Put a Little Spring in your Step
Spring and warmer weather are right around the corner. And with it comes all the yard work, gardening, and spring cleaning that we do every year. We often look forward to getting out in the yard and planting flowers or decluttering the house after a long, cold, gray, Wisconsin winter. Unfortunately, we don’t look forward to the body aches and sore muscles that come with it. We don’t think about planning and preparing our body for the taxing toll that working in the garden or the yard will take on it. Instead, we simply decide one day that the weather is beautiful, so we are going to go out and do this or that. This is completely natural because sometimes it’s hard to see beyond what is right in front of us. But what if we didn’t have to experience the soreness? What if we used these inconsistent weather and cold weather days to prepare our bodies? Now is the time to start if you haven’t already, and it doesn’t have to take long. But what can you do? Here are 4 simple things you can do to prepare your body for the upcoming spring season.
STEP 1: START A DAILY STRETCHING ROUTINE
Most of the soreness that you will feel is a result of tight muscles. If you can’t squat as deep because your hips are tight, you are going to bend forward more at the waist, putting a greater strain on your lower back muscles. And what is the first thing you notice after a long day in the yard? It’s how tight and sore your low back feels the next day. Try these simple morning stretches to improve your range of motion and help get you ready to work in the garden.
Deep Lunge (Hip Flexor/Glute) Stretch with Thoracic Rotational Reach
- Get into a push-up position on your hands and toes. (To make this easier, place your hands on a chair.)
Step one foot forward outside that same hand.
Sink your hip towards the floor and try to lower your elbow to the instep of your foot (or down on to the seat of the chair).
Then take that same hand and rotate and reach up towards the ceiling.
Bring the hand back down to the floor or chair.
Step back into push-up position.
Switch to the other side.
Build up to 5 times each side.
Deep Squat to Hamstring Stretch
- Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes turned out slightly.
- Push your hips back, hinging at the waist, and reach down to your toes.
- Grab your toes and slowly sit your hips down towards the floor, lifting your chest. Make sure to try to keep your chest proud and shoulders wide.
- Keep your arms inside your legs and push your knees out slightly.
- Hold this for a slow, deep breath.
- Then lift your hips and straighten your legs as best as you can, while still holding on to your toes.
- Repeat this 5-10 times.
Tactical Frog Stretch
- On your hands and knees, spread your knees as wide as you can and then bring your ankles in-line with your knees, turning your feet out.
- Maintaining a tall, neutral spine, slowly sit your hips back towards your heels to stretch your inner thighs and groin.
- Hold the stretch for a slow, deep breath, and then shift your weight forward to release the stretch.
Perform 10 repetitions.
STEP 2: GO FOR A WALK MULTIPLE TIMES A WEEK
Improve your stamina and strengthen your heart, lungs, and legs by going for a walk of 20-30 mins a couple of days a week. Not only that but going for a walk is also a great way to de-stress and be at one with your thoughts. Choose days that aren’t too cold and a path that isn’t covered in snow and ice. This will get you ready for mowing the lawn, raking, and other activities that require lower intensity amount of energy, but longer duration.
STEP 3: STRENGTH TRAIN 2 TIMES A WEEK
I know that this may sound like a deal breaker, but it doesn’t have to take an hour or induce puddles of sweat. Even 10-15 minutes of light to moderate strength training will help you get stronger and prepare you for the rigorous tasks that await. Here is a simple workout you can do to get started:
- Keeping your chest proud and without using your hands, sit your hips back and down, sitting in a chair, while maintaining a tall posture through the spine.
- Note that the angle of your torso (hips to shoulder), should be the same angle as that of your lower legs (ankle to knee).
- Perform up to 15 squats, starting with a low number and gradually increasing over time to 15.
- Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat.
- Wrap the band around a sturdy object or use a door attachment to secure the band.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-shoulder width apart and hold the handles of the band.
- These can be performed with either a single arm or with both arms at the same time.
- Brace your core and maintain a soft bend in the knees, rooting yourself into the floor.
- Slowly pull the handles back just outside the side of your chest.
- Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as if you are trying to pop a water balloon that you are holding between your shoulders.
- Hold the row for a count of 3 before extending your arms forward.
- Perform 10-15 repetitions 2 times with 30 seconds of rest between sets.
- Start with your hands on a countertop and gradually work your way down to the floor as you get stronger in the core.
- The key to performing an effective plank is to squeeze your glutes to perform a natural pelvic tilt to protect your lower back.
- Then actively push your hands down into the countertop/floor, engage your chest and lats as if you are going to pull your hands or elbows to your toes and breathe.
- Hold this plank for 10-15 seconds and repeat 3-6 times.
Suitcase or Farmer Carry
- Hold a weight in one hand (suitcase carry) or both hands (farmer carry).
- Maintain a tall posture with wide shoulders, holding the weight slightly away from the sides of the legs.
- Maintain this tall posture as you slowly walk forward (make sure not to lean back or to one side or the other while carrying the weight).
- Start with 30 seconds and build up to 60 seconds.
Step Back Lunges
- For this exercise, the key is to step back, not forward, so that your front knee doesn’t slide forwards.
- Maintaining a tall posture through your spine, bend the back knee until it touches the floor.
- While keeping a strong, braced core, stand up, bringing your feet together in one smooth motion.
- Perform 5-10 repetitions on each leg. Rest for 1 minute and then repeat the exercise.
- Maintain a strong, neutral spine, and place your hands on the countertop at approximately shoulder width apart.
- Lower your chest down to the edge of the countertop.
- Note there should still be a straight line from your head to your ankles.
- Perform 2 sets of 5-10 repetitions with 30 sec – 1 min rest in between sets.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended out like you are flying.
- Breathe in through your nose, then slowly lift the opposite arm and leg in the air as you exhale.
- Make sure that both hips stay in contact with the floor.
- Slowly lower your arm and leg back to the floor and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
- Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side for 2 sets with 30 seconds of rest between sets.
STEP 4: GET 7-8 HOURS OF SLEEP A NIGHT
Sleep is our body’s chance to recover, rebuild, and re-energize for the next day. It is crucial to helping you lose weight, recover from injury or muscle soreness, build muscle, and help you feel like you have enough energy to make it through the day. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will be under stress the entire day, which will make you feel sluggish, unmotivated, and weak.
We tend to put our bodies through a lot when it comes to doing the spring clean-up. Often it’s asking our bodies to do things they aren’t prepared to do. This results in a best-case scenario of sore muscles the next couple of days to worst case scenario an injury that lingers for months if not longer. Doing these 4 simple steps will take a little dedication and on some days extra motivation, but they will help you do the tasks you want to do, making them seem easier and recovering quicker. And the best part of all is that it will only take you roughly 30 minutes a day. Put your plan together and get ready to have the best spring yet.