yard work IS a workout.

Life changing celebrations have a way of  getting people motivated to check off the to-dos on their list of BIG projects around the house.  I would expect nothing less of us as we prepare for Delaney’s High School graduation celebration in our backyard.   

Our top three to-dos: 1. Finish the landscape bed we started a few years back.  2. Create a new landscape bed where Gracie, our Labrador, plays with all her puppy friends making it impossible to grow grass. 3. Trim the trees.  Conveniently I am married to a landscape designer so one and two can be done in house.  The third one we will hire out.     

With a tight timeline, today I volunteered to help Jeff check off a few tasks on his “honey-do” list in the backyard.  When it comes to yard work, I believe God gave me a brother for many amazing reasons and one of them is that his chore growing up  was mowing the lawn and raking leaves.  Then I married Jeff and he just doesn’t trust me with “his lawn”.  Not today though, Jeff managed me through an entire landscape bed, from weeding, to tilling,  to planting, to mulch!

After completing “Kristen’s Landscape Bed” in the backyard, which is what Jeff endearingly called it knowing it would give me complete ownership of my project, I felt extremely proud of my accomplishments.  I also have a new appreciation for Jeff and the backbreaking work that he does daily for his business, Outdoor Design, LLC.  A shameless plug for him.  

As I was bent over cleaning out the leaves and weeds, tilling it, digging and planting the shrubs, laying the landscape cloth and lifting large bags of mulch, my ENTIRE body was exhausted!  All I could think about was that this is a freaking workout AND I need to be mindful of my form as I move my body in ways that I am not used to.  I know not a typical thought while doing yard work, yet very important.  

I learned about the human body’s kinetic chain through my personal training certification.  Stay with me for just a moment while I explain.  It is how your entire body is interdependent and has to work together to perform movements.  This is why, if you hurt your foot and walk with a limp to compensate, your knee or back  might start to bother you soon after.  Also, a weak core can cause a host of problems in your back or hips.  This is why stabilization exercises are so important as a foundation.  That’s a coaching add on.

In order to have balance and ease of movement in all areas of your body, those parts have to function well together.  You might even notice imbalances in your own body.  If something feels “off”, maybe it’s one hip, one knee, one side, or even a half of your body that always seems a little less able to do the same activities without difficulty or pain.

Our bodies are amazing and can adapt to all sorts of situations by figuring out unique ways to perform activities; however, you can end up with major strength and balance deficits when your body finds a maladaptive way to overcome an existing kinetic chain issue.   I could go on and on but I will stop for now.  However,  if you do notice imbalances, see a professional and definitely be cautious when doing yard work or other exercises.

Getting to “this is a freaking workout!”  Yard work is a great cardiovascular and strength training workout.  From raking leaves, sweeping the patio, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, tilling, lifting bags of mulch and the list goes on.  All of these activities increase the oxygen flow to the heart and get your heart rate going.  Mowing the lawn with a push mower alone burns more calories than walking and is considered a full body workout especially if your mower is not self-propelled. 

With that said, just as there are proper ways to exercise, there are proper and similar ways to do yard work.  Keep the following top of mind before you head out to your yard:

  1. stretch before your start.

It might not be called a “workout” but you are using your muscles all the same so make sure you stretch just as you would if you were getting ready for a workout in the gym.  This will help prevent injury and chances of muscle strain.

  1. drink water and fuel your body.

Make sure you drink water.  Dehydrated muscles will cramp and are more easily injured.  It can also cause headaches or nausea.  Fueling  your body with proper nutrition is important to sustain the energy needed to get the job done.  

  1. proper equipment and use.

Wear sturdy shoes or work boots, work gloves, sun block, sunglasses or goggles to protect your feet, hands, skin and eyes.  When protecting the rest of your body, the repetitive motion that your body undergoes when using weed trimmers, leaf blowers and hedge clippers can cause problems within your kinetic chain so it is important to use them properly.  If the piece of equipment you are using has a strap, place the strap over your head on the shoulder on the opposite side of your body from the equipment. This will help stabilize your center of gravity.  To balance the muscles being used, regularly switch the side on which you are operating the equipment and alternate your stance and motion frequently. Switching sides goes for raking and shoveling too.

  1. lift properly.

To help prevent back and spine injuries when lifting a heavy object, make sure to lift with your legs and NOT your back. Always bend at the knees and keep your back straight.   Use the same technique when putting the heavy object down.  Make sure to hold heavy items close to your body and avoid twisting your body while carrying it.  If you need to place an object to the side of you, turn your whole body, not just your waist. Ideally, have someone else who can help you lift the large or heavy item. Two people are ALWAYS better than one.

  1. take your time.  

Take plenty of breaks. This will keep your muscles from getting fatigued and give your back and spine rest.  You don’t need to get everything done in one day. Focus on one task at a time.  Even if you workout on the regular, I guarantee your workouts don’t last as long as a day of yard work.  Did I mention to drink lots of water?

  1. listen to your body.

If Spring has sprung and you have not moved your body all winter, your body is more susceptible to injury.  Listen to your body.  If it hurts, stop!  If it feels like just a strain, then rest and ice the area.  If the pain doesn’t go away, consider heading to a medical specialist. A great way to help prevent injury is to keep your muscles toned with regular exercise all year round. Again, another coaching add on.

Now, I have more work to do in the yard!  

emi –  coach kristen

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