Until It’s Gone

Yard work seems so innocent.

After all, you only pull a few weeds, maybe mow the lawn and rake leaves or grass clippings.

I finished about an hour’s worth of raking leaves and stuffing them into lawn bags yesterday morning.

My squat count was 130.

In terms of load, that’s at least 27,300 lbs.

13.6 tons.

I raked up half of the front yard first. Then started the bag stuffing.

I was sweaty at the end. My heart rate was between 120-130 BPM.

What I did is not a trivial thing for me. I am grateful that I can do it. There was a time when I couldn’t put on my shoes or sleep more than two hours at a time from a lower back injury sustained while snow skiing. Raking the yard and stuffing leaves into bags was a long ways off.

I’m thankful I can clean the house, rake the yard, wash the dishes, take out the trash.

Like Joni Mitchell said, ” That you don’t know what you’ve got. Till it’s gone.”

I might be sore tomorrow or the next day so I’ll dial back my activities over the next couple of days. I’m confidant that whatever soreness I have, I’ll recover from.

There are four things to keep in mind with something like yard work.

The first is pace. Slow, steady work is better than being hurried. You can more easily sense changes in your energy and in your movement if you move slowly and steadily.

Interrupt your work with short rest periods. Work some, rest some.

Interrupting your work is inconvenient and time consuming. It may mean not getting everything done when you want it done. You have to change your mindset from what you want to what you need. And, since things you want seem to have a higher value to you as opposed to things you need, you often will pursue the “wants” first. I want to clean up the yard. I need to be mindful while doing it.

Second, duration. Do about half of what you think you could or should be able to do.  That will keep you out of the hurt locker for days on end.

Third is rest.

World class athletes rest. They don’t train for hours on end several days a week, week after week. They deliberately pace themselves.

Think of yourself as an athlete. Yard work is hard work on your body just as lifting weights, running, or training in a gym is hard. It seems as if you’re not doing much but that’s just not true.

Fourth, is movement. Use balanced, controlled motion. In this case, that means using the leg joints more than the back.

To stuff the lawn bags, I have to squat way down with a deep knee and hip angle and little motion in the lower back.

Why would you not bend this way? You might not have the mobility – the control of the joints or the flexibility. Or you might not have the stamina (sustained strength). You fatigue and start bending more in the hip than in the knee which means more bending and load in the lower back.

And bingo, you have lower back pain a few days later.

Watch this short video of me stuffing the bags:

If you look at my hip, I could use a little more hip bend. This clip is at the end of the session and I was running out of steam. But overall, I’m pleased with the movement and my capacity.

Yard work is hard work. Just keep that in mind.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in what I do for exercise and training, go here. For my books, go here