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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hold Those Tummies In Girls

Not what you want to hear on a gardening blog. It seems no matter what we are doing or why we are there, when there is a group of ladies gathered together somehow the conversation at some point in time makes its way around to losing/gaining weight, what we do/don’t eat, what we shoulda/coulda/woulda done about our weight. Blah, blah, blah.

Well that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t know about the rest of you gardeners but I know I’ve been doing enough digging, stooping, pulling, shoveling, raking, and pushing these days to have my share of achy muscles and a sore back. Now the achy muscles in general I don’t mind. We call it “the good kind of ache” around here. You know the kind that comes from a good workout or exercise. But the sore back… yuck.

Which brings me to the point of my post. You know all that talk we hear these days, ladies, about strengthening your core? Well I’ve noticed a little secret to helping spare my back while gardening. Yes, you guessed it… if I hold my tummy in while I’m digging, trimming, hoeing and ... well, you get the idea… my back doesn’t hurt nearly as badly by the end of the day. Now I didn’t say it was easy to remember. Somehow it used to be the standard – in my younger years- now, however, it takes sheer will power and constant reminders to myself to keep those muscles taut.

I’ve really been making great efforts to suck in my tummy muscles while I’ve worked lately. Honestly, I worked in my garden for over 6 hours straight today which isn’t unusual on any given day. My back actually feels better tonight than it typically does after a long day in the garden. Admittedly, I have an ice pack (you know the kind you leave in the freezer – it is soft and flexible) wrapped across my back while I’m typing but that brings me to my second discovery. Icing my back really goes a long way to relieve aching muscles after a hard work day. Motrin works great but truthfully I try not to take medicine unless I absolutely have to and then sometimes I do.

I’m wondering what is it you do to relieve the aches and pains inherent with gardening. Anybody have other ideas or remedies for sore, aching backs and necks?

I’m thankful for the natural ‘workout’ I get when gardening. I’m convinced it is just plain healthy to garden… and what better way to burn calories?


  1. Beer. It isn't so good for the tummy but it makes the rest of me feel just fine.

    I do wish you would post some of your oil paintings.

  2. I have a suggestion for treating sore backs, necks, and such...stop doing whatever it is that makes you so sore. Ha-ha.

  3. So far, I haven't had back aches after gardening. Maybe I am holding my tummy in without realizing it?

    I do enjoy hard work in the garden. It is good exercise. But us northern gardeners can get out of shape in the winter, so we have to start slow in the spring, or we will be hurting!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Lisa: Not so good for the tummy for sure ha-ha. I'm just finishing my first one actually. I did publish a post about my class which you can read if you go here (don't know how to make it a link- you will have to copy/paste)
    If you look at the back easel you can get a glimpse of my painting.

    mlm: ha-ha and more ha-ha's. That would also mean I'd have to quit picking up your 2yr old... NOT.

    carol: Wouldn't it be great if you already had it figured out without knowing it? What a great thing your not having back aches. Maybe us Florida gardeners do because we never stop gardening long enough to rest them ... hmmmm... something to think about!

  5. Lisa, that is great, and Carol, what's your secret? Remembering to hold in the tummy sounds like a good idea if it will help the back ache, though. Will give it a try. Thanks for the tip. We are in the midst of the hard work, get muddy season here in TN in March. Things will slow down when the heat comes, for real, in May. To get relief when finished, a soaking bath and a strip of cloth full of rice that gets warmed in the microwave. I want heat, although maybe cold is better for sore mucsles, but it is still sometimes cold here, the heater is still on in the house, so heat feels the best.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  6. You're absolutely right about gardening being a healthy work-out, Meems.

    You asked for remedies for sore backs and aching muscles but I'm all for prevention : you young'uns need to get those muscles in shape before using them. I put in 8 or more hours almost every day during the gardening season and I'm in my sixth decade.

    There's no secret-lifting weights and stretching and then slowly easing into gardening after a winter's rest will prevent aches or pain.

    Two important muscle groups for gardeners -the back and shoulders need to be strengthened .For a weak back, try a diagonal bent-over row which uses weights and hits every major muscle in your mid-to-lower back .

    A good one for the shoulders is called The Arnold ( yep Schwarzenegger ) overhead press and uses weights that work on all the muscles of your shoulder joints and rotator cuffs.

    If all else fails a good soak in a hot tub of water helps.

  7. Stretching helps alot. Changing position frequently helps too. Remembering safe bending techniques helps. Using knee pads helps, as does sitting on a pad or stool so you're doing less stooping. Muscle-strengthening is a must during the winter for me, and does wonders to stave off overuse soreness early in the season. We have a bowflex that mostly gets used during the winter. Once the weather breaks I get plenty of exercise without even trying. Epsom salts in a hot bath is great for muscle soreness.

  8. Thanks for the suggestion - I'll have to try that. Do you have any ideas for sore knees? ;^) For sore back relief, I stretch my back over a balance ball, front & back for at least 30 seconds. That seems to help, but Carolyn Gail is right - prevention is the best way to avoid the backache in the first place.

