Bend, Stretch, and Dig … “You Grow Girl!”
by Kim Ayres
Spring has sprung and you’re already rolling up your sleeves and digging into that long list of garden and yard chores that you’ve been waiting to tackle, while watching the snow melt away. You may also be painfully aware that you don’t have enough core strength and flexibility to spend the whole day bending, lifting, and twisting, as many of those tasks require. Planting, weeding, raking, and digging can take a toll on your body, and leave you with an aching back, sore knees or worse! Just as you wouldn’t enter a marathon without training, you shouldn’t go from ‘hibernation mode’ to ‘wheelbarrow racing’ in the great outdoors without conditioning your body for the tasks ahead!
Here’s a set of simple exercises to help you ‘break ground’; warming up the spine, elongating muscles, and gently engaging the core as you breathe and move… Spend a few minutes before and after you ‘train among the tulips’ and you’ll be feeling as spry as a garden gnome!
Strengthens/Stretches: Front/back torso and abdominals
Get down on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips, extend tailbone back and heart and neck forward as you inhale. As you exhale, gently tighten stomach muscles, pulling navel into spine and rounding the back from head to tailbone. Flow between the two with your breaths.
Strengthens/Stretches: Upper body, shoulders, and hamstrings
From a push-up position, shift hips back and tailbone to the sky. Melt heels towards earth. Keep fingers spread, chest moving towards thighs, neck neutral, and abdominals pulled in. Distribute weight evenly between arms & legs.
Standing Lateral Stretch
Strengthens/Stretches: Waist and major back muscles
Feet hip distance apart and knees slightly bent. Lift arms overhead in line with your ears and interlace hands. Bend from waist leaning to left. Hold stomach in to keep the body in line. Repeat on right side.
Strengthens/Stretches: Major muscles of hips, gluteus and legs
Start with feet hip distance or wider. Squat down as far as you can and keep feet flat on ground. To modify, widen stance and lessen the depth of the squat. Rest elbows against inner thighs.
Supine Spinal Twist
Strengthens/Stretches: Lower back, torso, hips and shoulders
Lie on back and bring right knee into chest. Left leg extended on floor. Bring right knee across body to left side while keeping shoulders on floor. Turn your head in the opposite direction of your knees, looking out over the fingertips. Inhale. Return to center. Repeat on the opposite side, exhaling as you pull knee across the body.
Strengthens/Stretches: Hamstrings, abdominals, and chest
Lie on your back with palms facing down. Bring soles of feet to floor, knees up, hip-width apart. Lift hips to the sky and heels into the ground. Try articulating the spine one vertebrae at a time up and down and your inhale & exhale.
Kim Landry-Ayres is the owner of Mission Accomplished Personal Training & Nutrition Consulting Studio of Eau Claire, WI. She is a nationally certified personal fitness trainer, post rehab conditioning specialist, group fitness, yoga & Pilates instructor, Thai yoga body worker and nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.