Every year as the crocus bloom and the sunshine feels warmer I begin to get the itch to get in the garden clearing the winter debris, spreading mulch and planting flowers. Then I notice those hamstrings are tighter than I thought and I feel a bit stiff and sore after those first days in the garden. This year how about some pre season exercise prep to improve things before we start.
Lets look at hamstring stretching first. It is important to stretch the hamstrings without stretching the back so I like to lie on the floor on my back with a strap around my foot and lift my leg straight into the air. The important part is to keep the knee straight even if you can't go as far as you want and hold the stretch for a minute. There should be no pain just a stretch. An alternative is to sit with your back against a wall and legs straight in front of you, as you point your toes to the ceiling enjoy the stretch.
Many people spend time on their hands and knees during gardening so perhaps some work in this position would be helpful. Remember cushions under your hands or knees as needed too. While on your hands and knees your pelvis should be level not tipped to the floor or the ceiling. Pretend its a bucket of water, don't let it spill.
Engage the muscles in your belly to give support. To improve mobility tighten your belly breathing out as you round your back up to ceiling like an angry cat, then reverse dipping your back to the floor like a saggy cow. Both of these motions are done slowly with the belly muscles controlling the motion in a pain free range. After a few repetitions try some crawling around the house, great for arms, legs and core.
One last tip drink lots of water, being dehydrated decreases flexibility and can increase muscle soreness.