It’s that time of year again! The garden is coming to life and as soon as the weather lets us we are back out in the garden, weeding, digging, pruning, lifting heavy wheel barrows etc. As the weather is so unpredictable in the UK we tend to over do it in the garden and pay for it a few days later! Sound familiar?
Do you ever think of gardening as exercise? Do you still get the aches and pains as you would if you had started a new exercise regime?
Maybe doing a few Pilates exercises before and after gardening will help reduce the normal aches and pains and help protect your back?
Tips before you start gardening
Warm up! Well you would if you were about to exercise so why not gardening? Don’t worry, you don’t need to put your exercise kit on or get hot and sweaty. (that will depend though if it’s a rare hot day here in the UK!)
Have a brisk walk round your garden to warm up your muscles, you can also plan what you are going to do and get your gardening tools ready!
Set yourself a time limit as well so you don’t stay stuck in the same position for hours. You’d be surprised how often you do! Move regularly.
When you are in the garden you just want to get going and tend not to think about how you do things. By doing some Pilates exercises before and after gardening you can strengthen and mobilise the areas you need to e.g. your core, leg, arms and spine.
5 Top Pilates exercises to help you before and after gardening
1. The Roll Down
This is a great exercise to mobilise the spine and also a good hamstring stretch.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart and stand in neutral. ( Our Beginners video will explain neutral if you are not sure)
- Exhale and bring your chin to chest and roll towards the floor with the top of you head leading the way.
- Let your arms hang by your side
- Try not to push your bottom back as you roll down and ensure that you are really using your core to control and balance you.
- Inhale as you get as far as you can
- Exhale and start to stack you spine back up until you are standing tall again
- Repeat x 3
2. The Swan Dive
After gardening this is such a nice exercise to do. It stretches and strengthens all the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders. All those areas that are going to aches after gardening.
- Lie on your stomach with your elbows into your waist and hands a bit wider (like you are making a W with your arms)
- Ensure you are lying in neutral with your pubic bone towards the floor and your gluts (bottom) working.
- Inhale as you raise up through the chest and pushing up through the arms, lengthening through the spine
- Keeping the gluts squeezed and ensuring that you don’t feel it in your back.
- Exhale and lower back to the floor
- Repeat x 5
3. The Shoulder Bridge
Another great exercise for after gardening especially if you have been stuck in one position for a while. This focus on strengthening your core, thighs and gluts. As well as mobilising the spine.
- Lie on your back in your neutral position with your knees bent.
- Exhale as you push your lower back into the floor.
- Squeeze your bottom and start to peel your spine off the floor.
- Ensure you are drawing your pubic bone towards your belly button to engage your core.
- Inhale when you get to the top
- Exhale as you place your spine back onto the floor.
- Repeat x 5
4. Thigh Stretch
The Thigh stretch is great for strengthening your legs. Important in gardening so you can squat down rather then bending over from the waist and putting strain on your back.
- Up on your knees ensure you are in neutral (your pubic bone and breast bone should be in line)
- You will find that your gluts should be working
- Engage your core
- From the knees go back as far as you can with out losing your technique. Exhale as you do this.
- Hold and inhale
- Exhale as you come back up
- Yes you will feel it in the front of your legs
- Repeat x 5
5. Spine Twist
The spine twist is great for stretching out the back.
- Sit tall with your legs straight or bent. You need to be sitting up on your sit bones. If it helps sit on a cushion.
- Take your arms out to side.
- Lengthen through the spine and exhale as you twist to the right
- Inhale as you come back to the centre.
- Repeat to the left.
- Repeat x 3
If you perform these exercises 3 – 4 times a week before or after gardening you should feel a difference. As with all new exercise regimes please seek medical advice before starting if you are unsure.