  9. I'll be testing out your "hold that tummy in" method for a healthy back! My back is what aches most after a few hours of gardening. Here are my two favorite remedies: I place my yoga zofu (a firm, fat pillow) under the small of my back, lay back with my head on a yoga block, and relax. This pose adds space between my vertabrae and takes away the pain. If all my muscles hurt, I soak in my sister's bath concoction. Add two handfuls of epson salts, a cup of hydrogen peroxide and a dropper of ginger extract to a hot bath. I don't know why the ginger - but I know that it just takes the tightness out of my muscles . . .

  10. Frances - I'm with you - things really slow down here around June... I should have lots more time to blog by then :-)... and then all the northern bloggers will be too busy to blog.

    I think if you try the ice on your achy muscles you might like it -even if it's cold outside.

    Carolyn Gail - you are so right. I almost always work 8 hours or more. If I didn't exercise regularly I'd be in for more trouble. I have inherited some back issues so I really have to take precautions to prevent further problems. Thanks for the reminder... I do need to get back to working with weights... it's been a while since I've been diligent about it.

    Lintys: I am trying to get better about stretching on a regular basis... and the safe bending I am ever aware of for the sake of my back. I'm not a soaky bath kind of gal but with all the suggestions on epsom salt use- I might make a note to become one. :-)

    MMD: I wish I had some good advice for your knees - fortunately I don't have any issues with my knees. I DO use a knee pad when I'm planting bulbs and small stuff that gets me that close to the ground. They work wonders.

    I love my exercies ball- it is gentle on my back and yet does wonders for stretching and weights.

    MaryBeth: Your sister's concoction sounds so medicinal and yet relaxing. Ginger is good for so many things - I don't doubt it helps here too. I really must take a yoga class -it's on my list of things to get-around-to.

  11. For me, nothing beats a hot bath after a long day in the garden! I do a workout with weights a couple times a week, which helps keep the muscles toned and has bone strengthening benefits, as well.

  12. Great post, meems ... I totally agree about the natural ‘workout’ & gardening as a great way to burn calories ... much more fun working outside than in. Though speaking as a housebound 'northerner' unable to enjoy a lovely 'sore' day crawling out of a sunny garden, I find looking at my 'fishbelly white' tummy depressing ;(

  13. That's definitely worth trying - from now on, I'm going to hold in my tummy when I work in my garden! Thanks! /Katarina at Roses and stuff

  14. My grandmother yelled at me all the time to keep my tummy in!! Add some bath salts to that warm soak. It pulls out the toxins from you overworked muscles.

  15. Connie: Good for you!I really must get back to the weights. They are essential for our 'age group' to keep toned and strengthen bones.

    Joey:I'm with you... I typically will do anything not to be stuck indoors. It's likely I wouldn't make a good northerner. :-)

    Katarina: You might be surprised how it is so connected to those back muscles. It really does work.

    Anna: I'm usually so glad to get a shower on those long days just to feel clean again. I'm beginning to think with all the advice -- There must be some worth to the soaky bath.

  16. I never lost the first pound gardening, and I'm no whimp! I still have to squeeze in a workout at the gym to stay in shape. In a perfect world, we could have a gardening workout and have something to show for our efforts--besides a less flabby behind.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  17. Your suggestion is exactly what the Physical Therapist told me. It does work, as does the stretching, strength building and resting with an ice pack (for me). Someone may have said this already, but at least once an hour (or more often) stand up and lean back in a tiny back bend and hold for 30 seconds... (or over that balance ball later that afternoon like MMD recommended.)

    I also have had to put a kitchen timer by the computer and set it to remind me to get up and stretch.

    This is the hardest of the back saving tricks, for me, I have to ask for help to lift the big rocks and plants.


  18. Robin, I think you are certainly on to something- no pounds lost --but I'm surely counting on every calorie I burn. I do think it keeps me stronger than I would be otherwise.

    Gail, I like the timer idea... will try that. I really should ask for help more often. I've lifted way too many heavy things I shouldn't have- really trying to get better about that.

  19. I followed your directions tonight as I watered one of my plants in my apartment. Since it only took like 45 seconds, I'm thinking I won't see much of a difference. :) However, as I vacuumed tonight I tried it.

  20. Jane: It really does work for any type of activity. I practice it when I'm jogging, picking up my grandchildren, lifting groceries... it's all part of strengthening your core which makes for a healthier you!

  21. Pilates! I had a back problem so painful that i ended up in the emergency room. after 6 months of physical therapy, i now practice pilates and it always fixes my back and strengthens my core. i'm even able to figure skate again!

  22. May be I should try that too...

  23. em: pilates is on my list of "would love to explore" - I have heard only good things about this method of exercise and stretching. good for you-- I'm glad it's working for you.

    marie: I think we can't go wrong with holding as much in as we can at our age??? LOL

  24. Lots of greta ideas. Holding the tummy in seems to get harder as the years go by somehow. Darn!
    I think the timer is one for me as well b/c way too much time goes by before I stand up, stretch etc.

  25. Cabs: Welcome to Hoe&Shovel.Thanks for popping in. I really like the timer idea too- thanks Gail... just a little ding to help us take the time for stretching. AND I've been concentrating on holding my tummy in better even while I'm sitting @ the computer. Geez... indeed it is increasingly important to pay attention since it doesn't come as easily as we grow older.


Have a blessed day,

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