Are you staying safe this season? There is much to love about the autumn months — beautiful foliage, cool air, a porch full of pumpkins, and all the (COVID-safe, of course) Halloween hoopla. But to fully enjoy all these treats, you’ll need some tricks to stay safe while engaging in fall-related fun.
If not performed properly, the physical strain of lifting gigantic gourds, bagging and dragging loads of leaves, and chasing corn-crazed critters away from your harvest decor can cause a lot of unnecessary aches and pains. Most of these activities require your muscles to move in ways that differ from your everyday life. It only takes one mindless movement, or poorly positioned bend, to sideline all your spooky celebrations.
Here are the top two ways to avoid common injuries associated with your fall festivities:
Stretch. Before you begin raking and piling up leaves, you’ll need to stretch. Although yard work feels more like a chore than exercise, you’ll quickly realize how strenuous hauling fallen leaves, branches, and pesky pine needles can be — especially when done improperly.
This kind of work has the potential to place enormous stress on the lower back. But by warming up this area and the surrounding muscles, you are better equipped to avoid injury.
Begin on hands and knees in a tabletop position with shoulders stacked over hands, hips over the knees, and spine straight.
Inhale, pulling your spine up toward the ceiling, tucking your chin in to chest and your tailbone under. Your spine should make an upside down “U” (cat) shape. Hold for a count.
On the exhale, slowly drop your spine down to make a “U” (cow) shape, rolling your head up so your gaze is at the ceiling. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
From the same tabletop position, keep your hands in place as you hinge back at your hips and try to sit down on your heels.
Your arms should be fully extended. Stretch your fingers wide and breathe deeply. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. If you have difficulty bringing your glutes toward your heels, widen your knees.
Begin on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor, and arms out to the sides for stability. Use your core strength to lift your legs so they form a 90-degree angle at your hip.
Keep your legs pressed together as you gently rotate your lower half to the right. Stop once your weight is on your right hip, hold for two counts, then gently rotate back to center.
Now lower your legs to the left and hold for two counts. Continue this back-and-forth sequence for 10 repetitions.
Heavy lifting. So often, we impulsively bend at our waist to lift a heavy object, straining our lower back as we yank and pull. This never ends well. But by making a simple adjustment in our form, where our knees and hips bend in unison, the workload will shift from lower back to legs — and the strongest muscles in your body.
This rule applies when raking, gathering, and disposing of leaves, and also for carrying colossal pumpkins from the patch to your porch. By mastering the way you maneuver and bend now, your back will be less vulnerable to spasms and suffering later.
The proper way to pick up a pumpkin:
Take a wide stance, positioning your feet on the sides of the pumpkin.
With your spine straight, hinge back at your hips and bend your knees as you lower your body down toward the pumpkin.
Use both hands to hold the sides, engage your core, and push through your heels to stand. As you hold your prized pumpkin, keep it close to your chest at all times. The farther the object is from your body, the more stress it will create on your lower back. And avoid twisting, when possible.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.