I am predicting the most beautiful gardens ever this year! As so many of us are confined to barracks right now our eagerness for gardening knows no bounds!

So I thought this might be the moment to offer some tips on keeping those gardening aches and pains at bay! So pace yourself – you are going to have weeks of this so no need to rush out and do everything on the first day, or at the first sun of sunshine!

1 Warm up

Remember, gardening is exercise! Your are going to be using all sorts of muscles, some of which may not have been used much in a while! So gently stretch and move your back, hands, wrists, legs, arms and hips.

Reach up to touch the sky; roll down to touch the earth; swing your arms; extend and flex your wrists and fingers; gently side bend; do a “cat” stretch; circle your hips; do a few easy lunges and squats; gently stretch & warm up those hamstrings, quads and calves. Now you are ready.

Wear something comfortable

Wear clothing that fits well but doesn’t restrict your movement. Wear layers so you can put on/take off clothes to suit. If you are too cold you will tense all your muscles, if you are too hot you will dehydrate or pass out!

Start easy

Start with easier jobs that are not so demanding on your body – pruning or sowing seeds at a workbench

Vary your work

Spend 30 minutes raking then swap to pruning then down on your knees to weed. Don’t spend hours on one task, it is repetitive and will lead to aches, pains and strains

Take regular breaks & drink water

Stop and take a short break every 40 minutes, less if you are not used to gardening or haven’t done any for a while. Take the time to enjoy what you see, listen to the birds, watch the bees, smell the flowers.

Kneel or squat

Don’t bend over, your back will not forgive you for it and will remind you later how little you cared for it! Kneel or squat to do things at ground level, use a padded kneeler to protect your knees if you have one. Don’t over stretch; get up and move over.

Using ladders

Always face the ladders. Keep your knees, hips and shoulders in the same direction. Again, don’t over stretch to the side, it’s not only bad for your body it is also very unsafe! Come down and move the ladders across.

Safe lifting

If you absolutely need to lift something heavy or bulky, bend at your knees not from your waist, keep your back straight and the object near your body. Contract you tummy muscles to help you and then lift using your legs rather than your back. Never twist and lift, always move your feet and shuffle if needs be. And for very heavy or bulky items find someone to help you or leave it.

Controlled movement

If you are standing try to use long handled tools. Spread your feet apart for stability. Keep your back straight. And try not to make quick jerky movements which may result in pulling a muscle, keep it slow and controlled

Stretch afterwards

Just like after an exercise class or run, stretch out those muscles you have used. Keep these gentle and controlled. Ease into the stretch, hold it for 15 – 20 seconds, come out of it, then stretch again. This should not be painful so if it is ease back a bit.

Have a cup of tea but keep moving!

Sit down and enjoy your garden while having a cup of tea and a slice of cake or biscuit, you’ve earned the right to do this! Breathe in the fresh air, take in the sights and sounds and maybe plan what you will do next time. But don’t sit for too long! Start gently moving around again to prevent the dreaded seizing up!

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