Now that it’s getting colder and leaves are changing colors, raking leaves is just around the corner. Playing in leaves can be fun for kids, but for most adults raking leaves can be a dreaded task.
Raking leaves is labor intensive and if not done right, can be a big pain in the back. There are a few main reasons people get hurt while raking:
• Not properly preparing before raking
• Improper technique
• Trying to do too much at one time
Here is some advice for getting the raking done without suffering for days to come.
Warm up to raking
First, realize that raking IS exercise. Like with any exercise, you should warm up and cool down. Warm up to get the heart rate going and the blood flowing. How can you do this? A quick five-minute walk and stretching of the major areas needed is all you need.
Stretch upper and lower back, legs, arms and shoulders. Start with the hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and hip flexors while standing. Then, move into stretching the upper back and shoulders. Finally, stretch the lower back and stomach area slowly.
If muscles aren’t warmed up and stretched before used, it’s more likely they will strain or pull.
How to rake it right
Raking is repetitive – reach, pull, twist, bend, repeat. Repetitive motions like this can lead to back pain. To avoid ending up on your back for days, try a few things.
First, keep the rake close to the body. Don’t overreach or overextend by trying to get more leaves at once. Choke up on the handle a little, face the direction you want to rake and make short, slow, controlled raking motions. Too much bending at the hips can lead to lower back pain.
Then, don’t let the rake head pass your body. This will help avoid harmful twisting in the lower back.
Next, move your feet. Don’t stand in one spot trying to reach as much as you can. Reaching off to the side or around you creates more harmful twisting that can lead to injury.
Last, switch sides when raking. Rake right-handed for a few minutes and then left-handed. It might seem awkward at first, but it’s much less awkward than having to tell your boss you can’t come to work because of a raking injury.
Rake it slow
Break your raking into small increments. Rake for 30 minutes max and take a 5 to 10 minute break. Stretch a little during your break.
Just like any other exercise, drink lots of water. Save the warm teas and ciders for when the job is done.
When you are standing back admiring your accomplishments, stretch again. This will help avoid tightness and soreness later.
Now get out there and start raking.