If you’re like many gardeners, the only things growing around your house right about now are couch potatoes.
But in just a few short weeks – weeks, we swear! – you’ll be getting outside to do your first gardening chores of the season.
There’ll be leaf-raking from the fall to finish, flowerbeds to tidy, trees and shrubs to trim. You might even get an early start on the veggie garden by roto-tilling a couple of 40-pound bags of manure into the soil.
If even the thought of all that makes you want to head for the nearest Jacuzzi, perhaps you might want to consider using the next few short weeks to get some indoor exercise – exercise that will help strengthen the parts of the body you’ll soon want to be using with only a modicum of complaint.
Ryan Nuechterlein, general manager of Max Fitness at 1415 W. Dupont Road, says your goal should be “functional fitness” – working out not to make muscles bigger or to trim fat but to make the body work more efficiently during everyday activities.
Gardeners, Nuechterlein says, should concentrate on two areas – the legs and the shoulders and arms.
The former are needed for tasks such as weeding and planting or lifting that bag of manure, while the latter are necessary for raking and digging, pruning overhead, dragging a hose, carrying watering cans or pushing a loaded wheelbarrow.
For the legs, says Kirk Hetrick, Max Fitness personal trainer, a modified squat is good for building the quadriceps at the front of the thigh, the calves and the glutes of the behind.
A conventional squat would involve keeping the back straight and head up while bending at the knees so that the thighs are parallel to the floor. But a modified “body weight squat” allows you to lean slightly forward.
“Act like you’re sitting back into a chair,” Hetrick says, adding that “the more times you do it, the more it can loosen up your hips and make it easier to do.”
For the arms, the pair recommends the addition of light weights. Commercially available kettle bells work, they say, but a good substitute is a gallon milk jug partially or totally filled with water – water weighs about 8 1/3 pounds per gallon.
In one exercise, you lean on a table about thigh height with your left arm and pick up the jug from the floor with the right arm, curling at the elbow.
In another, a variation on a traditional bicep curl, you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and both arms outstretched. Bring the weight, in the right hand, to the shoulder by curling at the elbow.
A third variation starts in the same position as the second but brings the arm with the weight in and then overhead.
Modified pushups, either on your knees or planked against a sturdy table about waist high, also work the back shoulders and arms.
The two say a “gradual progression system” is best when starting out. That means starting with a lower number of repetitions or a lighter weight and working up.
Three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise per session is probably plenty, Nuechterlein says – although people in their 50s or 60s or older, especially women, might want to start with three or four repetitions.
In any case, they say, working out three times a week for about 30 to 45 minutes at a time is enough.
If you want also to build stamina, combine the training with cardio exercise, such as walking outdoors or on a treadmill, Nuechterlein adds.
And, if you’re really missing gardening chores, just pretend you’re walking behind a lawn mower.