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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agricultural Athlete?

Welcome to Fit-Fri, where I'll be offering my insights into how you can get and stay fit. This Friday I'd like to talk about us crazy weekend warriors who dive into spring like we're starved for getting our hands in the dirt and our faces into the sunshine. I'm talking gardening, of course. After such a long winter, it feels amazing to have 80 degree days where we can plant flowers and vegetables without fear of a late frost. Even up here in the Berkshires it's said to be safe for planting. I prefer to wait until the first week in June, myself. I've lost too many tomato plants by putting them in too early, but I digress.

Before you get caught up in your weeding and mulching, make sure you stretch. That's right, I said stretch. With the constant forward bending, pulling, pushing,and  twisting motions we do in the garden, we need to treat this like it's an athletic event. Especially if you've been sedentary throughout the winter.

 Stretch your hamstrings, calves and quads (downward facing dog and dancer pose are good for this). Do some trunk twists and arm circles. Stretch your chest and shoulders by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing your knuckles down toward the ground. Bend your knees and arch your back a few times. Take frequent breaks and stretch again. Just like sports, stretching before, during and after will reduce your risk of injury and your soreness.

Use good body mechanics as much as you can. Bend your knees and squat rather than leaning forward for long periods of time. Sit or kneel, using a small stool or knee pad to keep you comfortable. Change positions frequently. Give yourself a time limit, so you don't get stuck in one position or spend eight hours in the garden in one day. Moderation is key. Just like with other forms of exercise, build up slowly until your body becomes conditioned again.

Make sure you hydrate. It will keep you from feeling drained at the end of the day. Drink plenty of water and if you sweat a lot, replace your electrolytes by eating a banana or drinking grapefruit juice or gator-ade. Something with potassium and sodium will do. Sugary and caffienated beverages can dehydrate you further.

Don't forget sunblock, a wide brimmed hat, and gloves. Hazards of the sport can include overexposure to the sun and critter bites. I've heard the ticks are really bad this year, and with all the rain, the mosquitos are out in full force as well. There are some really great natural bug repellents. I think the most effective products are the ones that have Neem. I've bought this at both EMS and at the Whole Foods Store. It's made from plant oils and is non-toxic to humans and animals.

Now that you have all the scoop on staying fit and healthy while you transition from the winter duldrums to summertime fun, I 'll expect an invite to a barbeque or two so I can see those fabulous gardens. Don't forget to take pictures of your masterpiece, and feel free to email me your shots. I'll post them over the summer. At the end of summer, I'll have a vote on the best pic and will send a signed copy of my book, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, to the winner.

 Most importantly, enjoy every moment of soaking in the fresh air, sunshine and time to reconnect with the earth. You'll find you feel more grounded, your creativity will soar, and you'll sleep like a baby.


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