Strength & Gardening

How many of you have gone into the garden full of hopes and dreams, excitement and desire only to come out with a sore back and tight hamstrings? A day in the garden doesn’t have to result in miserable pain when you take a few pre and post gardening steps. 

First, gardening actually requires quite a bit of flexibility and strength. We have to reach and twist and lunge and haul. So don’t ignore the importance of overall strength training.  Regular strength training helps ensure

that we’ll have enough core strength to reach for and pull those weeks while on our hands and knees. This move is actually a complicated move involving multiple muscles, joints, and our balance systems. Many folks would decline doing this move on their living room floor however don’t think twice about it in the garden only to wonder why it seems so difficult. Part of that is the mental component. It’s part of gardening so we don’t think it should be so hard, it’s what we’ve (or watched others) have done and it’s how we complete this task.

Second, don’t underestimate a good pre and post gardening stretch. Doing the activities in the garden may not feel like work to us – we love the smells, feel of the soil, the sense of accomplishment, etc. And … our body has worked out so treat it with a good post garden stretch session. It may even deserve a warm shower and good rub of lotion across those muscles. A regular flexibility program can help here, too. Stretch all the major muscles groups by going to the point of tension and holding. Take 3-5 long deep breaths and slowly release them as you melt into the stretch gently.

Lastly, be mindful. Enjoy the feel of the dirt, the hard work, the wonderful fruits as they excite your tastebuds when you get to eat them or your eyes as you gaze upon the brilliant colors your efforts have given.

Train for Your Game – Softball Workouts.

Smell the summer air, what goes great with summer? Softball! No matter what your summer sport, it is better to train prior to your game to maximize your strength, endurance, and skills.
Softball, like golf draws much of its power from rotational force. As you swing the bat your core strength determines how powerful you hit the ball. Once the ball is in flight, your body must use explosive speed to get you on base, ok, for some we wouldn’t put explosive and speed in the same sentence, but that is the idea.

Any softball workout program is enhanced by basic strength training.When we begin training we need to develop conditioning strength before beginning more specific activity. Once you’ve cleared your plans with your health care provider, start with basic strength training. Choose one to two exercises per muscle group and lift weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles in eight to ten repetitions. Once you’ve built a base of strength you can begin adding activities specific to softball.

Core is important in this sport. All your power comes from your middle. You want to train these muscle groups in tri-planar movement, with overload. Translation: Move in many different directions and use something to add weight to your movement. It is important to have significant strength through the core before you add external weight, which is why you want base strength. Try using something to create an unstable surface to work from. For example: Using your bat begin with both feet flat on the floor, legs a little further than hip distance apart, knees bent. Begin gently swinging your bat side to side to warm up rotational muscles Next, try the same movement on a BOSU ball (a piece of equipment used for training on an unstable surface.), Finally, take the same movement and add weight to the bat. Notice the difference between the different movements. What happens to the abdominal muscles when asked to work on an unstable surface? Remember, you must be able to maintain good form. Once you can no longer maintain good form you know you’ve reach your limit and you must begin to build strength and endurance in those muscle groups before going further into the movement pattern.

To train the core in multi-planar movement get creative. What types of movement mimics the skills you will need during your game? Begin with these movements and then build on them. Try doing the movements on one foot or while shifting your weight from side to side. Keep the abdominals tight to protect your back and notice how these muscle groups work together. Think of ways to engage these muscle groups as a unit to effectively build your power.

Most of us not only need to hit the ball but we need to be able to get on base. Running the bases takes explosive speed. We go from standing still to moving quickly and then we stop as quickly as we started. This type of movement requires some training to keep injury at bay. Once, again a baseline of strength is necessary before tackling too much, and talk with your health care professional before beginning any exercise program. Set up a sprint course during your workout. Begin by walking for one to two minutes, warm-up and move with purpose; get your heart rate going, then all out run for thirty to forty-five seconds, recover while walking and then repeat. Parking lots are good for sprint courses; find a parking lot with empty slots and use the lines as your markers. You can develop different workouts to keep you interested. It is also important to cross train. Using other types of cardiovascular workouts (i.e. Different cardio machines, movements, or workout formats) use the sprint model to challenge your explosive speed. Cross training will keep you from over-training and you’ll be less likely to get injured or develop your speed without balance to your body.

Flexibility is incredibly important in this sport. If you work to develop strength without training flexibility you’ll end up with increased strength, but limited movement patterns due to limited range of motion. This sets you up for injury and you will not maximize your new strength or skills.

When training for softball this summer, think about the movements you do during your game, then mimic those during your workouts while adding challenge, by increasing your speed or weight while performing the movement. After developing your base strength through general strength training, pay extra attention to your core and get creative with movements in many directions, on unstable surfaces,followed with stretching after every workout. Swing batter, batter, Swing!

How to Stretch Effectively

Photo Credit: www.Sunlighten.com   

Many people fail to stretch because they just don’t know how. The basics of flexibility are easy and once you get them down begin adding them into all your workouts for maximum benefits. Stretching may seem mild in comparison to your normal workout but don’t forget to stretch your muscles will thank you.

When you begin flexibility training start slow. Begin by holding stretches for 15-30 seconds at the point you feel tension in the muscle. Do not bounce as you hold these stretches, you’ll run the risk of hurting muscle tissue. We have a built in response system for muscle tension, and bouncing can damage muscle tissue by moving it beyond the threshold too quickly. Stretch all muscles you worked.

Try foam rollers to help you relieve soreness and deepen your stretches.

Many times stretching can help soreness. There are many theories surrounding muscle soreness, but stretching seems to relieve it. Begin by moving around or taking a hot shower or bath, allowing blood to reach muscle tissue, stretch muscles that are sore using the above guidelines, and feel better.

Remember: 

Warm Up Your Muscles
Start Slow
Move to the Point of Tension
Hold for 15-30 Seconds
Repeat Stretches 2-3 Times Per Muscle Group
AND Don’t Ignore Your Flexibility Training!

What is Flexibility Training?

Many times this fitness component gets left behind. Here’s why you should take this part of your exercise routine seriously.

Flexibility refers to our joints’ ability to move through their complete range of motion. This is very important to our fitness level because it allows us to perform the movements we want to do. If you are an athlete you’ll want to have the ability to move through full range so you are at the top of your game. If you are moving for health you’ll want to train for flexibility because supple joints allow you to move well.

Inadequate range of motion is the cause of many injuries. Lower back pain is often associated with tight abdominals, hip flexors, or hamstrings, and the more you hurt the less you move. The less you move the more tight your muscles become and the less you move. See where this leads?

As a component of fitness, flexibility training should be done after a workout, when the muscles are warm. Stretching after a workout allows your muscles to learn. They remember how far they stretch, which is how our flexibility grows. Performing flexibility training when the muscles are warm allows them to capitalize on the blood they have, creating more stretch safely.

Flexibility does have limits. We are genetically programmed to be more or less flexible, but not an excuse for not training. You will build upon what you have. Remember fitness is about where you are, not where you think you should be or where your neighbor is. It is all about you.

Feel like you need a tool to help you reach your flexibility goals? Try foam rollers.