It’s a wonderful time of year to be outside working on projects, improving the yard and cultivating the garden. But if you’re a “yard warrior,” or someone who occasionally tries to get a lot done at least once a week, aches and pain can sprout and sometimes even cause injury if you’re not being safe. Here are tips to avoid hurting yourself in the long run.
Warm up and stretch
The debate is whether there’s value in warming up or stretching before starting any physical activity. A proper warm-up and stretching pre-activity and cool down post-activity or workout is the best way to avoid a pesky pull. Stretching after an activity can be beneficial because it increases flexibility and reduces soreness. Try to warm up by walking the yard a few times and stretch. After you’re done, cool down and stretch again to help avoid injuries.
Avoid muscle pulls, strains and sprains
With warmer weather, the body can break down or experience different types of strains and sprains. The shoulders and back endure more stress than almost any other time of the year. Muscles that are not used to pushing, lifting or pulling can become fatigued quickly. The fatigue leaves room for injury to discs and tendons. Limber up before you tackle the yard. When you reach above your head with your hands locked, you can help stretch your arms and shoulders. Trunk rotations are good for stretching your back and knee to chest pulls are great for working the legs.
Pace yourself; it will get done
Whether digging, raking or picking up grass clippings, setting goals is what keeps us motivated, but pushing to reach those goals before our bodies can handle means it’s time to trim back and slow down. Take frequent breaks in the shade, drink plenty of water and wear proper clothing for sun protection and sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Signs that you’re pushing too hard can include reduced concentration, sleep disturbance, increased fatigue, pain at rest and with daily activities and delayed recovery. It’s also wise to perform outdoor activities during the early morning until about 11 a.m. and stay out of the sun until after 6 p.m. to avoid heat exhaustion.
Get the most out of your tools
To protect yourself from injury, look for ergonomic tools with larger, padded handles or curved handles that are less strenuous to use during longer periods of time. Some tools are also spring loaded and reduce wrist and hand fatigue. Gloves are a must to prevent blisters and protect from sticks, thorns and other materials or chemicals.