This is a FANTASTIC time of year to be outside and many of you have already answered the call of the great outdoors. But along with the fun, exercise, and social activities comes another call…the call of your yard. It demands attention and you have begun the seasonal wrestling match with your property.
Now, I’m not an expert on landscaping or home repair and will gladly defer to other, more knowledgeable heads and greener thumbs on that topic. But I know the human body really well, especially when it’s working hard, and yard work can easily be considered a rigorous workout. Like any workout, it can improve your condition when done properly, or set you back if you over-do-it. So pay attention to your body and use these tips to care for yourself while laboring in your yard this season.
- Hydrate. Your body needs water all the time and not just when you are sweating. Make sure to pump in the water to meet your work demands. Avoid carbonated beverages, and hyper amounts of caffeine, salt, and alcohol as these choices steal water away from your body creating a laundry-list of problems. (stay tuned for an article entirely dedicated to hydration)
- Dress for the temperature. Protect yourself from overheating with clothing that is lite in weight, lite in color, and which can hold some water. Wicking fabric seems like a good idea, but good ol’ fashion cotton holds water (sweat) against your skin which keeps you cooler.
- Caution: Heavy lifting. Rule 1: Assess the load and know your limits. If you think you can lift it safely, then get into a safe body position with your feet wide, chest up, and lift with your legs. Rule 2: Ask for help. Don’t be a hero. If you think it’s too heavy get a friend to assist and save your body. The primary injuries I see this time of year are lower back and knees, and most of them are due to heavy lifting and could have been prevented by calling a buddy. Rule 3: Breathe! Avoid holding your breath whenever you are lifting, which can cause a quick, dangerous rise in blood pressure. As you prepare to lift, tighten your tummy, then breathe out in a controlled manner as you lift. Don’t blow it all out in one “whoooosh”, but instead, release your air in “puffs” of breath or with one steady exhale. Encourage your lifting buddy to breathe too.
- Repetitive motion. Don’t be fooled by lite loads. Unlike their bigger sibling, lite repetitive loads might not injure you right away but can leave you sore and slow-moving for several days. Take breaks often and change the motion if you can by switching hands or your stance to spread out the work to “fresh” body parts.
- Static positions. Don’t stay in one position for too long, especially awkward positions like being down on your knees in a flower bed. Movement promotes circulation (good stuff in, bad stuff out) and static positions restrict blood flow causing you to feel stiff. Take breaks, change positions, and or change the motion to encourage circulation for muscle and joint health.
This is a great time to labor outside. Not too hot, not too cold, not too humid…yet. Whether you enjoy doing all the work yourself or just like to dabble, you will find yourself performing more exterior work so enjoy the extra exercise but make sure to care for yourself.
Written by: Mark Moreland