Is gardening your sport?
I really enjoy gardening. Full stop. For many personal reasons, it is an activity that I thoroughly enjoy and is a common topic of discussion with clients at Body Co (especially at this time of year!). Despite all of the joy that gardening brings to each individual, I am acutely aware of the challenges that are faced by others. Tis’ the season for me to hear the common concerns regarding an exacerbation of back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain… you catch my drift.
Gardening is a full body sport, you vs the squirrels! Whether you are simply tending to some weeds and flowers, or shovelling loads of dirt around, your entire body will get involved. So how can you catch some vitamin D, provide some necessary TLC to your garden, and manage your previous injuries/limit the onset of new ones? I’ve dug deep to provide you with my top tips below…
- Create a gardening schedule: don’t try to get the garden ‘ready‘ in one day. The larger the garden, the more time you will need. Not everyone is equipped to complete manual labour tasks all day, or all weekend. Know your limits, and stay within it.
- Plan rest breaks throughout your working time: this goes hand-in-hand with the above concept. Your body needs time between days to recover from the physical activity it endures (some more than others), but it also needs shorter rest breaks during the event if you intend to work for an extended period of time.
- What can you do on your rest breaks?: sit down, hydrate, have a snack, move in any other way compared to what you were doing while gardening
- Hydration, caloric intake, and sun protection: this area is not my expertise, but I think it is clear that we need to take care of our bodies and fuel them properly for ALL activities, not only to minimize fatigue onset but to also minimize the risk of injury as a result.
- Learn and apply correct lifting techniques: YES, there are ways to move and lift that are more efficient and may reduce stress/strain on some areas of your body. Depending on your own pain or area of injury, you may need to modify these positions as well as the load you place on your body in these positions in order to manage your gardening efforts. HOWEVER, I am a firm believer that small and controlled doses of load in less-optimal positions, at a low enough frequency, can be a great way to develop resilience in some areas of your body (think about those last 2 repetitions of an exercise where you lose your form just a bit). Too much of anything is usually not good, but too much to me is most definitely different than too much to you.
- Try to complete the same task in different body positions: it is usually easy for your health care provider to find at least one or two alternative movements or positions to assist you with the task that irritates you most. Task modifications can be helpful in allowing you to minimize your pain while gardening. On top of this, introducing new movements to your gardening repertoire can assist with utilizing more of your muscles and available joint motion at lower load intensities throughout the day, which is generally a great way to not overdo it on one part of your body (think of shovelling dirt with just your arms, vs your arms + back muscles, vs your arms + back + leg muscles).
- Don’t work alone (if you can, of course): many hands make light work.
Jordan Fortuna, Physiotherapist
Jordan is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physiotherapy program and has since been practicing in orthopaedic settings. He has developed an interest in sports physiotherapy through his many years as an athlete, participating in baseball, golf, snowboarding, and more recently rock-climbing, cycling, and strength training. He has worked with a variety of clientele including athletes from disciplines such as competitive dancing, running, rock-climbing, and mixed-martial arts, as well as non-athletes of a wide age range and ability. Regardless of activity level, he is dedicated to improving mobility, optimizing function, and strengthening to help achieve your goals through the use of an individualized exercise prescription and manual therapy. He also has additional training in acupuncture and sports taping.
Jordan is available for appointment on Tuesday, Thursdays and every other Saturday. You can book your appointment with him here.