Pilates and Gardening

And BOOM! That was when you knew you’d done yourself a mischief…

A classic spring/summer scenario

Its mid-May. The clocks went forward a couple of months ago. The days are longer, the evenings are brighter and the days are milder. You wake up one Saturday morning to glorious sunshine and blue skies and decide that today’s the day you’re going to tackle the garden, which has been neglected over the winter months.

So, you start weeding, digging, planting, mowing, lifting, shifting, cutting, pruning and before you know it you’ve been at it for a good 3 hours or more. You decide its time to go in for a well-deserved cup of tea and sit down.

And that’s when calamity strikes. You drop heavily onto your sofa, tea and biscuit in hand only to find that you can’t get back up again. Your back has completely seized up and you can barely move without excruciating shooting pains, let alone stand up.

The next few weeks/months are filled with appointments to see the GP, the physio, the acupuncturist and whomever else you can think of that might help ease your pain. You’re on pain-killers morning, noon and night to help you to get through the day but even the simplest of tasks like emptying the dishwasher or getting out of the car prove really challenging.

So why weren’t you able to do 3 hours of gardening without doing yourself a mischief?

Well the obvious answer is that your body simply wasn’t prepared for it. I can bet your bottom dollar that you spent the majority of those 3 hours bending over from your waist and lower back rather than squatting from your knees and hips. During the winter months you’re likely to have spent prolonged periods of time sitting at a desk or in front of the TV, causing you to lose the ability to hinge at your hips and use your knees to bend down to the ground. As a result, when you came to doing the gardening, its likely that you will have done all your bending from your lower back. This will have put undue amounts of pressure and strain on this part of your body which it wasn’t designed to bear.

Inactivity and prolonged periods of sitting also cause us to lose mobility in our upper back. This means that when it comes to doing strenuous physical activities such as gardening, the lower back has to take on the movements and twisting actions that the upper back’s no longer capable of. That’s all well and good except for the fact that again the lower back isn’t designed to twist, so try and force it to do so for 3 hours or more and its no wonder it ends up objecting!

But of course, there are ways of preventing this from happening and that’s by actively retraining the different parts of the body to move in the ways that they were designed to move. And Pilates proves to be one of best means of achieving this.

The number of our clients who are avid gardeners and who now swear by Pilates because it enables them to garden for a few hours without ending up half crippled is quite significant. And I’m hoping that many more of the clients who started retraining their bodies with us over the winter will experience the same this summer!