Roll with it!
Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat…
Did you know that being out in the garden for less than an hour can burn up to around 300 calories? When I say that, I mean gardening (not sunbathing!), but it’s nice to know that for those of us who enjoy getting close to nature and gardening as a hobby, it’s keeping us fit and supple too.
Now gardening can be hard work and very physical, with lots of bending, pulling and lifting, so when we’re tackling those hard jobs we need to warm up to protect our joints – just like we would if we were going to a gym. Don’t forget the importance of gentle stretching afterwards too, especially if you’re anything like me; when you suddenly stand back up, your back can feel tight and your knees can start to ache. Luckily there are plenty of simple stretching techniques to warm up before or after physical activity of any shape or scale!
One of most useful tools for achieving good quality stretches is a foam roller. These are quite inexpensive (you can usually pick one up for around five pounds) and suitable for anyone from exercise beginners right up to advanced. The ridged ones give you a type of self-massage that helps to alleviate tightness, soreness and inflammation in the muscle, ultimately helping to increase your range of motion and keeping you nice and flexible. I find it’s particularly good for the back and shoulders.
I’m going to show you how to use a foam roller on four main areas, working on each body part between 10 and 60 seconds.
Your quads are the group of muscles on your front, upper legs, linking your knees to the front and sides of your thighs. Start with a forearm plank position (lying face downwards, with your body held straight) with the roller under your quads at hip level, then begin to slowly roll yourself down the roller, until it reaches just above your knees, before rolling back up in the opposite direction to reach your hip flexors once again. If (when!) you hit a tender spot, hold yourself there for a few breaths, before continuing. You can do each leg individually or together.
This one will put an extra spring in your step! Your calves are the muscles on the back of your lower legs. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Lift your body up, and pop your roller behind your legs, just above your ankles, holding yourself off the floor if you can, so your weight is resting on the roller. You can then gently slide yourself downwards, so the roller works its way up your calves, ending behind your knees, then return. Again, you can do each leg on its own, or together. You can also put one leg on top of the other for added pressure to get those knots out!
Hamstrings are the muscles that stretch from the back of your thigh down to behind your knees. Tight hamstrings are no good when we are gardening, so this is another great one to do before grabbing the spade. Again start by sitting on the floor, with your legs extended, but this time position the roller under your bottom. Lift your body up so that your weight is resting on the roller and begin to slowly roll back and forth between the back of your knees and your glutes (your bum muscles!). Again, this can be done on both legs at once or individually.
This can really help with poor posture, especially for those of us who hold tension there.
Begin by lying on your back with your roller positioned underneath your upper back. Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor and your arms can be either at your side or crossed in front of your chest. Lift yourself up into that shallow bridge position and slowly roll up and down between your lower neck and back stopping at tight areas along the way. Be careful to avoid the roller going behind your neck itself, as this might strain those delicate neck muscles.
Hopefully everything should feel much more flexible after that. One last simple thing you can do is to try touching your toes before using the roller, and then try it again after these exercises. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it feels and how much further down you can go. There are lots of other areas you can work with a foam roller, which I cover in my classes in a lot more detail and my clients are always amazed at how flexible these exercises can make you in just a short space of time!
Remember to go gentle at first with that rollering, avoiding delicate places like kneecaps and elbows, and of course always being extra careful with back and neck areas.
Ian Eassom is a Lincoln-based mobile personal trainer. Ian can offer private online one-to-one sessions, with bespoke exercise and diet plans to suit you. Ian can also offer individual training sessions in your own garden or public space, subject to and in adherence with the latest Covid guidance and with social distancing in place. Don’t forget there’s a special offer for Lincolnshire Life readers! For the latest information visit www.ianeassom.co.uk