It's my favorite time of the year: fall in Buffalo. Crisp temperatures, cozy sweaters, beautiful colors, pumpkins, apple picking and of course, falling leaves. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that you have a yard, you inevitably will have to rake leaves at some point this season, so might as well do it without hurting your back. Follow these easy tips to make sure to protect your back:
Warm up/Stretch First!
It may not seem like it, but raking does count as a workout (depending on the size of your yard some people will get more exercise than others). Take a couple minutes before starting to stretch out your back and arms/shoulders and warm up your muscles.
Switch Sides/Don't Twist
Many people tend to only hold the rake on the dominant side of his or her body, this creates an imbalance that could lead to muscle strain. Make sure you are distributing time equally on both sides. And while you're at it, make sure your feet are not planted while twisting your body. You want to be able to move both your feet and hips instead of twisting with your back. Or, put one foot in front of the other and shift your weight between the two feet as you work.
Think Straight and Take Breaks
While you're raking you probably have a tendency to hunch over to get more done quicker. If you do this, you might end up finishing quickly, but you may be down for the count the rest of the day because your back will hurt. Hunching over alters the curves in your back, putting more pressure on your spine, leading to pain. It is true, that you most likely have to bend to get good leverage on the leaves, but instead of staying bent over for a a couple swipes of the rake, rake then stand straight in between each motion. It might take longer, but your back will thank you!
It's not a Race, but cool down when you get to the finish like:
As mentioned above, it is good to take breaks throughout your raking session. If your back is bothering you while you're raking, feel free to stop and stretch. When you're all done and you can see the grass in your yard again, take some time to do a little cool down. Whether that is taking a 5 minute walk or repeating your warm up stretches it is good to let your body wind down after your "raking workout"
Drink lots of water, or apple cider and stay warm :)