As I write this, it feels like spring is just around the corner (even though a major snow event just tried to convince us otherwise). The days are getting longer, and the weather is going to be getting nicer. For many of you this will mean a sharp spike in your level of outdoor activity. Every spring I see an increase in spinal problems as soon as those first nice days are upon us, and everyone is outside getting work done that has been building up since the fall. Getting active is great for your health, but going from inactive to VERY active overnight can be a recipe for disaster.
Lets Take a Look at a Few Easy Ways Get Your Body Ready For The Spring
1. Gradually Increase Your Activity Level: Going from 0-60 on your activity level rarely has a good outcome, no matter who you are. Just like if you are preparing to run a marathon, you would never think of going from running no miles, to 26.2 all in one day. It takes time to build up to that point. Start increasing the frequency and duration of your activities in the weeks leading up to beginning yard work.
2. Core Strength: Strengthening your core is like making sure you have not only fuel in your physical tank, but the best kind of fuel possible. It is a big part of what makes the journey even possible. There are other contributing factors (rest, nutrition, hydration, etc...) but without the proper fuel, even a new set of tires won't get you very far on this trip.
Here are a few things you can do to get your core ready to roll...
Plank: This has to be the easiest and simplest core exercise, and is the best starting point for those that are new to core strengthening exercises. To perform a plank, place your forearms on the floor, stretch the rest of your body out and support yourself on your toes (your body will be in a straight line...like a wood plank). Keep your torso straight and aim to keep this position for 30 seconds or more and repeat.
Superman: This will work to strengthen your lower back as well as the rest of your core. To perform, lie on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out. Now attempt to raise your chest, arms, and legs at the same time. Hold position for 10-15 seconds and repeat.
3. Stay Well Adjusted: I know this seems obvious, but it is highly important. You want to be sure that your spine is strong, healthy, AND in good alignment when tackling any physical exercise (especially one you are not used to doing). In the weeks leading up to getting outside, be sure and get in for an adjustment or two more than you typically do. This will get your spine in it's optimal state to be able to get through the activity you are doing with a decreased risk of injury.
Finally, the main thing to remember this time of year is to use common sense. Don't overdo it. Pace yourself. The yard work won't go away. If you want to get it done all in a day, think twice and spread it out over 2 or 3 days to give your body ample rest and recovery. There is nothing worse than starting out the season with an injury that can linger for weeks or months.
Think about all of the exciting things you want to be able to do with your family and friends. When you use that perspective as your filter you'll see the value in taking small steps, being prepared, and reducing the risk of injury.
If you'll commit to those things, you'll be in your sweet spot to that you can...
Live well. Be well.