Relieve those Gardening Aches and Pains with Pilates

It is that time again.... back to gardening.  By Vera Needham

gardening sore back.jpg

Bend, dig, shovel, repeat.   I love spring and it feels great to be  outside and back in the garden but because it can be physically demanding with lots of lifting and repetitive movement, this type of work has a high incident of injuries.  One of the group of ladies I train are volunteer gardeners.  One of the common complaints this time of year is back pain.  In order to completely enjoy all spring has to offer it is very helpful to be pro-active. 

Our goal as pilates instructors is often to use the same type of exercise to prevent injuries from occurring.   Proper bending techniques are essential if you hope for a pain free year.   Many gardeners bend forward using spinal movement.  This means that they are bending their back to lean forward to perform their gardening tasks.  When I see this type of movement I can’t help but to think of a coat hanger bending back and forth.  Eventually it snaps! To prevent a painful back it is important to keep our spine in neutral position. This means if you stood with a stick behind your back; your head, shoulders and bottom would press against the stick. This is important in all aspects of gardening from planting to harvesting.

One of the most common mistake gardeners make is using their backs to bend.  When we lean forward, the hip is where movement should occur.  The hips hinge us forward.  If we round our spine, we lose at least a quarter of our spinal strength. Remember; hinge forward from the hips.

Keep the spine neutral, and let the legs do the lifting. Push with the legs, DO NOT pull with the back.


Bridging: We start the program lying on our backs with the knees bent Next, slide the feet as close to the hands as possible. Then slide the hands towards the feet which helps alleviate shoulder tension. The most important part of this exercise is to squeeze your bottom, anchor your  feet by pressing into the first toe and outside of the heel on both feet,  then lift your hips. Hold for a five count.  Remember to breathe and Repeat 5x.

Double leg lift: Roll to your side. Connect the balls of the feet and the heels together. Inhale to lengthen, exhale to lift, being aware of relaxing the neck and shoulders as you hold for a five count. As you are holding this exercise, think of making yourself as long as possible from the top of the head to the tip of the toes and keeping the inner thighs connected like you are holding a paper between them. This exercise stabilizes the sides of our abdominal wall, which is the area between the bottom rib and the top of our hip bone. This is a vulnerable area in most gardeners since we often lift with one arm when we are carrying heavy bags of soil or fertilizer.

Clams: Imagine you have an invisible wall behind your back. Bend your knees so that your head, bottom, and heels are against the invisible wall. Next, imagine your heels are glued together. Really concentrate on squeezing your bottom as you open your knees. Repeat 10x.

Mini Head lift: Next, roll onto your belly then turn your palms down like you are slapping the floor. Start by sliding your hands towards your feet to get the tension out of the neck and shoulders. Inhale to lengthen the spine as you unweight your head from the floor. Keep the back of the neck long as you lift, making sure you are looking at the floor the whole time and not the wall in front of you. When we garden everything is in front and in the center. That type of movement encourages bad posture. If you have a hard time holding your head against the stick when it is behind your back, this exercise is imperative for you and should be repeated every day. Repeat 5x.

Quadruped Arm/Leg reach:  Next, Push up onto your hands and knees. Hands are directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips. Now imagine someone is going give you a push. This will help you wake up or engage your core.

Extend one leg. Think about placing energy in your bottom as you lift the extended leg. Stay as stable as possible as you unweight the opposite hand and extend it overhead. Try to create as much length as you can from the tip of your fingers to the end of your toes. Hold for a count of five. Repeat, alternating sides, two times each side.

Roll to the other side and repeat

Double Leg Lift 5x.

Repeat Clams on the other side 5x.

This program only takes ten minutes and should be performed at least three times per week.   Now you can get back to the garden…..instead of the garden getting your back! 

You can join Vera on Monday mornings at the studio.  9:15 Core Dynamics (level 3) and 10:30 Core Reformer (level 1.5).  Also check out her fabulous piece of equipment the great for wrist mobility while changing balance. 


join us Saturday May 13th at 1:30-3:30pm for our workshop on relieving Gardening aches and pains  $45 + hst 

 Call 519-829-2928 or email to register