This winter has been a tough one for me. The constant snow and bitter cold has left me far less active than usual these winter months. I guess you could count my snow removal efforts over the past two months as some type of winter circuit training. The snow storms have given me a good cardio and strength training workout through my shoveling efforts. Last week’s 16 inch dump proved especially challenging hoisting that snow up to and over the massive piles already here on the property.
But generally speaking, I have spent more time at my desk “planning” my gardens than getting physically ready to work them. Of course this winter slump often leaves me with the proverbial “winter coat” …..those few extra pounds I tend to pack on around Christmas and stick around all winter. So with the promise of spring (the calendar tells me 31 days and counting!), I take to my routines to get me back in shape for the season of gardening. I doubt I will see much of the ground here on March 20th, will be more like April this year. But starting now gives me a good 2 month training time.
The physical, mental and overall health benefits of gardening activities are obvious. But just like any sustained physical engagement “preseason training” is a must. So I start right at my desk. As I spend hours at this location throughout the winter I substitute my desk chair for an exercise ball! Yes these tools are not just for the gym. You can incorporate them into daily routines and with fantastic physical benefits. This is an old trick I take from my days as an occupational therapist working with kids in educational settings. Sitting on the ball gives your joint sensors a great work out, helps your balance and posture while stimulating your core that is critical for gardening activities. These are commonly available in department stores. Shop around for the best price. I got my current ball for $9.99! As you can see, my garden buddy Jake is accustomed to this oddity at my desk and allows me to share his daily space with him!
Don’t just sit on the ball throughout the day, try some easy rocking front to back and side to side. You will be surprised the stretch you will get in your legs and torso. Check out some of the recommended stretching exercises that often come with your ball purchase. These can be valuable for stretching out your spine and giving your arms a work out. You will find with continued use of the ball, your general alertness and attention increase during the drudgery of desk time.
Also consider simple hand weights to round out your preseason training. We know that our arms and legs need conditioning to dig in the dirt each season. So get yourself conditioned with your favorite workout routine. And don’t forget the cardio! When the weather, street and sidewalk conditions permit…a good brisk walk clears out the winter cobwebs, provides inspiration time, much needed fresh air and sunlight to energize you. Avoid the weekend warrior pains in 2014 with simple foresight and inexpensive preparation. This will “sustain” you for the garden season to come.