Yard Fit

Turning chores into exercise.

Fall in Bozeman brings cooler temperatures, shorter days, and extra time spent working in the yard. This usually means less opportunity to hit the trails and more time spent raking leaves or chopping wood. Luckily, yard work can double as a great form of exercise while still providing an opportunity to enjoy time outside. By following a few simple steps, you can safely turn once-tedious labor into a total-body workout.

Yard Lunge
The lunge is one of the most simple yet effective exercises to strengthen the muscles throughout your legs. It is performed by taking one step forward and lowering down until your thigh is parallel with the ground. Your back leg should also lower until your knee is nearly touching the ground. Aim to keep your knee in line with the center of your foot throughout the movement. Lunges can be easily be performed while mowing the lawn, pushing a wheel barrow, or carrying bags of leaves. It won't take long before your quads are burning and your heart is pounding. 

Set a New PR
What can make a boring task more interesting? Competition. Just like you've sought a personal record for your 5k time, try for a PR mowing the lawn or raking the leaves. Start your watch, record your time, then aim to beat it the next time around. It's a win-win—you get the chore done faster while setting a benchmark to improve upon.

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Take an Extra Lap
Most yardwork duties require carrying, pushing, or pulling heavy objects such as a heavy bag of wet leaves or a wheelbarrow full of dirt and rocks. In my opinion, weighted carries are one of the best exercises to incorporate nearly every muscle in your body and are particularly challenging for the core. When it comes time to do the hauling, take an extra lap around the yard or make an effort to extend the length of the carry. While carrying, maintain an upright stance with the core braced and back straight.


Make It a Circuit
Circuit training is a form of exercise done by performing several movements in succession and with minimal rest breaks between. The goal here is to utilize several muscle groups while maintaining an elevated heart rate. If performed in this fashion, they provide a stimulus for improving both muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. You can incorporate bodyweight exercises or implement various items commonly found in the yard such as logs, rocks, or bags of leaves. A good place to start is by choosing three or four exercises utilizing different muscle groups. Try the following circuit or create your own:

Rake to the right for 1 minute
Rake to the left for 1 minute
Burpees x 5
Squat to overhead log or rock press x 10
Mountain climbers x 20 (10 per side)
Repeat until work is completed

Work Hard, but Smart
Activities such as raking, shoveling, and pulling weeds often require repetitive movement on the same side of the body. To even out the demands placed on your body, regularly switch hands or directions in which you are working. When performing tasks requiring repeated bending and lifting—shoveling, bagging leaves, picking up logs, etc.—it's important to bend from the hips and knees while keeping your back straight. This allows the muscles in your legs (the strongest muscles in the body) to do most of the work. When possible, keep the lifted object close to your body and avoid excessive rotation from your back.

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By applying these simple ideas, you can turn your back yard into your own gym, while taking care of otherwise monotonous work. Take it a step further and find a partner to join in, or involve the entire family. Who knows, you may even look forward to doing the yard work next time around.

Nick Bechtold, a physical therapist at APRS Physical Therapy, specializes in treating orthopedic and sport-related injuries. Nick enjoys running, hiking, skiing, climbing, and weight training, as well as helping individuals of all ages maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.