Yesterday Bruce and I did what I hope is our last leaf-raking session of 2021. It’s been a glorious fall here in Minnesota. But that meant the leaves peaked later than usual and have been stubbornly hanging onto their branches and refusing to let go. Normally we would have finished this yearly task a few weeks ago.
I’m a big advocate of taking breaks. Especially when doing physical work. My preferred go-to break when gardening or shoveling is to lie down on the floor on my back in the position we use in the Alexander Technique Constructive Rest practice. This practice is—IMHO—one of the simplest ways to help yourself improve your posture, reduce excess tension, and manage the effects of stress.
But life is full of choices. We want to sell our house. And that means making the property look as nice as possible for every showing—we had one scheduled for 3 p.m. yesterday. Plus, the weatherman predicted a few inches of snow later in the day. So, there were two big reasons to just get it done. We finished in three hours with no break. But I’m not being honest. I took lots of breaks. They were just really short. Done often. Each break took five seconds.
Gardening—including leaf raking—and snow shoveling involve a lot of bending over. Even if you’re using good body mechanics you can end up with a sore neck and back. Also when dealing with leaves and snow it’s very easy to get laser-focused on getting it done—and lose sight of what you’re doing with yourself in the process. The simplest thing I’ve found that helps me is to stand up. Completely. And often. Look around. Stretch a bit if you want. And then get back to work.
When I’m in the get-er-done mode, I can easily stay in a bent-over position for far too long—scooping up one handful of leaves after another and stuffing them into our 32-gallon garbage cans to be hauled off to the yard waste recycling center. Or if I’m clearing the walk of snow, filling one shovel full after another, and tossing it off into the yard. Staying down too long is hard on my neck and back. These mini-breaks add up. If I consistently stand up completely and come up to my full height, I’m always amazed at how much better I feel when I’m done. The added benefit is when I stand up and look out, I’m reminded of how much I love to be outside and how beautiful my surroundings are.
So, whether you’re outside doing seasonal chores or inside doing chores like cleaning and laundry remember to stand up. Completely. And often. Your body will thank you for it.
P.S. If you like this blog and are craving more information on moving better and feeling better sign up for my e-newsletter. You’ll get a free booklet with tips for exploring your posture (that has nothing to do with standing up straight and pulling your shoulders back. I promise!). And once a month I’ll pop into your inbox with new ideas for you to experiment with. In addition, you’ll be the first to know about any upcoming events, local or online.