Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tutorial: Stretches for Gardeners

I recently posted some pre-season exercises for gardeners, with a promise to talk stretching next time. I've shared some thoughts about stretching in the past, like whether stretching is good, bad or somewhere in between. Personally I'm pro stretching when--just like all exercises--done correctly (I'm such a nag. ;-). Whether you workout out or not, flexibility movements can be beneficial. Check out some of my favorite stretches for crafters.

OK! So here are a few of my favorite stretches for gardeners.

Hip Flexor (psoas) Stretch
The hip flexor, or psoas, can get tight (shorten) from constant use, sitting or bending forward a lot of the time. If you suffer from low back pain this move could help.

Kneel with one knee on a pad or grass, other foot on floor out in front of you with knee over heel. Push pelvis slightly forward until you feel a stretch where the body and the kneeling leg meet. Hold or try shifting gently in and out of the position for 15-30 seconds.

For more stretch, try side bending over the front knee.

Avoid arching your lower back. Engage abs and butt for best results.

Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch with side bend
Low Back Stretch
This next stretch is good for folks who get tight lower backs. Lying on your back, draw one knee in towards chest and length the other. Hold or move in and out of this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Do each leg.

Avoid arching the back or neck. 
Low Back Stretch 
Hip/Gluet Stretch
I call this next stretch the #4 stretch because it looks like an upside down 4. Cross one ankle over the opposite leg above the knee (here it's left leg over the right), then wrap hands behind the right leg. You should feel a nice stretch in your bootie and hip on the left side of the body. Hold and repeat with the other leg. 

Avoid lifting head off floor (if it does prop yourself up with a towel or pillow. Keep tension out of shoulders. If this exercise is too tight to do comfortably, wrap a towel or strap around the leg to "lengthen" your arms.

Hip/Gluet Stretch

Modified Downward Dog
This last one is a goodie for just about everyone. This modified yoga pose stretches the hamstrings and calves (backs of the legs), arms, shoulders and gives the back a break from forward flexion. (Some call it a stretch for the upper/mid back but really it's contracting those muscles.) 

Put hands or wrists on a counter or short fence, stand directly over your feet so you make yourself into a right angle. Imagine Pushing chest towards the floor. 

Modified Down Dog Stretch
So, there you go: some feels-oh-so-good flexibility moves for gardeners. Well, really anyone could do them! Enjoy!

If you have health or joint issues talk to you doctor before starting a fitness program, including trying these moves. But then again, you probably wouldn't be gardening either. ;-) 

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