Down the street the smell of a freshly baked apple pie sitting on a window sill fills the air. The fragrance of apples and cinnamon is lifted by the wind and carried past your nose, flooding your mind with memories of autumns long ago. The wind, soft and cool upon your cheek, brushes past, lifting higher and higher into the air until it reaches the branches of a Silver Maple, gently pushing golden colored leaves off the tree and into the breeze. You watch as gravity wrestles the wind to pull the leaflets to the ground. They rise and fall and flitter and twist, the sun glistening spiral rays of amber, crimson, and gold as they rain softly to the earth. As they skid to a halt, the leaves nestle between identical companions already blanketing the lawn. As you bear witness to nature's phantasmic tradition, both magnificent and familiar, your thoughts drift towards a singular realization.
"It's going to take me all day Saturday to rake all that up! And probably Sunday too! Wonderful!"
Raking leaves is no one's favorite part of fall. A necessary evil of the season. While raking is certainly a chore, it doesn't have to be such a pain! Done properly and with the right precautions, raking leaves can actually be a pretty good workout! Here are some tips to ensure this year's yard work is not only safe and pain free, but a pretty good full body work out as well!
1.Hydrate – As with any physical activity, it is important to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. It's a good idea to hydrate before you begin raking and keep a bottle of water outside with you while you rake.
2.Proper attire – Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, shoes that won't slip on wet leaves, and a pair of light colored blue jeans. Wear layers that are easy to take off and put on as you warm up and cool down throughout the day.
3.Use the right rake – Make sure you use the proper rake for your height and strength. Use a rake that is light in weight and has a long handle so you don't have to strain to lift it and can reach leaves without having to bend over.
4.Warm up first – Before you jump right into raking, do some light exercise to warm up your muscles first. Walking around your yard and picking up sticks before you begin is a good way to warm up.
5.Look out – It may be difficult to see hazards such as stumps, sticks, rocks, and ticks that may be hidden under the leaves so be careful. Be sure to check yourself for ticks when you finish raking. Wearing light colored clothes can help to make them easier to spot.
6.Switch it up – Don't spend too much time raking to one side. Switch sides often to give some muscles a rest while using other muscle groups. Varying movements like this will not only help you avoid injury from overuse, it will also turn raking into a full body workout by getting other muscle groups involved.
7.Work it out – Turn raking into a workout and monitor your progress. Maintain at least a moderate intensity level for cardio vascular fitness. Raking will engage your core muscles as well as your arms, chest, shoulders and back. If you bag your leaves, once they are full, bend at the knees with your back straight to squat down and grab the bag. Bear hug the bag and lift with the knees, not the back. Carry the bag to its destination and use the same squatting motion to set it down. Now you're doing lifts and squats to add a leg work out to your upper body and aerobic workout!
8.Avoid injury – To avoid back injuries while raking, keep your back straight with feet shoulder width apart while raking. Don't twist too far while raking or lifting and throwing leaves so as not to strain the muscles in your back. Don't bend at the waist while raking or lifting leaf bags. Lift with your knees, not your back.
9.Don't overdo it – If you feel like you are getting too tired, call it a day and leave the rest for another day. You are more likely to injure yourself if you are trying to push through exhaustion to continue raking. As a result your posture and technique may suffer, opening you up to the potential for injury.
10.Take it all in! – Be mindful of all the wonderful sights and smells this time of year has to offer. Overall fitness includes mental fitness as well as physical fitness. It's not a full body workout if you don't include your mind! The fresh air, beautiful colors, and bond with nature can have a calming, soothing effect on your mood. Don't stress yourself out too much by focusing on the task at hand and take some time to take in nature's beauty and truly enjoy the great outdoors! Treat yourself to a warm bath or gentle massage afterwards to soothe your sore muscles.