What does Fall mean to you? Gorgeous colors, the crisp, cool air, football, pumpkin spice everything? Whatever the case, there is one thing that pretty much everyone thinks about when Autumn arrives – raking leaves. Whatever your opinion on raking, one thing is certain: It is not a quick and easy task. Raking is an intensive physical activity, which means every time you do it, you run the risk of hurting something. But there are things you can do to reduce that risk. Here are some tips to stay safe and pain-free when you groom your yard this fall.
Dress for the Weather
As Minnesotans, we know we should never make assumptions about the weather. But it’s usually on the lower end of the thermometer when raking season arrives, and it’s important that you dress accordingly to keep away the cold. Cold temperatures cause muscles to lose heat, which in turn makes them contract easier and lose their range of motion. Muscles end up working harder under these conditions, which leads to increased soreness. So be sure to wear an extra layer or two to keep your body nice and toasty. Unless it’s one of those freak 80 degree days in mid-October. You may want to dress down a bit at that point.
Let’s not forget about wind chill, another thing Minnesotans know all about. While wind does not actually change the air temperature, it does affect your body temperature. Wind draws heat from your body when it contacts skin, which lowers your skin temperature and eventually your internal temperature, accelerating muscle tightness. If it’s windy out, be sure you wear long sleeves and full-length pant legs to cover any exposed skin. It will help keep away pain, and you’ll look the part!
This one kind of goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Drink plenty of fluids!
Dehydration lowers your blood volume, which forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to your body. This makes any physical activity significantly more difficult and can lead to shortness of breath and painful tightness in your chest.
Second, hydrated muscles and joints work better. Hydrating fluids help flush toxins out of your muscles and lubricate joints, which can prevent inflammation and joint pain.
Whether it’s Gatorade or good old-fashioned water, drink hydrating fluids before, during and after you rake to stay at peak performance!
Raking can be strenuous, and just like any other physical activity, giving your body a few minutes to warm up can go a long way in preventing nuisances like cramps, strains, and pulled muscles. You don’t have to get fancy – just walk a couple of brisk laps around your yard to get your blood flowing and your limbs moving. Raking is a full body exercise, so consider making your walk a POWER WALK to get those arms loosened up too.
Maintain Good Form
Your body is designed to move in specific ways and perform specific functions. Exerting your body in unusual ways can put undue strain on your muscles and joints, which can lead to pain. That’s why good form is the hallmark of any exercise or physical activity.
While raking, keep your knees slightly bent and reach/pull the rake with your arms, never with your back. When you’re ready to bag your leaves, bend at the knees to lower yourself and then lift back up using your legs.
Should you be overcome with a desire to leap into your leaf pile (and there is a good chance of that happening), consider doing so feet first. Leaves are sneaky, and a pile of them can look bigger and cushier than it really is. If you fall back-first into your leaf pile, you could fall right through onto the hard ground and hurt yourself. Always practice low-risk leaf leaping!
Choose the Right Tools
Obviously, you’re going to need some tools for this job. But if you want to come out of this adventure pain-free, make sure you get the RIGHT tools.
First, you’ll need a rake (imagine that). For best results, get an ergonomically designed rake. There are a number of sturdy and lightweight options out there nowadays that are specifically engineered to minimize bending, stooping and reaching, allowing for the safer and more comfortable raking experience you deserve.
You should also consider a shovel for picking up the leaves. A shovel allows you to pick up more leaves at a time, which means fewer times you have to lower and lift your body. Much like the rake, there are countless ergonomic shovels you can choose from to further minimize the risk or a strain or cramp.
Finally, consider getting a funnel insert for the leaf bags. These simple and inexpensive items are designed to prop open bags and stand them upright. They also include a large opening at the top to funnel all your leaves into the bag instead of letting half of them drop back to the ground.
With the right tools, you’ll breeze through your yard cleanup with plenty of time leftover for a celebratory cider!
Enlist Some Help
Many hands make light work, so if you have the means, ask some friends or family to give you an assist. Even one extra rake on the job will cut your work in half. Less work means less strain on your body which means less of a chance you’ll injure yourself.
You may feel a sense of pride and accomplishment by raking your entire yard all by yourself, and rightfully so. But you’re also much more likely to feel an aching pain in your back when you’re done. Do yourself a favor and get some help the next time you need to give your yard the ol’ fall cleaning.
Love it or hate it, raking is one of those things that just has to be done when Fall comes around.
Since you can’t avoid it, you might as well take a few extra moments to make sure you’re doing it right. That way, you can go inside when you’re done and enjoy a delicious cup of hot coffee or cocoa.
And honestly, doesn’t that sound so much better than an ice pack?
Do You Have Chronic Pain?
Even if you follow every rule and try every trick, pain can still sometimes find a way to creep in. If you have questions about any pain you may be feeling, or would like to schedule an appointment, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.