My hobby is trying to kill me.
I know this on Monday mornings, creaking out of bed to go to work after spending two days in the garden. It happens every weekend: my brain tells my muscles it won’t be that bad, my body is left to wonder why I don’t take up stock in ibuprofen.
If you’re looking for a summer workout, gardening is excellent exercise, an intense sport cleverly disguised as an attraction for elderly ladies or gentlemen with British accents. Its flowers and butterflies are deceptive, like meeting a personal trainer who looks friendly. But like personal trainers, gardening will introduce you to muscles you never knew you had and, now that you do, can’t move them without whimpering.
Experts recommend two hours and 30 minutes of exercise weekly for adults to stay healthy. A gardener does that before breakfast, getting the chores done before the heat of the day. And we often run two-a-days, heading back out into the yard to finish what we started once the evening cools things down.
Aerobic activities are part of the sport; every time you see a weed your heart rate goes up to a respectable level. Attacking by digging, hoeing, pulling or pick axing, we rip the weeds, rather than our muscles. The sixpack we’re looking forward to is cold and best enjoyed while sitting on the patio.
For bulking up bone density, weight bearing exercise is a key component, something gardening has in abundance. Cleaning and jerking 40 pound bags of compost onto your shoulder, one by one, and then trotting them into the garden is a great way to build strength. That we add a super set of bicep curls by lifting flats of petunias to haul along with the bags is just our way of showing off.
There isn’t any fancy clothing required for the sport of gardening; you don’t have to invest in high tech spandex leggings, shoes, or helmets that shout out a brand name. If you want to bling yourself for a workout, carry tools that make Rambo look like a sissy: knife-like Hori-horis, wickedly pointed garden claws, and pruners big enough to fell a tree.
Yes, gardening builds bodies as well as blooms, but once we’ve finished there’s no smugness about it. Crouched over for hours, we’re incapable of straightening up for a cheery wave at the neighbors, much less a victory lap around the yard to show off our physique. Instead, we spray soil as we fling a hand up in greeting, then slouch toward the house looking for that ibuprofen.
This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.