A note of importance: This advice is designed to help people return to activity after a mild illness, well-managed injury or other common bout of sedentariness. Always consult a professional before starting any exercise program. While in almost all cases movement supports healing, it is important that range and effort be managed so that the desired effect is achieved. Okay, end of disclaimer. Let’s get moving!
If you are a gardener you know that planning, patience, and flexibility are the three ingredients that can determine success. And not just in the bounty it might yield, but in the level of enjoyment you will derive as its caretaker. Our bodies are no different. This time of year your media feed will be full of “spring back into action,” “spring fitness reset,” and “sun’s out, guns out” kinds of ads. If this speaks to you, by all means, get those guns out. But if you are injured, ill, or have taken a break from physical activity for some other reason, let’s take a cue from our gardens and look at three simple steps back to activity with no guns involved.
Let’s say we want a yard full of delicious tomatoes. How do we get from standing in our backyard with a handful of seeds to making mouthwatering caprese with the bounty dripping from our vines? We plan, we execute our plan with patience, and we are flexible and ready to reframe when conditions call for it.
Step one, prepare the soil: Proper soil health requires assessment. What is the condition of the soil? Just because we tilled last season, doesn’t mean that is what our garden needs this year. One of my favorite fitness partners constantly reminds me to “honor the body you brought with you today,” which is exactly what I am talking about here. Only after we assess what condition our soil is actually in can we know what it needs. This one can be tough. If you look at your health and don’t like what you see, know that you are not alone and there is a path forward. Even the most compact Colorado clay can eventually produce a bountiful crop with the proper tending and amending, and our bodies can too.
Step two, plant the seeds: This one is most people’s favorite. We look at the plan for what we want to grow, procure the highest possible quality seeds, dig some holes, place the seeds, water them in and boom. Bounty! Except not really. If we want the biggest bang for our gardening buck, it takes a bit more thought. The seeds we plant will only grow if the climate allows it. And even in a welcoming climate, we’ve got to make sure each seed has enough room and is planted at the right depth so that it can do its thing. Same goes for our bodies. Choosing an activity we like to do and one that our body can accommodate without injury is key. Walking is great exercise, but race walking six miles a day is likely too much to start. For many of us, walking is the goal! You should be able to speak a sentence at normal volume when you are exercising. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, stop and rest for as long as you need. It’s normal to feel a little breathless, warm, and sweaty during exercise. Your muscles may ache afterwards, but this should not last for more than a couple of days.
Step three, tend: Here’s where the magic happens. We’ve prepared our soil and planted the seeds. We’re done! Right? Knowing the condition of our soil (honestly assessing our health) and planting well (setting a goal and starting with activities that are appropriate) are just the start. Yes, now it’s time for the magic, but it’s magic born out of boring. The watering, weeding, trimming, and all the other dirty daily tasks that tending to a garden call for are our breath practice, mobility movements, hydrating, and eating well. Yes, there are days we walk out into our garden and spy those first bright green shoots nudging through the sun-warmed earth that make our hearts race and fill us with eager anticipation for the harvest to come. Just like there are days when we walk our first 5K or get back in the literal saddle after falling off a horse. These moments are to be celebrated! Relishing those things is what keeps us doing all the other things.
In a perfectly predictable world, we’d take this last step and then get our gathering baskets ready to overflow. But we live in a world full of hail storms, drought, Japanese beetles and early frosts. No bounty is ever guaranteed. So does that mean we give up and don’t bother to plant? I sure hope not. If you plant a tomato seed, there is no guarantee you will end up with a glorious crop of picture perfect tomatoes. But if you don’t plant the seed, I promise you, there is a 100% chance you won’t grow any tomatoes at all.
Next month, the single most important question to ask yourself when assessing your wellness routine.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.