepare for the stretching we do especially when weeding and planting.

Since gardening has become such a passion for so many, those in climates such as Maine’s may suffer the most from repetitive motion injuries. Reason being, we lead such sedentary lives in the winter then jump right in. While caught up in our gardening frenzy we tend to contort and stretch our bodies in ways we would never dream of during the ‘off season’. If you don’t believe me think of how many times you would stretch to get one last weed, or dead head one more, than another spent bloom instead of getting up and moving slightly closer to your subject. You are nodding ‘yes’ aren’t you?

As the season progresses there will be other tips. If you have any of your own, please share. Personally I need all the ‘getting in shape’ help I can get. I vow this year not to spend the month of May applying Ben Gay and wishing to sleep in my truck just to avoid having to walk into my house.

Attention Skillin’s staff, this may not mean I will not need ‘help loading’ in the beginning, but be prepared if I answer with a resounding ‘no thank you’ before July!

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